A while back we were invited to meet some of Nvidia’s unsung heroes while it talked about its Fermi GPU. And by ‘meet’ we of course mean, ‘get drunk with’. In a weird circular bar in the middle of a Las Vegas casino, we chatted to Lars Nordskog and, between bar-top dancing sessions (the staff, not us), found out about what he does in Nvidia’s secretive Developer Relations department.
If you’re looking for advice on a change in career, or just want to see what goes on behind that big The Way It’s Meant To Be Played splash screen, read on!
Q: Hi Lars, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What do you do at Nvidia at the moment?
Hey Clive, thanks for the opportunity to chat with you and your community. Right now, my job title is Developer Technology Testing Engineer, though it’s not a completely self-explanatory title! The primary purpose that my colleagues and I serve is to make game experiences kick ass on Nvidia products. Of course we try our best to do this through the enhancement of games with technologies like PhysX and CUDA, but there's also an entire side to the equation which doesn’t always get a ton of exposure… The way we work with developers to ensure the best possible experience with regard to performance and compatibility.
Q How long have you been at Nvidia?
Well, that all depends on when you start counting! I started out as a contractor for Nvidia doing part-time work just over four years ago, but I was brought in as a full employee in a new role at the company just over two years ago.
The devilishly handsome Lars Nordskog, of Nvidia Dev Rel and this article fame
Q: Your path to your current role hasn't been too conventional, we hear - when did you first have contact with Nvidia and why?
Yes you’re correct… In order to remember how long I’ve been here, I literally had to go back and look at when Battlefield 2 came out, as it was instrumental in my coming to work for Nvidia, oddly enough! Back at the end of 2005 I was attending community college in hopes of transferring to another school when done with the first two years. I had been working at - of all things - a motorcycle shop for eight years, but in my spare time I was heavily into gaming and PCs, of course.
At the time, the latest game I was into pretty seriously was Battlefield 2. I was a fairly hardcore BF2 player; I was active on a bunch of gaming/hardware forums and rented a dedicated BF2 server with friends too. In the BF2 community there was a site dedicated to providing community volunteer admins for the official BF2 servers, which I became involved with for many months. Eventually the site owners contacted me and said, ‘We’ve been introduced to some contacts at Nvidia and they have some dedicated servers which they’d like administrated. You live the closest to the Nvidia headquarters, and you know about the admin software, so we need you to go up there and maintain their BF2 servers on our behalf.’
Lars' desk at Nvidia HQ - the Nerf gun is for preotection! Click to enlarge.
As you can imagine, I was a bit unclear as to whether this was some kind of hoax at first, but I drove down to Santa Clara and sure enough, I got signed up as a part-time contractor. By day I went to school and worked at the motorcycle shop, and by night I maintained the 30+ game servers for Nvidia in it headquarters datacenter: odd, no? Additionally, I volunteered my efforts to Nvidia at trade shows like E3 and Quakecon, while gaming with some Nvidia employees in my spare time (yup, more BF2).
About a year later, I was invited to come work for Nvidia as a full-time contractor, working with pre-release content as a Builds Manager, securing and maintaining pre-release game builds. After doing this for about six months, there was a re-organization within the company, and I was unfortunately let go as part of that, as the role was being done away with. I was very disappointed after having left a job of eight years to work for Nvidia, but I sent out some emails to people I worked pretty closely with in the company to say thanks for the chance to work with them.