Engineering Day Feb 2013 – WebPerf, Service Versioning, Deployments, Chef, and more

We in the engineering team at hold an ‘open day’ every six months to share what we do with other (less ‘techy’) teams in the company. The most recent Engineering Day, in February 2013, saw members of the HR, Legal, Commercial, Marketing, Finance, and other teams (plus our Exec) attend presentations and demonstrations from members of our tech teams covering: web performance, service versioning, deployments, infrastructure automation, testing, ticket retailing, and even a workshop on ‘How to build your own website‘. Engineering Day photo montageThe date was 14th Feb – Valentine’s Day – and there was a definite feeling of love in the air! We produced some coffee mugs for people to take away with them (‘IDG’ is the internal name for our engineering department):

Mugs - I love the engineering team

Nav M, the product owner for our public web services, updated everyone on how we’ve been re-working the web API into more granular services, and how the new versioning scheme for the services will benefit our customers:

Nav explains the changes to our web services

Our in-house web performance guru, Paul M, gave a great demo showing how our website performs compared to those of our competitors in terms of page load speed. It seems that our website ( performs well, allowing users to book quickly, but that we need to reduce the number of image and script assets used per page in order to provide a better experience on mobile devices (something we’re working on during 2013):

Our WebPerf guru Paul on page load times

The rail industry has some complicated relationships between different parties, and so our expert Robert H gave an engaging talk on RSP, taking us through the history of rail tickets in the UK, and where rail ticketing is going:

Robert H's RSP session

In fact, Robert’s talk and his t-shirt were so brilliant, that our CIO, David Jack, awarded him a special prize:

The amazing Robert H with his prize!

Owain from the infrastructure automation team explained how we’re using Chef to automate our infrastructure, starting with the build system, and moving onto test/integration environments, and more recently, production web servers:

Introducing Chef

Mark from the deployments team told a “horror story” about how painful our deployments were in the past, and how much easier the deployments are today, since we automated our integration test environments:

Deployment Night Fright - now a distant memory

Kanappan and Michael from the regression test team showed how we’re reducing the effort needed to test our websites, through increased automation and better test focus:

Kanappan and Michael on regression testing

We also had a workshop for complete beginners on How to build your own website, covering the basics of HTML and how to use WordPress; the main message from the workshop was: learning a bit of HTML will help you to build a your own website, and fix many formatting/editing problems. One of the people attending told us the following week that because of the workshop, he had been able to help his son with a homework assignment to create a webpage 🙂 The workshop material is available for anyone to use here: Build Your Own Website – a Beginner’s Guide.

Here are some more photos from the day:

In the sessions Robert H's RSP session

Posters Incident Management improvements

We plan to take the event ‘on the road’ to our offices in Edinburgh during May; the next event in London will be in September 2013. Other Engineering Day events are found here: Engineering Day.

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