Behind the Scenes at PLT: Lead Software Engineer

Jul 20, 2023
hackajob Staff

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a corner of the UK – or the globe – that hasn’t been touched by Pretty Little Thing. Whether through their slick campaigns, trendy clothes or great deals, they’re innovative and know how to make a splash. But what is it like to be part of their tech team as a Lead Developer and what exciting challenges do they see daily? We sat down with Michael to find out exactly what type of work you could get up to there, as well as the current tech roles they’re hiring for via hackajob.

Michael Van Der Velden is the Lead Developer on the Operations and Logistics team at Pretty Little Thing. He and his team look after the stock, tracking, warehouse integrations and much more, or, to put it succinctly, they help the retailer to run smoothly day-to-day. Having joined in 2020 as a Senior Developer, Michael has gone from strength to strength and had several promotions. Here he shares with us what it’s like to work for retail and tech giant ‘PLT’. Let’s get into it!

What types of technologies have you been exposed to whilst working on projects?

At Pretty Little Thing, we work in a node.JS  and TypeScript environment. We used to have a few legacy projects written in PHP but pretty much all of those have been converted. We primarily use AWS Lambda, DynamoDB and MongoDB. We’re also big fans of serverless architecture, making sure that our code is scalable.

When you think about Black Friday – which is obviously a very big time for us – scaling and efficiency are also important. We have hundreds of orders a minute, growing to thousands, if not millions of orders which is very exciting. We also get to integrate with a lot of third parties which also helps us to grow as engineers.

What is something you are proud of from your time at Pretty Little Thing?

One of the big projects that we've been working on is a move from a manual warehouse to a fully automated one. We’re automating components which makes it easier for the people in the warehouse themselves, it also makes it a lot more efficient. This will help us as a business to run a lot more orders quickly and thoroughly. I've been a big part of building the integration with that new automated warehouse software alongside my team, and I'm really proud of how that's gone. I think everyone on the team has done really well.

What is a typical day/week in the life of your role?

We start each day on flexible hours, which means that from Monday to Thursday, we can start anytime from 7.30 until 10 am. I personally tend to work half seven in the morning till half, four in the evening, I find that I'm more efficient in the mornings. So it gives me a couple of hours before everyone else clocks on to really knuckle down and get some work done.

At about 9.15 am each day we have our stand-up, which is telling the rest of our team what we worked on yesterday, what we're working on today, any blockers for anyone, we need help with, etc.

As my days really vary, there’s plenty I could be doing. Whether it’s interviewing, planning meetings to discuss our approach to a problem, or helping other developers, there’s always something to get stuck into. I sit down at least once with each of the developers on the team to make sure that they're getting on well. This is pretty standard practice across PLT, and that goes right the way up to the top of the company. I have my own one-to-one with the Head of Development and it’s a really helpful way and breeds very healthy open communication within the company.

And then I spend a good portion of my time working on tickets and building things alongside the team. As we get to the end of the week, we'll generally have a review of what tickets need to be done and break down how we're going to approach that in the next week. Finally,  we'll set some goals as to what we want to achieve that's that's roughly a week in my life!

Where to next tech-wise for you and your team at Pretty Little Thing?

In terms of tech, our team is good at staying on the cutting edge. Whilst we've been using node.JS and TypeScript for a while now, we use a lot of new options that are available to different teams. For example, we use Amazon CDK for our infrastructure in code, which is not something that I see in many of the locations in other companies. Our team has been pretty heavily leading the charge on that which is great as it allows our developers to also take part in building the infrastructure for our projects, and it gives everyone across our team a better understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

Apart from that, we're always looking at making sure that we're on the latest versions of languages. Using the newest features, and functionality. We like to experiment so if that sounds like something you also like, you should check out the roles we have on offer.

What types of benefits can engineers looking for their next role expect when joining Pretty Little Thing?

I don't think it's necessarily looked at as a benefit anymore I enjoy that we get to work from home as much as we want to. Occasionally, there's a team building day where we’ll all come in but you're not necessarily expected to do that once a week like you are in some other companies.

There’s also a discretionary bonus scheme which allows us to receive, on average, 10% of our annual salary as a bonus, which is obviously a very nice benefit. Plus a pay-as-you-earn share scheme which allows you to build a share portfolio of bulk stock over a three-year period. So that, that allows you to build a nice little nest egg for yourself, and you can put as much money into that as you want on a monthly basis.

We also have access to Medicash, which is a scheme that allows us to basically put the bill first onto PLT as opposed to paying for it ourselves. You can use it for dentistry, medical or even things like massages.

PLT also have a very positive culture within it. For all the other benefits – why not join our team to find out for yourself?

And that’s it!

If you’d like to join the team at Pretty Little Thing, then create a profile on the hackajob platform, where they’re currently hiring for a variety of roles or log in to your profile here.

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