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Launching a Test Engineering exchange programme

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As a government agency, we get to work with a wide range of specialist organisations – which often gives us the opportunity to exchange valuable skills and knowledge. This was the aim of a recent Test Engineering exchange programme organised in partnership with the Met Office.

Last year we hosted a software testing meetup on site, bringing together representatives from other government agencies to share their software testing processes and discuss best practice. The event was a big success and inspired us to think about other ways in which our test engineering teams could work together.

Working closely with the Met Office, we conceived of the idea for an exchange programme, with one member of each of our Test Engineering teams spending three months at the other organisation. This would offer a valuable opportunity to find out how our respective teams operate, so we could better learn from one another.

Met Office test engineer Katherine Tompkins at the UKHO office

From the Met Office, Senior IT Practitioner Katherine Tomkins spent the duration at the UKHO here in Taunton, embedded within one of our delivery teams. This particular team is currently delivering a production-level capability to query AIS data by extent, vessel type and other options. Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) technology, Katherine began to look at how we store different types of marine data and make it available to our customers using the power and scalability of the cloud.

Katherine had a background in Test Engineering, but currently works as a developer within a Met Office team which shares Test Engineering responsibilities across the whole team, rather than having a dedicated Test Engineering role within the team. Two weeks into the exchange programme, she commented:

“It is a great privilege to be asked to work at the UK Hydrographic Office. The building is amazing and very well suited to the needs of the development team I am working in.

I’ve been really impressed by the professionalism of the staff and the friendliness of my new colleagues – and the guilds and support networks that have been built up over the past few years are inspiring.

Day-to-day activities are similar in many ways to the Met Office, but I also think there are lots of things our organisations can learn from one another. I’m looking forward to meeting people over the next few weeks.”

UKHO test engineer Ollie Causley presenting

From the UKHO, Senior Test Automation Engineer Ollie Causley spent three months in Exeter at the Met Office headquarters, where they use Amazon Web Service (AWS) technology extensively.

Ollie has been working to help build delivery pipelines using AWS, so that code can be deployed from development all the way to producing with a series of automated tests. He also used CloudFormation – a technology that we have not used before.

“I am glad to have been given the opportunity to work down the Met Office as part of the tester exchange. It has been a great experience for me to work in a new environment with its own unique set of challenges and learn from the highly skilled individuals that work there.

They’ve helped me develop my AWS knowledge – particularly in areas such as infrastructure and monitoring, which I’m looking forward to implementing in my team at the UKHO.

I feel that a lot of benefit has come out of conversations about shared challenges we face, such as improving our team cultures and developing our automated testing capabilities.

I am hoping this exchange will improve the collaboration between the two organisations and that Katherine and I have demonstrated the value of these exchanges, so that more can take place in future.

I want to thank everyone involved in making this a success, especially the SWFHIM team I worked in at the Met Office – hopefully I have also been useful to them!”

It was great to hear that Katherine and Ollie both found the programme worthwhile for their professional development and that they both enjoyed positive experiences within their new teams. After the success of this exchange, we’re hoping this will be a model upon which we can base future exchanges with each other and with other government partners.

With thanks to Aidan Green, Head of Solutions Delivery at the Met Office.

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