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Supporting Users as a Developer

A couple of weeks ago, it was my turn to take over, with a couple of other developers, the second line technical support of GOV.UK.

Second line technical support is a team made up of no fixed members. Each week, three people move desks to sit next to each other and be available throughout the day in order to make sure the technical infrastructure runs without issues, and also to support people from across national and local government with their queries regarding GDS-provided services.

As a new member of the team starting my first shift, I was given the position of “shadow developer”, learning the ropes with support from two other, more experienced developers from other teams. Nevertheless, I will admit that I was apprehensive about my first day. Images of massive and urgent errors in applications I’d never worked on entered my mind. What if everything went wrong just at the wrong time and I was the only one immediately available to be called up to fix it? Luckily for me, I was “paired” with two greatly more experienced developers from two different teams. This greatly calmed my initial apprehensions about the role.

There is a large screen next to the desks showing a summary of the status of the infrastructure and upcoming deployments. I found it a nice little game to see if I could get all the various environments to green without any errors or warnings - it was much harder than I thought!

Throughout the week, we were kept busy by a number of issues across various services and applications. I found it enjoyable working alongside my two colleagues to troubleshoot, fix or re-assign issues to another team. Far from it being a stressful situation, I actually greatly enjoyed what I did and found that I learnt a lot about the underlying workings of GOV.UK and the various teams. I even had time to look through the incoming support tickets from other departments and fix a few small bugs myself during a few quiet intervals.

It’s a real testament to my colleagues, the second line delivery manager and GDS as a whole that even a role most people would think of as stressful and undesirable was made into something fun and educational. All developers on GOV.UK teams take part in second line support on a rota basis, with most going on every couple of months for a week.

Having had my first experience of life on second line support, I’m now excited about my next shift as a fully-fledged developer and what will come up to test my knowledge.

If this sounds like a good place to work, take a look at Working for GDS - we’re usually in search of talented people to come and join the team.