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A week with… Lea Bialachowski

Hi, my name is Lea and I’m a front-end developer. I’ve been at Backbase for 6 months, working in a cross-discipline team based in the Cardiff office. I was born in Poland and moved to the UK when I was 9, since then I’ve lived in Kent, London, Swansea and have made my home Cardiff in the last few years. The city has a great pace of life, it is very alive but doesn’t feel too hectic. I love being able to walk through the city centre and discover new independent shops, with owners that really build a relationship with you. The Welsh are very welcoming people and I feel right at home here.

Cardiff  the capital of Wales

To give you a few facts about Cardiff, it is the capital and largest city in Wales, known for having a castle right in the city centre, its many shopping arcades, the Welsh language as seen on every sign, Wales Millenium Centre, Roald Dahl, a Dr. Who filming location, its sports venues, including rugby, football and cricket, the weather, and let’s not forget the flag — it’s got a dragon on it!

Left to right: An outside view of the castle, an unusual rainbow with the university in the background, graffiti art on the wall outside the stadium and an early morning view on a usually busy street with Welsh flags flowing.

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The Cardiff office

The Backbase Cardiff office is overlooking the wharf. Here is a typical Welsh week of weather from directly outside our office (there was rain as well, but I prefer to observe it from the warm dry indoors).

Monday

Monday is beginning, I wake up and begin my walk just as the sun is rising. The sky is often littered with colour and the city is just waking up as I walk through the city centre to work.

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I get to work early but there’s always someone already in the office before me! It’s the usual shuffle to my desk, with my coffee and croissant. Lego captain jack sparrow keeps me company while the rest of the team gets in.

The day starts with a squad stand up. We run through tasks we completed the previous day, which usually means a post-it to remind me after the weekend.

I check in with the front end team about our capacity and to check that no one is falling behind or needs any help. Once I’ve got my task together that I plan to work on that day I begin my working day. I have some good conversations with Gafyn our local UX designer, he points me in the right direction where there are extra considerations required with the provided designs.

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I’ve got a busy week ahead, a lot of dev work to be completed for this sprint and planning for the next one, but also very importantly I’ve got dev talk to give to the Cardiff office about some of the features in our technical frameworks. I get a lot done and fit in some time to plan my presentation and get some example material together, feeling prepared with the week ahead.

Tuesday

Tuesday begins. I start the day with time I set apart for learning. I’m following a Udemy course by Maximilian Schwarzmüller to keep up to date with the changes going on with Angular. It is full of examples and practical exercises and keeps the learning process interesting.

We have some refinement to do, so after my morning of learning I join a subset of the team to flesh out some of the stories in the backlog. We don’t put anything in stone but get a good idea of the amount of effort required for tasks.

The afternoon flies by with development work, one of the core pieces of work I complete builds on top of a reusable component to give it more options. These types of changes are very rewarding because other teams can make use of them, rather than using the time to build something new they can use a tried and tested component and concentrate on their project specific tasks.

I do get some time to draw a Kraken — a recent new name for our squad. We still haven’t solved the mystery of who drew the original Kraken, the artist is among us.

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Wednesday

It’s Wednesday, the day of my tech talk. I’ve got some last minute bits to tidy up and get all my links together, but before that there is code to review and merge.

Before we know it, it’s lunch time. It means one thing — lunch Wednesday — this week the voted winner is noodles.

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And the talk goes under way. The team have a better understanding of how a part of the front-end works. Hopefully it helps when estimating tasks and makes investigating issues easier in the future. Some of the team had a few questions following the talk, so I go away and research and share more in-depth info. Feeling like I really understand the topic after having to explain it to other developers.

The day is not over though! To keep things exciting we’ve got a poker night after work! Luke provides some dusty chips that haven’t been used in a while and Gavin gives a good rundown of the rules. I start off strong and the players have a hard time reading my face, but the stakes get bigger and I end up just short, 3rd place this time, maybe I’ll win next time.

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Thursday

We have our front-end chapter meeting; we’ve got a lot of ideas and a lot to discuss. Tim gives us a run down of the information he got from the Guild meeting while he was in Amsterdam, the aims, objectives and future plans that will have some impact on us. We’ve got our objectives and some actions to complete, some before the next meeting, others for the quarter.

There’s a lot of work to do but we are excited.

I begin work on a large piece of work. Knowing there are a lot of interacting parts, I draw a decision flow diagram to describe the user journey and plan the structure ahead of doing the work. We have a quick discussion about the technical decisions to ensure that they align with the wider front-end team. We have a lot of standards to adhere to and there’s a good amount of documentation to guide our decision making process. Being in a different location to a lot of the front-end developers doesn’t mean discussions end here, help is always at hand through HipChat and opportunities are there to travel to the Amsterdam office. We’ve got some training coming up that will mean visiting Amsterdam.

The usual pool players make an attempt to take the trophy. I held it once for a few minutes, still working on my game though and I need a lot more practice to get it again.

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Friday

The working week is nearly over but that doesn’t mean there’s any time to slow down! I find out that there is a new CHVRCHES song out, Spotify radio gets a playlist together for me and contributes to my productivity.

When working with tasks we can come across a number of hurdles, there’s a lot of trust in the team and we are not afraid to have hard conversations to find the right solution. Requirements aren’t always spot on and can contain discrepancies, we all strive to challenge tasks in constructive ways so our end product is completed to the highest quality.

The Weekend

I spend my evening in the week catching up with my Netflix shows so when the weekend comes I’ve got a lot of time to spend on my favourite hobbies.

This week I’m starting on a new cross stitch, I bought the pattern online and will be practising my backstitching on this one.

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In the evening I like to relax and play on my PC. Recently this has involved World of Warcraft, I’ve been playing my Demon Hunter quite a bit. The aim for this evening was to complete the mage tower quest, a challenge of skill that not many master. After many many attempts, I FINALLY manage to defeat mage Xylem and get my warglaives special appearance! Next week I will be collecting the colour variants.

On Sunday I visited my boyfriend’s family in Aberdare and we walk up to the top of the Darren mountain, it was a very sunny day but the cold winter air was strong the further up we went, the wind turbines can be seen in the distance getting all the benefits of the weather.

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And that is the week in the life of Lea, thank you for reading.

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