As part of our ‘Meet the Team’ series, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Dr Ross Turner, Arria’s Chief Product Officer, and ask him a few questions about life at Arria.
Maribel: Tell us, Ross, how did you get started in NLG?
Ross: I took a final year undergraduate course in Natural Language Processing (NLP) at the University of Aberdeen almost 20 years ago. Part of the course was on NLG. The following year I started a PhD on Data-to-Text systems under Yaji Sripada and Ehud Reiter in collaboration with a local weather services company. They’d just finished a research project called SumTime, which we built upon to create an NLG system that got a fair bit of local and national press attention.
Maribel: What is a typical day at Arria like for you?
Ross: It’s cliché, but every day is different and, of course, depends on the role. In product, with so many varied products and customers, you can find yourself working on software requirements in the morning and go-to-market strategies in the afternoon. We have a flat organizational hierarchy, so being flexible is key.
Maribel: What is your biggest achievement at Arria so far?
Ross: It’s hard to say. I take most pride in seeing how the internal knowledge base has grown within the company since the early days when NLG was still a niche topic. My focus is always making sure we keep getting incrementally better every day and that we push the overall product experience forward.
Maribel: What do you like the best about our technology?
Ross: The ability to apply it to such a myriad of different use cases. Narrative and storytelling are fundamental ways in which we, the human race, communicate. When you combine that with visualizations, the possibilities are endless.
Maribel: How do you see the future of NLG developing?
Ross: The future is bright. NLG now has recognition as a core capability for business intelligence as well as long standing acknowledgement as a key enabler to automating text content at scale. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and its adoption continues to increase across various industry verticals.
Maribel: Are there any Tech trends to be aware of?
Ross: There are quite a few big ones at the moment, such as the rapid adoption of AI, Workplace Automation, Decentralization etc. More specifically, I think the ever-changing way content is consumed and how we transact online are two of the most important. The shift to mobile has already happened, but long form will remain relevant and the number of distribution channels will continue to grow.
Maribel: What are your favorite business books or resources?
Ross: I’d probably say Zero to One by Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal and Palantir. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is also great.
Maribel: At Arria, we feel that words have a ‘spirit’ and communicate a special meaning. What’s your Arria word?
Ross: Transparency. Communication and information silos stifle collaboration and promote self-interest, which, in turn, hinders progress. Using narrative generation to augment complex analytics and convey a clear and consistent message is a big piece of the data literacy puzzle. This fosters transparency.