Software Extraordinaire Brings Decades of Technology Experience to Genfare
Tony Jannotta, Genfare’s Application and Development Manager, is tasked with many things—but none more important than building and maintaining Genfare’s cloud-based software systems. Encompassing mobile applications, open API services, administrative and customer facing websites, as well as data visualization platforms—this is the world in which Tony passionately lives and thrives.
There’s a lot to Tony’s story before his tenure at Genfare. He holds a BSBA in Accounting from Creighton University, but attributes his service-based technology experience from the necessity of low-cost, high-impact marketing and sales efforts needed among Dallas area businesses during the dot com boom of the ‘90s. Learn more about Tony, one of many talented team members at Genfare.
How long have you been working in technology, and how did you get your start?
I started in technology about 25 years ago, when I was looking for the most cost-effective way to market my own personal projects. I began working with the Internet and technology before HTML and browsers were becoming available. Those tools weren’t in the hands of consumers quite yet, but I did it anyway because of my tinkering gene—I just wanted to build something. Plus, where I was professionally at the time things were being handled on paper—clipboards, paper, things like that. I immediately saw the opportunity to convert those over to web forms.
What were some of the benefits of being an early adopter of the web at that time?
I found through the web and web forms, I could replace paper and pencil. And so, by directing my customers to these web forms, I only had to collect their data once. I could look through those records, extract the information that the customer has entered, and create mailing labels. Back then, I was still ‘snail mailing’ and not emailing because they didn’t even have email.
When did you start to form a career with web technology?
Again, in the late ‘90s and the dot com era, I found out people were actually paying for these services, and so I went from personal projects to contractor. People knew that they wanted a dot com but didn’t know where to start. I ended up just working out of my house for some of the larger companies in North Dallas. Then, one of my larger clients offered me a full-time position in 2001 and I went to work for Arthur J. Gallagher. I was hosting eight of their digital marketing properties and sites out of my house—a very ‘wild west’ kind of feel.
How does this experience and skillset transfer to your work here at Genfare?
It’s the same thing now, in that it’s kind of the ‘wild west’ with mobile ticketing. All of the sales people a decade earlier said, ‘I want a dot com’ are now saying ‘I want a mobile app.’ I [say], ‘Okay, well what do you want in there and why do you think you need it?’ And they said, ‘I just need a mobile app—I don’t know what I want, I just know I have to have it.’
So that’s what we were going through back then, and now I find this happening again in public transit. Mobile ticketing is hot and everybody says, ‘I need a mobile app.’ And that’s why Genfare, in addition to even these bus companies, is hiring folks with a technology background. Folks like me, who, when I was asked in Jacksonville a few months ago at APTA, ‘Son, how long have you been in public transit?’ I’ve never been in public transit—I’m in technology, and I was hired by Genfare because they’re building award-winning software now.
How do public transit agencies benefit from the latest technology, including mobile?
They’re into leveraging mobile—but not just mobile—other technologies, too. I mean, we have web-based user ticketing portals, we have web-based administrative internal facing portals. For example, transit agencies can adjust their fare structure, using the web, or on their phone from a Starbucks. Think about Genfare Link, to where, let’s say, if Albany wanted to provide 25-cent rides on December 25th for Christmas riders, they could do that on December 24th at the Starbucks and then the next the busses go rolling out and it would only cost a quarter to ride the bus. Obviously, with the dawn of anytime anywhere access through web and mobile, you can basically administer—even manage—your agency and that extends to the riders being able to buy a ticket anytime anywhere, too. With public transit, it’s as simple as getting students to school, getting people to the store, and families to the doctor—things like that.
How has the career you have now changed over the years along with technology?
A fun example is when Joe Tenga, the CIO from JTA was presenting at APTA in Jacksonville. His first slide was a ‘help wanted’ sign and it said, ‘IoT, blockchain, mobile, app dev, IT, DevOps, Cloud.’ He’s said, ‘We’re hiring at Jacksonville, but it’s not just bus drivers, and mechanics, and back office.’ It’s this next generation technology. It’s bleeding edge technology. I’m competing now with Facebook and Amazon and trying to hire talent out of college. Who would have thought the agency would be going after the same people that Apple is going after? I always looked to all those companies as a career path for myself, I never thought of public transit as a career path. But there’s need in public transit. And there’s purpose—I enjoy and love my job and I couldn’t be more grateful that I’m able to help people while doing it.
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