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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

Yes folks, we're finally back after a slightly longer than intended break. I've known George for years, and he's one of my closest and also farthest away friends. We get to hang out about once or twice a year for the MVP Summit and my birthday jam. George is a very busy dude between work and his XNA Development website, but I'll let him tell you all about both of those, and everything else, in these NINE Questions with George Clingerman:

image1. Where are you from? (How did you end up there?)
I’m from Vancouver, Washington which is just outside of Portland, Oregon. I’m not a native to the west coast though since I was born in Laurel, Maryland and raised in a tiny little farming village in Clearville, Pennsylvania (it’s actually a village, it says it on the sign! And yes I grew up on a farm.).

So how did I end up coming out to the west coast? Women. Well, specifically a single woman. My wife went to college with me on the east coast and then lured me with all her womanly charms out here to the west. She kept me so distracted that quite a while had gone by before I realized I was living somewhere without the four seasons I was used to and was now stuck with only two seasons (raining and not raining).

Eight years and four kids later, I still haven’t regretted the move.

2. Where do you work / what do you do / what is your product? Give me the 10 second pitch.
I work at a company called Viewpoint Construction Software (a branch of our parent company called Coaxis). There I’m a development supervisor (I think my official title is Systems Team Development Supervisor). What do I do? Well like typical supervisors I pretty much don’t do anything!

Seriously, that would definitely be how I feel sometimes, but my team assures me it isn’t true. I don’t do as much coding as I used to (which has been an adjustment and one of the reasons I feel less productive), but I still do get to occasionally (my hobby fills that void for me mostly). Most of my responsibilities now are more intangible. My primary goal is to keep the team focused and happy. I keep an eye out for all the individuals on my team, trying to stay abreast of their home and personal lives and making adjustments to project schedules and workloads accordingly. I listen to what they need and work with upper management to try and provide it. Training, fun activities when the stress is high and so on. I watch things like the teams image throughout the company and do hard to help promote my guys. Making them look good (developers sometimes have a hard time understanding how to show off all the great work they do) is something I try to do as much as possible. This might consist of dropping their name in a casual conversation with the president or sending around “thank you” letters that an individual on the team might have received for going over and above. I make sure people know that they’re doing the job and kicking ass doing it.

Of course I do the typical supervisor things as well. Managing the project, keeping track of concerns, scheduling work, doing documentation, making sure people post their time. But it’s the other things that fill most of my time.

So what does Viewpoint Construction Software do? We make accounting and project management software for the construction industry. This isn’t a shrink wrapped product, this is a huge $40,000 plus piece of software and often requires the construction company to have their own support and development staff to help support our software internally.

My team (the Systems Team) codes the API for that software that all the other teams internally code against. It’s a fun job and I love the people I work with.

3. How did you end up doing what you are doing?
Luck. I went to college for Math/Computer Science. Upon graduation with my degree and my farm boy work ethics, I landed my first job and proceeded to work my way up through 3 positions internally there in about 6 months. I was giving my heart and soul to that company and they were eating me alive. Each new position came with new responsibilities but no new pay.

Three years later I finally had adjusted my world view a bit and realized the industry didn’t work like farm country. After being asked to risk my life to come into work during an ice storm (which in the West Coast with their one snow plow actually IS dangerous!) it was the straw that broke the camels back. I finally applied for another job.

Viewpoint took a chance with me (I was still a pretty young coder), but once I got into the door I took to the environment right away. I love it here and they let me know they love the work I do, which makes me want to work even harder which makes them love me even more. It’s a good cycle! They even sent me to Gamefest one year. Yeah, an accounting software company paid for me to go to Gamefest. That’s some serious love.

When they did some restructuring (we’ve been growing larger as a company), they took a risk on me again and made me supervisor of the Systems team. I love it, but I’m definitely still getting my feet wet in the whole managerial world.

4. You're an XNA MVP, so give me the sales pitch of XNA. Why should I as a budding young impressionable game develop adopt it rather than learning c++?
Portfolio building. The truth is the game development industry is still firmly rooted in C++. It’s going to be that way for a while because of all the legacy tools and libraries these huge companies already own. But when you’re starting out, the best thing you can show someone is the work you have done. And there’s no faster way to build that portfolio and get going with game development than using the XNA framework.

The techniques and experience you gain building games using the XNA framework will directly translate to any other framework and language you have to use in the future. And nothing is going to impress a prospective company more than sitting down and showing them a couple games you made that they can download and play on their Xbox 360.

The other major benefit is being able to skip the getting hired by a big company route all together. This was the traditional way of making it in the game industry, but we’re seeing a shift with that in the industry in my opinion. Starting out the with the XNA framework makes going that solo route even easier and gives you an extremely large audience right away with the Xbox360 and Xbox Live Community Games. There is no simpler way to get your game and name out there then creating a game and releasing it to all the Xbox Live subscribers around the world. How cool is that!

5. You were a VB guy originally, but you've embraced C# in your XNA work. Do you still use VB at all? at work, for example...
When I get to code at work, I code in VB.NET. And over 90% of our product is in VB.NET. However I am slowly moving my team to C#. We’re taking it slow though instead of just doing it all at once. Anything new we create or any major refactoring we do gets moved into a C# project within the same solution. No rush because really, VB isn’t doing anything wrong. The application works great and coding in VB is a breeze.

I used to love VB obsessively and it will always have a special place in my heart (in fact my first game programming tutorials were with Managed DirectX and VB.NET). However, there have been things that have happened in my life since I was that VB obsessed guy and my view on things is a bit different now. I see myself making an effort to phase more and more of VB development out and making the switch to using C# both at work and when I play.

6. So we know you're equally proficient in VB & C#, what are some other areas of technical expertise?
I do a lot of ASP.NET and SQL work during my day job (or did before my new supervisor role). I wrote a web portal for my company using ASP.NET so I got fairly proficient with web development as well.

SQL is something I never learned in college, but have used in every job I’ve been on since I graduated. I know some companies separate the database programmers from the code programmers but I haven’t been in a shop like that so I’ve been wearing both hats for the last 8 years.

Other than that I just tend to dabble in all the various new technologies that come out. I like to get a little taste of what they are and what they have to offer so that when the situation is right I know what options I have.

7. Any good conferences coming up? What events do you mostly go to? Impressions on those?
I haven’t been to too many conferences. I still feel like I’m pretty new to the whole geek scene so I’m still discovering them. The MVP summit, Gamefest and PAX tend to be the three I’ve been attending regularly. I do enjoy the local Portland Code Camp but word on the street is that it’s probably not happening this year. And I always like the MSDN events (although I do miss Rory as presenter)

I tend to go to events that I find relaxing. I don’t get to get away much, so I try to be a bit picky about the times and places I do go to. I want fun and excitement with a little geek time thrown in.

My impressions have been extremely positive. Probably why list of conference I’m attending each keep expanding. Originally it was just MSDN events, then I added in Code Camps then suddenly I was going to Gamefest regularly followed shortly by being an MVP then most recently adding PAX into the mix.

Hanging out with people I generally just know from online is always fun and getting to know some of my geek crushes and heroes is a great experience.

8. What's something most people probably don't know about George Clingerman?
The guys that work with me know this one, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this with the world.

I’m hardware illiterate. I’ve never built a PC. Have no clue how to do it. I get nervous even putting new memory in a machine (and I’m never sure I’m doing it the right way).

I don’t own the latest gadgets. I don’t take my laptop to conferences to take notes, I use pencil and paper still (although I did give my wife’s laptop a try at the MVP summit and it wasn’t a terrible experience).

I don’t have any kind of PDA, Blackberry etc. But I did finally get a cell phone just over a year ago. It was the free one that came with the plan.

I have no idea how to setup a network. I got my wireless router working but I’m not really sure how (and at one point had to have one of my co-workers come over and help me setup my first one).

I don’t have a DVR. I just recently bought an HDTV but I’m not sure exactly what all those things mean (1080i, 1080p?).

For the longest time I kept getting confused about disk space and memory so I couldn’t even talk about computers intelligently. (still screw a lot of the computer hardware geek speak up actually).

I just installed 2GB of RAM in my desktop PC (the one I program my games one) this last Christmas. Before that my “development” PC was running Windows XP with 512MB of Ram.

I haven’t upgraded a single one of my machines to Vista. I’ve never even used Vista yet actually except for a few times I’ve had to troubleshoot something on my wife’s laptop (yes, my wife has upgraded to a newer operating system before me, and she LOVES Vista).

And for the grand finale or embarrassing things to admit and share with the world when you’re a programmer….when I buy a new PC, I don’t wipe it or clean it. I leave all the factory installed crap on there. Now this is one thing I actually can do (install a new OS), I’m actually just too lazy to want to do it.

Shocking I know.

9. any tattoos?  Interesting stories to go with them?
Yeah, I have one my upper right shoulder. And there might be a little story behind it…

I’m planning on getting another one now that I’m done having kids. I always planned on having something to kind of just indicate the end of that stage of my life. Still trying to decide just what exactly I want, but I know I want it on my left calf.

It’s going to need a good story though…

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 5:53 PM NINE Questions | Back to top


Comments on this post: NINE Questions with George Clingerman

# re: NINE Questions with George Clingerman
Requesting Gravatar...
I don't understand why you used a picture of Clay Aiken for George's 9 question interview...

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Oct 02, 2008 11:19 PM

# re: NINE Questions with George Clingerman
Requesting Gravatar...
Well we know Georgie ain't gay...
Left by Chris G Williams on Oct 02, 2008 11:24 PM

# re: NINE Questions with George Clingerman
Requesting Gravatar...
I work with George @ Viewpoint Construction Software. He is a genuinely interesting guy. He is obviously a very good programmer, but for the company we both work for and for the gaming software. He is very intelligent and doesn't really look like Clay Aiken in person (plus I have never heard him sing - although I hear he plays a mean Guitar Hero - or whatever the latest video game is).
Left by Andrew Karr on Oct 08, 2008 10:47 PM

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