I’m sitting around the table after dinner, and like most everyone else I’m listening to Jim, Louise, and Jessica sing an old but familiar tune while they sway together arm in arm. The murmur of a few muted side conversations over coffee and dessert doesn’t seem to bother them at all, and they even get some help from some of the rest of us during the chorus. Their song concludes to the sound of some encouraging applause and perhaps a little laughter. The smiles and chatter carry on.
If it sounds to you like I’m describing some kind of Dickens-esque family gathering, you might be surprised to hear that this is actually a scene from a software user conference, namely from the most recent TrackApalooza. Last month we closed out this 2015 edition of the TrackAbout user conference with a dinner at the historic Allegheny County Airport, and it was there inside a charming little Art Deco building that the impromptu musical number took place.
A lot of companies like to remind the public that they are family companies. Some might be multinational corporations whose major shareholders just happen to share a last name, but others are truly multi-generational affairs where each employee has a genuine interest in seeing the business, and their family, succeed. TrackAbout falls much more in line with this latter type of company. And though you won’t find the lot of us sharing a last name, what you will find are people who share the same vision and dedication to success.
The mood at TrackApalooza indeed feels something like a big reunion, where the entire TrackAbout family comes together. I’m being honest when I say that we employees at TrackAbout really look forward to meeting our customers. The dedication to success I mentioned is not just something that we employees give only to the company or to one another, but something we genuinely want for each and every one of our customers. In fact, the most important part of our TrackAbout family is our customers, and what TrackApalooza is really about is getting the opportunity to stop everything (literally everything–the entire company shows up) to sit down and chat.
The conversations go both ways. As much as it’s our opportunity to present workshops, share exciting new features, and discuss future plans with customers, we get the opportunity to listen. What’s working great for you? What can we help you understand better? Where can we help you get even more value? What killer new feature would you love to see? A brainstorming session over coffee and cheesecake can turn into next week’s project.
After the conclusion of the the first full day of the conference I found myself having a drink with a customer I’d never met or even spoken to before that day. Yet we chatted easily, only a little about assets and software at first, but then mostly about where we grew up, the struggles that each city had gone through, and what we both thought was bound to be a bright future. A week or two after the conference had ended, our Support Manager assigned me a small project working with that same customer. I called him up to get things kicked off, and immediately (at least I’d like to think) we had a good rapport to get things off to a good start. We had looked each other in the eye those few weeks ago, we’d watched Jim, Louise, and Jessica sing. And I think we both felt that we are working towards the same goal and vision–that the future was bright.
If you’re a customer who’s been to TrackApalooza before, you know what I’m talking about. But if you’re a customer and a member of the TrackAbout family who’s still skeptical about all this talk of shared vision, dedication, and goals, I can only tell you this: watch your email for the next edition of TrackApalooza, and come to the family reunion. Then tell me if you don’t see it too.
This story comes from Louise Pickett, TrackAbout Senior Support Specialist.
Every day on the TrackAbout Support Team, we have the pleasure of helping our clients with their asset tracking needs. In the eight and a half years that I’ve been with TrackAbout, I have received a wide variety of requests, from loading data to researching why TrackAbout handled data a certain way, and everything in between.
One particular day a couple of years ago, I responded to a most unusual request. The phone call was from a police officer in a far-away state. He had found a rugged handheld device along the side of the road. Amazingly, it was still functional, and when he turned it on, he could see the TrackAbout mobile application! After some quick detective work, this officer was able to find the phone number for TrackAbout and, voilà, he was on the phone with me! I was able to quickly guide the officer to giving me a unique identifier for the device and was able to put the client in touch with the police officer to recover their lost handheld.
Daily, TrackAbout saves clients money by keeping asset balances correct to minimize lost rental revenue, by helping clients to find unused equipment rather than purchasing new assets, and a whole host of other ways. On this particular day, we saved our client the cost of replacing a handheld.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of gasworld. It is reprinted with permission.
Thanks for taking 10 minutes out with gasworld. What have we interrupted in your schedule today?
I’m travelling back to my home in Lincoln, Nebraska. I spent the past few days in Las Vegas attending Medtrade, a trade show focused on the home medical equipment market and medical gases.
You know, it’s amazing how many companies don’t do a good job of tracking their equipment – especially their medical oxygen cylinders. Knowing the regulations and the risks of noncompliance, you’d think they would be more prepared. In many cases, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) could shut down their business for a failed lot recall or undocumented device inspection, yet many continue to take that risk.
TrackAbout Developer Mike Mertsock published the following post on his blog Running | Code. Drawing on his experience developing TrackAbout’s APIs, Mike provides 11 tips for successful collaboration between mobile and API development teams.
API-driven mobile app development requires more than good engineers and the latest technology. Whether your organization is a startup, or an established company expanding into the mobile space, you may be creating the app and API in parallel. The mobile and API teams will need to collaborate effectively in order to launch a successful product. In fact, I would say that communication and teamwork can be more important than the choice of server-side and client-side technologies.
Mobile and API developers can write great code in their respective silos, but if the interaction between the two teams is not top-notch, the interaction of the app and API will reflect that. Teams will end up with divergent understanding of the work. Timelines will get out of sync. Developers will be fighting to get the client and server to work together as anti-patterns and incompatible interfaces emerge. Every new feature will repeat a cycle rehashing the same bugs, fighting the same structures, duplicating slight variations of boilerplate “solutions” to the architecture problems. Friction will rule both the programming work and team dynamics.
TrackAbout is committed to helping our customers achieve their goals. No matter what industry they serve, all of our customers have common objectives of saving money, increasing revenue and improving productivity. A few of them took a break from TrackApalooza, our annual user conference, to describe how their companies have benefited from our asset tracking software. Hear what they had to say in the video below. Read about other customers on the Stories section of our website.
They say fun, humor and laughter make work more enjoyable by reducing stress, improving morale, enhancing creativity, energizing people and bringing them together. I can testify that this is true at TrackAbout.
Not a day goes by that many good, honest belly laughs don’t ring out from the halls of cubicle land. I’m blessed to work with some of the most intelligent and witty people I’ve ever known. On those days when there seems to be too much to do or I’m working through a tedious project or when marketing isn’t the glamorous profession many assume it is, I’m thankful for the comedic brilliance of my coworkers which keeps me moving forward.
In a few weeks, we’re hosting our user conference, which we’ve amusingly named TrackApalooza. We’re working hard to infuse a sense of fun to what some might perceive as another boring business conference. (Not that asset tracking software isn’t the most interesting and amazing thing since sliced bread.) To promote the event, we created a short video titled “Top 10 Reasons to Attend TrackApalooza”. It’s one example of the kind of fun we have at work every day.
We just concluded a three-month-long marathon of recruiting developers here at TrackAbout. We hired six new developers. This post is a follow-up and summary of lessons learned from this most recent round of hiring. I began writing this in Evernote for my own reference so I could review my lessons learned the next time. I shared it with TrackAbout, and they said, “Blog it!” Who am I to argue?
Please see my post On Hiring Developers for background regarding how our hiring process has evolved and some of the tools we use.
Although our headquarters is near Pittsburgh, our developers all work from home. We’ve been doing the virtual dev team thing since the dawn of the company when two of the founders lived in Chicago and the third lived in Pittsburgh. In 2004, when we decided to hire our first new developer, we hired someone we knew from the Chicago area, and he worked from home too. Still does.
Keeping the developer role a work-from-home position has allowed us to recruit great developers from all over the U.S. It’s worked out well for us.
While there are great benefits to working from home, every now and then it’s nice to engage your fellow teammates in meat-space, or IRL, as the cool kids say.
Hence, TrackAbout DevCon was born.
As the CTO of TrackAbout, one of my jobs is to hire and retain awesome developers. We used to be horrible at this, and today I’m happy to say we don’t suck. This post looks back at the evolution of our approach to recruiting.