Hello from Engineering

I’m Gemma Cameron, the Engineering Practice Lead. I look after the Engineering Practice and Community; making sure we have great engineers at Co-op. We’re going to be sharing more content about the products and services we’re working on throughout 2022, but from more of a technical angle. They’ll be a little different to what we’ve previously shared on the Co-op Digital blog, but just as insightful. All of our Engineering blog posts will be tagged in the engineering category, so you can easily find them too.

Engineers play a huge part in our Technology team.

Our community is made up of Quality Analysts, Frontend, Software and Platform Engineers who work remotely from all over the UK (or in our Manchester / Eastleigh offices if they chose to). We work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary, agile product teams and currently have around 60 engineers across 15 different teams.

In our Mega CoP, we have an update from our Head of Engineering Danielle Haugedal-Wilson, lots of breaks for cups of tea, breakout sessions, lightning talks, and group chats. The group chats are a recent addition from us all working remotely. With small groups of 6 or so engineers, which changes every month, we get to know each other and what we’re working on. This helps us connect across the community on a more personal level, and helps put names to faces. We do this over Microsoft Teams and tend to use Slack more for chatting asynchronously.

Looking back on 2021

As the year closes, we celebrated our last Engineering Community of Practice get-together on 17 December. We wore our festive hats, we had a panto, a brew and a natter, some coding fun and even poetry! All entirely remote.

Join us at Co-op

We’re currently hiring Engineering Managers to join our community, so if you’re an experienced engineer who wants to concentrate on career coaching (line management), recruitment and technical training of teams, click here to find out more and apply. This is an engineering leadership role where you’ll also be involved in shaping and setting the strategy and direction for Engineering at our Co-op.

We’re growing our Engineering community in 2022, and are looking to hire over 50 new colleagues from apprentice up to leadership level. If you’re interested in working with us, head over to our Work With Us page to see what’s available right now, or fill in this form to register your interest and we’ll let you know when new roles are advertised.

Setting up communities of practice

This is a post about setting up a community of practice and why this is a good thing for organisations embracing agile ways of working.

Setting up a community of practice

In the early summer a group of us, herded by the brilliant Emily Webber, took a day out to talk about setting up a community of practice for agile delivery people.  We recognise that in a networked, progressive organisation of small and agile self-directed teams, there is a role for these communities to act as the glue across teams and the wider organisation.

Communities of practice: “… groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”  Etienne Wenger-Trayer and Beverly Wenger-Trayer

We wanted to create a community that:

  • could evolve naturally – for its members and by its members
  • was a safe space for open dialogue and learning
  • allowed different levels of participation – there’s nothing worse than forced fun!
  • had a regular rhythm to it

We agreed our community’s mission:

Our mission is to: Inspire others at Co-op and beyond by setting and continuously improving the standard of agile, collaborative delivery

And discussed its values:

Agile Delivery Community Manifesto. We will develop a community of practice that sets and improves the standard of agile ways of working in Co-op and beyond. We will do this by: Being open and honest Encouraging and helping each other Making an active contribution Always sharing, learning and improving Not judging

It’s early days but already there’s a growing level of self-organisation and trust amongst members.  The community is sharing ways of working, practical tips and techniques.

Beware silos

To help smooth the flow of knowledge sharing everyone is encouraged to be open.  Tools like Slack, Google apps and open invites to each team’s Showcase really help spread better practice – but only partially.  

Sometimes, everyone working in a product team is in danger of being so focussed on the thing they are making, they forget that they are part of a much wider organisation. It takes extra effort to look around, to dig deeper, to ask questions about why something works in one situation and not so well in another.  Sometimes we’re just too polite or don’t feel safe asking the difficult question.

Other communities of practice are springing up too

If you wander around our office in Angel Square you’ll see the signs of agile working blooming.  There are now more than a dozen teams working in this way, spread across the business from Membership, Funerals, Food to new digital products.  

The teams share some common characteristics (usually less than 10 people, a flat hierarchy, cross-disciplinary and empowered to experiment to solve a problem) but each team works differently.  They own their process and what works for one team might not work so well for another.  That’s a healthy thing and it’s fascinating to see how different ways of working are evolving and improving.

In fact, it feels a lot like a Co-op.  

We’re recruiting now.

Jamie Arnold
Head of Agile Delivery