This was my first forte into fulfilment and warehouse operations, so the first few weeks were overwhelming with the amount of information overload I was downloading. I had to get up to speed with the operational process quickly, and many of the locations we visited had variations in their approach, so it was hard to know what was a pain point or a cut corner.
Getting up at 2am to do the research was also a challenge, because it threw the rest of my week out of whack. I felt like I was constantly jetlagged for weeks. That being said, I wouldn’t have changed our approach. It was incredibly fun seeing how the behind-the-scenes operates, and it was crucial we be there at those times to observe the operation as it happens.
The biggest challenge though, was Covid. We began this piece of work before we’d ever heard the word “Covid”. Three months in our user testing and sprint schedule were wildly disrupted thanks to lockdown. Our testing had to be put on pause until it was safe for us to venture out in public again, and we lost access to our Colleagues on the ground as they dealt with the overnight changes in their jobs.
We were able to adjust to remote testing relatively easily, and in hindsight I think we adapted and pivoted extremely well given the circumstances. We switched up our schedules to focus on designing more upfront, then when we could we tested a backlog of ideas, designs, and features, before implementing.
During the initial Covid whirlwind, our system was also pushed to the brink, with home delivery demands skyrocketing through lockdown. I remember a few weeks where most news articles I read were about the lack of Tesco delivery slots available. I felt partially personally responsible for this, not that any of my work was resulting in the lack of delivery drivers; there was a national shortage of drivers anyways, drivers were getting sick which left shifts unfilled, and the demand for slots doubled overnight. Still, our product was going to unlock scaling opportunities for Tesco to be able to fulfil this new demand. So I felt immense pressure to push through our design process and get the new system built as quickly as possible.
It was an incredibly stressful working environment, to say the least. At one point I developed a pinched nerve in my shoulder from sitting awkwardly at my make-shift home office for hours on end. But it was also incredibly rewarding. At a time when we were all going through the shock and trauma of the pandemic unfolding upon us, I felt grateful that my work was positively contributing to the general public getting their food while remaining safe. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to us getting through the pandemic in such a direct way, and I threw myself into the work completely.