A Day in the Life of a Developer at PlotBox

PlotBox Software Development Lead Ciaran McKenna describes how he balances family and working life during a typical day.

Ciaran McKenna has been a Software Development Lead with PlotBox since 2018. Here he describes how he balances family and working life during a typical day while meeting the challenges of our changing world.

Ciaran McKenna“Daaa, Daaa”, my alarm has changed tone and frequency recently. 

What used to be a shrill buzz beside my bed, now resembles the shouts of a young toddler calling her daddy. They say everyone either got one of three things during our lockdowns over the past two years: an Actifry, a dog or a baby.

Having already had the first two, my wife and I completed the set in August 2020. Very cute alarm - which works brilliantly - but has a slight malfunction of going off much too early some days. I can’t find the instruction manual (come to think of it, I don't think I was ever given one?!)

Having dragged myself (or, rather, been dragged) out of bed, we head downstairs and I begin my day. I start with much the same thirty minute routine that involves washing, dressing, brushing teeth and grabbing breakfast. I have it down to near military precision at this point, my daughter enjoys her breakfast and the latest shenanigans on Cocomelon as I begin work.

Work has changed since covid - we now work almost exclusively from home. Stand-ups moved from the office TV to google hangout. 1-2-1s from the cafe to zoom and team catch-ups from the meeting room to the Drawasaurus lobby. It is obviously hard to replace face to face communication but here at PlotBox we have adapted incredibly and we all make it work. 

Depending on your team, stand-up times and participants vary; today, I’m on sprint stand-up. It’s your standard stand-up, worked on 'x' yesterday, working on 'y' today and have 'z' blockers. I’m working on mapping functionality at the minute; although already a core part of our product, we are updating our tech stack to improve usability and performance.

The great thing about that, as a developer, is that I have ownership over what and how we do it. I haven’t used serverless functions before, but in this scenario they are the perfect solution. After an hour of trawling through API documentation to get something working I hear the doorbell...granny has arrived to take over child minding duties.

The thing about being a developer - and all developers will get this - we love solving problems, but invariably we come across issues that can stump us. In the past I would have let it hold me up for hours at a time trying to solve it myself, but now I send a quick slack message to a couple of co-workers and within minutes we are paired programming on a hangout to find a solution.

One of the things we pride ourselves within the development team at PlotBox is the mantra that, 'everybody learns, everybody teaches'. It ensures everyone at all levels of the team are enhancing their own skills and sharing those among the team. In hardly any time at all, we have a solution to the issue -  one of those hidden gotchas within voluminous API documentation, I’ll make a note of it and share it with the team when I go over my latest work on our monthly developer show and tell. 

Before I know it, granny is back and it's nap time for my daughter. Oh how I wish I could join her, but adulting has stolen my afternoon nap. The afternoon flies past in a blur of ‘if else statements’ and ‘for loops’ - getting a ticket out the door takes both development and documentation time.

We’ve found that since working from home, documentation has been a key tool with which to share information among the team. Just as I’m about to merge my work, wife and daughter appear ready for a walk. I pause my merge and join them to catch the last rays of the winter sun.

Flexibility at PlotBox is great, to be able to pause work and spend some time with my girls (and dog) is priceless to me.

After a brisk walk around the Maghera countryside we arrive back. I’ll pick up where I left off and finish my merge when my daughter gets put to bed and I’ve had some dinner. Covid has brought many negatives but there has also been some great pluses. I’ve been here everyday to see my daughter grow from a newborn to a toddler, all the while being able to contribute towards the PlotBox product, helping cemeteries deal with those at the opposite end of life and their grieving families. For me that is incredibly rewarding, add that to the flexibility and great people I work with, it ensures everyday - when I'm rudely awoken by the most adorable little alarm clock - I am glad to get up and go to work.

It's evening now and I’ve finished that merge I started earlier. It only took fifteen minutes so no big complaints from my wife about constantly being on my laptop. I finish the day with a snack in my hand on the sofa beside my wife watching yet another Grey's Anatomy. At this stage she’s taking full advantage of her pregnant state (yes another one on the way - a new back up alarm clock?) and has me at her beck and call fetching her drinks, tidying up and other tasks I apparently “never do.”

It can feel like it’s been a long day when I make it to bed but all things considered I can’t wait to get up and do it all again.

Ciaran has been a Software Development Lead with PlotBox since 2018 and lives in Maghera with his (growing) family.  When he isn’t working, Ciaran enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He is a keen gym goer and sports person, playing both gaelic and soccer. In his other spare time he loves looking into new technologies, currently with a passion for all things crypto.

If you'd like to know more about life at PlotBox, click here.

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