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Breaking In - Kyle Robinson

If Bungie.net is a kingdom, consider this next guy your white knight. Not only does he look spiffy in a suit of armor (and has been known to wear one in the studio from time to time), he labors tirelessly to make sure that our website is a brightly lit cluster of civilization in the wilds of the Internet. Join us as we lift his facemask and salute a brave developer who defends our shared realm from bugs and other evils.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Kyle: My name is Kyle Robinson, and I’m a Web Tester at Bungie. I work with UI automation, and am a customer advocate. I’m making sure that you’ll love Destiny’s web experience.

Ah, yes. You’re the guy who (among many, many other things) cruises the #Support forum and forwards me messages from the lost, confused, and disgruntled. When you’re not championing the cause of the end-user on Bungie.net, what do you focus your efforts?

Kyle: Currently, I’ve been pouring all my time into [as of yet unannounced game support features], making sure that everything will be tested – from design to final product.

Beyond your gallantry on Bungie.net, how do you apply this instinct for heroism in the real world?

Kyle: That’s a pretty big can of worms. Instead of a speech about my various interests, I’ll leave you with some search engine keywords: Seattle Knights, Jousting, Archery, Airsoft, Medieval, Swords, Movies, Stunts, Theatre, Singing, Crooning, Karaoke, Poetry, JAVA, Games (PC, Board, Card, Dice, Console, Role Playing, Tabletop), Automation, Animals, Food (adventures!), Hiking, Camping, Target Shooting. That enough for now?

Yes, plenty. You’re quite the Renaissance man, and I can attest personally to the fact that you look absolutely dashing in a kilt. How does a man with such varied passions choose a craft as the focus of a career?

Kyle: When I was younger, I wanted to be an entertainer. I grew up wanting to make people smile. I did an awful lot of choir and theatre. When I realized the small chance of success, my interests turned in other directions. Games make me smile, so why not help others to enjoy them? I fell into this industry not knowing what to expect, and have grown to love it. I’m content to make people smile through games now. However small a part I play, I now know what goes into making a game.

Was college a place where you were able to learn those lessons?

Kyle: I went to Tacoma School of the Arts then took a bunch of art and language classes through college. Almost nothing I learned at these places helps me directly in what I do (tech wise). The skills I use today were learned through peers and of my own volition, striving and wanting to learn more, and be better. 

C’mon now. Learning how to communicate must be a skill that’s useful to someone who supports the machinations of a thriving court like Bungie.net.

Kyle: If I had to pick something that I did learn from my schooling that I still use today, it’s that you are never alone. Your friends and colleagues have so much to offer, if you only ask. Teamwork is crucial in life, as well as in the workplace. Being self-sufficient is important, but so is working together. 

You also mentioned that you learned a lot on your own. Where, then, were your classrooms outside of academia?

Kyle: I started in the industry testing over at Microsoft Game Studios. There, I learned the tools of the trade, as well as what was expected out of a tester. I also learned that the Kinect couldn’t see black leather pants so well. I tested Joy Ride, Kinectimals, Kinect Sports, and Kinect Adventures. Testing kids games really makes you appreciate those moments when you’re not. I moved on to test Batman: Arkham City (held the combat high score for a good long time), and went on to test Math Games for Kids for DreamBox Learning. It was there I learned about web testing, and really became a customer advocate. 

Was all that work enough to prepare you to oversee the interactions from the ramparts of Bungie.net?

Kyle: I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for this job. The atmosphere at Bungie is a palpable mixture of awesome, craziness, and creativity. Every person who is here wants to be here. It’s that same feeling that allows me to wake up in the morning and say, “Time to go to work” with a smile on my face. 

How were you first able to get your boot in the door here?

Kyle: I knew someone on the inside, and had industry experience. Though, that was just enough to get the phone interview.

The first of many trials, to be sure. Relive for us the most difficult moment from the LIVE interview (the REAL interview), if you will.

Kyle: The hardest part? The 24 hours it took them to call me back with the offer. Excruciating.

Oh, so you just breezed through the interrogation session? Do we need a do-over to properly inflict the pain for which we insist on being notorious?

Kyle: Oh, alright… I started out as a contract tester, and the interview for that wasn’t too bad. I’d had enough experience that the questions they threw at me weren’t curve balls. The real interview came when I made the switch to a full time employee.

Have you ever been in a room with people you know are better at what you do than you do? I sat in the interview room behind security, hands sweating and butterflies in my stomach. That’s strange for me, having performed in front of thousands of people before… but this, this was different. 

You mentioned the charged atmosphere of the studio. What else about working for Bungie has you waking up with that smile on your face?

Kyle: The best part is knowing that the work I do makes a difference – that I can and do have an effect on how the products we produce as a team turn out.

That’s a broad concept. Can you break it down in terms of what you might tackle in one day?

Kyle: Depending on the bus I catch, I get into the studio a bit earlier than the rest of the team. I unlock my computer and read through any emails I’ve received. Then I open our bugs database, check out my regression queue, and get started. We have our stand-up team meeting at 11:15 and buckle down on some testing. At noon, I’ll go out for a fabulous Newbie lunch. After lunch, I sync up with my team to figure out what we’re all working on. Perhaps I’ll work on some automation or update some test cases. From then until I leave, I turn on some tunes and put my nose to the grindstone, flushing out bugs, and making our product better.

With the obvious exception of the tunes, what makes your hard work easier to endure?

Kyle: That continuous supply of Bungie love they’re always talking about. Yea it’s real, and it’s awesome. I remember when we were working some longer hours and they came by with flowers and chocolate to bring to our loved ones. Smart move, Bungie. Smart move.

Aside from balancing work and loved ones, what would you describe as the biggest challenge associated with being in league with Bungie?

Kyle: Not just playing Destiny instead of working. That and balancing the incredible amount of work I’ve got on my plate, making sure nothing gets ignored for too long. Sometimes I get so engrossed in my work I forget to eat or go home. It’s a good thing I have co-workers who love lunch and sleep as much as I do.

We do try to look out for each other. Has there been a moment when you’ve felt like you’ve truly earned the company you keep? 

Kyle: I asked some of my team mates if they would be willing to help me out with a few things that would make me better at what I do. Not only did I get a resounding “yes”, but they actually followed through. It was that moment when I knew I belonged with these people, at this company. 

That process of evolution should never stop, of course. What are your plans to continue getting better at what you do?

Kyle: I’m never done learning. I latch onto new information like a male angler fish latches onto his mate… No wait, that’s a bad example. I seek out new methodologies for test, and continue to improve my code. I talk to people, and learn their stories, their pitfalls and how to avoid making those mistakes myself. 

Somewhere out there is another noble developer at heart who would love to make people smile in a similar fashion. What would you say to them to set them on their quest?

Kyle: Never. Stop. Learning. Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only bad questions are the ones you don’t ask.

We can think of a few bad questions that someone could ask, but we’ll take Kyle’s logic on its merits. His tale is just one that leads to our castle and keep. If you see yourself flocking to our banner in search of a place to use your own unique gifts, check out the Breaking In archive. Bungie needs many knights to join us around our round table.
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