Job Overview


£60,000-70,000 Permanent


Systems & Engineering



Job Overview

A Bit About Us

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.

More About the Role

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

Why Choose AO?

We’re in the business of better tomorrows, for both our customers and our people. A better tomorrow means finding a place that’ll reward your curiosity. A place that encourages you to ask ‘why’. Somewhere that feeds your imagination and gives you the support to bring those ideas to life.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to learn and help others achieve, who always sees the glass half-full with an appetite for what’s next, you’ll fit right in with us.

In return, you’ll be an integral part of an award-winning team who are forward-thinking and innovative. You can also 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’re about looking at the bigger picture - the better tomorrow. And no matter what that looks like to you, we’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need to make it happen.

Great People Deserve Great Things

As an AO’er you can take full advantage of the benefits and perks we have to offer

  • 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 a healthy work / life balance, ranging from our 24hr employee assistance programme to subsidised gym membership.

To see all of our benefits and perks visit our AO Benefits page.

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