The Bootcamp Experience

Earlier this year, I joined FT’s membership team as a Java Developer. On a typical day, the membership team are responsible for developing and maintaining a series of microservices which provide APIs for FT to manage its subscribers through our various mobile platforms. This includes setting up new subscriptions on the FT site/mobile app, which our web application services are able to handle and ensure customers are successfully subscribed and more importantly, have access to content they are paying for.

As a world leader in business and financial news it is unsurprising that the FT elicits a fast paced environment! We have a diverse range of teams (even within the technology department) and each new starter at the FT is given the opportunity to go on a crash course to learn about other teams within technology – we call this the bootcamp experience. The concept is simple – pick three teams you’d like to learn more about and spend a week on each team! I took up the bootcamp challenge and chose Content & Universal Publishing, Cyber Security and Origami.

Week 1: The semantic metadata team are part of Content & Universal Publishing and are responsible for enriching the article content produced at the FT. Within FT articles people, organisations and places of interest mentioned are identified and tagged with metadata to provide a detailed context of each article. In the week that I spent on UUP,  the team were focussed on a project called “The Six Degrees of Angela Merkel” with the aim of the project to introduce an interactive visualisation to the FT site which allowed users to explore articles with the most popular ‘persons of interest’ in the news.


<the image above shows a screen shot of the interactive visualisation>

The content and UUP tech stack was extremely rich. From ‘Go’ dropwizard microservices to Neo4j graph databases and Ontotext meta tagging. In a single week, I learnt some ‘Go’ programming, neo4j and about deploying dashboards for monitoring FT microservices.

Week 2: Prior to joining the FT I had spent the last 4 years on a PhD research programme focussed on preventing hackers from exploiting critical infrastructures so the Cyber security team was a great opportunity to see how FT was addressing current security issues. Just as expected, the team had a range of protective measures, such as Intrusion Detection Systems and Vulnerability Scanners, already in place! While the cyber security team provide these measures, each team in the technology department are responsible for implementing and utilising them whilst working, so it was the responsibility of the membership team to ensure our AWS microservices were placed behind an intrusion prevention system. As well as learning about security at the FT I helped make some improvements to one of the security team’s core Java based services – Staff Single Sign On.

Week 3: The new world of front end development uses shiny technologies like node, npm, bootstrap, gulp, bower (and the list goes on!), which is unknown territory for the typical Java developer. Long gone are the days where you wrote a website from scratch using simple HTML5 and native javascript (with the help of JQuery). Today, websites have become more functional – evolving more into web applications. At the FT, the Origami team provide a group of services, modules and tools for building such websites. The tools they provide not only allow developers to build websites fast but also provide an FT styled UI. My aim of choosing the origami team was to demystify some of the concepts behind these new technologies. This would also be useful knowledge once I returned to my home team (membership) which is responsible for maintaining web services which render frontend content using semantic templates like {{mustache}}.

Life as a Developer at the FT

So far, as a developer at the FT I’ve experienced a steep learning curve, worked with like-minded smart people, helped translate business requirements into technical solutions, solved challenging technical architectural problems, developed new features and improvements for our existing microservice APIs and much more! The technology department is agile driven and has an extremely rich tech stack with something for every engineer. At the FT, you’re not just a developer, you get the opportunity to be a full stack engineer.