Meet Dave Jackson. With a career that started out in defense systems, Dave recounts his “accidental journey” into the world of public transport.
Tell us how you got started in this industry.
I first started out at Rockwell a long time ago doing defense electronics – designing navigation systems and weapon systems for airplanes and helicopters. I left for a couple years to a local industrial products business, and my former boss from Rockwell called me and said: ‘Hey, we’ve got to go figure out what to do with GPS on a bus. Would you be interested in coming back and helping us figure this out?’ [Laughs]
They were all military guys and they had no idea what to do with a bus! [Long pause] Although I had no idea what to do with a bus either. [Laughs] But I went back to Rockwell and figured it out. That product is TransitMaster today.
How did you end up at TransTrack?
The former owner was a colleague of mine from my consulting days. She was planning to retire when the business was acquired. She called me and asked if running the business might be something I would be interested in. I was very interested. So, I interviewed for the position and it looked like a great opportunity. And here we are!
What is it about people transportation, that gets you excited?
You know, helping people is the thing I like, because it’s a group, every city has a group of really good people, you know, trying to better their community. Being able to provide products and services that help them succeed in what they’re doing. With TransTrack, we can design, deploy and have solutions on the street very quickly. So the time from someone saying I’ve got a problem, to us building out a solution, we see the results of it in five months or less. There’s a lot of satisfaction from being able to very quickly help people solve problems and improve how they do business.
TransTrack has gone through a bit of a transformation. How has the company evolved over the past couple of years?
We’ve really been growing in a number of ways. You know, when we started, there, were only four of us and the majority of our clients were in Southern California. And now we’re growing out nationwide and adding a lot of new functionality into the product. We’re constantly growing our capabilities to support new reporting tools.
I think having the corporate backing to make investments to grow has helped us.
What does the future hold in store for you and for TransTrack?
My goal is to continue to grow the business. We’re at that point of growing from a small to a medium sized business. So for me, it’s really about teaching the staff under me how to step up to the next level and to keep looking for new opportunities. And then building upon that.
So I understand you grew up in Illinois, went to school in Iowa, and then spent most of your career there until your recent move to Texas. Why Texas?
I got tired of snow. [Laughs] The last year we were in Iowa I had a 4- wheel drive tractor that got stuck twice in my driveway in the snow. I looked at my wife and said: ‘I’m done. We’re going somewhere warmer.’
And what do you love to do in your spare time?
I really enjoy riding when the weather is nice. When I was in Iowa, I used to ride RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across Iowa. It’s you and 20,000 of your closest friends. [Laughs] And it’s like a rolling party for seven days straight with food and beer tents and all that good stuff. I am not riding as much in Texas, but am still getting a few miles in each week. My wife and I also spend a fair amount of our time traveling seeing our kids and grandkids as well.
So what are you doing now if you can’t really bike in Texas?
I’m walking the dog. [Laughs]
What’s your dog’s name and tell me more about your family!
My dog’s name is Coco. As for my family, my wife has three kids from a previous marriage. I also have three kids from a previous marriage. So we are a little bit like the Brady Bunch. [Laughs] And then we have five grandkids. Sorry, six grandkids. We just had our sixth!
What is something that people wouldn’t know about you?
I’ve had a ‘shadow career’ up until about four years ago. I was a volunteer firefighter and first responder, and before that, a search and recovery diver for 25 years total.
What do you think about Modaxo, and TransTrack’s role in that?
I think it’s really cool what we’re doing. It’s the opportunity to really bring a lot of different technologies together across segments of our industry that normally you wouldn’t be able to do in one single business. And then geographically taking it worldwide.
So there’s lots of challenges. There’s lots of opportunities. It’s something different every day.