Q. What hobbies and inspirations impact everything else in your world outside of work?
This week, 'Breaking In' was fortunate enough to snag some time with Christian Diefenbach, one of Bungie's Senior Software Engineers. If you've ever wondered how in the world all of the awesome content loaded onto each game disc works in concert with the hard drive and memory space to make your gaming experience as seamless as possible, scroll down and get to know one of the guys who makes it happen.
Q. Who are you and what do you do?
A. My name is Christian Diefenbach, and I am a Senior Software Engineer. I am currently working on the asset system, that is, the code that controls disk storage and memory space (and the transfer between them) of everything that goes into the game. It is not very glamorous, but the work impacts everything else.
A. I try to keep a healthy balance on my activities. I like to go hiking and I am starting sailing, too. (No way I am going to say, “long walks on the beach.”) And of course, the time I have left after work and family upkeep, I tend to use on Sci-Fi and videogames. A lot can be told from my library: it is divided between Sci-Fi, math, and cooking books. And I love preparing sushi, too.
Q. Prepare the following sentence as you would have when you were twelve: When I grow up, I'm gonna be…
A. ...an electronic engineer. A little anticlimactic, as after all the twists and turns, I ended up doing what I thought I would do since I was seven years old.
Q. Ah, to be seven again. Ten years after you settled on your own occupation, did your High School Guidance Counselor or any Aptitude Tests tell you to try a different approach?
A. I never had a formal aptitude test. During my high school years, my resolve wavered for a while, and I considered medicine, but I had been playing games since Atari 2600; my first computer was an Apple IIc, where I played games like Zork, Sabotage, Lode Runner and virtually all SCUMM based adventures. In the end, my inclination for electronics and games had tendrils all over me, and surgically removing it would likely have caused insanity or death. When it was time to make a choice, it was hardly a choice at all.
Q. Did you choose to go on and earn a college degree?
A. In a sense, I am an exception to the role (no typo here), as most programmers graduate in Computer Science; I am an Electronic Engineer. I also have an MSEE in Automation and Control Systems, which is a fancy name for some fancy mathematics.
Q. When did you first fancy Bungie as a place where you wanted to work?
A. A friend of mine pointed out an opening listed on Bungie’s website. I had been working for a company in Santa Monica since I came from Brazil six years ago, and I felt it was time for a change. I had played all Halo games, and heard of the place where magical elves press copies of the most successful game ever. (Disclaimer: when I came to Bungie, there were no elves, and the presses are actually in Taiwan.)
Q. What did you bring with you to the interview?
A. Programmers do not usually have demo reels, and in the interview I only used a whiteboard. Other than the intangibles (knowledge, experience, blah blah), the only thing I had with me was a Bungie provided bag that included pen, paper, a coffee pre-paid card and a nice bottle of wine. I decided not to drink the wine before the interview, which, in the end, proved to be the right call.
Q. Besides the decision not to get drunked up, is there one moment in the interview that defined the experience for you?
A. The interview process took nine hours. It was the most difficult interview I had ever been on. It is designed to squeeze your brain out of all its valuable information, and it does it well.
A couple of times I doubted I would be able to answer some of the questions, for each of them I had an hour to dig deep into my stressed out brain to find the right answers. And it was close. But that is what I expected, and it is part of what makes this company great. If the interview process was easy, Bungie wouldn’t be Bungie.
Q. In one sentence, describe what it’s like being at Bungie.
A. It is like being part of a team, where all players are MVP, and you get to make games you love to play.
Q. Any advice for aspiring applicants who want to try out for the team?
A. Eat your vegetables and do your homework. Bungie is always searching for great talent, and talent requires dedication, so work hard in whatever is your calling to the game industry. From a programmer’s perspective, keep your tech knowledge up to date and your math fresh. Nobody is going to ask random questions about an obscure math theorem, but even so, remember all that stuff you asked yourself “Why am I learning this?” It was because of the Bungie interview.
Thanks to Christian for utilizing some of his own memory space to recount his transfer into the studio, and for providing insight for those looking to replicate the process. As he notes, you should definitely eat your veggies and stay away from the pre-interview wine. And even more importantly, we're hiring. If you've got the talent and dedication to be an MVP at Bungie, you should check out our Jobs page