First, the name. If you are interested, it is pronounced sun-jay. Why is it spelled that way — ask my parents
Long before I even started on the path of curmudgeondom, I was convinced that I wanted to be a physicist and a philosopher. Alas, I had suffered the fate of many a teen — Atlas Shrugged. And so, I embarked upon a journey which deposited me upon the steps of Cornell University. And in earnest I began my study in both fields and quickly discovered that not only did I suck in both, but I didn’t even really enjoy them all that much. Still, I stuck through for it was serious business. After the first year, I realized that perhaps physics and philosophy was a bit much, so I decided to focus only on physics. But at the end of my sophomore year, tragedy struck. The only time they were to offer quantimum mechanics was at 8am and I had sworn a blood oath to drop any major that require an 8am course. So I dropped physics.
In a moment of brief insanity, I signed up to be a goverment major. When I arrived for my junior year, my mind cleared and promptly dropped the goverment major. But I was in a quandry. I did not know what to major in and I was no longer signed up for any classes — well that wasn’t quite true. I did have a couple of computer science classes. You see, programming was something I had been doing since I was about 10. It was fun. I took a few classes here and there for my own personal enjoyment. But it wasn’t serious work. It was fun, and at the time, I was under the impression that anything you could make a living at couldn’t be fun. But not knowing what else to do, I picked computer science as my major. And when I did, I remember my thought being “well, I am picking Computer Science, but I have no idea how I will make a living at this…” — ok, my deductive reasoning abilities hadn’t been developed yet. Give me a break.
It was at Cornell that I met and was instructed by Juris Hartmanis — interesting how he looks the same in the photo dated 2002 as he did in the mid ’80s. Until I met Hartmanis, I had thought I was smart. But my reaction after my first lecture was a long the lines of “oh…ok, got it, smart….yeaaah, that’s not me.” IMO Hartmanis is to computer science what Newton was to physics. I got a lot out of the time I spent with him and to this day, what he taught me still guides my thinking.
It took me three days to get a job after I graduated from college. I was actually expecting a little more time off as I was still under the impression that computer scientists were not that much in demand. My first job was at a company called Layered Inc. I started out as a grunt writing accounting software for the Macintosh, Windowns, and the early versions of OS/2. The product eventually was bought by PeachTree. The lead developer I reported to was Shabbir Dahod who has had a stellar career. The most notable thing about Layered, however was that it was bought by Paul Allen shortly after I arrived there. It must have been my employment that sealed the deal 😛 Shortly after he arrived, he had us start working on a windows C++ version of the product. Mind you, this was 1987. At the time there were maybe 4000 C++ developers in the world and we (along with the Improv team at Lotus) were probably the first C++ developers on the Wintel platform. It took us 3 months to get Hello, World working — can any one tell me why it is that with each supposed increase in technology there is a commensurate increase in the complexity of Hello, World. I think by the time I retire, it will be up to 10gig of code.
After Layered, I did a short jint at a company that was creating an experimental MRI device. The control program was in Smalltalk. BTW — you don’t know fun until you have a 1 Tesla and a 2 Tesla super-conducting magnet in the office.
I was transformed into a software engineer at my next job. I was hired onto the Agenda team at Lotus Development Corporation. There I encountered the best development manager I have ever worked with, Beth Macy. I haven’t heard from Beth is quite a while — but Beth, if you happen to stop by, thanks for your leadership and advice. Agenda’s most important adopter was Randy Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies.
Randy talked me into leaving Lotus and working for him at his software company in Park City, Utah. I spent six years at his company working both in development and in product management during which time I was a co-inventor of patent #6,073,142. Much of my business accumen I picked up from Randy — and Randy, if you ever stop by, thank you for all the knowlege and vision.
I left Park City in 1997 to help Nigel Hook startup a Java consulting practice at his company, Dataskill. I eventually became the Chief Technology Officer at Dataskill. The most notable project during my tenure was a ticketing gateway for www.tickets.com.
It was during this time period I met (and then married) my wife Tanya. There are really no words that do justice to what it was to me to meet her and what it is to me to have her in my life. I know one thing: I am one very fortunate man.
It was also during this time period that I started delving into MMOs. In one single week in 1997 I purchased a book by Tad Williams called Otherland while at the same time purchasing a game called Ultima Online. I didn’t know the two had related subject matter, so it was quite a trip to start reading a book about online worlds only to install a game and find I was in an online world. Nothing more than than moment said to me “the future is here”. It was a future in whose building I wanted to participate. I monitored several games — and spend quite a bit of time in Star Wars Galaxies. Based on what I learned about forming online communities there, I had decided it was time to start my own company, Eternal Adventures.
My long term goal with the company was to use the company as a platform to build and support horizontal communities. Of key importance to me was integrating online communities as found in MMO with offline communities such as RPG gaming groups.
I quickly found a game willing to license to me the rights to do an online game. The game was Cyberpunk CCG. Unfortunately, the company behind that game ran into some financial difficulties. And that was tying up finalization of the license. A few of us even attempted to buy the game outright, but after a year of trying, we sadly had to walk away from the entire endeavor. Since I didn’t have a signed license nor a game, I also didn’t have much in the way of income, so I began consulting (and eventually working) at Syntricity.
In early 2007, I achieved my dream of building and supporting horizontal communities online. I joined Simnasium – a company that builds sports simulation games. It is a great team and far more fun than anything called a ‘job’ has a right to be ;).
The highlight of my life, without question, is April 10th 2007. That was that day, after 18 months of effort, we were recorded as the parents of our two two beautiful children: Dascha and Nikolai.
Looking back at this bio, I realize I have a lot to be grateful for.