Janet Barnes, Senior Expert at Altran UK’s Intelligent Systems Expertise Centre, shares the highlights of her career at Altran:
When I started at Altran I would almost certainly have avoided going outside of my comfort zone, but I was given the necessary nudges to take on challenges that I thought I couldn’t face. Each time I was encouraged to challenge myself I gained in confidence and felt able to reach new heights. There are still things I don’t find easy, like presenting to a large, unfamiliar audience, but I have learned to manage my fears and believe in myself.
Variety is a key attraction to me. Certainly, as a junior software engineer, the chance to work on projects in different domains and locations was a real draw, something that Altran is able to offer. My projects have ranged from an information system for identifying when it is possible to land a helicopter on a frigate, a smart card certification authority system managing the production and issuing of security certificates, the Tokeneer protection demonstrator for the US NSA, a submarine acoustic countermeasure control system, tools for supporting air traffic control, and many others besides. I have given training courses to engineers in Europe and the US and had the opportunity to speak at conferences.
I like working on systems that make a difference. When I look up at the skies in the UK today and see the vapour trails left by planes marking their route through the sky I feel a sense of pride - I was part of the team that developed iFACTS, a system that helps keep our skies safe and touches so many lives quietly; without fuss or incident.
The journey to making a system operational can be a long one with many challenges, but that is what makes my work exciting! Solving problems is what sets our Expertise Centre apart; be it a difficult technical issue or achieving a tight deadline by finding a smart approach. I enjoy the software development process from start to finish – from pulling together the requirements of stakeholders onto paper for the first time through to building a system specification and architecture that ensure the software performs as it should – there is always something to think about. As a system is integrated there are often new challenges; whether tracking down an obscure bug or considering new cases.
One of my proudest moments at Altran was winning the Microsoft Verified Software Award in 2008 for my contribution to Tokeneer, a project on which I worked in 2003 that is still generating academic interest over 15 years later. Another moment that sticks in my mind is sitting alongside air traffic controllers in a live operational environment, observing early use of the iFACTS system. That day was particularly interesting, as the controllers were questioning certain aspects of the system; we captured changes that would improve their user experience and responded accordingly.
I joined Altran as a post-graduate with a couple of years’ software engineering experience. Now I have been with the company for almost 24 years, working with great people on interesting projects based the city of Bath. Out of choice I have remained technical, but this choice has not limited my opportunities. In a world of ever-smarter technology there are always new challenges for a software or systems engineer. If you are a logical thinker who is good at problem solving then you too could contribute to the development of real-world systems with Altran.