About The Role
AO are currently embarking on a hugely exciting internal transformation; transitioning our development teams to fully independent, autonomous and cross functional product teams; a business wide initiative led by our CEO John Roberts.
Currently we have over twenty development teams and a tech department of over two hundred people. As part of this transformation we’re rearchitecting our platforms to separate our estate into independently deployable products, around which we’re rebuilding cross functional teams within a Team of Teams structure; groups of teams with shared objectives and overarching goals, but with individual remits and the freedom to achieve these through data, insights and experimentation.
Principals, along with Agile Coaches, will be part of a delivery specialist team which spanning across the whole estate, led by our Engineering Manager, to keep our engineering and delivery efforts closely aligned across the whole of AO.
The Principal role is designed to provide teams and individuals with strong technical leadership in product design and development through consultation, evangelism, guidance, influence and support. This naturally calls for a person who is a great communicator.
You’ll liaise with Product Owners, Team Leads and Software Development Managers, advising them on technical approaches to solve problems for the customer and balancing delivery at pace with code craftmanship. You’ll be required to have input and influence into the resilience, security, observability and testing strategies of products, and work with the respective teams under a philosophy of continuous improvement. We expect you to evangelise these things both inside and outside of teams, through coaching, demos, workshops and externally at local meetups or wider in an ambassadorial role for AO.
Whereas other development roles expect you to be a great individual contributor with the focus weighted more on your output, there is an important distinction with the Principal role in that the focus shifts to the impact you make, and the consequent effect of that impact on the output of others.
For a great individual contributor, embedding into a team helps the team’s output; but with a Principal there is a multiplier effect as the focus is enabling a team of developers to operate more effectively. If this materialises in even a modest 5-10%, the impact to the team is far greater than that of any individual contributor. This is where the true value of a great Principal shines, in the enablement of others across the whole estate, particularly when that increase in effectiveness is residual and long lasting.
As a Principal you’ll need to be comfortable advising on architectural strategies at departmental level, guiding tool choices and utilisation at Team of Teams level, and embedding yourself directly into teams working hands on coaching and even shipping code if you feel it’s required. The remit is as broad and all-encompassing as the autonomy the role affords.
We expect you to have a deep understanding of Back End technologies (specifically C#, .Net Core and AWS), frameworks, tools and best practice, and extensive experience in architecture, API design and building scalable, distributable, maintainable and high-performance software. These should be demonstrable through your knowledge of established and modern patterns in these areas and the ability to identify and treat performance bottlenecks in both infrastructure and technology utilisation. These technical skills need to be complemented with great communication skills allowing you to convey ideas to a variety of audience types, both technical and non-technical alike and give constructive feedback to AO Tech members of all experience levels in the appropriate manner.
As a Principal you’ll have a number of objectives, but will be expected to create your own, based on areas you feel most need your attention. These are not restricted to just technical matters; they could be people or organisational focused too. As such the role provides the freedom and autonomy to approach the crafting and development of a world class technical platform and the empowerment and enablement of teams in just about any way you see fit. In order for this to work we’ll need someone observant, driven, proactive, resourceful, approachable and self-directed, and you’ll need excellent time management, organisation, prioritisation, communication and collaboration skills; able to connect with developers of all levels of experience.
In the interest of clarity, the Principal role comes with no line management responsibilities, nor do you have direct ownership of any product.
Here's What You Can Expect To Be Doing
Examples of some initial objectives related to the role
Help teams measure technical debt and have strategies to tackle through helping with the creation of technical backlogs, refactoring and testing strategies
Be a key contributor in our architectural working group
Help us transition to an event driven architecture
Help us appropriately break up our existing applications into smaller, discreet products
Input into our monitoring and observability tool choices
Support our transition to a world of continuous improvement and delivery
Help our development of a reusable, full stack UI component library
A Few Things About You
Signs the role is going well
- Teams and individuals notice the residual impact of your involvement through increased productivity, learning and understanding of the codebase
- There is a clear guidance over governance style in your approach
- Objectives are co-ordinated strategically across the estate through with other Principals and the Engineering Manager
- You build good working relationships with both management and teams alike
- You are making demonstrable, multi-levelled impact across the department, Team of Teams and individual teams, based on your objectives
Codebases you work with can be measured for their health and demonstrate improvement over time in areas that help teams become more effective
Despite a Back End designation, your decisions and approaches demonstrate great consideration for Front End and UX enablement
Effective standardisation increases and is demonstrable through its impact to team delivery. Standards are maintained and bought into by teams
Signs the role is not going well
- You are the only person who can do X (individual heroism over team empowerment)
- Standards are inflicted by dictatorship
- You create complex solutions and favour the shiniest technology without a clear and compelling rationale
- You finish a week unsure of what you’ve achieved
- You don’t react well to being challenged
- You are disconnected from the Engineering Manager and other Principals
- Communication is sporadic, untimely, lacking appropriate detail, poorly expressed and inconsistent, and you are regularly being chased for it
- Your management of BAU / WIP is poor and your objectives are constantly slipping as a result
- Standardisation and practice you introduce is quickly eroded
A Bit About Us
At AO, we want to make sure our customers are happy. When they have a smile on their face, we know we’ve done a good job. It’s at the heart of everything we do, and it’s why our logo is always smiling.
When it comes to appliances and electricals, we’ve got the lot. Washing machines? Yep. TVs? Check. Laptops? Absolutely. Everything except doorbells (just kidding, we’ve got those too).
We’re passionate, relentless and full of beans, determined to make a difference and change the world for the better. From massive changes to tiny tweaks - making a difference is what keeps us driven.
It started at a pub in Bolton with a £1 bet and a belief that things could be done better!
Why Choose AO?
Our people are our superpower, and that’s no accident. We’re looking for everyday heroes who want to learn and help other people achieve. Those glass-half-full-types who have an appetite for a better tomorrow.
With AO, the sky’s the limit. We’ll support you to be the best version of yourself and always drive your career forward.
We keep things simple. We say things like "treat every customer like they’re your gran" and "make decisions your mum would be proud of" because we’re personal and act with integrity - every day in every action.
We’re forward thinking with both Tech and our people. We know how important family and wellbeing are - flexibility is key to be able to get that balance of life just right, so we operate core hours of 10-4pm to support your lifestyle.
It’s not about where you work, but about how you work and the value you add. This means for most roles, you can split your time working from home, the office, or a coffee shop if that’s where you thrive the most. Whatever the task, project or product, we trust our teams to work together, collaborate and make the sensible choice.
We believe diversity will help us find a better way. We want our workforce to be as diverse as our customers by celebrating, valuing and respecting every individual. We achieve this by nurturing a culture of inclusion where every voice matters. We welcome applications from everyone and we can make adjustments to our interview process according to your needs.
We’ve designed our benefits to cover everything from big moments to little helps. As well all as the essentials, like pensions and holidays, we’ve got our own "AO Perks" to help you with the little things that matter.
To see all our benefits and perks, visit our AO Benefits page.
- Feel free to have a chat with us about our flexible ways of working.
- You can take up to 5 days out of the business a year to use for development in your role and we’ll cover the cost.
- We have our own library, if you've seen something which interests you, we can order in a copy. Just add it to the library when you've done.
- 25 days holiday (Excluding Bank Holidays)
- At least 5% contribution pension scheme
- Dedicated wellness initiatives that support your wellbeing, ranging from our 24hr employee assistance programme to subsidised gym membership.
For more details about the role, contact firstname.lastname@example.org