Through the Lens of a Fixer

January 18, 2019

As a member of the Social Sentinel team since day one, Scott’s current title is Director of Product Operations, but he considers himself more of a fixer. Of what, you ask? Everything from removing hurdles so his Operations and Library teams can move faster, to managing the company’s internal communications networks, to anything else he volunteers for, which can be a lot when you work for a fast growing startup with a mission to save lives.

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A profile of Social Sentinel Director of Product Operations, Scott Brightwell.

What are your responsibilities at Social Sentinel?

My responsibilities for Social Sentinel have evolved over the years as the company has grown. Today, I oversee the Library Science team that manages the Library of Harm™—the company’s proprietary set of terms it uses to scan for public social media posts that may contain indications of potential acts of violence.

I am always amazed at the work of the Library, especially the effort that goes into keeping it updated and the performance of the machine learning. It requires modifications every day because language always evolves. My team has to make sure to catch the permutations of phrases that indicate potential harm, which could include poor grammar, typos and intentional misspellings. That is the kind of human intel that has to be included in data science.

I also manage the Operations team; the heart and soul of client satisfaction. We strive to make onboarding for new clients as fast, easy, and seamless as possible. The goal is to integrate our solution into their established workflows with great training. Once onboard, the team works tirelessly to keep accounts running smoothly and optimally configured for maximum return of value to our users.

How did you end up at Social Sentinel?

Five years ago I was working for a healthcare IT company where I managed engineering teams that were tasked with upgrading software globally for critical issues. Timeliness and accuracy were a must. I enjoyed the role, but like most of us, I was ready for a change.

As a longtime practitioner of martial arts, I met Gary Margolis (founder & CEO) through an Aikido class. After some chatting, we decided to train for a Spartan race together. Little did I know that I was being interviewed to be one of the first employees of Social Sentinel.

Aikido? Spartan races? What else are you into?

I also compete in CrossFit and have an academic background in art and art history. I am also a professional photographer on the side.


How does your diverse background help the team you manage?

My interests in art and science play an active role in how I manage the teams that deal with emotionally heavy content daily. The mental and physical training reinforce the mantra that all challenges can be overcome with persistence. Then this can be applied to everything else in life.

I feel like I can recognize burnout and fatigue quickly, so I make sure my teams have multiple tasks to work on. That way they diversify their workload and operate in a more self-directed mode. I’ll remind them to take breaks to stay fresh, too. It helps that our company culture is collaborative, energetic, and laid back; and our leadership team works hard to make sure no one has any hurdles in front of them that impact performance. It’s truly a positive environment, and we all know that we are in this boat together to help save lives.

What’s unique about your job?

The content of what we do is infinitely fascinating. We look at negative behaviors and how people talk about them in public discourse; how they interact and communicate. Believe it or not, there are a lot of corollaries with art history in terms of having a visual representation of something and trying to interpret it. For us at Social Sentinel, we look at language and try to interpret for further meanings.

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