An Inside View Of Information Technology At Stardock

Stardock Corporation is the creator of games such as Galactic Civilizations I & II, Sins of a Solar Empire, Elemental: War of Magic and the more recent Fallen Enchantress. They also produce tools and utilities for desktop PCs to enhance the user experience and try to fill in some of the pitfalls that users find in the Windows operating system, most recently with Windows 8.

We wondered what a day at Stardock was like for the technology people, and Kris Kwilas, the Vice President of Technology at Stardock took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. He gave us a little personal info and insight into Stardock that I think you will all find interesting.

Kris was kind enough to introduce himself, so let's take it from there …

My name is Kris Kwilas and the title on my business cards currently supports my IRL identity as the VP - Technology at Stardock Corporation.

I've been gaming and learning my way around PC's since my dad purchased an IBM XT. Some of the gaming memories are painted with indelible ink (including my way around some of the Wizardry I dungeons - no automap!), as are some formative IT lessons (hint: using 'erase *.*' to free up space on the root of the C drive is not a good idea).

I was on a pre-med track at the University of Illinois until I spent the summer after my freshman year working for IBM. By the end of that period, my direct manager (Chris Novak) and our group manager (hi, Cheryl Grise) had planted nourished the idea that my hobby could potentially be my career. Which I think worked out well, I always liked the helping people part of being a doctor most. Hello, English Literature major!

I had been involved in testing software for Stardock since high school. After a summer there to see what a small company environment was like, I started with Stardock immediately after graduation and have been with the company since.

IT work can many times be described as long periods of relative quiet interspersed with short periods of absolute panic. Is it any different at Stardock?

It is somewhat different at Stardock as we are not potentially as silo'd when it comes to the operational groups. There is a large range of things we're doing on a daily basis, from devops, netdev, and fighting the infrastructure entropy of a 50 person company. Time not spent there is involved with developing, releasing, and supporting our Windows desktop enhancements (Start8, Fences, WindowBlinds, and more) as well as PC strategy games (Galactic Civilizations, Fallen Enchantress, and more).

Has the sale of the Impulse digital distribution system to GameStop made your, and your team's, life any easier?

Depending on how you're counting, I think Impulse was Stardock's fourth digital distribution platform (we have been selling out applications and games primarily online since the late 90's). As Impulse grew and we scaled our infrastructure, we added lots of additional moving parts without scaling as quickly as we could have on personnel dedicated to that infrastructure (vs more quickly expanding the publishing related groups). There is a lot less having my phone beep with something that can't wait until morning these days.

Long hours and being on call virtually 24/7 is pretty standard for IT people. What do you do in the brief periods you get to take your mind off of all the issues?

I like to cook (even more than I like to eat), tennis when the weather is nice, and lots of quality time with my TiVo.

After a brutal day at work, what's the first thing you do when you get home? Favorite drink perhaps, or something else?

I change into my Pants of Lounging and see how long I can resist the urge to "just check one more thing" at the office.

Finally, any advice for people getting into the IT field based on your experiences?

Don't be afraid to experiment, but please don't do it in production. Except when you have to. Know where your backups are and occasionally make sure you can restore them. When something breaks, try to at least understand what fixed it, so you can save time if it happens again. That'll help keep your 18 hours of misery when the SAN switches to write-through caching closer to 18 minutes.

We'd like to thank Kris for taking the time to answer our questions. His personal insight into the workings at Stardock will be familiar to many in the IT field and hopefully give some motivation to those considering the field to stick with it. Maybe if we play our cards right, we can get Kris to send us some review samples of those "Pants of Lounging". Makes us wonder if they are +1 to our relaxation skill, which would definitely put them at the top of our list for casual wear.

For more on Stardock and what they are up to these days you can visit their website at the source link at your leisure.