If you haven’t heard, the development of video games is an endeavor that is heavily dependent on computers. These machines, while incredibly valuable to our process, can’t fix themselves. And, thankfully so. For, if they could, they would enslave us as their preferred energy source. To keep the computers that we use to create our next game well behaved and working properly, Bungie staffs an entire team of information technologists. Look, there is one right now. Let’s shake him down to learn how he etched his name onto the roster of our IT Bullpen.
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
I’m Noah. I maintain servers, deploy internal tools, and build super computers.
I don’t know what a lot of that means, but it sounds like hard work. How do you balance out the rigors of bringing super computers to life by making your own life worth living?
I’m all about music and video games. I split my time between playing guitar, “Battlefield 3”, and “Star Wars: The Old Republic” these days.
You should feel right at home here. What were you doing before your career led you to this foundry of music and video games?
Before I came to Bungie, I spent time maintaining email services for 60,000 clients at Microsoft, and running the IT team for a local marketing agency. At Microsoft, I had a chance to work on very large and complex infrastructures, but didn’t have any knowledge of or input into the direction of the organization. At the marketing agency, I ran the IT team and was present for high level meetings in the organization, but the infrastructure itself wasn’t complex or very challenging. I think I’ve found a happy medium here at Bungie. Bungie always has new projects around the bend that push you to a new level, and places a high value on internal communication and input into the decision making processes.
Have you always been such an Alpha-geek? When you were a kid, did you take apart your toys and “optimize” them?
I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. There was one cartoon about a mad scientist inventing all kinds of odd and nonsensical solutions. I thought “I want to be that guy when I grow up.”
Since very few institutions of higher learning offer degrees in Mad Science, how did you prepare yourself to oversee our sprawling network?
I didn’t actually go to college until I had been in the field for several years. By that time I wanted something to round out my technical skills, so I majored in Business. Then, I went back for my MBA. I was going to University of Phoenix at night and running an IT team during the day. The idea was that I would never really be able to excel in the higher levels of IT unless I had a good working knowledge of how the entire corporation worked. One graduation and a global economic crisis later, some men in black asked me if I wanted to work in video games. I paused my Mass Effect game and gave an ebullient “YES PLEASE!”
You have an MBA? Shouldn’t you be a Vice President in some soul-crushing financial services firm? Wouldn’t you be happier telling people how to do their jobs and bragging about your golf swing in the executive restroom?
As it turns out, the kid in me is bigger than the buttoned-down job-slasher, and just wants to be a part of the next big thing in video games. Besides, hitting a small ball into a hole in the grass just doesn’t cut it after you’ve made your best friend explode with pink needles and rage quit. Here, my ideas can impact the whole studio. I’m challenged by the smartest people I’ve known. I’m exposed daily to master level art and music that the world hasn’t even experienced before, and sometimes I even get paid to play games.
Okay. Fair enough. No complaints. We are glad to have you. Tell us how you convinced Bungie that we needed a Mad Scientist with a Master’s Degree in Business Management.
I think my Microsoft experience got me in the door, but the best way to describe my interview was a technical beat down from some of our high level engineers, and I survived. That gave me the opportunity to contract with Bungie until I could prove myself on the team. I won them over with hard work, and following through with a detailed internal project.
Back up now. Tell us more about that beat down. We do love to scare the squeamish away from our Careers Page
When someone interviews with Bungie for a technical discipline, you are given rapid fire scenarios of increasing difficulty. Their goal is to turn up the difficulty until you can’t honestly solve the issues anymore, and we have engineers smart enough to stump most people. The hard part is understanding that everyone fails the interview at some point, they just want to see how far you get.
I wasn’t pressed to fail my interview, but we don’t build Super Computers on the Community Team. Now that you have passed your version of the test, what is your favorite thing about working at Bungie?
I’m in awe every day I go to work. I look around and see some of the best engineers, artists, composers, and creative visionaries available in this industry. To work with these people and actually be a part of their process is mind blowing to me.
Describe for us a day in the life of the Bungie IT Bullpen…
I typically come in, check on the status of our infrastructure, have a meeting or two about current and upcoming projects or maintenance windows, and spend the rest of the day troubleshooting an issue or working on one of my projects. When it’s late enough and I don’t have any off-hours work, I’ll sometimes play a video game or two with co-workers before I go home.
Aside from having one’s mind blown on a regular basis, what is the best perk of the job?
One day I worked with Troy, our motion capture specialist, on a project. After I helped him out, he showed me around his studio and how it all works. To top it all off, he then showed me the props he used to capture performances for Reach. As I got to hold the various prop weapons used to capture the actors’ performances in Reach, it was clear to me that every day working at Bungie yields massive perks for people like me… gamers. I can’t pick one.
What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?
I’ve been wrestling with a product that allows us to take over a hundred server nodes and cluster them all together to create a super computer and run distributed applications across them. Many days this product is the bane of my existence, but I have to admit that I am most proud of working out the kinks in that system and showing off all the cool things I can do with it.
How do you advance your craft?
I advance my craft by taking on projects that I am not entirely comfortable taking on myself. I am a firm believer that pushing yourself beyond your limits, with proper research, is the only way to get to the next level.
What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?
Most places you go in life, there are people eager to tell you that you aren’t good enough to do something, and you won’t be able to achieve whatever it is you are looking for. Accept their criticism as a challenge and then prove them wrong. There is no more satisfying revenge.
Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
Work ethic, talent, and then experience. Hard work gives you all the talent and experience you need while turning you into a high value stock that keeps paying dividends.
Your MBA is showing, Noah.
Please join me in thanking our Support Engineer for configuring our perceptions for what it takes to keep Bungie working in an orderly fashion. Without his tireless service, sharing this conversation would not have been possible. Of course, his contribution is just one color in the spectrum. To sample the rest
, you should check out the archive.