It takes some people longer than others to decide on a career path. Not Senior Software Engineer Jamie Wood, though. They’ve been writing code longer than they’ve been riding a bike. From launching their career with a Quake mod to writing custom apps to organize their favorite livestream series, Jamie tackles many of life’s challenges with a keyboard. Learn more about how Jamie’s software engineering skills get put to use in everyday life, their epic bedtime challenge with their children and Phineas and Ferb, and their big-screen cameo below.
Describe what you do at U.Group in 3 words or less.
JW: Ones and zeroes.
How did you discover your passion for programming?
JW: The family legend (and my college application essay) says I wrote my first BASIC program at the age of 3. It counted change. My mom helped. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t see a computer and want to make it do something it wasn’t already designed to do. I hacked the Nibbles game that came with MS-DOS to be multiplayer. I wrote a (very slow) Pong game on my scientific calculator. And I got my first real programming job because a bunch of people in the office regularly played my Quake mod and were super excited when I brought it to the interview on an install CD.
Do your software engineering skills/preferences trickle into other aspects of your life, besides work?
JW: Absolutely! It’s a struggle sometimes seeing a problem that could be solved with software and not immediately opening Visual Studio. Back when Netflix came in the mail, I wrote an app to let my partner and I manage our movie queues separately under a single subscription. When I got annoyed that new tabletop gaming promos sold out on Board Game Geek before I even saw the announcement email, I wrote an app that would alert me the moment new stock appeared (or old stock re-appeared) on their website. More recently, one of my partners wanted to watch all the DC TV Universe shows in order by air date (because crossovers!), so I wrote an app that scrapes episode dates and times from the Internet to build a playlist on our Roku.
I’m currently trying to solve the problem of my nine-year-old wanting to listen to episodes of Phineas and Ferb as they fall asleep but not being able to resist getting up and turning the laptop screen around to watch as well. They keep thwarting my various methods of blacking out the screen but keeping the sound going. I’m genuinely impressed by their troubleshooting skills.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read lately?
JW: Watchmen on HBO. It was a great way to continue the story from the comic while also acknowledging and fixing many of the problematic elements in the source material. And what a good job they did of saying “hey, you all know the character you most idolize from this comic is awful, right?”
Before working at U.Group, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
JW: I built all the websites seen on-screen for a suspense movie called Respire. I did all the development while sitting on set and watching the movie being filmed. There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment at about 1:17:36 where I play a very convincing corpse!
What is something few people know about you?
JW: This one is hard, because I talk about my weird life to pretty much anyone who wants to listen. So, I asked my kids.
AW (6, she/her): “You’re the best daddy ever. And you’re a girl, but lots of people know that.”
WW (9, they/them): “You like to play video games sometimes. And you love to dance a lot.”
Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?
JW: Gen Con in Indianapolis is the biggest tabletop gaming convention in North America. It’s become the one convention I cannot miss every year. I’ve played games in hotel lobbies with Neil Grayston (Eureka). I’ve chatted with Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Tabletop, The Big Bang Theory). I’ve seen my name on the cover of roleplaying games I’ve written for. And I’ve been a panelist for Queer as a Three-Sided Die (Qd3), a series of panels featuring queer gaming-industry professionals. But most importantly, this gathering of over sixty-thousand nerds is the one time a year I get to see some of my dearest friends in an incredibly inclusive and welcoming space. COVID-19 meant Gen Con went virtual this year. Here’s hoping for an in-person return in 2021!