Scott Weller graduated from URI in 1999 with a B.S. degree in computer science. Scott created his first computer game at the age of 15. Since then, he has worked for and/or founded several gaming companies. Scott is a named inventor on numerous online gaming patents, and currently is Chief Technology Officer at Meblur Inc.
FMC: You have an impressive resume, Scott! You began playing with computers as a boy. What sparked your interest then, and how were you able to get so involved?
SW: Growing up on an operating farm, I had the unique opportunity of being home schooled. My parents also ran a small retail business that sold heath food, crafts and unique gifts. They had purchased one of the early Apple computers for managing the farm and the retail business. If I remember correctly, it was LOGO that first drew me into the idea that I could create software for a computer. I really loved games and soon became inspired by the idea that I could create them using the computer. My grandfather had a manufacturing business, and they had early Xenix and VAX systems. I was able to get so involved because home schooling afforded me the time to really dig in and study computer languages.
By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had written my first computer game and was also running a multi-line BBS for computer game enthusiasts. Back then, the shareware scene was booming, but it was really difficult to get access to a wide catalogue of games. The best way to get the latest and greats titles was by going to local "computer shows" at CCRI. Because I was running the BBS, I got involved in the local BBS community. The BBS allowed me to learn about early file and message distribution networks (such as FidoNET and Usenet) and how to get access to the latest and greatest content. This led me to my first job, at the age of 16, with IDS—arguably the first ISP in the US to offer consumer internet access. Back then, very few people knew what the internet was and why it would be useful. I thought it was insanely cool. So, I then spent the remainder of high school and my years through college working for IDS, helping them to build internet systems. As the internet progressed into "the web", we also built many early consumer and corporate websites.
FMC: When you began college, did you know you wanted to major in computer science? And why did you choose URI?
SW: Since I was so intensely involved in software and technology development at IDS, it was natural for me to gravitate towards a CS degree. I was passionate about computer games, passionate about technology—and the internet was an amazing and evolving medium. I knew CS was the way to go for me.
At the time, I chose URI because if its proximity to two things that were really important at the time; my job at IDS and my high school girlfriend. In hindsight however, URI was a really great choice on many levels. Most importantly, a high quality of education; great CS, math, and engineering departments; great social atmosphere; and a wonderful location.
FMC: Did your college education adequately prepare you for your first and current positions?
SW: If you define 'college education' as the course work plus extra curricular activities, then I would say that college did prepare me for my first full-time position after school. Foundational course work is extremely important, if you want to thrive in a fast-paced technology environment. Understanding statistics, math, and software engineering principles is far more powerful in the real world than understanding a particular software language. From a solid foundation, you will be able to strive in any technology work environment. I think it is also very important to get yourself involved in other activities outside of your core course work. I personally got involved in the Student Senate, as well as the Entertainment Committee. I volunteered at the campus TV station, played in a rock band, cut trails for the Audubon Society, and helped Save The Bay during their Swim The Bay event. It's important to get involved in organizations and activities that push your personal boundaries and test your sense of self. After you graduate, it's much more difficult to find the time, opportunity, and environment to do this. These activities, balanced correctly with course work, will give you a preview of what to expect after graduation.
FMC: How did you get your first job after college?
SW: Towards the end of my senior year, I started thinking about where I wanted to work. I really wanted to work in the computer games business. I was really attracted to the idea of moving to San Francisco and finding a job in the valley. Through happenstance, I got connected with a recruiter in Boston who lined me up with an interview at Gamesville.com. I took the interview and was hired that week.
FMC: What did you do in that position?
SW: At Gamesville.com, I started as a junior software engineer developing web-based casual games. All the development was done in HTML and C/C++. The database was home grown and file-system based. System-level maintenance software was created using Perl. The system was run on Sun hardware using the OpenMarket web server. Because of the speed at which the company grew, every developer wore many hats. For students thinking of working in startups, I highly suggest they prepare for being a "jack of all trades". In this environment, developers who had the ability to successfully switch between roles and paradigms thrived, specialists were left in the dust.
FMC: What was next? Give us a brief survey of the positions you held, covering the how and why you moved from one to the other.
SW: In 1999, Gamesville.com was acquired by Lycos, Inc. At the time Lycos was one of the top three search engines and web portals next to Yahoo and AOL. Once we were acquired and working for a much larger company, we had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects outside of games. Since Lycos was building itself through the acquisition of many smaller companies, there was very little unification at a technology standpoint between organizations. Our team took on the task of building a very early Single Sign-On system, allowing us to centralize all user accounts throughout the Lycos network. This greatly improved visibility into business metrics, helped to unify the user experience across our network of websites, and reduced overall resources necessary to run and maintain our user account systems. During the next few years, I worked on many other projects and grew with the organization from a mid-level software engineer, to a senior software engineer and then to a project leader.
The original founders of Gamesville.com left Lycos and a year later started Revaherz Inc, a company focused on building games for emerging set-top box TV platforms. I was invited to join this company and took a position as a senior software engineer. I moved on from Lycos because I learned that, even though Lycos was still technically a startup, I really love small-company early-stage startup environments. Revahertz eventually evolved to become GameLogic Inc, which focused on delivering web-based marketing technology that sat atop the loyalty clubs of lottery and casino resort business in the United States. We worked with lotteries and casinos throughout the country, such as the RI Lottery, Twin River, Foxwoods, Trump, Harrah's, Dover Downs, Penn National, Delaware North, and many others. Over the years that I worked at GameLogic, I served as senior engineer, project lead, project manager, and director of engineering.
In 2007, I joined forces with a former Lycos developer and a URI graduate to start a website called SnapYap.com—a video "calling" service that allows any website to add video chat features to their pages. We launched the website at a TechCrunch meet-up.
In 2008, GameLogic took a new round of venture funding, and I was invited to return and lead all product development efforts as VP of Product Development & Technology. I moved back because it was the first time where I would have the opportunity to plan and execute the product vision from start-to-finish. For me, this was very exciting.
In 2010, GameLogic Inc was acquired by MDI Entertainment, which is a division of Scientific Games Corporation. I spent six months after the acquisition working for MDI and Scientific Games to help them integrate GameLogic's products and services at the technology, product, and sales levels of the organization. It was a really great experience, and I had the opportunity to work with a great group of very talented individuals. Scientific Games truly is a great company to work for.
One common theme between all the jobs and positions that I have worked in over the years is that I gravitated towards jobs that involve a group of people I really enjoy working with. I started working with this group at Gamesville.com and I have been working with various members of that team ever since. All of these companies involved very talented CS graduates from URI, such as Nathan Short, Peter Kovacs, Doug Youch, Chris Ryan, and Mike Squadrito.
FMC: After your first positions, it seems that you didn’t stay long in one place. And last summer, you began something new. Tell us about that.
SW: Actually, my LinkedIn profile is a bit misleading. Because of the GameLogic acquisition, it seems as if I moved from one company to another, but I spent August through January working for Scientific Games. I did, however, recently leave Scientific Games to pursue the CTO position at Meblur Inc, a company founded by a former colleague at GameLogic. Meblur Inc is focused on creating a whole new type of advertising unit for mobile applications. I am very excited and cannot wait to launch the product over the next several months.
FMC: How hard do you work? Does your career leave you with enough time to enjoy life?
SW: I work hard but I also play hard too. I like to be on the offensive. I enjoy a high level of intensity, and I believe life is too short and exciting to be wasted. I have a young family, and it's important to find a balance between work and home life. Sometimes I feel that I am doing this well, other times I do not. I'm still learning what the best balance is and it evolves over time. I am a really big believer in heavily focusing on endeavors and giving them the time they deserve. Thus, it is really important to be a good planner. As applied to work, I have learned that when projects are spread too thinly over a long period of time, other tasks can fill in the gaps and be corrosive to the project's success. Outside of work, the same applies: give 100% of your focus on what you're doing right now.
FMC: Can you give some advice to our current students?
SW: Your life and your career is completely what you make of it. Pursue activities that help you to understand and challenge your personal boundaries. Invest time in understanding the foundations of what it is you are studying. While you are young, be willing to move around to seek opportunity. Understand that right now, you have more free time than you will ever have during the rest of your life. Take advantage of it.
FMC: Thanks, Scott.