T2 has some of the brightest minds in the parking industry, and each employee brings a unique set of talents and experiences to the table. We thought you might like to learn more about these talented individuals. In our Employee Spotlight series, you’ll get to know one employee each month. This month we talked to Derek Ellis, Product Owner for our Permit and Enforcement solutions.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Queen City of the Ozarks: Springfield, Missouri. Home of Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Brad Pitt. Springfield is the third biggest city in Missouri after Kansas City and St. Louis, but with a lot of great outdoor experiences just outside the city. I did a lot of hiking and canoeing over the years during my time there. After 28 years I decided to try something different, so in 2011 I packed up and moved to sunny Oregon where I still happily reside. I love living in the Pacific Northwest, but the fall colors in the Ozarks are hard to beat. I also miss getting to swim in the rivers as they’re all ice cold up here.
How did you end up in the parking industry?
Previously I’d been working in a desktop support role in Missouri for many years before getting a job at Oregon Health & Science University doing the same thing after moving to Portland. The position was only part-time, however, so I kept an eye on OHSU’s job listings to see if another department was ever hiring for something similar that I could move over to. Eventually, Transportation & Parking posted a full-time position, so I went for it! I had no idea what I was getting into, though. I expected to only be doing things like fixing printer jams and helping coworkers with computer issues like I’d been doing before, but I suddenly found myself thrown into the parking world. Now I had pay stations, LPR vehicles, enforcement handhelds, and parking management software to learn and support on top of printers and computers. Somehow it all made sense to me, though, and I decided to make a career out of parking.
What drew you to working in product management?
Once I became a Product Support Engineer for T2, I started working a lot more with the developers and product team while working on support escalations. I enjoyed getting to see the process of how new features got added to a release and how product worked with engineering to get something from concept to reality. I also found myself getting asked questions from product more and more due to my experience with our products both as a customer and during my years in support. I saw the value in what I could bring as a subject matter expert to the product team, so when this Product Owner role became available I quickly made it known I was interested, and the rest is history.
What do you do as a Product Owner for T2?
My job is mostly on the internal side of product management. Currently I’m working on Flex, FlexPort, Mobile Enforcement, and a couple projects that haven’t been released yet that I’m pretty excited about. I work closely with the Product Managers to determine what new features are ideally going into a release, and then begin working with engineering to determine how much of that we can do in order to hit our target release dates. Part of that is taking the requirements given by the Product Managers and writing User Stories to explain the functionality needed from the end user’s perspective. This is where my previous customer background really comes in handy. The other important aspect of my role is maintaining the list of items that could potentially be done in a backlog and getting estimates from engineering on the scope of that work. This helps us know how many items can be worked on in a given amount of time.
What’s something that you think people don’t know about parking that you find interesting?
The amount of technology that’s involved. I think people would be surprised how often we have to work with IT departments to make the simple act of parking a vehicle go smoothly. I used to tell people that working in parking made me feel like Q from the James Bond movies sometimes. I had all these high-tech gadgets and processes that all interacted to make us work as efficiently as possible.
What do you enjoy about working at T2?
I feel like this is almost everyone’s answer, but it really is the people. That applies to both my co-workers and our customers. I love making the rounds at the Indy and Burnaby offices whenever I get the chance to visit just to say hello to all my friends across all the various departments that I rarely get to see in person. Similarly, I love getting the chance to interact with the customers I got to know from my days in Support any time I get the chance. Part of the fun of working in parking is knowing you’ll have lots of familiar faces anywhere you go.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I am a huge, lifelong Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. Comic books, cartoons, video games, toys, I have it all. I even have a TMNT tattoo.