We spoke to David Alonso, a software engineer and backend developer at Ocado Technology. At the Barcelona site where he works, he uses his digital talent to revamp the e-commerce experience his retailer customers deliver to consumers through new technologies such as machine learning, robotics and automation from online sales to logistics.
How would you define the profile of a Backend Developer? What does a specialist in this digital area do?
A Backend Developer sees to the hidden part of digital platforms to ensure the system works as a whole.
We handle the design, performance and testing of digital systems and platforms so that the whole package operates smoothly. Let’s imagine the company is a car factory: our Backend Development department would be involved in the design and smooth running of the engine, the internal part which the user does not see at first glance, whereas Frontend Development would include the chassis, the external part which they do see. At Ocado Technology, the Backend Development team works with a number of departments specialised in other professional fields such as Product Management and Customer Service. We approach our job as a group task where each specialist can do their bit towards the end result.
How do you harness your Backend Development talent to meet your customers' needs?
Backend Development is closely aligned with the latest digital technologies and work methods to develop secure and efficient payment environments.
In Barcelona we work in the OSP (Ocado Smart Platform) ecommerce area and we are specifically engaged in the payments domain, shaping a global solution for payments across various countries, methods and currencies. We use AGILE and SCRUM methodologies to drive the potential of our Backend Development talent as they provide us with quick adjustment to market changes, effective solutions and a convenient way to work as a team. Plus since all our architectures are in the cloud and reap its benefits, we can evolve different parts of the system in parallel while still targeting their details without disrupting the work of other colleagues.
What is the biggest challenge, the one where you invest all your effort, in turning your ecommerce projects into successful platforms?
Our department’s key challenges are firstly to globally scale up the payment solution we have specified, and secondly to do it in a way which is transparent to the user. On this journey we need to thoroughly understand the most advanced Backend Development tools and also to work together with the teams involved to spot any bottlenecks or errors which might make the service worse.
How do you think Backend Development will evolve in the coming years to address new market opportunities?
Backend developers will increasingly need to specialise in particular areas of the company’s value proposition, and of course have an outstanding command of the latest technologies which will unlock their professional skills. In our business area in particular, we are exploring more intuitive, fast and secure payment methods including cutting-edge technologies in big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence in pursuit of the most innovative user experience.
To end with an aspirational message, what do you recommend to professionals who want to leverage their talent in backend development?
Firstly, do not overlook training: it is a field that calls for learning because the market is evolving and only the best qualified professionals will have the skills to lead it. It is equally important to hone the ability to operate as part of a team and also to enhance creativity, abstract thinking and logic.