Ben has been working for Brightspot since October 2011.
To kick off the final month of 2015, Rose went on the record with Ben London, a senior technical manager, who has led a variety of projects at Brightspot, formerly Perfect Sense. These projects include the recent migration of Politico.com to the Brightspot platform and numerous projects with Food Network. Their conversation touched on a variety of topics ranging from the value of Brightspot, to a review of The Martian, and Ben's daily commute from Bethesda to Reston.
How long have you been working at Brightspot? What brought you here?
I have been working for Brightspot for a little over 4 years. Prior to Brightspot, I worked at AOL. At the time, Brightspot was looking to hire someone to lead projects and asked me to come for an interview to learn more about the company. It was very easy for me to make the decision to leave AOL and pursue such an exciting opportunity here.
How do you think Brightspot best benefits our clients?
Brightspot is an incredibly powerful platform, but its biggest strength is the ease with which it can be tailored to meet each client's needs. From labeling content, to meeting business rules, and integrating with various technologies, Brightspot is highly configurable. Brightspot fits to the client's specific needs, instead of forcing the client to work around it.
What are your current projects? What is your role?
My main project is managing the Politico team. We launched Politico.com on Brightspot this summer and are continuing to work on post-launch maintenance and enhancements. Additionally, as Politico gears up for the busy 2016 election season, we are working to update its election section. I am also managing some smaller projects for IndieWire, Scripps, and National Geographic.
My role is managing the development and QA teams that are working on these projects, as well as serving as the primary point of contact at Brightspot for each client.
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working for Brightspot? And, what is your favorite part about our new office?
I get to laugh every day. We have an enjoyable atmosphere, where people work hard and enjoy what they do. I am big in the fun department! Also, everyone here is so talented. I enjoy tapping into their skills and learning from them.
Clearly, my favorite part of the new office is the coffee shop! Also, the free snacks, I am a big snacker!
Describe your path to becoming a technical manager? What skills do you think are most important to be successful in your role?
I graduated college in 1996. Wow, that sounds like a long time ago now! I was working for a print media company, handling account management for a publication that produced the Sunday coupon section for national newspapers. At the time, a friend of mine was working for an internet start-up company just as the internet boom was beginning. He helped me get my foot in the door, and I've been in the technology industry ever since, and for the past 10 years I've been a technology manager.
In this role the most important skill is communication. My biggest responsibility is making sure everyone is working on the right project and toward the same goal. Communication is key to making this happen.
You played a central role in the development of My Recipe Box for Food Network. Any favorite recipes you would recommend?
Unfortunately, I am not a cook, so I don't have a favorite recipe. I'll eat whatever someone puts in front of me, so asking for a recipe is like asking which of my two daughters I like more!
Describe a uniquely challenging project you have worked on at Brightspot.
My most unique and challenging project was creating the Recipe Reviews module for Food Network. Each recipe on Food Network has hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of user reviews. These reviews have valuable information, but because of the quantity it is challenging for visitors to find what they want.
David Gang's idea was to identify the most used words in the reviews and allow users to filter by those words. We created a series of algorithms to mine the reviews and return the most popular words used. Once these key words are identified, we create a module that allows the user to filter reviews by these words, helping them find the information they want much more efficiently.
Recipe Reviews was a really cool project because it started simply as an idea and ultimately resulted in a real product that is still in use by Food Network.
What piece of advice would you give a recent graduate starting a new career?
I would tell them to take advantage of their youth and not settle at one company until they find their true passion. Too often, we get comfortable and fail to explore other possibilities. Take the opportunity to try new jobs and companies, because as you get older it gets harder to move.
What was the last movie you saw? Would you recommend it?
I'm a huge movie guy! I saw The Martian and it was incredible! I would compare it to a Mars version of Tom Hank's movie Cast Away. The Martian was a really exciting ride and I would definitely recommend it.
If you could have any super power, which would you like to have?
I would want teleportation as my super power because I don't like my commute from Bethesda to Reston. It would be great if I could skip all the traffic.