Hi, my name is Greg, and I’m a Principal Solution Architect at DVLA. I joined the agency back in August 2020 just before the start of the second wave of the pandemic. I’m based in Swansea but have been working remotely.
The role of a Technical Architect at DVLA is both challenging and full of variety. One day, I’d be helping DVLA achieve its objectives by meeting key business stakeholders to find out their problems and how to assist them. The next day, I could be working with the engineering teams on designs, code and future architectural strategy.
Key elements of the role involve architectural governance across DVLA and peer reviewing designs, which never fails to spark up productive debates within the community.
I start the morning planning out my priorities for the day. The primary item that needs to be progressed is a proof of concept (PoC) regarding cross account messaging, so I set aside time with the relevant stakeholders to take this forward.
A typical day will begin with a Microsoft Teams stand-up at 9:15 with other architecture colleagues from the Senior Management Team (SMT). This is an opportunity to raise progress and share the status or impediments across the various programmes of work running at DVLA.
DVLA follows evolutionary architecture principles such as supporting incremental change. So, together with the Principal Software Engineer and a couple of Lead Engineers, we plan out steps for a proof of concept to be built throughout the day to improve the current cross account messaging and eventing in Amazon Web Services (AWS). This involves discussing and dividing work up between us for the proof of concept using technology such as AWS EventBridge. We make some progress but decide to work separately and reconvene later in the day to see how we all got on. We have a Teams group set up for us all so we can share progress throughout the day if we need to check-in around our other committed work.
Late Morning/Early Afternoon
Later, we meet our GDS colleagues to collaborate on digital identity and both our work in this area and their progress with a single sign-on and digital identity solution for government. These collaborations allow us to gain consolidated approaches across departments and government to allow us to provide better experiences for our customers.
Lunchtime gives me the opportunity to explore my interests. I enjoy writing tech blogs and getting involved in the wider community. Over the past year, I’ve been looking to learn more about data analytics in the cloud and began writing some blogs in this area using open source technologies. I use Slack to reach out to some of the members of the open source community to book some time for them to review the finished draft.
Over the past year, DVLA has moved several services online that previously were only available via paper channels. One of these services launched recently using the GDS service design assessment process and we meet for a short sync between colleagues across the business to ensure operationally everything is as we would expect.
I meet again with the engineering community, and we progress the PoC and run through a demonstration. Next steps will now be to document some suggestions using our governance processes involving lightweight decision records and any updates to the target and reference architectures.
The final job for the day is to work on one of the key business aims for the next 3 years of the DVLA strategic plan:
- customer-centric – we will develop our services around helping to meet our customers’ needs, whether they are individuals, businesses, or other public sector organisations
Any new initiatives that we work on at DVLA will go through rigorous user research using techniques outlined in the GDS Service Manual. Meeting with stakeholders from service and the technology committee allows us to collaborate on how we can evolve the architecture, identify opportunities for the business and develop better solutions for our customers.
I finish the day by jotting down notes to share at the morning’s SMT stand-up and completing some peer reviews of other architects’ design work that has been communicated by a pull-request in git. I look at my calendar for the next day and start to plan out the next set of priorities. I can see we have a meeting with some cloud experts from AWS and can use this as an opportunity to discuss best practice regarding the PoC we carried out during the day.
As you can see, the architect role at DVLA gives you the opportunity to work with all areas of the business and across government. You can be involved in the inception, strategy, build, delivery, and operational aspects of a service. Technology moves quickly; here at DVLA we work with battle hardened and bleeding-edge technology. This is demonstrated by Chief Architect Matt Lewis talking through a customer’s perspective on building an event-triggered system of record application with Amazon QLDB.
The past year for me at DVLA has been exciting and challenging, giving me the opportunity to learn new skills and I look forward to what the next period has in store.