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On the Record with Rose: Steven Bower

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Steven Bower, a software engineer, has been working at Brightspot since August 2018

Rose recently continued her interview series with a conversation with Steven Bower, a software engineer who began his career at Brightspot in 2018 after graduating from the University of Maryland. Beyond his expertise in computer science and software engineering, Steven also has a rich background in journalism. He and Rose discussed the impact of those experiences and much more during their sit down.

You started at Brightspot after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2018. Why did you decide to start your career here?
The Brightspot platform was what hooked me. I took a lot of journalism classes in college, so seeing the capabilities of Brightspot to power a newsroom and other online content businesses really spoke to me. I am also an avid consumer of online content, be it news or social media, so the opportunity to work on a platform like Brightspot really intrigued me.

Can you tell me more about your role as a software engineer? As a member of the platform team, what's a feature that you've developed of which you're proudest?
As a software engineer on the platform team, I work on the underlying core features of the Brightspot platform as opposed to the services team that is doing client-specific implementations. I am most proud of building the GraphQL Developer Tool. GraphQL is a new and promising technology, and knowing that I enabled Brightspot developers to use GraphQL more effectively in the future is super rewarding.

I saw that in addition to your computer science degree you also studied journalism in college, have hosted a radio show, and written for a website. How has your journalism background helped you in your current role?
Throughout my various journalism roles, I have learned what works and what does not work in a content publishing system. Taking that first-hand experience to Brightspot and knowing what our clients can benefit from has been really useful when I transition to a developer mindset.

What inspired you to become a software engineer?
When I was about ten years old, I got a graphing calculator for math class. The calculator came with a little manual with very basic programming instructions, which taught my friends and I how to build simple guessing games and choose your own adventure-style text games. From that moment, seeing what I could build on such a little machine inspired me to explore what could be done on larger, more powerful machines as I got older.

How have you grown professionally over your first two years of working at Brightspot?
I have gotten a much better handle on dealing with such a large codebase. Prior to starting at Brightspot, I had never worked with such large enterprise software before, so learning from an architectural perspective about how to manage the code effectively and develop interactively when so many others are committing code and developing their own features has been super cool.

What traits do you think help make someone successful as a software engineer?
I think that engineers require an analytical mindset to determine the best way to implement fixes or solutions to solve client problems, as well as effective communication skills to drill down and understand the most important aspects of the features they are building. As an engineer, you have to translate what people want into actionable and reasonable solutions that benefit the people you're trying to help.

Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
Being able to see your results in the real world is super cool. Every time a new project goes live and everyone gets a shout-out in Slack, you get to see the live products that people have put a lot of hours into building. It's rewarding to see the work that we do impact the real world.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
Ordinarily, I would say going to concerts but that's been a little difficult recently. I am into playing video games and watching competitive Pokémon and Overwatch. Other than that, I enjoy listening to music around the house and trying to get more reading in now that I have a lot of more time inside my apartment.

What has been a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic for you?
Finding a lot of new ways to communicate with friends has been nice. Now that we can't meet up in person, I have a couple of friends who have started gaming tournaments and I have started a few different writing projects with others. Exploring different creative outlets with people has been really cool.

If you could have any super power, which one would you like to have?
Telekinesis! I think it would be super cool to be able to move objects without lifting a finger. Plus, if you use it on your own body you can get flight as a bonus power. The possibilities are endless!


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