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Technical Program Manager (Hardware & Internal Flighting)

Hi, everyone! Wynn here again. Welcome back to another Xbox Insider Team interview. Today we’re having a chat with Austin—a member of the Flight Operations team whose responsibilities are mostly over Hardware and Internal Flighting.

How’re we doing today, Austin?

Pretty great Wynn!

Excellent. We’re glad you could make it. To start off, let’s tell the community a little about yourself.

Let’s see. I started on the Xbox Insider team back in 2016 and—Wait, a second. I can hear my goat screaming. She must’ve gotten out.

I’m sorry, what?!

*several minutes later*

Sorry about that. I put this fence up for these stupid goats and one of them has made it her life’s mission to escape every day.

That’s a strong contender for “longest sentence spoken in both 1924 and 2024”. So, how and why does one acquire multiple goats?

Haha. Well, I live right at the base of the mountains in Washington. I have some acreage on my property, and I got a quote to clear it that was a couple of grand. I figured the goats would be a cheaper initial investment. Plus, I could rent them out later.

This sounds like the plot of an Always Sunny episode. I’m so down.

That’s actually bang on. When we initially got the goats, we didn’t have a fence, an enclosure, or anything. We bought the first two and they kinda sucked. So, I had this brilliant idea to get two more goats that were older to sort of teach the other goats what to do.

I think I see where this is going Mac.

Oh yeah. Absolutely backfired. They all just ravaged the land. But I guess it did technically get cleared.

Sounds like your investment was maybe a success, then?

Kind of. The goats are still quite low on my list of things I enjoy. Have you ever seen that video of the sheep getting pulled out of the ditch and it hops around before jumping back in? That’s basically my doe with escaping the fence. She’ll get out and then just sit there and scream until I put her back in. If you know anyone who wants a Mini LaMancha, I got one for super cheap.

Haha. I’ll make sure to put the word out.

Okay, with the much-needed goat break out of the way, I think you were telling us when you started working here.

Oh yeah. So, I started here in August of 2016. It was my first job in the games industry, as well as in a sort of corporate environment.

Wow! What a place to start.

To be honest, it was kind of intimidating. I’ll never forget coming in that first day and badging into the building. I was shocked that I had a whole office to myself. It was my first time really experiencing anything like that and it was intense.

Where did you work prior to Microsoft?

I had pretty much only been in the restaurant business. I bartended for a few years but right before I got hired here, I was doing back-office work on the point-of-sale system for the restaurant. I remember getting the call that I had the job and just walking out onto the street shaking like, “I can’t believe I’m getting to leave the restaurant industry.”

Dude. That’s so amazing. Coincidentally, I was also in a restaurant when I got my first Microsoft call. Though I was just eating, not working.

So, you’ve been here almost eight years now, what’s that journey been like?

It’s wild to hear it aloud like that. I still feel like I’m so early in my career here, even though I’ve done a little bit of everything. I started out working on PC stuff, then moved into Android/iOS Flighting, I owned a bunch of older 360 programs for a while, did some triaging, and now I’m mostly focused on hardware flighting and making sure system updates are all in order.

That’s quite the résumé there man. Impressive. Can you talk about anything that you’re working on currently?

The nature of hardware means a lot of that is under wraps. But what I can say is that we’re currently working on a more automated and more invested approach to selecting people for Alpha / Alpha-Skip Ahead rings. It’s still being hammered out, but I’m really excited by what we have in store.

I’m glad you mentioned that because I’ve been sort of teasing it through a few of the Community Updates.

Yeah, I don’t want to get anyone excited that it’s happening tomorrow or anything. But we wanted to make sure we were capturing people’s investment in the program and rewarding that properly.

Well, speaking of rewarding, what’s your favorite thing you’ve done or worked on in your time here?

It’s not a particular project, but my favorite memory is definitely when PUBG was first launching, and we got to flight it with some of the senior leadership of Xbox. Lots of fun driving around my Humvee, splattering the SLT.

Haha. That sounds great. Did you get any wins?

Oh, yeah. Got a few chicken dinners in those lobbies. Beat Major Nelson 1v1 in one of them.

We absolutely love to see it. Other than pub stomping all your bosses in PUBG, do you have a favorite game or one that’s the most memorable to you?

My favorite of all time is easily Mass Effect.

An excellent choice. Just the first game or the whole series?

The first game in particular but I love all of them. I rented Mass Effect at a Hollywood Video just based off the box art. I had no idea what the game was, but I fell in love almost immediately. Now I’ve played all of the games for hundreds of hours a piece and have all the achievements in every version.

Okay, now I have to know. Thoughts on Andromeda?

I know people experienced a lot of weirdness with that one, but I never had any issues. I think people were expecting something completely different and new. Instead, they got a Mass Effect game with a different cast and different setting. I enjoyed it.

Now that’s a spicy take.

Usually, I ask about other media interests next, but given the whole goats thing, I’m curious if you do anything else with all your land?

It’s funny you said “spicy take” because I actually use some of my land to grow my own vegetables, specifically peppers which I make into hot sauce.

No way. You make your own hot sauce?!

Ha. Yeah, it’s been a hobby of mine for a little bit now. I’m actually hoping to be able to make enough to sort of do a little side hustle selling the sauce at local farmer’s markets.

I’ll absolutely pay for shipping if you can send me some. I love hot sauce.


Okay, let’s hop back into the media side of things. Do you have a favorite album or song that you find yourself keeping on repeat?

I don’t really listen to too much music, but when I do it’s definitely like… I don’t even know that I want to say this, but it’s super poppy.

Nothing wrong with a little pop! What’s the vibe when you’re listening though. Top 40s? One artist in particular?

My fiancée usually chooses the music, so this is a House of Swift situation.

This is too perfect. The guy who has goats and makes his own hot sauce is also a Swiftie.

100%. I’m a man of multitudes.

Well, now I gotta ask—

Yes, I think they’re getting married. I’m happily engaged, so I missed my chance a while ago.

Hahaha. I wonder what the Swiftie x Xbox Insider crossover is like. Will people have any idea what that means?

If you don’t know the Swelce lore, then you gotta read up.

All right. What’s a goat-wrangling Swiftie’s favorite TV show?

That sounds like a bad setup to a “enters a bar” joke. I feel like I’m really exposing myself here. I’m a diehard Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. I rewatch both the original and Legend of Korra yearly.

Okay, let’s go. Love the ATLA love. How’re you feeling about the new live action?

It’s not terrible, but I’m much more excited about the new animated show they’ve also announced.

There’s gonna be more?!

Yup! It’s set after Korra and is coming out in 2025, I think.

I’ll definitely need to keep an eye out for that, then.

Well, we’re almost at time now. This has been a fantastic interview. Any final words you’d like to share with the Community?

It might sound a little cheesy, but sometimes I think it’s forgotten that everyone here is super passionate and love Xbox just as much as our users. Like, just watching people work for the past seven-and-a-half years, I’ve seen so many incredible people working really hard to make things happen. If we were anywhere else, we probably wouldn’t have lasted half as long. We see the passion and investment that Xbox Insiders place in the program, and we put all that emotion into our work ourselves as well. So yeah, just wanted to remind everyone that the feeling is mutual.

Wonderfully said Austin. Thanks so much for stopping by.


Xbox Insiders, be sure to be on the lookout for more content all throughout February including more interviews from the team, a trip down memory lane, and so much more. All of our 10th Anniversary content can be found on our Hub Page.

Until next time! Wy\nn/