Angel Trains needed to expand its in-house software development capability to deliver a series of strategic enhancements to its asset management system. This supports the safe and reliable operation of more than 4,000 train carriages – over a third of UK passenger rolling stock.
We provided a choice of high-calibre candidates from a range of backgrounds. This enabled Angel Trains to bring in someone to help meet its immediate technical needs, while also enhancing the diversity of its IT team.
The TechSwitcher quickly got up to speed, with her first code being used in production less than six weeks after starting. She’s helped Angel Trains make tangible progress towards its strategic aims. This success means the business will now be taking on a second TechSwitcher, so that it can expand the scope of the transformation programme.
Anyone who’s travelled on the UK’s rail network since it was privatised, may well have been on an Angel Trains carriage. The business owns and maintains more than a third of all UK passenger rolling stock, which amounts to well over 4,000 vehicles. It leases these to train operating companies including Avanti West Coast, ScotRail and CrossCountry.
Angel Trains has invested more than £5 billion in its trains since privatisation, and carries out 1,000+ heavy maintenance overhauls and component changes each year.
Managing complex, high-value assets in a safety-critical environment requires sophisticated management software. Angel Trains has a bespoke asset management system, for which it was planning a multi-year transformation.
Its aims are twofold. Firstly, to bring together data from previously siloed systems to improve operational efficiency. Secondly, to use that new, unified dataset as the basis for richer and more meaningful analytics, which will benefit train operating companies and the travelling public.
To deliver this strategically important work, Angel Trains needed to expand its in-house development capabilities. Liam Stirling, Head of IT at Angel Trains, explains: “We had an immediate need to hire a junior developer to help us deliver an initial two-year programme of work. As a relatively small IT function, we couldn’t afford to be hand-holding someone for too long: we needed an individual who would get up to speed quickly, to help us deliver on our commitments to the business.”
Angel Trains had advertised the role and interviewed a number of candidates, but hadn’t found the right fit. Stirling then engaged with TechSwitch: “We spoke to five people who would shortly be finishing the programme, and I was struck by the high calibre of all the individuals. The standard overall was much better than we’d seen in the wider market.
“While we knew there would be some initial hand-holding, each of the TechSwitch candidates brought additional skills and perspectives to the table: one had been a doctor, another a materials scientist, and a third had managed an international IT team. We would genuinely have been happy hiring any of them."
Angel Trains took on a TechSwitcher, who has now been in the business for six months. Stirling reflects on the impact this has had: “The person we recruited from TechSwitch has been absolutely excellent. When we were planning her onboarding, we’d allowed three months to get to a point where her code would be hitting our production systems. In reality, this was happening after just six weeks, which is testament to her skills, as well as the TechSwitch training.
“She’s now working very self-sufficiently on some strategically important projects to improve the way the business shares information internally and with customers. It’s enabling us to make tangible strides towards our vision for better transactional systems that ultimately unlock transformational analytics.
“The business has been so impressed that we’ll shortly be taking on another TechSwitcher. This will enable us to expand the scope of the programme, and ultimately deliver greater benefits for our customers and the travelling public.”
“Novata has worked with TechSwitch for over a year and we have been consistently impressed by the quality of talent put forward. We find that the engineers coming out of the programme are particularly well-rounded and mature given their previous experience in different roles - they bring with them new perspectives and ways of working that help to drive productivity in our teams.
Both the participants on the programme and those running TechSwitch have always been a pleasure to work with.”
Owen Riddall, Co-founder and CPTO
“We were facing a short term staffing problem, but wanted a long term solution rather than hiring a contractor. TechSwitch was easy to work with throughout, with clear CVs and personal statements that made it easy to shortlist candidates based on their aspirations and preferences, rather than just meaningless lists of technologies.
Ken's had a fantastic impact on our business. His experience prior to coding has made him a more rounded developer. He's also given useful ideas around product development, more than I would expect from a recent graduate with a similar level of coding experience.”
Ed Clayton, CTO