Meet the Aries Team: John Crane, Software Engineer III

Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been working for Aries? What did you do before joining Aries?

I joined Aries in April of 2020 as a Software Engineer III. Before that, I worked for a large EU-based telecommunications company in a group that developed and supported an enterprise billing platform. Earlier in my career I worked for a graphic design company specializing in multimedia, web, and database development, as well as traditional print media. 

How have your previous roles helped you in your current position?

Before joining Aries, I worked for more than ten years doing support and development for an enterprise billing platform. The product was created by a once small start-up software company, where I worked for about five years when the company was purchased by a very large EU-based enterprise. That resulted in an orderly integration into the larger organization that would look very familiar to many here at Aries in our joining the Elsevier family. It also resulted in my introduction to the Agile development style and several years working on a scrum team. Those experiences have been very helpful in my current position and our internal transition to an Agile way of working.

Early in my career I worked for a small but very busy graphic design firm, where I learned an uncountable number of things related to graphic design and information display. I also acquired an equally large amount of technical knowledge in web, multimedia, and database development.

Those two positions required working very closely with customers. It’s extremely important to understand the customer’s needs and expectations in those fields. Working so regularly with customers helped me learn to see things from the customer’s perspective and deliver results that meet or exceed their expectations. Every day in my current role, I draw on those experiences. I put myself in the shoes of our users and do my work as though I myself will be the one using whatever it is I’m working on.

How do you stay up to date with customer needs?

Because I don’t have very much contact with customers, I try to read as much as possible about industry trends, attend related meetings, and keep up on our corporate communications. Fortunately, there are many folks here who are experts in this area and provide a lot of insight. Our QA Engineers are a great source of information on our customers’ needs and processes.

Tell me about your department and the people you work most closely with.

The Aries Engineering department is a really great group to work with – their collective skill, expertise, and experience is quite considerable. Many of my colleagues have worked with this product for many years and know it inside-out, while others have expertise in technologies like cloud computing. Something they all have in common is a willingness to collaborate, share knowledge, and work together to achieve our objectives.

On Team Targaryen, one of our many development squads, we focus on a range of projects and efforts, including LiXuid Manuscript, XML conversion, customer enhancements, and quality enhancements (aka bug fixes). My team’s most productive habit is collaboration. We make a point to leverage our regular internal Agile meetings – scrums, sprint planning sessions, retros, quarterly planning, etc. – to their fullest to keep projects moving and assist when there are issues. We make frequent use of our collaboration tools – Zoom, Slack, the office – to get together and hash out issues or simply help one another with this or that. We really work together as a unit. 

How do you collaborate with other departments within Aries?

My team has regular and productive working sessions with other groups – it’s a key component to advancing projects, and we really enjoy engaging with others and gaining new insights.

Our collaboration with other departments or teams is effectively driven by having shared goals and objectives. For example, one of our team goals is to assist in automating manual regression tests. This overlaps with Quality Engineering’s efforts in the same area – so we collaborate frequently with them to ensure all associated goals are achieved.

The same is true for our efforts with LiXuid. To effectively create and deploy those products, it’s necessary to work with other groups including TIO, Marketing, and beyond. Working with other groups enables us to combine multiple resources and create a bit of an expanded ‘dream team’ that exceeds the abilities of our scrum team alone. It’s the key to accomplishing big things.

Describe your typical workday.

A typical day for me starts with a review of our Agile board and a run though emails and slack messages. That lets me see where things are at, so I can plan and prioritize my work. 

In addition to our daily scrums and other regularly scheduled meetings, there are frequent engagements within my team and beyond. Whether it’s an inter-team meeting to discuss technical items, and in-office hack day, or simply an impromptu zoom meeting in “the dragon den” (homage to team Targaryen from “Game of Thrones) to tackle an issue together, we spend lots of time communicating and collaborating to accomplish our goals. A large part of my day is then spent doing the things I love – solving problems, coding, developing new features, updating existing code, fixing bugs, and testing. Lots of testing! 

What do you most enjoy about your job? What do you enjoy most about working for Aries?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing our goals, objectives, and aspirations transformed from a hope and a vision into a working, functioning reality – knowing that I helped to create something practical and useful. Not only do we as an organization create innovative and useful products, but those products also play a crucial role in the advancement of research, especially science and medicine. The work we do here has a real and beneficial impact on our society. There are few rewards greater than that.

What are you currently reading, listening to, or watching?

I have wide-ranging taste in music. I listen to everything from contemporary pop to Baroque chamber music and everything in between – except Country (sorry), but I do love Bluegrass!

I’m a voracious reader of news and technical info. For books, I tend to like non-fiction about science, space, nature etc. Currently I’m pouring through Flight – The Complete History of Aviation by R.G. Grant, which someone recently gifted me.

Tell me about some of your hobbies/interests outside of work.

When I’m not working or engaging in work-like activities, I can usually be found working on some sort of ‘project’ around the house. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC – I do it all. I like yard work and tending to my garden.

I’m an occasional golfer – which means I’m pretty bad, but I try to just have fun. It’s a nice way to spend time with friends and family, even if your dad spends the entire round pointing out everything you’re doing wrong! Other than that, it’s mostly spending quality time with family and friends.