Implementing the cutting edge: my thoughts on 2021 as Aiculus’ Tech Lead
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into 2021, it was once again a year of many challenges for all of us, both personally and professionally. For us at Aiculus, this situation has forced us to learn new skills and to be flexible and resilient in order to successfully navigate these challenges.
For me, 2021 was the year in which I was tasked with taking our API security solution to the next level; this meant optimising our solution architecture and getting our product into the AWS Marketplace as a SaaS solution. Those who are technical will know that these are no small tasks. Here are my brief reflections on what was a technically and professionally challenging year, but also rewarding in so many ways.
Optimising our product for the first time since it was built was technically challenging for me as the company’s Engineering and Technical Lead. Naturally, this kind of project is logistically and financially challenging for the company. I also found the process of listing the product on the AWS Marketplace to be sufficiently demanding, but also enriching once the hurdles were cleared.
I learnt first-hand that startups have to be dynamic and resourceful given the many limitations they have. For some this may be obvious, but for me it sunk in for the first time this year while I was working on our technology roadmap. Being in a startup also offers innumerable opportunities to experiment and innovate with multiple technologies. This was exactly my world this year, navigating the challenges thrown at us by Covid-19 and, at the same time, working with the latest technology in AI, containerisation and AWS cloud services, to cite a few. Most of all, I relished the opportunity to introduce what I believe to be an innovative solution with a solid value proposition for companies that use APIs.
Leading this project allowed me to be involved and to be across the details in multiple aspects, from data analysis and data engineering to cloud support. We also knew that to successfully pull off a project of this nature, we needed external help. The diversity of the technologies we employed for this project and the natural size of our team also meant that I had to build a team utilising contracted resources. We engaged external software developers, cloud engineers and cloud solution architects from our technology partners. These were essential because they brought complementary skills, specialised knowledge and technical resources to help us review the existing architecture, identify areas of refinement, implement and test in a timely manner. Being naturally social, I enjoyed collaborating with our technology partners and was happy when we finally completed the optimised and scalable Aiculus API Protector.
As with everything we do at Aiculus, there was a lot to learn from this project. I somewhat knew already, but it became clearer that fostering strong relationships with our tech partners was fundamental when working on this type of project. I realised that it was critical for us to establish a collaborative way of working and open communication channels with our partners. I brought the usual Aiculus ingredients to the mix: respect, honesty, transparency and empathy. There were the usual teething problems, but once we got moving, I believe we were a high-performance unit. Our external team was motivated and emotionally engaged, and we ultimately delivered what we wanted and completed it not too far from the originally set date.
Initially it sounded too ambitious, but I was ecstatic when, finally, we had added a scalable architecture to our product, had managed to meet all AWS requirements and successfully listed the product on the AWS Marketplace. Being involved in this project has refreshed and enhanced my technical skills. I now thoroughly know my way around AWS and automated deployments. I am now also very confident in cloud computing, software engineering and data science. Leading the project has also refined my soft skills, particularly managing different stakeholders. The project has given me the opportunity to hone my management skills in goal setting, budgeting and communication.
In the end, 2021 at Aiculus taught me a lot and provided plenty more to reflect on. Most of all, I loved our agility, resourcefulness and boldness to set ambitious goals in the midst of a debilitating pandemic. As I look to 2022, I can’t think of anything I’m afraid of, because 2021 was an absolute pressure cooker.