5-in-5 with Senior Software Engineer William Bradshaw

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William Bradshaw is a Senior Software Engineer at Arria NLG. He joined the company in 2012 and has worked on numerous NLG applications within the oil and gas, insurance, tourism, agricultural, finance and weather industries. Originally from Durham, William brings a wealth of knowledge having studied at Edinburgh University gaining a class medal in Software Engineering.

1. What does your role entail as a software engineer?

I am a Development Team Lead here at Arria, currently leading the team developing new technology for our software development toolkit also known as NLG cloud. My time is split roughly equally between managing the team’s technical direction, giving support to everyone on the team, and getting my hands dirty in the code.

2. How do you continually stay inspired in your work? 

For me it’s all about producing something that I believe in. I come to work knowing that we’re building systems that are powerful, useful and scalable. It’s so satisfying when you show a report to a client and they can’t believe that the text is automated.  

3. What excites you about Arria’s NLG technology?

The thing I find most exciting about our technology is what it makes possible.  With computers writing them, reports are produced faster, more consistently and without any silly user errors. Best of all, we can produce reports tailored to the person reading them. Why get a generic report filled with information you don’t need? NLG lets you get a personalized report that focuses on what you really care about.

4. What technologies do you use?

Language-wise I’m primarily a Java developer, and use Javascript when I’m working on the front end. I’m also starting to use Groovy more and more as we’ve built it into our configuration layer. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of time spent using our configuration layer!

Apart from that it tends to depend on the project and the client. There’s a standard tech stack, but we try and use the tools that suit the job. You get the opportunity to learn a wide variety of libraries, databases and frameworks.

5. Which solution you are most proud of and why?

I’m going to be greedy here and go for two: the latest version of our internal technology, and a system we built for an insurance client.

We recently produced a new version of one of the key NLG components in our system. We took all of the best bits from the old version and made it cleaner, more extensible and more user friendly. The new version is great and I’m excited to see what we can do with this new technology.

For the insurance system, the client was spending a huge amount of effort to produce a single monthly sales report, and they wanted us to show what we could do. So we did. Our system could produce bespoke reports, rather than the usual one-size-fits all. The text could be personalized based on the users preferences. Users could select areas on the graphs and read dynamic texts explaining them. Most importantly, when we showed it to the client, they went “Wow!” 


 Author: William Bradshaw, Senior Software Engineer at Arria NLG


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