Spotlight on Jet2.com - Interview with Allan Crisp, General Manager - Systems Support
INTERVIEW WITH: ALLAN CRISP
GENERAL MANAGER, SYSTEMS SUPPORT
What are your Team’s key responsibilities?
I am responsible for three areas within the IT Team.
I manage the Support Team, who are responsible for logging, resolving and investigating any queries that have been raised by our user base. They are a mix of T-SQL Developers and .Net Developers proper.
The next area I have responsibility for is our Database Administration Team. We have a Team of five Database Administrators (DBAs), looking after over two hundred production SQL Server instances and one Oracle instance as well.
The last area I look after is System Testing - functional testing across both Jet2.com and Jet2holidays. This is a Team of twenty Testers, ten on each side of the fence. They are predominantly Manual Testers but we are now looking at automation as we are building our capabilities in this area, which is one of the exciting things that we have coming up in the next twelve months.
How many people do you have in each Team?
We have five Database Administrators, Twenty Testers and a Team of five in Systems Support.
What kind of projects are those Teams working on typically?
In the Support Team, no two days are the same. It is by its very nature reactive, so the Team could be setting up a new resort one day– we’ve got some new destinations coming up next year and the Team will be sorting out the new resorts before they go on sale - the next day they could be resolving some niggles on the website or some pricing changes. They may also be required to look at bugs and small changes to the site. The
work is very varied.
The DBA Team’s main function is to keep our production ecommerce platforms up and running. Jet2.com has one of the largest ecommerce platforms in the UK. To give you an idea of the scale of our production database, the biggest table has upwards of one billion rows of data. So they are working on managing the storage of the database and making sure things don’t go over the maximum allowed. Obviously, we have to be
performing well- our websites can have upwards of 3000 people on them at any one time, so we need to make sure that everything is hanging together with that number of concurrent users. They spend a lot of time doing that, but they also get involved with project work as well. They’re very much a QA function for the database development that the core Jet2.com and Jet2holidays Teams do. They check, validate, and suggest
improvements to any of that work that is going on. They also get involved in their own projects, particularly in the area of high availability - making sure that systems are up and running at all times. We are always working on little projects to improve recovery time and to minimise the chance of our systems having any downtime.
The Test Team are split half-and-half between Jet2.com and Jet2holidays . To give you an idea of the kind of projects the Jet2holidays colleagues are involved in, they are currently working on a mobile version of the site. They have completely built a new mobile site from the ground up over the last four or five weeks. That was really fast-moving, but also very important to ensure we get a competitive edge out of the increase we are
seeing in visitors browsing on their mobile devices.
On the Jet2.com side, to give you an example of a recent project we’ve been working on, we’ve recently had a project focused on redesigning the boarding cards. We were working on areas such as promotional messages, and adding barcodes to boarding passes to make the checking in experience slicker for our customers.
What are the most in-demand technologies that your Teams are working with?
In the Support Team, the guys are able to very much get their hands dirty with the code base. In that Team, we need people who have good C# and .Net skills. We have a big demand for T-SQL skills as well. They work very closely with the DBA Team so they need to be almost at DBA level themselves. In terms of their knowledge, they are using SQL 2012 on a daily basis, which leads nicely onto the DBA Team.
The DBA Team are using SQL 2012 and all of the enterprise features as well, so they’re using things like always on and compression to make the databases easier to manage. We’ve got an eye on the future too, as we’re evaluating SQL 2014 at the moment, with a view to us implementing that early next year.
Then, in the Test Team, we’re using Microsoft Test Manager. This is the manual test tool we’re using to log the test cases and track execution against those cases. Across all three Teams, we’re using the Visual Studio product with Team Foundation Server, as the Development Teams are, because that’s the central repository of work to be done. The Testers are also moving into the automation space, so we’re using Selenium as our
automation tool and that is linked to our custom .net framework that we have had written.
We’re also looking at some technologies such as Appium, which will be focused on testing the mobile devices and automation.
What are the major trends that have had an impact on Systems Support in the last twelve months?
Automation has been a primary focus. There is a big drive generally in the testing space towards Shift Left, which means moving much of your testing earlier on in the cycle. Because traditionally testing has been at the very end, and therefore if something happens earlier on in the project, the Testers’time gets compressed. What we’re trying to do is take test time and move it as much upstream as possible, so automation is one
example of that, where we can define the tests up front. The Developers then have to develop against that and it doesn’t even leave the Developers’desktops until they are getting a pass on some of the tests.
Shift Left and automation generally are where we are seeing the shift, and we are increasing our Selenium usage. Our goal is to get close to 100% of our regression tests automated. And that is recaptured time that our Testers can invest in making sure that the core work they have coming up is their main focus, rather than regression testing the existing functionality of the site.
Is that something that you see having a big impact over the coming twelve months?
Definitely. Automation will continue, but there are other areas in the whole Shift Left philosophy that we're looking at - things like behavioural driven development as well. So we're actually asking for the requirements that our users are giving us to be structured in a certain way so that our Testers construct tests right up front. Before a Developer has even written a piece of code they have written some tests that are then plugging
into that automation piece that our Developers are working against.
How much exposure do your Teams have to wider areas of the business?
My three Teams work closely with other Teams all across the business. The Support Team, by their very nature, are getting calls from every Team across the business on a daily basis. One minute they could be talking to someone about how to fuel an aircraft, or the right fuel levels for an aircraft, the next minute they could be helping the Product Team set up some new hotels for a new destination that we have got on sale next year.
The DBA Team, being slightly more technical, have less exposure, but nonetheless they work really closely with our Revenue Team. They have some really cool tools to make sure they can predict the optimum revenue levels on pricing for a flight, and our Team have been helping them tweak and improve those tools to ensure that we are maximising revenue on any particular flight.
The Test Team, by the nature of the new requirements coming in, work closely with the Teams around the business to ensure that they fully understand all their requirements. They facilitate the user acceptance testing as well, so they will be guiding other Teams through the functionalities that our Teams have developed, making sure that it is exactly what the business asked for in the first place.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to get into a Systems Support role?
We're focusing at the moment on getting people into the core Support Team. For that, we are looking for people with really strong SQL skills. Most roles in IT generally require strong SQL skills - this is a foundation that we build our software upon. Potential candidates should have an understanding of database technologies too. We're also very much a Microsoft shop, so the nuances of SQL Server, T-SQL, .Net and C#.Net are where
our focus areas are.
Why do you enjoy working for Jet2.com and Jet2holidays?
For me the best thing about it is the varied nature of the job. You can be sitting upstairs in the CEO's office one minute talking about the strategy of new mobile sites, and the next minute you can be talking to someone up at the airport about something really nitty gritty like making sure that the aircraft are fuelled properly. I really like that variety. It's not like some other businesses where you'd come in and be completely blinkered
or isolated from the rest of the business. Here you really are exposed to all areas of the business and encouraged to get involved and help improve things for the wider business.
IQ Tech are an exclusive recruitment partner of Jet2.com - one of the UK's largest eCommerce platforms. Jet2.com are currently recruiting for roles in their Leeds office including: .Net Developers, Support Analysts, BI Applications Developers and .Net Applications Developers...