Spotlight on... Aaron, lead chaos developer at Octopus Energy

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Octopus Energy is made up of 5,000+ fantastic people working on stuff you'd never expect, all pushing hard towards a shared goal: driving the global green energy revolution. In our Spotlight series, we'll introduce you to some of the brilliant people behind the scenes. (Fancy joining them? Browse Octopus jobs!)

Meet Aaron, lead web developer for Octopus marketing. His unique team of Chaos Monkeys do tech differently: staying close to customers and marketing teams to build MVPs and solve problems quicker. Read on to get to know Aaron and his super-agile team.

Oh and did we mention, they're looking for new developers to join their tribe...

Interested? Apply here.

Samsam: Hi Aaron, so what do you do exactly?

Aaron: In my current role, I lead the engineering team for global marketing at Octopus Energy. This involves managing the tech for all of our marketing content and customer products worldwide.

aaron's chaos monkeys team

Samsam: Your team is called the Chaos Monkeys - tell me all about it?

Aaron: At Octopus we’ve extracted the “chaos” into its own team. Our tech platform Kraken, is constantly balancing urgent projects from many clients and markets, so it needs structure. The Chaos Monkeys team started as a way to separate crazy ideas from more organised projects. It allows us to work quickly and take on innovative projects that other teams might find challenging.

Now, we are the tech team dedicated to bringing those exciting ideas to life

So, for Octopus’ customer experience to stay as good as it is, we need to be agile, close to customers and incredibly reactive. It’s essential some developers are free to create something new and exciting very quickly outside of the wider tech team structure.

That’s what my team does. We have been set up to harness the chaos

aaron's chaos monkeys team

Samsam: How closely do you work with customers?

Aaron: Incredibly closely! In many companies, there’d be months of planning testing and fine-tuning before a new feature or product saw the light of day. We build MVPs very quickly, put them out into the world, and immediately start gathering real customer feedback on it. I sit in the marketing team so the social media manager can stick her head round the desk and read out a tweet — then I can fix problems and make experiences better based on what customers really want.

We love constructive criticism, seeing the impact of what you’re building so quickly is amazing

Samsam: What are some interesting products and campaigns you've worked on?

Aaron: One notable project is the Saving Sessions campaign, which is our scheme that rewards people for using less energy at peak times. It was a huge step towards changing the way the grid works, and it’s taught us a lot about customer engagement.

Building responsively was the key to making this the biggest flexibility programme in the UK. We innovate and adjust quickly based on feedback which is rare in this industry and keeps things exciting and challenging

Aaron: It was a massive project involving the app, Kraken developers, Octopus front-end devs, plus plenty of “chaos”-wranglers. We often had less than a day’s notice before a Saving Session, which meant we had to alert 1.5 million customers within hours. To manage this, we created a WhatsApp broadcast channel, quickly reaching 300,000 customers. Announcing the session was like sending a mini-DDOS attack to our app and website. Kraken is stable but the surge would challenge any site. I built an “optimistic opt-in” system, reducing API calls needed to sign up from 7 to 2. We tested it on a small subset of customers within a week and it was running midway through the project.

It was a HUGE team effort to scale Kraken to handle the rush and nearly every team collaborating to improve customer experience

Another exciting project was kicking off the rollout of our custom typeface, Chromatophore, on our sites around the world (fun fact: this includes the text you're currently reading). We’d been told it would take us 6 months, and we did it in 6 days. This was possible because of our awesome Coral design system, and because we set up a competition with a (crappy) prize between our international teams, to see who could get it into production first.

Samsam: Is there a project that has made you particularly proud?

Aaron: We have been lucky enough to work on lots of interesting projects, but one that stands out is the Winter Workout campaign. We came up with an innovative campaign and saw a significant impact on customers' bills - it helped people use less gas and save money during an energy crisis. Seeing the impact was incredibly rewarding and made us proud. We weren’t exactly sure how it would work initially, but it worked out perfectly and it proved itself in the data. We ended up knocking £5m worth off of customer bills, in just a few months.

We launched it at 4pm on the day of our Octopus Christmas party, because we didn’t want to lose a weekend of energy savings. It was quite interesting emailing customers in our suits, from the back of the taxi

Samsam: What drew you to tech and marketing?

Aaron: I studied Computer Science, which felt natural to me. Although I initially wanted to be an architect, my interest in how people interact with the digital world led me to computer science. I particularly enjoyed the front-end side of things and transitioned to being a front-end developer.

Samsam: Tell me a little about your career trajectory?

Aaron: Before Octopus, I worked as a front-end developer at a traditional financial services company. When I joined Octopus, we didn't have clearly defined teams, and I started by doing a bit of everything. I later worked on our tech platform Kraken before moving into my current role.

Samsam: What's it like working in the office?

Aaron: My team is mostly hybrid, working from home part-time, but I'm in the office most of the time and sit with the marketing team. Being near an office helps with our instantaneous way of working but it's also great for conversations and being social. It's motivating to be around others working towards similar goals. We aim to bring the team together a few times a year for workshops and social events to make up for being spread out.

aaron's chaos monkeys team

Samsam: What's the most enjoyable part of your job?

Aaron: The most enjoyable part of my job is definitely the immediate feedback and seeing the impact of our work.

It's rewarding to see how our work affects customers and how engaged they are with our products and campaigns

Samsam: What challenges have you come across?

Aaron: Managing expectations and finding alternative routes when blocked can be challenging. Sometimes it's about finding the half solution that gets you 80% of the way there. That's just the nature of things when you want to build something to share within days, rather than weeks. So we always need to be able to think on our feet and find solutions quickly but that does keep things dynamic and interesting.

Samsam: Do you think about how your work is important in the grand scheme of things?

Decarbonizing the energy system is urgent, and we know our Octopus mission is to build solutions that make this process faster, more affordable, and scalable

Aaron: So working on initiatives like Saving Sessions which directly impact demand flexibility and make energy more efficient and engaging for customers means a lot. I love that our work directly aligns with our goal of electrifying the grid and promoting green energy.

Samsam: What's next for you and you work? Any cool projects coming up?

Aaron: Replicating UK success in European markets is the next big thing. We're focusing on applying our successful initiatives to new markets and adapting them to local needs. It's a constant conversation with local teams to identify the most effective strategies. The goal is to have a significant impact quickly, but it's a complex problem space and each country has unique energy and customers priorities, so we're learning as we go.

aaron in the office with a colleague

Samsam: Lastly, what advice do you have for people wanting to enter your field?

Always be problem-driven. Focus on solving real-life problems rather than just upskilling

Aaron: Start with small projects that solve annoyances or inefficiencies. Show how you can find and solve problems effectively. It's about practical problem-solving, not just following trends.

Quick Fire Round

Your best Octopus memory?

The day that Al Gore joined us on Zoom. It really put into perspective for a lot of us how big this all is, and the impact and growth we have been a part of.

Most memorable day in your career?

Sitting in the back of a taxi sending out 300,000 customer emails on the day we put Winter Workout into the world.

Work comfort item/ritual?

Like many software types, I can’t function without good coffee.

Any unusual skills/hobbies?

I’m a self-taught DJ! What started as a lockdown boredom purchase has become a really enjoyable way for me to interact with music, and have fun with something digital that’s quite separate from my job. I’ve played a few times for small groups of friends, and I’m quite happy keeping it that way as I want to enjoy it for what it is.

Favourite place in the world

My favourite place in the world is London, the city I call home!

Best trip you’ve ever been on?

As for trips, I think I learnt the most from backpacking around Malaysia with some school friends when I was just 16.

This year I really want to

Cycle for fun again! I did so all the time in the countryside as a kid.

Want to join our team?

Join Aaron's awesome chaos monkey pack on his mission to build the future of energy.

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Published on 21st June 2024 by:

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Samsam Farah

Writer

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!

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