Employee Spotlight: A Chat With One of Our Product Specialists

September 22, 2015 Amelia Carpenter

Starting this month, we’re giving you the opportunity to get to know some of the Narrative Science employees by featuring a team member on our blog. As you get to know our employees, you’ll learn more about Narrative Science and the reason that our customers cite 'our people' as one of the top reasons they choose to work with us. 

Dan Platt

What’s your story?

I’m from South Shore in Long Island and did my undergrad at Northwestern in Economics, thinking I’d want to work in either financial research or investment banking, but I was also doing broadcasting on the side. After school, I was offered a job in the Northwestern Athletic Department doing public relations and growing out NU’s digital presence. While there, I gained tons of technical experience and also learned I wanted to focus more on journalism and storytelling, so I went to Medill for the one-year master’s program with a plan to work in online news or data-focused reporting.


How’d you get to Narrative Science?

I took a class that was taught by our co-founders, Kris Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, focusing on the collaboration of journalism and technology. Kris and Larry thought similarly to me about how technology could enhance the quality of journalism so I kept in touch. After I finished school, there was an opportunity to do a short-term contract with Narrative Science as the company wanted to explore verticals outside of sports.


You’ve done a bunch of different things in your career at NS. How has your role changed over time?

I am sort of the longest serving ‘configurer’ of our platform. I'm not an engineer, but the whole premise of what we do is so that non-engineers - people who know what stories are important - can do so. As we started adding more customers, I worked on the professional services team to configure Quill to meet their needs and eventually started to train customers directly on how to use Quill to tell their own stories. 


What are you excited about that you’re working on currently?

Right now, I work on our product team and am actively working on integrating our NLG capabilities into existing BI applications. Basically, how we can allow a user to read stories about their dashboards and customize those stories in real time. I'm super excited about this because I’ve always liked finding new and creative ways Quill’s content could be integrated with other apps, like what we did with Divvy or the Chicago beach data


What are some of your favorite memories about Narrative Science?

The Five Year Anniversary party was cool, and it's an odd feeling, but a really good feeling that we've come so far and experienced all of these milestones. The companies we’re working with now and types of stories we’re writing and types of ways people are using us - it's so different, it's unbelievable. Also, some of my favorite memories are the countless times people have taken the time to teach me something or help me create some prototype app. It’s a really great quality about our company that people are willing to help out and have positive attitudes about it.


What are you excited about for the future?

The applicability of what we are doing for storytelling and information access - it’s just different. Some day soon, organizations are going to have their own versions of Quill in their newsrooms and will use it, combined with data, to create applications that publish narratives for the public. These narratives, or well-articulated information, will help citizens understand what is happening in their city in real time. People are seeking better information, not more data. The closest thing we’ve done like that is what we did with ProPublica. Making a tool that can help governments better communicate with their citizens and democratize access to knowledge is exciting to me. 



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