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On the Record with Rose: Will Steiner

image of Brightspot employee Will Steiner

Will has been working for Brightspot since July 2017.

Rose continued her series of interviews in January by sitting down with Will Steiner, a software engineer who came to Brightspot from VCU in 2017. In the two and a half years, Will has distinguished himself with his back-end knowledge and made significant contributions to multiple projects including the launches of Special Olympics in 2018 and The Los Angeles Times last summer. During their conversation, Rose and Will talk about how he has grown as an engineer since starting at Brightspot, his experience playing in the Perfect Sense Unified Challenge, and much more.

You came to Brightspot after graduating from VCU about two years ago. What attracted you to Brightspot initially?
Initially, I discovered Brightspot at the school career fair. I was really interested in how they separated development tasks and how those teams worked together. I was looking for an opportunity that allowed me to focus on an individual aspect of the full stack and that's what Brightspot offered me.

Instead of just jumping in and trying to build something that works, I've learned to take a step back, figure out what needs to be done, and establish a plan to get it done right.
Will Steiner, Software Engineer

Last year, you played a critical role in the launch of The Los Angeles Times redesign. Can you tell me more about how you contributed to the project and what you learned from that experience?
As a team, we worked together to solve some really hard problems that we, as a company, had never encountered before. I never thought I'd build something that printed a newspaper! 

I had various roles throughout the life cycle of the project, working on a variety of integrations to help discover, curate, and distribute the news, which required a lot of trouble shooting and problem solving to figure out to how it all worked. My biggest takeaway was understanding how a news organization operates both in its long-term technical goals and how it works with outside sources to meet those demands. The Los Angles Timesnow uses Brightspot to produce all of its articles, so it was neat to see how we could improve all of its various work flows.

How do you feel that your skills as a developer have grown over the past two years?
Exposure and experience. I would say the most significant improvement has been the maturity of my programming. Instead of just jumping in and trying to build something that works, I've learned to take a step back, figure out what needs to be done, and establish a plan to get it done right. I have become more proficient with Java and explored new technologies and vendors, for example commenting and authentication platforms, to meet client requirements.

What inspired you to become a software engineer?
I think it was my curiosity. In high school, I was really into film making and went to a specialized art school. While I was there, I took classes in graphic and web design where I learned the basics of HTML. Something about writing code and seeing it appear was really neat to me. I started to get more involved with interaction by learning Javascript and took the experience out of the classroom, continuing to experiment with technology in my free time. When college came around, I made the switch to math and computer science and haven't looked back.

How do you think Brightspot best benefits our clients?
It's a great platform for publishing. It works as an out-of-the-box solution for many customers, but can be customized and fine tuned for the specific business needs of our clients.

In 2018, you played in the Perfect Sense Unified Challenge golf tournament alongside wounded veterans and others participants from The First Tee and Special Olympics. What did you take away from that experience? 
I took a lot away, particularly in seeing how people overcome their obstacles. It was great trading stories with my group and working together on the course. I know I helped brighten their day, and the experience was very humbling. It was a truly inspiring event and enforced the need to acknowledge, learn, and enjoy each other.

Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working for Brightspot?
I think the level of involvement with projects is really exciting. You get to take part in every aspect of delivery. Your opinion matters and you are free to express concerns, propose new features, and make an impact. The company itself is amazing! The free lunch is awesome as are the tickets to local sporting events. Brightspot really gives back to its employees.

What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I love to be outside. Hiking is always a go-to activity. When it's warmer I like to go to the Potomac and kayak. I enjoy cycling and exploring all of the local trails. And as nerdy as it sounds, I enjoy reading and learning about new programming trends.

What was the last concert you went to?
For Halloween, I dressed up as a lime slice and saw  Umphrey’s McGee at the Anthem.

What excites you about 2020?
It's new year and a new decade with a lot of room for improvement. My best bud is getting married and I'm looking forward to being part of his ceremony. There are new opportunities and chances to learn from the past mistakes and approach them differently. 

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