Q&A With James Charles, VP of Software Engineering
As James recently celebrated his 1-year anniversary as the VP of Software Engineering at RTA, we sat down with him for a quick chat to learn more about him, his background, and his interests outside of work.
What brought you to RTA?
I was looking for a good culture fit, and I was also looking for a seat at the leadership table.
How did you get started in software development?
I worked at Jiffy Lube from 1988 until 2000. I was actually still in high school when I started there. I advanced into management relatively quickly, but I had an uncle who always encouraged me to go for something technology related. I actually did like the few programming classes I took in school, but they were few and far between back then. When I was 30, I quit my job and moved into my mother-in-law’s house and went to school full time. My wife, who had been home-schooling our children, went back into the workforce at that time, too. So, it was a big change for our whole family. But I was able to finish my 4-year degree in 3 years.
What are some of your previous work experiences before joining RTA?
My time at my previous company, Nextiva, I really learned how to engineer at scale. I was managing a lot of people, and a lot of different engineers and auxiliary roles. That position really taught me how to scale processes, teams, and software.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with the engineers. I was a software developer, so I tend to think like they do, and probably behave like they do, so I feel most comfortable with them. I really like seeing them going through experiences and learning. And I love growing leaders. Jacob (Turley) is probably the favorite part of my job, just seeing him grow and develop (as a new Engineering Manager).
How do you help fleets succeed?
I help fleets succeed by giving them tools to make their jobs more efficient — to provide them with the data they need at their fingertips. It’s all about making the right decisions, and they must have the right information to make those decisions.
What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
I mountain bike a lot. I also have two grandsons that I spend a lot of time with, and I like to work on my motorcycle.
What’s the best place you’ve vacationed at?
Fiji, by far. It was my 25th wedding anniversary, and I owed my wife a proper proposal. I actually proposed to her during an episode of Star Trek, during a commercial break. That was the original proposal. It was impulsive, but I never lived that down. I wasn’t down on one knee, there was no romance, no flowers, nothing. She still said yes, but I always knew I owed her this. So, she got a new ring, and I arranged a dinner at a place where the table was literally on the beach. I hired a local band to come over and play just for us, and I re-proposed right there. So that made it the best vacation. But Fiji is also great. The people are amazing, and the islands are obviously amazing – the water is incredible.
Do you prefer cats or dogs?
Dogs. We have a new puppy. Her name is Isabella, Izzy for short. She’s a lot of fun. But I’m definitely a dog person.
What’s your favorite cereal?
Grape Nuts. I don’t like any of the sugary ones.
What’s your favorite leadership book?
My favorite Patrick Lencioni one is “Death by Meeting.” But I think “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins is my favorite one overall.
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