Hi! I'm Tobi, one of the newer Software Developers here at the Legal Innovation Lab. While it's been some time since I joined I wanted to document my experience with the technical challenge our lab uses as part of our hiring process and how I went about implementing a project for it in a blog.
My project comprised of two separate independent applications and as such I elected to use two git repos, they can be found here:
Like many developers I have a list of projects in the back of my mind that I never get around to starting. I saw the technical challenge as the perfect opportunity to implement one of those projects. The project I elected to pick out from my backlog was a managing application I could use to keep track of tasks I need to do in order to care for my pet snake (and most likely, future snakes).
When I selected this project I was cognizant that it would likely be rather large and complex to implement, as such general planning on what the project would look like structurally and what the technical stack would look like was done before the official starting time where I would be allowed to initialise the repos and get started writing code. It was important to me to build the project in a modular way such that should I start running out of time the project could still be left in a state that would be maintainable and clean, albeit missing some features that I had planned. I would recommend this approach to others regardless of if their project is of a similar scale as this naturally leads you to abiding core development principles such as SRP.
Decisions were made on what technology to use partially based on what would be required or useful and partially to demonstrate my capabilities. The application was split into a Java Spring Boot API and Angular Web App for example as I believed it to be good practice to do so, utilising Liquibase to define and update database table definitions was for a similar reason. To demonstrate capability however, I elected to containerize both parts of my application and host them on a local kubernetes cluster using minikube (using .yaml files to define various aspects of the deployment) - this was a task I believed to require a good level of technical knowledge and understanding of kubernetes and containers, but would not take very long to implement while pairing nicely with the use of liquibase - if it were a long endevour then it would be better to simply focus on aspects that were strictly essential to the application. In the end my project utilised the following notable techs:
- Java Spring Boot
- Kubernetes (Minikube)
The project was built in perhaps an obvious order - I began by creating the API with the aim to fully complete it before moving on to the front end, this was the part I was most comfortable with and fundamentally the core of the project. I set out what I beleived to be reasonable milestones for me to achieve within the challenge timeframe - an example being to fully build out the API within the 1st 24 hours, allowing me the remaining 72 hours to focus on the weaker aspects of my skillset, building out front ends. Getting the API right would set me up for the rest of the challenge while covering much of the tech and skills I wanted to demonstrate so that was the priority - if it took longer than what I had allocated that wouldn't be an issue. I did however meet this deadline and I then turned my attention to the front end.
I'd have done well to better prepare for the front end development by staying up to date with angular, as it happened I was familiar with a much older version of angular than what I was dealing with and as such a lot of time was sunk into getting the project stucture to be how I'd like it and making sure everything was hooked up correctly. Really before I had started working on the front end I had probably already done enough for the technical challenge, however I wanted the front end if nothing else for my own personal use (as I continue to use the project in my spare time to this day, albeit updated). I felt that a Webapp front end was better for a demo than just having the API's Swagger page as the only visual element I had to show off during the debrief and would give me a confidence boost when it came to doing that.
The full 96 hours later, pens (or rather keyboards) down. I had more or less built everything I had set out to do in terms of features for the application and realistically, it was probably almost too much. By developing so much I'd easily opened myself up to violating principles either from being tired or simply making a mistake when throwing such a large project together in such little time. While some leniency may be offered due to the scale it's worth mentioning that a small project implemented well trumps a large project implemented poorly and I had probably at least marginally over estimated how much I could complete in such a short time. Regardless, I was very pleased with my project and felt immensely proud of what I was able to do for the challenge, even with a few mistakes made along the way.
Now that I had built the project all that remained was to demo the project to the team and convince them that I would be a good fit for the lab. Naturally as you are reading this blog, I succeeded - the debrief went very smoothly. While it can be difficult to talk about your project it's important to remember that they're not there to trip you up, the questions are fairly straight forward provided you planned your project reasonably as to abide the fundamental principles and understand and acknowledge potential flaws and mistakes - being able to identify these and think on how you would fix them is about as good as if the flaw didn't exist. Having a project I wanted to build also helped - I was excited to show off what I had built, and having pride in it gave me the confidence I required. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you need clarification on what was meant by a question - I certainly did.
With all that said and done there are a couple key points I'd like to state from my experience to recommend to anyone also looking to undertake the technical challenge, or simply when it comes to rapidly developing a project regardless of the scale:
- Go with a project that you feel excited about or would be proud to implement if you can.
- Plan! While you can't write code until the challenge starts nothing is stopping you from defining your technical needs or planning the project structure. Even if you can't do these in advance, doing them at the start will save you a lot of time down the line.
- Doing it right is much more important than doing a lot.
- Know your code inside and out, demoing and explaining your code is much harder if you only use snippets and don't know how it all works together.
- It's not the end of the world to not finish everything you wanted to - if nothing else it gives you something to talk about during the debrief.
- Don't be nervous, we want you to succeed as much as you do!
Thanks for reading!