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10 Questions with Charlie: Marshmallow Backend Engineer

July 11, 2022
4 min read

Ever wondered what happens here at Marshmallow? 🤔 What are the software engineers building? Where do the designers find inspiration? What tools are the Customer Happiness team using?

Now you can find out! 👏 We’ve spoken to Marshmallowers from across the company, asking them 10 quick-fire questions to reveal what life is really like at Marshmallow.

Today, we're chatting to Charlie Collard, one of our talented Backend Engineers...

1. What team do you work on?

I work on the efficiency team. Our goal is to make the company more efficient (as you might have guessed from the name!)

We work on the agent portal, trying to find bottlenecks in the agent’s workflows and trying to reduce repetitive tasks for them. 

We’re also improving the customer portal. For example, we try to get customers to self-serve as much as possible so they don’t have to reach out to agents all the time. That means our agents have time to focus on the bigger things which is essential as we scale up and take on more customers 🚀

2. What does a typical day look like for you at Marshmallow?

Every day at 10:15am we have an Efficiency team standup where we go through what we’re doing and any blockers. We have a Jira board and all have tickets which move about to show where we're at with certain projects. 

After that, I usually have meeting-free days (I try to keep my calendar fairly empty meeting-wise!) In my team, we have another casual stand-up at 4pm for backend engineers where we all catch up and chat about anything and everything. We started it when we were fully remote - that 15 minutes was the time we’d usually be chatting at our desks! It’s also a good time to bring up any issues with engineering-related challenges we need help solving.

Other than that, I’m focusing on our codebase throughout the day, implementing new products and services 💻

3. What tools/tech stack do you use to empower your work? 

  • IDE - IntelliJ, which everyone in the company uses 
  • CI - Jenkins, an automation server
  • Python, for scripting and odd jobs
  • Java, for production code
  • Sequel Ace, for database management
  • Tuple, for remote pair programming
  • Slack, to keep up to date with my team and everyone in the company
  • Jira, for planning and monitoring the progress of work
  • Git/GitHub, for version control
  • AWS Dynamo/RDS/S3/ECS Fargate etc., supports the company infrastructure
  • Terraform, for managing the above infrastructure
  • Datadog, for querying logs and infrastructure metrics
  • Sentry, for error tracking and alerting
  • PagerDuty, for alerting

4. How have you developed your skills while at Marshmallow? 

It’s amazing how much I’ve changed on the technical side. When I joined, I knew almost nothing about the tasks I do today. I was basically a grad when I joined, with fairly limited experience in a different area and a different language. 

I’ve also learned a lot about time management and project management too by running structured meetings that need clear outcomes. For example, we have bi-weekly sprints in Efficiency where time is quite constrained. So, we give the sprint a theme, share all the individual tickets and make it clear what needs to get done ✅

5. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while working here? How did you overcome that?

Tech leading for the Growth team was definitely my biggest challenge. Things like scoping projects, managing technical debt, and onboarding new engineers took up a lot of time, especially as a new Tech Lead. To help, I took inspiration from other tech leads, and from our general best practices here at Marshmallow.

I was only a Tech Lead for a short time as I decided I preferred being a Backend Engineer. At Marshmallow, there are two career paths for everyone - individual contributor where you focus on becoming an expert in your field, and management where you learn to manage people and teams, while also progressing in your field. I tried management but realised that being an individual contributor made more sense for my own career progression. The company was really supportive of my decision to switch back to the individual contributor route 💚 

6. Now that you’ve chosen the individual contributor route, how do you see your career progressing at Marshmallow? 

What’s great about Marshmallow is that you’re not locked into a role forever if there’s something else you can do well in and want to develop more. Marshmallow is very much on the side of growing engineers and their skill sets 🌱

There are other areas in engineering that I’m interested in across the company. I’ve talked about this to my managers and they’re very supportive. They’ve helped show me what improvements I need to make to get to the next level, and have made a lot of time to discuss those things with me in my reviews. 

7. Looking back at your time at Marshmallow, what are you most proud of?

We did a massive infrastructure migration last June that was carried out by just three engineers. It was a really exciting project because it was critical to scale up to the point where we are today!

We got everything done in pretty good time, and there was very little down time. The website didn’t go down once even though things had changed so much in the background. I really enjoyed being one of the engineers working on such a big project 👏

8. Favourite Slack channel?

It has to be #overheard-at-marshmallow. It’s a fun channel where if you hear something funny out of context you post it in the channel👂

9. Favourite gif?

10. Favourite place to eat near the office?  

The Burrito van at Whitecross Street Market! There’s always a huge queue so you know it’s good 🌯

If you're an engineer looking to take ownership of big projects in a fast-moving and product-focused environment, check out the opportunities here at Marshmallow.