This is the third post of my series of monthly review posts for 2024. Other entries in the series:


I attended Tesco Bank's annual "Win Together" awards ceremony in Glasgow at the beginning of the month.

The motor insurance team that I lead won the Team of the Year award for their work on launching tiered (aka 'differentiated') products. Well deserved, in my opinion, as this was a complex change which touched every component within the insurance stack. Further, I received a 'highly commended' award in the Colleague of the Year category!

Me celebrating Colleague of the Year (Highly Commended) at the Win Together awards ceremony

Principal Engineer!

In February I interviewed internally for a role within the Bank's platform engineering team, as a Principal Engineer. I was successful in the application and started this month. The role is supervisory across three of our platform teams: AWS, Azure and Containers. Although I won't be directly leading these teams, I'll form part of the overall leadership team and help each team to operate as effectively as possible. There's a lot to learn and a lot to do. The last two weeks I've been trying to immerse myself as much as possible in what's going on, which is about building rapport with the teams and staying close to the technical challenges we're working on.

Side Project: Pick'Em App

The Pick'Em application is now ready for the upcoming PPV: AEW Dynasty. Sadly, I'd just missed being ready for the AEW Revolution. Fortuitously, it presented the opportunity to test out the scoring system.

I've written three blog posts so far, covering the development of the application:

  1. Creating a Pick'Em App with AWS Amplify
  2. Single Table Design for the Pick'Em App
  3. Pick'Em Lambda Functions

It's been fun developing something end-to-end like this. I'm good at absorbing theory, but you really need to apply those learnings to crystallize them, and learn where the theory clashes with the need for pragmatism - or realism. There's at least one more planned post in this series - developing the VueJS user interface for the app - where everything comes together. I chose VueJS for this application because I wanted to force myself to learn something at each 'layer' - a new JS framework, serverless, and the NOSQL database.

Here's a brief preview of how the app is looking:

Pick'Em Predictions Page


I returned to the Agile Uprising podcast to host a panel discussion on the best of the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust. This was an incredibly difficult one to grasp, especially distinguishing between gluttony and greed, but I think we managed. What helped me when thinking this through was mapping the vice to the virtue - and understanding how we can apply termperance in our decisionmaking. I'm genuinely impressed we avoided any rude jokes.


I did lots of reading this month, although the vast majority of it was taken up by a heavy non-fiction title.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I loved this and all the way through was thinking to myself "this is proper Ravenloft". A wizard in a tower ("The Dragon") selects a local girl, Agnieszka, for her hitherto-unknown magical capabilities. Together, they work to battle "The Wood", a malevolent mysterious force that is corrupting nearby villages and seeks to capture the land itself. Court politics come into play, as does the conflict of the academic magic of the Dragon vs the natural magic of Agnieszka. This book kept a thrilling pace, handled its moments of horror unsettingly well and created a strong lead character that isn't a Mary Sue, but is complex, flawed and eminently likeable.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff

This was a long read. The prose was dense and disjointed; part polemic and part sociology essay, with the worst excesses of both.

And here's the thing - there is an important point to this work. Shoshana Zuboff has undoubtedly written a seminal work in this emerging area. Surveillance capitalism distinguishes itself from utilising "behavioural surplus" (otherwise known as your digital footprint) as raw material into a process which aggregates, analyses and then sells back insights and opportunities on the brokerage markets. Advertisments are the current business model of the Internet, having moved from static to dynamic and highly-tailored to your individual context. The book explores the consequence of an ever-creeping economic and political system driven on surveillance.

Without straying into typical conspiracy theory territory, Zuboff identifies this model operating with "radical indifference", its core purpose isn't to push propaganda for a given State, party or ideology. Rather, it's more about how:

The market reduces us to our behavior, transformed into another fictional commodity and packaged for othersโ€™ consumption.

This happens through a "gradual habituation". Endless terms and conditions with catch-all data collection statements permit mass collection of data, which is then laundered through brokers and sold for advertising space. As the NFT ~hype~ grift dies down and we move into the hype over Artifical Intelligence, we should reflect strongly on how much technological progress has been accomplished in such a short space of time, and how society is being rapidly rewritten so that technology is ubiquitous. This text is a clarion call for social and democratic decisionmaking, as the technological developments outpace the legislative capabilities of our socieities.

If this area of digital politics interests you, I doubt you'll find much that surprises you in this text. Read a summary and save yourself some time.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

A nice palette-cleanser after the above. The Twisted Tree is a short and fast-paced Young Adult novel set in the cold wilderness of Norway. Martha, the main protagonist, blinded in one eye by an accident, discovers she has the magical ability to read emotions by touching fabric. She travels to Norway to visit her Grandmother, discovers her family's lineage, a boy and some monsters. Without giving too much away, I loved how this story weaved in Norse mythology whilst keeping the story deeply personal. More could have been done to play up the isolationism of the island from a horror perspective. I found the romance overbaked, but what can you expect from a Young Adult novel. I read this in a day and enjoyed it, I'll certainly pick up the sequel.