A day in the life of a Principal Front End Engineer at Code

By Alex Hall
Principal Front End Engineer

In a series of blogs about what life as a Computerlover is like, we caught up with our Principal Front End Engineer to find out what he gets up to in his day-to-day. 

Hi Alex! Can you start by telling us about yourself and your role within the agency?

I am the Principal Front End Engineer here at Code, and I have been working here for almost a year now. I love anything tech, music and the odd sports here and there where I can fit that all in.

At Code, my role splits between:

  • Creating and maintaining the tools and processes all the Front End Engineers use. I keep on top of the latest trends in the industry so that we are at the cutting edge of innovation as possible.
  • Consultation work around the performance and methodologies used by our clients. I help guide them in creating their robust technical solutions.

I have a great and important job. It’s also a lot of fun and I get to work with some talented people at the same time. Every single day is a school day for me.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and what attracted you to Code?

I’ve been an engineer for over 15 years, starting as a ‘CSS Integrator’ at a time when CSS was new to web development. Over the years I’ve dabbled in almost everything. From getting involved in PHP (and using it to build my content management system) to pure front end work, which is my true passion.

I’ve known about Code for many years. They were award-winners at ceremonies I attended with previous companies. I’d also heard of their reputation as being an exceptional place to work, and was aware of their brilliant work for clients, which stood out in the industry.

I was not aware the role I am in now existed, although it’s the role I have always wanted to do. I enjoy innovating and learning about all the new things going on in the industry.

Now we’re all working flexibly, could you describe a typical day either in the office or from home?

My days generally start with a good morning to all the teams and then a check of emails. I often attend stand-ups for various product teams throughout the week. I offer any Front End Engineering support with current work, and any consultative work for potential, or current, clients.

After checking in with the teams my days can be quite varied. This depends on whether there is currently a piece of consultation work going on, or if any teams need support throughout the day.

If there is no support work needed, I will then work on a presentation for our discipline-focused Make Change Friday sessions. I’m currently working on a Web Performance talk and a ‘Code Along’ with a new framework. Otherwise, I read up on some articles or work on implementing new tools or resources for the rest of the Front End team.

What have you recently been working on?

I have recently been working on ways we can automate our accessibility testing. This is the first point of call to catch accessibility issues with the code we write. Accessibility has become an important focus for Code in the last year. I’ve been working on ways we can make a good start in capturing and fixing issues. These ways include using automated tools and training our developers in the best ways to write accessible code.

I have been researching how we can extend this with full training for our developers on accessibility. This way everybody can build websites that are inclusive to as many people as possible. It is a challenge but is also very interesting and very rewarding.

Is there any work you are particularly proud of?

I think I am most proud of the website and tools I have started to build for the Front End. They showcase good Front End Engineering performance and are built using a new framework as a proof of concept. They include some tools to help me (and anyone else) run performance checks, accessibility tests, visual regression tests and website monitoring on any given website.

One of my goals as Principal Front End Engineer was to put in place some of these things. I thought I would be able to test them best by building them myself as tools I could use, and thereby understanding how they work.

As part of the consultation work, website performance is probably the one I’m asked to do the most often. One of the tools was written as a way for me to automate as much of this process as possible.

I love building helpful tools!

Do you have a favourite part of your job?

I don’t think there is a single favourite part. I do, genuinely, love every aspect of my job. I think I most enjoy collaborating with, teaching, and learning from the other Front End Engineers here because they are so talented, friendly and diverse in their skills.

But I also really enjoy building things. I am a developer at heart and like nothing better than developing. If I can combine these two things and develop things to make developers’ lives easier then that is where I feel I get the most reward from my job.

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