We spoke to Jay Myerscough, to find out why he enjoys working in software, his typical day, and the benefits of working for Tracsis…
Why did you choose software as a career?
I’ve always had a passion for making software which makes peoples’ lives and jobs easier. Now I’m with Tracsis, I’m managing a team which does that too. I started my career as a junior tester and studied for my degree in the evenings after work. In the meantime, I worked my way up from junior tester, climbed the development ladder and I’m now Deputy Head of Software for Tracsis’ Manchester development centre.
Is rail an area you were always passionate about?
My first software job was in the shipping industry, then onto haulage, so I’ve always worked in logistics and transport. It seemed to me that the rail industry was growing, with greater passenger numbers and calls for sustainable travel – so I recognised it’s an industry that provides long-term employment opportunities.
I was working for Datasys when Tracsis acquired the company. So, I’ve moved from a small family run business with a very niche rail industry product, to an ambitious company which specialises in rail technology. It’s exciting to work with a range of products and developers and design ways for them to work together and add value for clients within an enterprise level solution.
One of the other things my team enjoys here, is being able to go from a totally blank canvas. We can meet customers to learn about their daily challenges and get straight into building solutions for them.
Tell us about the type of projects you work on for Tracsis?
I worked on DayOne and our original mobile app. I’m currently working on web-based application for controllers in a train operator’s control room. It’s their job to minimise rail disruption, keep services running and manage contingency when things don’t go to plan.
They also need to be able to broadcast disruption updates to websites, passengers, and staff on the front line. In this social media age, passengers can easily pick up and share misinformation.
Train staff need to be able to receive accurate updates, share the info with passengers, and often relay front line updates back to the control room for further broadcast. It’s all about sharing accurate information to keep the trains running.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m lucky that Tracsis supports diversity and inclusion, and therefore offers flexible working. So, I can do the school run before catching the train to work in our Manchester office.
I host a stand-up meeting with my team of developers – Tracsis are advocates of Agile – so it’s an important start to the day. I join strategy meetings where needed, while focusing on the pipeline of products my team is building is clear.
I also look at front-end design. That’s important to me because I’m passionate about the user experience – what our customers see in terms of consistent looks and feel, and ease of use.
I also speak to lots of our existing customers about their needs, doing demonstrations and discussing any new challenges or frustrations they have which we might be able to plan and build solutions for. Then I try to get to the gym at lunchtime when I can.
I was promoted earlier this year, so my time is often more strategy focused (e.g. improving how we work, effective collaborations etc) and less team/product management.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I’ve always told people that I write software to make the lives of our users easier. It’s simple, but that’s the biggest kick I get.
So, today for example, I’m going out to meet a group of train drivers at a depot to find out about their daily routine, the admin they have to carry out and what their biggest frustrations and challenges are. And already, I can’t wait to take away their comments, design a mobile app and go back to show it to them. It’s so satisfying to have someone say: “This is going to make our lives so much easier.” It’s what drives me!
What do you enjoy most about working for Tracsis?
It’s the flexibility to do the things I’ve mentioned. Software, particularly in the Manchester area, is a competitive place for developers. And in many big firms, you might specialise in a particular development task and do that job all day. With Tracsis, it’s more varied and flexible.
So, you have more responsibility and can influence our products and processes. You can decide on your development setup and choose the tools you want to use. If you want to get involved in design you can, if you want to get involved with customers, we’ll get you out on site. So, you have a chance to be a much more rounded developer, and that’s something you don’t often get.
We encourage it too – it’s often what I look for when I’m interviewing for a new role… people who ask questions, demonstrate initiative and could be a real asset because they’re driven by customer experience. You don’t need to know anything about the rail industry – we can teach you that – we like developers who like to push today’s technology, try new things and keep learning. If we keep doing that, we’ll also keep the trains running on time.