You may not know his name, but if you’ve used Pegasus software, you have Phil Charley to thank. Phil has been with Pegasus since the 1990s and is the author of our original software, Onsite Track Easy. This week, Phil is retiring.
One of the friendliest faces in the office, Phil happily talked to us about his years with Pegasus, his career before joining us, and what the early days of software development looked like.
Join us for Phil’s story, a rollicking journey which takes him from nursing to cattle farms, the Pilbara to Melbourne, and back again to the Hunter, where thankfully the original PegPal decided to dabble in computers.
As our original developer, it’s safe to assume software has been the sole focus of Phil’s career. Except when he finished school and went to university, there was no such thing as software development.
If you pick a career, it’s likely Phil has done it. After a year of studying law at University of Sydney, Phil was asked to join an acting troupe, performing live theatre in Sydney and Melbourne which sounded much more interesting. So to the stage he went. Following this, Phil took what can only be described as a non-traditional path – he went on to work as a psychiatric nurse, dabbled in leather work at the Argyle Arts Centre in Sydney, before working on a cattle farm in the Snowy Mountains.
From there, he and his wife Louise hopped on his motorbike to ride across the country—yes, really—where he started working as a labourer for an iron ore mine in the Pilbara region. It’s safe to say Phil has had an incredibly varied career.
“While I was working in the Pilbara, I wanted to do a university degree in software development, but there were actually none available in Australia for remote learning. That’s the era it was,” Phil says.
But when a position in the mine laboratory opened, Phil transitioned to the role of industrial chemist. It was during his time in the lab that Phil became acquainted with Hewlett-Packard computers and his foray into software began.
Lucky for us.
After a decade in the west, Phil returned to the Upper Hunter and finally started his degree in software development. Phil then taught computer studies to adults through TAFE, and started his own business before first crossing paths with Pegasus, known then as Peter Eason Survey and Mining Services.
Phil installed file servers and network cabling in the Singleton office and eventually joined as a contractor when Pegasus began the fateful shift into software.
We might be a cloud-based software company now, but the early days of Pegasus software were a little more humble – a server on a Windows computer to be exact. Site access? That was a printed, laminated card, scanned with a barcode reader like a library book. These cards were used to record contractors logging on at mine sites and were quite successful – until expansion was required.
“When we went to a second mine site, there was absolutely no communication as they were standalone products running on Windows computers,” says Phil.
“It was at that point we realised the future of that product was going to be extremely limited unless we found a way to have a single repository of information that could be accessed at multiple sites.”
And so, the Pegasus we know today was born. And who better to lead our developers than Phil?
“I’ve had a mix of skills in the mathematical, logical area, and the humanities, languages area. That’s actually very good for software development. You need to be very logical and systematic, but also very good with languages.”
It’s hard to imagine now, with the internet being so ingrained in our lives and businesses, but at first people were slow to go online.
“It was seen as being unreliable, risky and generally not considered to be a good platform for basing any kind of business dependency on,” says Phil.
But young Pegasus knew that using the internet was the way to go. Phil lead a team of contractors to launch the first Pegasus internet-based product, Onsite Track Easy, in 2002, officially pivoting the business from contractor labour hire into a software as a service (SaaS) company.
“What’s happened in the last 20 years is an evolution that’s only been possible through the confidence and courage of the management team of Pegasus to pursue it,” says Phil.
“I wouldn’t have been in a job if it wasn’t for people who were willing to invest in the future of the product. I’m very grateful for that.”
Onsite Track Easy has been developed for use on hundreds of client sites and most industries across Australia, and more recently, further abroad. The Pegasus development team has expanded to a large team working in agile sprints to deliver enhancements and new features. This expansion is probably not something Phil would have imagined in the early days in Singleton.
“I didn’t get my computer knowledge in the early days of my career; it was a bit later on,” he says. “Now within the software development team, we have many developers who develop across multiple languages, numerous platforms and people within the group specialising in certain areas of development. The team has gone well beyond my own strengths.”
While it was hard to gradually release the reigns of Onsite to others within the company, seeing the vision of management, especially CEO Adam Boyle, made it easier to do. Phil talks readily about passing on the baton.
“It was only really seeing that he had visionary awareness for what the product could become and where it could go. Once I realised that, I was really happy to loosen the reigns and let someone else have a go.”
“This isn’t my personal highlight really, because I don’t feel like I personally had much to do with it, but our acquisition by Avetta has been a huge highlight for me. Onsite has been very much like a baby to me. You’re involved and there’s so much to do with it as a young Onsite
And then Onsite got into the teenage years and got a bit recalcitrant, there were some hard things. But now it’s as if I’m seeing Onsite off on its own pathway as an adult. I’m proud of what it’s become. I know my involvement was there at the beginning, and there have been some significant influences by a lot of people.
That’s without a doubt the biggest highlight for me, seeing Onsite go global with truly genuine global capabilities which it can do with Avetta. “
Heading into retirement, we asked Phil what’s next. While plans to visit friends in Denmark have been put on the back burner, travel is still on the cards. After numerous visits between Perth and the east coast along the bottom of the country, Phil and Louise have more exploring to do.
“We’re going to buy a camper trailer and go on a trip over the top end of Australia,” he says.
A consummate gentleman, it’s hard to imagine Pegasus without Phil. He will be incredibly missed!
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