This month we get to know Henry, the Brisbane native who leads the team responsible for RACE, Polymathian's rail optimisation software. When Henry isn't working hard to prepare RACE for world domination, he can be found attending live music events, hanging with family, friends and one four-legged roommate.
Let’s get to know Henry!
- Why did you become a software engineer?
- I think it started as a combination of wanting to emulate my father and my obsession with knowing how everything works. My dad ran the family business from our home, which meant I saw him working on a computer a lot. I really wanted to understand what he was doing on that computer. Then as I grew older, it all merged into the perfect career for me.
- What is the dumbest coding-related question you've ever been asked?
- It’s the questions I ask myself every day. My internal dialogue while coding is far dumber than any question someone else could ask me.
- What are you working on right now?
- As the RACE product manager, I juggle a lot of different things each day. But right now, one really cool technical enhancement I'm working on involves integrating rail weighbridge data with the RACE Live system. I love it because it’s a cool mix of hardware and software which will impact a number of real-time business decisions, including system safety.
- How do you keep your software development skill sharp?
- By making mistakes every day. But really, every year I participate in the annual Advent of Code, an advent calendar of daily programming puzzles for various skill levels. This year they’ve been using the ChatGPT chatbot (we’re all obsessed with it) to generate their solutions. I'm hoping to get to day 25 this year, as most of us tap out on day 2 or 3.
We have been obsessed with ChatGPT. Last week we had it write a Christmas poem about Polymathian. Check it out!
- What is the worst bug you've ever encountered?
- One of the most annoying bugs I’ve encountered was related to daylight savings. A customer in NSW reported that all their data was wrong, so I logged on and tried to replicate the problem but couldn’t. We tried everything. All the usual stuff. We spent hours and hours trying to replicate it. And then a colleague mentioned something about daylight saving kicking in NSW, utterly unrelated to the bug we were trying to find, and then a light bulb went off in my head. So, I went back to my desk and changed my computer time to daylight savings and bam! I could see the issue immediately. This bug has always stuck with me as an example of how something so simple can get so complicated.
- What is your biggest code-related pet peeve?
- Gold plating for the sake of it, and not thinking of the end user first. I am ruthlessly customer-focused, which can sometimes conflict with programming best practises. Unlike designing a bridge, which is very prescriptive, designing code is much more arbitrary. It’s important to remember you are building a product that customers will use.
- As the product leader for RACE, Polymathian's rail optimisation software, what's the next big innovation RACE is bringing to the market?
- Unlike passenger rail, which operates in a timetable environment (same daily schedule), RACE plans in a dynamic environment where no two days are the same. The planning environment can change at a moment’s notice, so building an optimised schedule is a complex problem to solve mathematically. This is why bulk/heavy rail schedulers generally only plan a week into the future. But now we are seeing our customers plan further into the future and replan schedules on demand. RACE is truly disrupting the way the industry works, which makes Australia world leaders since RACE is so prolific here.
- What is a favourite Polymathian memory from over the years?
- Easy. The 2019 company ski trip to Niseko. This was back when Poly was still relatively small, which meant I got a lot of quality time with my colleagues. There is something about stacking it over and over again on the slopes with your work mates that really accelerates the bonding experience.