As a member of the Xbox Insider Team, I’m lucky enough to get to work with a number of individuals across Team Xbox as we determine what features to highlight and how to best gather your feedback. One person I’ve partnered with extensively is Donyea, a program manager, who’s helped bring a number of features, such as “Next Achievement,” to fruition in his short time with Xbox. Donyea started with Microsoft’s LEAP program and later went on to join Team Xbox full time. He was well-known within the organization pretty early on for his Gamerscore (more on that later).
Recently, I had the chance to chat with Donyea about his time with Xbox, and here’s what he had to say:
Hi, Donyea! First up, thanks for agreeing to share a bit of information about yourself with the Xbox Insider community. You and I have worked together on Xbox Insider Hub Quests and Surveys pretty regularly, but do you mind letting our readers know what you do?
I’m a Program Manager on the Xbox Live team. I work across multiple teams (client, service, user research, data science, design, etc.) to bring new and engaging experiences to our platform. I’ve worked on achievements, stats, and leaderboard features and my current focus is on gamer intelligence and growth.
It’s a pretty cool story regarding how you got started with Team Xbox, right? Can we get you to share it?
I initially applied as an intern while still in college, but due to unforeseen scheduling issues that ended up turning into a full-time interview. Not something I had prepared for, but the interview process went over pretty well nonetheless. Not well enough that I landed the job however. I was turned down as a full-time employee and was instead directed towards a program at Microsoft called LEAP. LEAP is a 16-week apprenticeship program aimed at providing candidates with hands-on experience – which is exactly what I needed. I spent 3-months with my team as an apprentice and by the end was hired on as a full-time Program Manager.
I think a lot of Xbox fans will find your story relevant to their own goals. Do you have some professional advice you’d want to share with them?
There are a number of stories of game developers (including artists, community managers, software engineers, etc.) who got their start doing something small while building their network and experience. My story is very similar. I hosted a podcast, ran a gaming website, wrote news articles for a major website, QA tested locally and remote, and more. These activities gave me experience and helped build my network while showing potential employers my passion and initiative in this space. Don’t focus on landing your dream job right away. Dedicate yourself to working towards that goal by finding new ways to learn and improve.
You’ve created several Xbox Insider Quests and Surveys around various platform features. How does this process impact your work and the features for which you’ve been responsible?
Whether it be a Quest or Survey, I’ve run something through the Xbox Insider program for every feature I’ve shipped thus far. I find the feedback we receive from Insiders to be invaluable when creating a new experience. This feedback gives us insights that we utilize to make any necessary changes before shipping to the general public. It also gives customers a mechanism to influence change in our products and know their voices are being heard, as a previous Xbox Insider this is very important to me personally.
Is there anything that surprised you about Xbox Insider feedback or anything you specifically responded to, in terms of implementation? What does that look like?
The difference in opinion between the various rings is something that surprised me. With achievements for example, we find in some instances the opinion of Alpha Insiders can drastically vary from Omega Insiders. Which is great as this diversity of thought leads us to craft the best experience for everyone. One piece of feedback we got from Insiders across all rings regarding the Next Achievement feature was that certain games were filling the entire list. As Next Achievements is meant to give gamers a cross-game view of upcoming achievements, having one or two games fill the entire list hindered that experience. As a result we increased the total number of achievements displayed from 15 to 20 and also added hiding capabilities which allow you to hide a specific achievement or an entire game. These changes were a direct result of feedback from Xbox Insiders.
What about some basics: When did you first join Xbox Live, and what game(s) are you currently playing?
I first joined Xbox Live around the launch of Halo 2 back in 2004. Halo 2 devoured two years of my childhood and to this day I still prefer competitive multiplayer experiences over anything else. More recently I’ve been hooked on PUBG since the console launch in December. I have about 200 wins and 3500 kills so I haven’t lost my touch just yet. Although I also recently started playing the game on PC and it’s a miracle if I don’t lose in the first few seconds using keyboard and mouse.
Any Xbox-related achievement you’re particularly proud of?
I’ve been an achievement hunter for a while now and have unlocked 500,000+ Gamerscore and completed 470+ games. I would say that I’m more proud of certain completions rather than any one individual achievement. A few of which are: Titanfall, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Mirror’s Edge, Far Cry 2, and The Orange Box.