Me

January 21, 2015 : About me, eh? Well, let’s see… when I updated this page in 2011, I made a comment that I had gone two years since the last update. Three updates over five years? Yeah, that sounds right.

Over the last couple of years, there have been some changes to the blog itself… readers that have been coming here for years have likely noticed a drop off in posts – there’s two reasons for that. One is Facebook; the other is my son. One has given me an easier outlet to Rant; the other has forced me to repurpose my personal time. The biggest challenge of having kids? Your can’t dedicate all of your free time to yourself. No complaints here; just an observation.

I am currently a Program Manager in Xbox Experiences at Microsoft. Wait, a PM? When did I stop being an SDET? After we shipped Xbox One and the “big multiplayer update” of March 2014. Long story short, there’s a killer feature that I wanted to work on and I found myself caring more about the feature than about lines of code or bug counts. I wanted to develop a vision for this feature, get feedback from our customers, and work with teams to get it built. Up to now, my career has spanned almost equal amounts of years as a developer and as a tester that was always against a backdrop of PM concerns and efforts – I felt it was time to make the backdrop the main focus.

Before moving making this move, I was an SDET working on multiplayer technologies on the Xbox One client. In my role there, I was writing software that was designed to test other software as part of the yet-to-be-released Xbox One console which brought a set of challenges. How does one test multiplayer features for games when the games themselves aren’t completely built yet? Hell, how do you test on a console when the console itself isn’t completely built yet? It was one of the hardest and most demanding projects that I’ve ever worked on, going back to the start of my career. Seeing how well it’s done in the wild, it’s also one of the most satisfying successes. And that was at the beginning of this generation; it only gets bigger and better from the there.

In the days before Xbox One, I worked on Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and a few games at Microsoft Studios, ranging from Bing for content searching on the console to the Community and Games team which focused on features that brought people together and then brought them to their games. During the whole of 2010, I spent my time leading a team that worked on the Avatar Platform which delivered tech to customers and developers alike – if it involved an Avatar and was on the console, we were there helping the process along. In the years leading up to the Avatar Platform, I worked on putting player-focused gaming features in a number of different games, not least of which was Gears of War 2; before that my work on MSDN and Visual Studio was focused on bring our help system to Windows developers around the globe.

I moved to Washington in 2004 after spending a little over three decades in Connecticut where I also worked in technology on PCs and mobile devices. I had a pretty good run of over six years with one particular company in CT. We went through three different death spirals during that time. We rode the pre-bubble, the peak of the bubble and the burst of the bubble. We even survived the post-bubble-burst pain of the early 2000’s, but alas: the last money crunch knocked most of the employees out of the company, driving the stock price down to 6 cents – when you consider splits, it IPO’d at $216 and had an all-time high of $1,116. Such is life! I am rather proud that the thing wouldn’t die for so long and that I was able to stick with it – working for one company during the dot-com era is not something most people in the northeast can say. As that job ended, I took a look around the tech field in CT and New York City… even Boston; now that I live in Washington, you can see how the job search turned out.

Why Washington, you ask? It was simple, really: there’s tech jobs here. A lot of them, in fact. And even so, I’ve met a lot of great people out here. I love the area, I’m used to people being friendly, and I’ve spent more time outside in my three years here than I did during my first 30. There’s hardly any snow – aside from the 08-09 winter – there’s not as much rain as non-northwesterner’s think the rain isn’t so bad, and only the people from California can’t drive. Aside from missing the occasional grinder or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, the availability of Starbuck’s, Seattle’s Best, Tully’s, Vita’s, and Vivace keeps me smiling.

I’m also a musician emeritus – been playing some type of instrument since 1982 and have always tried to find an outlet for it. During my last years in CT, I was tooling around with a garage band that tried to play out from time to time. I was happy to be a utility player for them that included electric basses, keyboards, woodwinds, brass thingies, and other sorts of noise makers. I’ve fallen way out of practice since coming to WA, much less finding a new group to hang out with, so I’m sort of “retired” I guess. And while I like Guitar Hero, it simply doesn’t count. Rocksmith does, but I haven’t had much time to play that either.

Speaking of things like “thingies” I should warn you that I have a very unique way of typing when “casual” and this is a casual site, so you can expect to see things like that. I think it adds charm, but I also had to add a disclaimer against any brain aneurysms I might cause a spell checker or grammar checker, much less a literary major. Also, I plan to write most of these blog entries when I have free time and well, my mind might wander from time to time… like a prison, one never knows what will come out of the gate when it’s left unattended.

In addition to my side projects like SharpMT and SharpKeys, I’ve also spent a number of the months during 2003 writing an anthology of short stories. Well, “short stories” is probably too strong a term. I consider them to be self-contained episodes of my childhood that I’ve gathered into one book, if only for my own sanity – I was hoping that by putting them down on paper that I would get them out of my long term memory. I could call them RetroRants, but they aren’t really rantings; they’re mostly just stories and a whole lot of them have become fictional in the telling. The working title was “YesterGeek” but the book hit the streets as Memoirs of an Italian Geek – I’m a Geek and very much Italian. I probably didn’t realize just how Italian I was until I proofread my own stories, but it seems to fit. You can find out more about it at http://www.rlsanti.com/

So anyway, given the above history, can you now see why I felt I could speak out on a number of different issues? As a technologist, I’ve through countless successes and failures with devices and services in the wild, running the gamut of the first HDD iPod to a uber-thin Sony 505VE to a desk-melting PowerBook to a custom engraved Zune to a shiny new iPad mini to an all-white Xbox One. As a mobile programmer, I’ve coded for at least a dozen different mobile devices over a span of 15 years; I was dedicated to a startup that actually got delisted from NASDAQ twice. As a consumer of music and musician, I’ve been all over the place with lots of different experiences; almost as many I’ve had to endure with business trips. As an Italian, I’m an opinionated loudmouth; as a former tester I can still find fault in anything and then learn from fault I found. As a “philosophical programmer,” I use logic to prove myself to be correct in a conversation, even if I end up losing the argument. Oh yes: it is very possible to be right and still lose; ask some of my ex-girlfriends about that.

Hope you enjoy the rants and the ever fleeting rave,
Randy

Randy No Arms' ongoing commentary on life, gaming, and the rest of the world