Daniel Deane

Daniel Deane

Director Consulting Expert - Software Engineering

This year I had the opportunity to attend the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in London, where I had the privilege of receiving an invitation from LaunchDarkly, an industry leading provider of feature deployment software, to participate in a tech lead round table dinner at the Gherkin. Participating at the gathering were tech leaders representing various organisations across industries including banking, energy, and retail.

During our discussions, we delved into crucial topics such as delivering projects with quality, security, and speed using modern approaches. As you’d expect, we touched upon the subject of Artificial Intelligence and the consensus in my group was its an immature technology that needs time to improve. We did discuss the use of Microsoft’s CoPilot, an AI assistant that will soon be commonly available with MS365, and it is one area I’d admit that I need to investigate further and to understand its impact, for a session with our Software Engineering Community.

One particularly hot topic was how we could provide early value to our users, leading to passionate and thought-provoking ideas. I will explore this further in my upcoming article titled "Unleashing the Power of LaunchDarkly: A Guide to Effective Feature Management," which highlights one area that can revolutionise the value we offer our clients and users through feature management.

I would also like to share my key takeaway from the evening—a topic close to my heart—the development of junior engineers. I had an engaging conversation with an engineering lead and surprisingly, we discovered that despite working in different industries, we faced similar challenges. One issue that deeply resonated with both of us was the support and growth of our junior engineers.

With the advent of Covid and subsequent lockdowns, working from home presented a significant problem for junior engineers embarking on their careers—the lack of immediate and flexible support from their colleagues. In my early days as a junior developer (which feels like ages ago!), I had the luxury of tapping a colleague on the shoulder to review my code, discuss problem-solving approaches, or simply engage in a conversation on a specific topic. I was fortunate to receive exceptional support and gain invaluable experience, shaping my path as a software engineer. Nowadays, however, obtaining the same level of support has become much more challenging.

To seek support, junior engineers must navigate through various communication channels, such as Teams, and ping their colleagues, and await a response. They then must arrange screen-sharing calls, walk through their queries, and finally receive the assistance that used to take just a few minutes, now stretching to 30 minutes or more for both the junior and the person providing support. Additionally, developers often operate on separate networks, disconnected from the corporate network that hosts communication platforms like Teams and email. They may enter a "dark" mode while focusing on development tasks, occasionally checking into the corporate network to catch up on communications, leading to a further delay in responses.

As a result, our junior engineers often feel isolated and unsupported. So, how can we address this issue? Here are my ten suggestions on how to support junior engineers:

1. Foster the right culture: At CGI, I am proud to say that we have an amazingly supportive culture.

6. Make yourself available to offer support: Even though it may be easier said than done, as the willingness exists but is often diluted in practice.

2. Implement a mentoring program: We should strive to invest more time in mentoring, as time constraints often hinder such initiatives.

7. Trust junior developers to learn from failure: Creating controlled environments for them to fail and learn is the best way to foster growth.

3. Offer formal and informal training opportunities: Including pair programming.

8. Provide a structured framework of expectations: Both for junior engineers and supporting team members we need to continue to explore how we improve commercial experience on projects.

4. Identify technical subject matter experts: Facilitate networking opportunities for junior engineers.

9. Confidence: Focus on building the confidence of our junior engineers at every opportunity.

5. Define the responsibility of development leads: Ensure we set expectations for senior engineers and provide them with the time to lead their teams.

10. Time: Prioritise time for supporting juniors, despite the pressures to deliver for our clients.


Each of these ten suggestions could be explored as individual topics in itself! I’m also pleased to say that we have some amazing leaders in CGI investing in resolving and tackling this issue from our Training and Development teams to our delivery directors and senior engineers to name a few. Please do take a moment to consider your own experience and is there a junior member you work with that you could reach out to today and offer support?

To leave you with a fun little fact, from attending the tech dinner, the venue overlooked iconic London buildings such as the cheese grater and the Walkie Talkie. Interestingly, from my vantage point, it appeared as though the Gherkin was towering over our CGI office. It seemed so unusual as the Gherkin didn’t seem as though it was taller than the Walkie Talkie from ground level. However, the Gherkin’s height of 180m surpassed the Walkie Talkie’s 160m. So, next time you come across a question about taller buildings in London whilst watching the Chase, you’ll know the answer!

If you would like to discuss any of the topics mentioned in this blog, I welcome your thoughts and invite you to reach out to me.

About this author

Daniel Deane

Daniel Deane

Director Consulting Expert - Software Engineering

Daniel is a Solution Architect and Software Engineer with 30 years’ commercial IT industry experience. He delivers SAFe Scaled Agile technology transformations and change projects for Central Government departments, banking, aviation, and energy. Daniel also ...