There’s something like a billion people on Facebook and all of us, at one time or another, has received a Farmville (or Frontierville, or Petville, or Mafia Wars) request from one of our friends. We all gripe about it – those notifications that leave you feeling like you just got a pair of socks for Christmas. But what you might see as a minor annoyance is also nothing short of a technological coup d’etat. I’ve got a background in technology myself, and I can tell you that it’s a rare thing indeed to hear people complain about software when it’s working exactly the way it was designed to.
Behind everyone of those plots of virtual farmland is a fault-tolerant hardware infrastructure that spans thousands of servers, in multiple data centres across a continent or two. And all that is the result of the work of a team of coders and engineers effecting some serious high-tech wizardry in the name of amusement. And—despite what the Dilbert Principle would have you believe—when it comes to tech, these teams can’t succeed under shoddy leadership. So, for any of you out there who wanted to wring the neck of a friend who kept pestering you with any of the various _____ville gift requests you’ve gotten over the years, I can give you the name of at least one of those managers who made it all happen: Jamie Hill.
But, before you look him up on LinkedIn and send angry letters, bear something in mind. Jamie is the former CTO of the Frontierville game studio at Zynga, where he also had a hand in developing the architecture, operations, and systems that were behind many of the company’s social apps.
Nowadays, Jamie has moved beyond helping customers build thriving virtual frontier towns and taken his skills to Lightspeed, where he helps customers build thriving actual businesses with much more sophisticated software. Technically, Jamie Hill is the guy who’s ultimately responsible for making Lightspeed go. I don’t use the word “technically” here as a way to semantically belittle what he does: it’s in his job title. Jamie left his post at Zynga to become our CTO and, armed with a massive skillset, is the proverbial “here”—that place where the buck stops—when it comes to Lightspeed’s technology strategy. What exactly does that mean, you ask?
If you’ve ever read up on the benefits of cloud computing, you’re probably familiar with the part where everyone tells you that you get to offload all the computing headaches—purchasing hardware and software, maintaining and upgrading it, backing it all up—to whoever is hosting your apps and infrastructure. In the case of Lightspeed, it’s Jamie and his team that you’ve delegated those tasks to. Thanks, Jamie and team!
Of course, Lightspeed being a small company means that Jamie isn’t some C-level executive gazing down from his ivory tower. Multitasking is par for the course here, and he’s got the processing power to make that happen without any latency (a little tech wordplay for you all). This means that Jamie’s getting involved in almost all areas of the business related to the software itself. There’s the training of new employees, to make sure they’re up to speed on all that Lightspeed can do and what’s running behind the scenes to make it all work. He works closely with the product team to create a feature roadmap for upcoming releases, and then manages the progress of those features. He spends time with the support team as a way of staying connected to customers and understanding what issues they’ve been dealing with; this serves to inform the feature roadmap as well as to know what existing ones could be improved. And on the rare occasion that Lightspeed’s crack support team can’t solve a problem, the tickets get escalated to the man himself to work through it. Finally, Jamie also works closely with other developers who are creating add-ons to integrate with Lightspeed, acting as a kind of API ambassador and providing guidance to them when necessary.
In preparing for writing this post, I asked Jamie an earnest question in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way: What nightmare scenario would befall Lightspeed if you were to quit your job there today? Speaking with the humility of a Buddhist monk, he declined to acknowledge that things would go bad just because he left. But we know that Jamie’s overseeing various aspects of our infrastructure—from the servers to the software itself—and it’s all running like a well-oiled machine.
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