Blog Building the Future of Human Centered Analytics

Being an engineer at Narrative Science is a truly unique experience. Ask any of our engineers. Or keep reading to hear what 3 of them have to say about our culture, building a data product that’s the first of its kind, and what excites them the most about the future of Narrative Science.

Meet Taylor Hodge

Taylor Hodge | Narrative Scientist for less than 1 year

Why did you join Narrative Science?

I joined Narrative Science after hearing an NS alumnus sing the praises of the engineering organization’s strong teammates and growth-oriented culture.

Since joining, I’m delighted to report that everything they spoke rings absolutely true.

What excites you about Narrative Science’s future?

I’m beyond excited for Lexio’s imminent crossing the enterprise chasm as Narrative Science’s motion towards the enterprise kicks into high gear.

What quality is most important for Narrative Science engineers?

Being a team-first member of the engineering organization.

From my perspective, other important qualities (such as being mission-driven, striving for outsized impact, and pushing the boundaries of innovation further into future) are downstream of being a kind, humble, and playfully collaborative teammate who takes ownership of their area of focus while enabling others on their team to do the same.

What part of Narrative Science’s culture is most important to you?

Working as part of a tight-knit, collaborative team of kind, ambitious, and skilled engineers who all push each other to improve and grow and learn at an exceptionally high rate.

What was most surprising to you about working at NS?

Learning about the high number of fellow engineering teammates with nontraditional backgrounds! It’s an absolute delight to work on a team with a high number of multivariate perspectives and experiences.

I deeply value being able to work in this environment, because prior to working in the Technology industry, I was a Service and Hospitality Professional. This background has richly influenced how I approach collaboration and the product development process, for the better. I find it comforting and reassuring that people with similarly unexpected backgrounds are not only accepted, but deeply valued here at Narrative Science.

What’s been the most fulfilling project or initiative you have been a part of during your time at NS?

At this moment, I’m finding it fulfilling to work on our highly visible and highly impactful Single Sign-On initiative. Not only will supporting SSO functionality improve the daily experience for each individual person using Lexio, but it will also:

  • increase Lexio’s user retention — solidifying our product’s defensibility against competitors, which allows us to
  • decrease Lexio’s churn — the MMB+ customers Narrative Science gains as a result of these efforts will have much higher net dollar retention. And as we benefit from a more predictable sales motion, this means that these efforts let us
  • expand Lexio’s total addressable market — both in recurring revenue and in valuable, target logos.

These points considered, I’m thrilled to be contributing to Narrative Science’s current and future engineering efforts focused on moving upmarket and bringing Lexio to a greater number of larger enterprise organizations.

Meet Heather Arvidson

Heather Arvidson | Narrative Scientist for 3+ years

Why did you join Narrative Science?

I did an engineering bootcamp at Galvanize Seattle, in the same building as the Seattle team at the time. I was first introduced to NS when Jon Drake (NS software engineer) came to our class and presented a Narrative Science product.I was transitioning into software from a career in teaching literature, so the language generation really resonated with me. The product turned the chart into a very readable narrative and I was like, wait! How’d you do that?!

I got super excited. I think I told my partner I wanted to work there but would need a few years experience – so I was thrilled when they reached out about an entry-level role. I applied and was excited about everybody I met and a job that hit basically everything I wanted out of a first job in tech: a fun, learning-forward culture, a strong sense of team, and products I found really interesting.

What excites you about Narrative Science’s future?

I’m really excited about where Lexio is headed. I feel like we’ve reached this point where the messages of grit and grind are all of a sudden turning into something more like “let’s go”! And that’s exciting! I love how many user-facing features we’re building out right now, and the sense that we’re still inventing what Lexio should be. And I’ve just stayed excited about working with the team.

What quality is most important for Narrative Science engineers?

A team-first mentality, combined with a drive to move things forward. You don’t always have to have the answer, and you’re not usually going to nail it on the first shot; What’s the next step? How do you take off if you’re stuck somewhere? Or how do you move it forward so that someone can help you pick it up? We always are approaching problems like it is a shared thing that we’ve all got a stake in.

What part of Narrative Science’s culture is most important to you?

Being learning-centric. We’re encouraged to take risks. There’s support and mentorship available, and teachers are everywhere. It’s also a kind of humility in saying I can learn from anyone.  I think that attitude is modeled at all levels. That’s really important to me.

Also keeping an eye on broader problems we could be solving with data. I’m an outsider to “business” and can’t say that it’s what especially moves me – but the kind of public-good thinking that supports our Data Storytelling for Good initiative is very meaningful to me. It means we’re thinking about how what we’re building has wider applicability, and that as a company we care about public impact. I hope Lexio’s future is not just in helping people make smarter business decisions, but also more effective and equitable social decisions.

What was most surprising to you about working at NS?

The random, eccentric, deep interests people have. My entry into NS was filled with intense and hilarious conversations about all sorts of things…I wish I could remember half of them. Sartre, history of science, which way bananas grow, crossword puzzles, doggos, personality tests, cat-personality tests (invented in-house – cf. catiogram), bird migration. Everyone is so curious and open.

What’s been the most fulfilling project or initiative you have been a part of during your time at NS?

For Lexio, I think it would be the most recent project I’ve worked on — calculated fields. I got to experience more fluency in the code base and felt really ready to contribute — not just knocking out some tickets, but also helping define our direction. I love being able to contribute to the UX as well as build out features. To me, it feels a lot like the things I loved about writing — to try to deeply understand a user’s expectations and how they’ll interpret and navigate what we make.

Meet Stephen Hudson

Stephen Hudson | Narrative Scientist for 6+ years

Why did you join Narrative Science?

I remember I was almost done with school and moving back to Chicago. I was looking through jobs in Chicago for anything that piqued my interest. This job stood out right away from other Chicago tech companies. I had a budding interest in language coming out of school, which started from taking a lot of Japanese. It kind of went from there to getting interested in linguistics. Then, I had an internship at a telecommunications company in Japan doing linguistics / NLP research. Considering my past experience, Narrative Science was the perfect fit. 

What excites you about Narrative Science’s future?

I feel like there are so many places we can go when thinking about the product vision, roadmap and the opportunities we have to innovate. There’s an endless number of things that we could do, all of which I like find very interesting. I could see myself working on those problems for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed working on our story content. I think that’s where we have a lot of opportunity to grow and to make the stories more natural-sounding, more insightful, more intuitive. 

What quality is most important for Narrative Science engineers?

The most successful people here have been self-starters. Both on the product side — getting motivated and proactively thinking about what would make the product better and on the technical side — in terms of how we can make our team processes better and how we can make our architecture run a little more smoothly.

What part of Narrative Science’s culture is most important to you?

Cross-department collaboration. When trying to define new ideas or solve problems or build up the roadmap, we get the chance to work closely with product and design or the go-to-market team, with all of us in the same room trying to solve the same abstract problem. I think that gives us better ideas and keeps everyone in the organization on the same page so that we can operate more efficiently.

It’s just interesting to get different people’s perspectives on things. Even if you started yesterday, we will ask you for your opinion or how you feel about the product or a process. 

What was most surprising to you about working at NS?

I was surprised by how ambiguous things are.. In school, you get these clearly defined problem sets. There may be some room to be creative or do extra credit, but there’s usually a clear right or wrong answer. Working at a place like NS and building a product like Lexio, things can be fuzzier. For one, building a product that can write intelligent stories about data from any domain requires a lot of abstract thinking around the intersection between data, semantics, and linguistics. Beyond that, the “right” decisions are never obvious, whether you’re defining a new process, deciding on which feature to prioritize or designing a technical solution to a problem. It’s definitely challenging but super rewarding.

What’s been the most fulfilling project or initiative you have been a part of during your time at NS?

One initiative that I led this year was around revamping driver analysis in Lexio. The goal of driver analysis is to help our users identify the root cause of a change in their data by singling out entities that changed in a significant or interesting way. We had done our initial pass on drivers analysis a couple of years prior. So, it was really exciting to sort through all the feedback we had collected since then and do some exploratory data analysis to find good heuristics for finding drivers.

With that said, what I’m most excited about is what happens from here. There were a bunch of ideas we had for making the analysis even more intelligent and I get pumped up thinking about what the end state will look like.

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