Dan has been working for Brightspot since August 2010.
To wrap up 2018, Rose went on the record with Dan Slaughter, a software engineer who has been leading teams at Brightspot, formerly Perfect Sense, for over eight years. Dan's most recent work has been with the platform team, where he played a significant role in the launch of Brightspot 4.0. During their conversation, Rose and Dan discussed the evolution of Brightspot during his time with the company, as well as his interest in virtual reality.
You've been at Brightspot for eight years. What initially brought you here and what has kept you here? How have you seen the company evolve over that time?
I came here, like many others that have been here this long, from AOL, where I started my career after graduating from the University of Maryland. I was at AOL for almost 3 years and is where I first met Jeremy and Hyoo. They left a year before me to come to Brightspot but we kept in touch and I ended up following them.
As for what has kept me here, this place has fostered both a challenging and fun atmosphere. But it is the people, above all, who have kept me here. When I joined there were only 40 to 50 people and watching the company grow in all aspects over the past eight years has been a wonderful experience to be a part of and to have contributed to.
Working on the platform team, you played a major role in the release of Brightspot 4.0. Can you tell me more about your role on the platform team?
Within the platform team, I work within a smaller group focused on automation. Our goal is to improve the efficiency of both Brightspot and the tools we use to build it, in order to allow people to work faster and smarter. I've also contributed several features like notifications, however, most of my work is behind the scenes to keep the platform working.
What inspired you to become a software engineer?
I started school as a math major, but once I started thinking about my career, I couldn't figure out what opportunities would come from that path. I happened to take an introduction to programming course in my junior year, loved it, switched majors, and never looked back.
What traits or characteristics do you think help someone succeed as a software engineer?
Attention to detail is so important. It doesn't take much to make software not function correctly. Just a single character can be the difference that causes something to work incorrectly. As a software engineer you must be detail oriented. You also must love solving problems. Lastly, you have to stay focused on the problem you are trying to solve without losing sight of the end user and ensuring that their experience is as easy as possible.
Over the past eight years, you've seen Brightspot evolve into its current state. What have been some of the most significant improvements to the platform and what are you excited about in 2019?
The number one improvement is the underlying data framework called Dari. It is definitely an underappreciated part of the platform, but is so unique and core to what Brightspot has become. Also, watching the UI evolve from version 1.0 to 4.0 demonstrates the incredible growth of the platform over the past decade. I recently looked through a presentation that showed the evolution of the UI and it's pretty remarkable.
In 2019, I'm excited to further our integration with Amazon Web Services. Although Amazon brings scalability, speed, and power to help solve problems, Brightspot provides a beautiful user experience to layer on top of those features. For example, Amazon Elemental is a great video transcoding service, but when coupled with Brightspot, users will also have a great editorial experience to publish and manage their videos.
A few years ago, you went to Aspen to participate in the inaugural Unified Sports snowboarding race. what did you learn from that experience?
I learned about the power of togetherness and the importance of meeting and connecting with all types of people. At the end of the day we are all humans, and learning from each other benefits all of us.
Besides the people, what is your favorite part of working for Brightspot?
You knew I was going to say the people! I thoroughly enjoy teaching and have had the opportunity to lead a number of training sessions over the years. Having been here for eight years, I enjoy the opportunity to give back by sharing my knowledge with others.
What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
Snowboarding is one of my top activities. Recently, I got into virtual reality and think it is the wave of the future with many applications to improve society. I would love if David could get a couple of headsets for the game room downstairs!
If you could have any super power, which would you like to have?
I would want to be able to speak every language in the world.
What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
The last book I read was Ready Player One which is about virtual reality. I would recommend the book way more than the movie. What was fascinating to me about the book was that while it was meant to be a futuristic novel, we are actually much closer to that world than most people realize.