Meet Oliver Wing, X-Box Firmware Engineer at Microsoft
My name is Oliver Wing, I am a firmware engineer at Microsoft in Mountain View, California. A firmware engineer has a lot of different opportunities to both play with computers, we get to program a little bit and then we also get to move wires around on circuit boards. We get to stick probes on stuff, we get to basically do like – it’s a fusion of electrical engineering and computer science in a lot of ways. It’s a great way to see a whole bunch of sides to a project.
In terms of education, I went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology which is a big school up in upstate New York. And they have a whole lot of different engineering programs. So they have the usual mechanical, electrical, industrial. But they also have a computer engineering program so it’s a fusion of their electrical engineering program and their computer science courses. With a couple of extra things for the the computer engineers, so they have more choices into which fields they want to go into that are more specific. That’s the program that I ended up going with.
So RIT also offers, as part of their five-year program, you have to do basically an entire year of internships. So Microsoft was always one of those companies that would show up to the career fair and I’d be like, I really want to get an internship at this company. I want to work for Microsoft. So I’d hand them my resume each time I went to the career fair. The first time I was like, here’s my resume. The second time – I didn’t hear back from them the first time – the second time, here’s a new resume, it’s got another internship of experience, I’ve taken a few more classes, how about now? The third time another resume, I had gotten another couple of internships and I still didn’t hear from them but it was okay because I was getting all this different experience and I was still just seeing new things. But then, after I was in my last internship period and I got a call from Microsoft out of the blue – like I thought nothing prompted it but then during the call they said, we pulled your resume out of the pile and it looks like you have some qualifications for this one position we are trying to fill, do you want to do a phone interview with us? And I was like, finally, I did it. That’s not something you expect. It was just, I didn’t even recognize the phone number. I was like, hello?
So during my interview we talked about my classes, we talked about my internships but I also brought up that I had been working on a personal project over the winter break immediately during my senior year. And it was a small project, I kind of put it together myself. I was like, I want to make a level editor for this one PC game that I really like. And I want to be able to share levels across the Internet with my friends. I picked up a little bit of PHP, put together a basic website and had it be able to translate and store these levels and transfer them back and forth to my friends. And so I brought this up during the interview. But once I did that, that’s really all they wanted to talk about all of a sudden was just how I had designed this personal project and how I’d seen the need, how I had filled the need and what I planned to do with the project in the future. Like did I plan to expand on it? Was I going to keep it up? And it was kind of a – I wasn’t expecting that direction in my interview at all but I think it turned out to be one of the defining factors for me when they got back to me and they were like, this is the guy that created his own application and saw it through to the end.
The best piece of advice I could give to somebody that wants to have a similar job to what I do right now is to just get out there and find things that are really interesting to you that are also related to the field that you want to get into and just jump in and mess around with them. Like one of my – one of the coolest things that I’ve seen recently is this group of people on Stack Overflow, which is a website for programming, discussing ways to use the available colors, computer colors, and make an image that just uses every available color at least once. The top-rated guy has come up with this amazing algorithm. He’s like, hey, I have this algorithm here that takes the colors and shuffles them in such a way – and it looks like an explosion of feathers. It’s beautiful. But he uses – he fit the requirement. He used all these colors. So it’s just like the opportunity to be creative in a space like that. And all he was using was just a math formula. I think that’s the coolest thing. That’s what really will define you when you’re going to your interviews and stuff is people will be able to see your passion and they will be like, this is the kind of guy we want on our team. Who will be able to see a different side of things than you were expecting before. And he’ll be able to expand on what we’re doing.