Get To Know Our Team
Technical Program Manager (Xbox Everywhere & Cloud Gaming)

Hi, everyone! Wynn here again. Welcome back to another Xbox Insider Team interview. We’re sitting down to chat with Vanessa—a (slightly not) Technical Program Manager who focuses on Xbox Everywhere and Cloud Gaming. How’re you doing?

Haha. Okay, I loved that intro. I’m doing great.

Yeah, when you sent over your job title as “Not Technical Program Manager” for the pre-work, I chuckled, so I wanted to make sure I included it.

It was perfect.

Excellent. Well, let’s hop right in. Tell the Community a little bit about yourself.

Where to begin. Well, I was born and raised in New York City. Grew up in Brooklyn, moved to the Bronx, and then to Washington Heights. I’ve seen it all. I’ve been into video games my entire life. I don’t think I can remember a time when I didn’t have a controller in my hand. I also love animals and you can hear my voice in some of the Xbox Support videos on YouTube.

Wow. That’s a lot to unpack.

Let’s start with living in New York for your whole life. That’s gotta be pretty cool, yeah?

Well, I grew up as a kid in Brooklyn, but I also spent some time all up and down the East Coast before moving back to the Bronx. So not my whole life, but a pretty large chunk of it.

I know New Yorkers can have a lot of “hometown” pride for their borough. Having lived in a couple, do you have a preference?

I’ve lived in the Bronx the longest, so I’m going to rep the BX. [For context, Vanessa threw her arms up in an “X” symbol here.] But really, all the boroughs are great places to be. Except Staten Island, they don’t count.

Haha. They’re not even really connected to the city, right? I mean come on.

Exactly. What a joke.

So, about this lore drop of being in Xbox Support videos. Tell us more.

Yeah, so I was lucky enough to be in a few of those, which was cool because I got to flex my voice acting muscles.

Have you voice acted in other things?

Nothing really big that I could point to. I mostly audition for commercial work.

How’d you get into voice acting originally?

It was something that sort of found me in college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I ended up taking a theatre class and absolutely loved it. I knew I wanted to do something with acting, but I’m not that great of singer.

So, you couldn’t do the typical New York, “I’m on Broadway” route.

Right. I saw at this place called Actors Connection there was a Voice Acting in Video Games 101 coming up and I thought it sounded interesting. I was playing Uncharted at the time and was inspired by Nolan North’s performance, so I gave it a shot. It ended up being incredible. The teachers were amazing, and it solidified that voice acting was something I wanted to pursue.

I’ll be looking for your name in the next Gears, then.

Haha. I wish! My VA stuff has been kind of on the backburner for a bit because when I started this role back in 2021, I wanted to really focus on it. But that’s why stuff like the Xbox Support videos is so cool. Not every VA job is going to be glamorous, main character type gigs. That’s why I focused on commercials to build my portfolio out.

That makes sense. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Yes, exactly that.

Speaking of starting though, you mentioned you joined the Xbox Insider Team in 2021, but was that your first Microsoft role?

No. I started a few years before that in the 5th Avenue retail store.

Oh, wow! That place was massive. An entire floor just for gaming tournaments and stuff.

Yeah, it was a pretty wild place to work. Absolutely always busy. But I think my time at the Nintendo Store was probably more hectic, more often.

Microsoft and Nintendo Stores? Living the charmed retail life.

I think I preferred Microsoft over Nintendo, but I did get to meet Reggie [Fils-Aimé] so that was pretty awesome.

I am insanely jealous. So, did you start out as a Product Advisor?

Yup! I did that for almost my whole tenure. I helped out with the gaming stuff and was just starting to shift focuses when the shutdown happened. I had just done a really cool panel with some voice actresses in the store in January 2020, and was thinking, “This is my year.”

Oof. That’s a rough one.

The stores shutting down was definitely a hard time. I shifted to the training team helping businesses with Teams and SharePoint. But I had this anxiety because I wasn’t sure how sustainable it was and, living in New York, there just wasn’t a lot of opportunities in-state. I was incredibly thankful that the original Xbox Customer Success Manager position opened because they explicitly wanted people from all over the country and were set up to support remote work. I didn’t have to choose between my career and my life I had built here.

I think the move to embracing remote work was an all-up win, even if it was required in a lot of cases. Like, our team now is all over the place and it’s 100% better because of it.

Absolutely, like I think we’re the only two on the East Coast on the team.

Which means we get to sleep in every day. See! That’s a win right there.

Ha. I’ll admit it’s nice to not have to worry about 8am meetings very often.

So, do you have anything you’re working on right now you can tell the community about?

Nothing super concrete. But I will say that we’re doing a lot of work on the PC-side of things to get better communication, better info, etc. out to Xbox Insiders. So, if you’re a PC-only Xbox Insider, I think you’ll be excited by the rest of the year.

Excellent. We love to see it.

Of the things you can tell us about, what’s been your favorite thing you’ve worked on since starting at Xbox.

I think the ability to really help people with their issues was something that motivated me while I was a CSM, and it’s something that I took into this role because it’s so important. In that vein, I worked on a lot of the initial support stuff for the Elite 2 Controller launch, and the combination of helping people plus getting to see the shiny new gadget before it released is probably my favorite.

I like that. A nice combo of two different interests.

Okay, we’re pivoting to the more rapid-fire questions now. What’s a game that has had a big impact on your life in some way?

Super Metroid, hands down. It created the best genre of games that still exists today. It’s the perfect blend of action, horror, and atmospheric exploration. Samus is the original strong female protagonist, and no one does it better than her. I honestly don’t know if that game will ever be topped for me.

It’s interesting. I missed Super Metroid when it first came out. I love it, but something about Prime resonated with me more, even though I love MetroidVania games.

The whole Metroid series is great, but Super just scratches that itch like nothing else. When I left the Nintendo Store, one of the things I took with me was this giant Metroid standee that I still have in my apartment.

I have one of those from GameStop. Except it’s from the 3DS re-release of Ocarina of Time. It’s made four moves in the last 10 years and is still going strong; despite my wife maybe wanting to set it on fire.

Moving on from gaming, are you jamming anything on repeat recently?

I’ve been trying to get my fiancé into Daft Punk recently because I’m convinced that no one can’t not like that band. He hates all their newer stuff, so we’ve been going through the back catalog. He’s been vibing with the Discovery album the most and I have no problem with that being on repeat. Otherwise, I’m the standard millennial who doesn’t listen to anything after the early 2010s.

It’s funny. There’s a radio station back in Atlanta who does like “soft rock” stuff, which I don’t even know if that’s a genre anymore. But their tagline when I was growing up was, “The 80s, 90s, and Now!” and when I was back home recently, I was scrolling through and it’s somehow still their slogan. Like, “Now” is suddenly almost 25 years of music, y’all need a better word.

It’s just that period of like 30 or so years is undefeated for me, but it’s probably like you said, because I grew up listening to it.

Exactly. In a similar vein, any movies around that time frame that you keep on repeat? A fav that you watch every year?

I’m actually not really a person who rewatches stuff. There’re so many different movies, or shows, or anything out there, I don’t have time to rewatch them.

I feel pretty similarly. There’s a couple of games I make exceptions for, or like, holiday movies I might watch, but that’s about it.

Oh! I guess my fiancé makes us watch A Christmas Story every year, so does that count?

Hot take incoming. I wish he’d choose anything other than the worst Christmas movie of all time, but sure that counts.

Yeah, I’d rather it be Gremlins.

Jingle All The Way for me. Peak Christmas movie; will never be topped.

Okay, we talked a bit about hobbies previously with voice acting, but do you have any others?

I collect figures. Wanna see?

Readers, I must break the fourth wall here because Vanessa turned on her camera and gave me a guided tour of her apartment. I literally cannot describe to you adequately just how many figures there were. Video game, anime, amiibo. Posable, fixed, plushies. An entire Ikea showroom full of Billy Bookshelves packed to the brim. It was an incredible sight to see. I’ll pick up the conversation after she finished the tour.

I’m still just stunned. I have no idea what I’m going to write for that, but that collection is amazing.

A lot of them are also my fiancé’s, but we love that we can share this hobby together.

Well, we’re definitely at time now, so any last thoughts you’d like to share with the team?

Oh, I’m bad at this sort of thing, but I guess I just want to say like, the team is human? We’re all just people trying to work hard on the stuff that we love. We hear the community, and we want to do all the things but sometimes we just can’t. And I know that it’s easy to say that from our side, but hopefully these chats give a little insight into how much everyone here really does eat/sleep/breathe Xbox and how much we care about the userbase. I think we’ve got a lot of cool stuff coming up, so hopefully all our Xbox Insiders are excited!

Beautifully said Vanessa. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today.

You’re very welcome!

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/