Why would Gearbox Software want me on their team?

I mean, I don’t have years of experience and I don’t even have a college degree, let alone one in CS. I’m still pretty new to the coding world and after reading this extremely long post you might think I’m a bit crazy.  I can be a bit of an introvert at times, but on the flip side I can get a bit too chatty once I’m comfortable somewhere.  What else? Well, I’m also a perfectionist.  Wait, shouldn’t that be a good thing?  Yes, and um, No.  When you’re working with things that are rarely, if ever, perfect, it can be a hindrance.

Woah, woah, woah, wasn’t this supposed to be about why Gearbox would WANT me on their team?  Absolutely, but we all have weaknesses, and I might as well get them out of the way up front.  Not to mention a couple of them stand out anyway, especially on my resume and application, so why not acknowledge them.

For those that have been following my blog, you know that I’ve been referring to a ‘company’ for a while now that I’ve been wanting to work at.  Gearbox Software is that company, and I officially applied a couple weeks ago.  I first applied for the DevOps position since the Web Developer  position that was open a few months ago had been taken down.  I may be a bit less qualified for DevOps, but don’t get me wrong, I would still rock that position, but then the Web Developer position opened back up a couple days after that.  Since that’s the spot I was originally targeting and the one I’d be a better fit in, I applied for that right away.

I also connected with a Gearbox HR Recruiter on LinkedIn and sent a message about my application.  So far I haven’t heard anything back, but with Battleborn having only been just released in May and all the new content being worked on, I’d imagine it’s pretty busy up there.  So here I am writing this post. In this age, people can apply for positions with a simple click of a button, meaning HR could easily get hundreds of resumes on their desks, and it’s easy to get lost in the mix.  This post is my attempt to get brought to the forefront.  The results could be good, they could be bad, or I might just make myself look stupid, but hey, what do I have to lose (other than maybe a little dignity)?

This post is for you, Gearbox, everyone part of the team there, and hopefully those with the power to give me a chance to prove myself.  For anyone else, there’s a TL;DR version at the very end of this post.




Everything described here is exactly what I’d love to do.  ‘Join Gearbox’ – , ‘develop Spark’ – , ‘cutting-edge’ – (who doesn’t want to work on cutting-edge stuff?), ‘agile team’ – , ‘build, test, and deploy’ – , ‘used by millions’ –  (bring on the pressure!), ‘Ruby’ – , ‘Rails’ – , ‘Grape, Sinatra, and Java’ – (I’m always wanting to learn new frameworks and languages).

Let’s talk about the Spark Infrastructure?  The slideshares are great, but I wished I could have seen the original presentations that go along with them.  So I did a little bit of digging and found a live recording of one of them. Being able to see and listen to it as it was originally intended made a huge difference, and all throughout it I could easily see myself as part of the team during the development, testing, and deployment.


Unfortunately I couldn’t find a recording of the other set, but I did find that it was presented at a local cloud computing meetup (at Improving Enterprises too where I’ve been to for other meetups like Dallas Ruby Brigade).  Being signed up on SHiFT myself and having redeemed some Battleborn codes, it was great insight into the infrastructure behind it, how the client/server connection is secured, the scaling issues as well as the lessons learned (launch on a Tuesday, not Friday!).

I even found a couple other recordings from Gearbox and watched them, including ‘Borderlands and the 11th Hour Art Style Change with Mikey Neumann, Aaron Thibault, and Brian Martel’ (I may not know much about art but it was still a great presentation to watch and really interesting to see how everyone at Gearbox came together in the last minute to accomplish this feat) and ‘Plot is Dumb, Character is Cool: Writing for DLC by Anthony Burch’.


Significant experience developing highly scalable RESTful services.  Yes I do and I try to fully implement it in all of my current projects.  All throughout coding bootcamp I was always careful to stay RESTful in all of my assignment regardless of how simple it might have been.  I may have even gotten on some nerves of fellow cohort-mates, since whenever I was helping them or group/pair-programming, I kept harping on them to stay RESTful, stressing the importance of it.  Whether or not this can be considered ‘significant’ all depends on your definition of the term.

Sufficient knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS to build internal tools. Sufficient? Without a doubt. All of my projects are hand-coded by myself without the use of front-end frameworks like bootstrap or materialize (although I am familiar with those).  I do use jQuery quite a bit but being proficient in the MEAN stack means I’m also good with JavaScript.  In fact, just last month I took a timed JavaScript assessment test from an agency and scored at an ‘Advanced Proficiency Level’.  What does that mean?  Well, according to the assessment report:


Familiarity with our technology stack (Linux, MySQL, Ruby most importantly).  The first stack I learned at coding bootcamp was LAMP.  I use Ubuntu as the AMI for my deployed projects through AWS and have also used the Amazon Linux AMI.  I spent a lot of time using and learning MySQL not only during the course of the bootcamp, but also by completing many of the challenges on SQLZoo.net.  Database queries were actually one of my favorite things to do (weird, I know) and came pretty easily to me.  I even enjoy writing them out myself, but I have also used both MySQL Workbench and phpMyAdmin.  I’ve become very proficient with table relationships including self-joins and understand concepts like polymorphic association (within Rails).  Most importantly though, is Ruby.  This was my third full stack I learned in bootcamp and it was almost scary how easily I started excelling at it.  I’m part of some Ruby Groups online and attend various Ruby meetups including Dallas Ruby Brigade whenever I can.  I’m also taking my Cobo Grād project (originally built on the MEAN stack) and redeveloping it using Ruby on Rails and implementing TDD.

Mission oriented and self driven.  When there’s a goal, a mission, that’s when I’m at my best.  I know what needs to be done and I’ll do whatever I need to in order to accomplish that mission.  That’s instilled even further from my time in the U.S. Air Force.  And if this post doesn’t show how mission-oriented I am I’m not sure what does.  Just in case though, here’s some extra info from va.gov:


But am I self driven?  Without a doubt.  I’m driven to learn as much as I can, I’m driven to accomplish my goals, and I’m driven to always be the best that I can be, regardless if there’s some reward for it or not.  I think I’ll demonstrate this even more later on in this post.

Passion for delivering an outstanding customer experience.  If you could put this in terms of software engineers, I’d be at a Senior Fellow level.  I’ve been around customer service for most of my life.  I’ve worked in both retail and service industries and have always maintained top customer service.  Most recently, and currently, you can just take a look at my eBay store’s feedback:


For anyone that’s ever sold anything at all on eBay, you know how difficult it is to maintain a perfect feedback score with 5.0/5.0 DSRs.  That truly requires passion to accomplish.

Let’s take a step further back to when I worked as a claims/liability adjuster with Geico.  Here’s just a couple awards I received:


For the A-call (top of pic), managers monitor your calls and rate the service you provide.  For the SPR (bottom of pic), you’re rated by the customers themselves with surveys that they receive.  These awards are only given to the top rated person in the entire region for that department.  Insurance adjusters already have a negative stereotype, so customers usually start off with a negative outlook, yet I always managed to turn it into a positive experience routinely earning perfect 10 survey results.  Talk about passion for customer experience!   This is one reason why, to this day, I still have body shop managers and insurance regional managers contacting me to see if I’d come back into the industry.

I could keep going all day with more examples of my passion for customer experience but I’d rather not turn this post into a book.

Excellent teamwork skills, flexibility, and ability to work in an agile environment.  While I’m great at working alone, and admit that there are times I like being off on my own, I’m also great at working with a team, especially when there’s a mission at hand.  In coding bootcamp we often worked on assignments in groups, did algorithms in teams, and pair-programmed.  Not only did I thrive in those situations, I was routinely asked by my cohort-mates to work in teams with them.  I demonstrated my teamwork skills with Geico as well and worked on several CAT (catastrophe) teams after major hail storms and Hurricane Ike.  It took a lot of teamwork, coordination, dedication, and long hours to help get thousands of customers lives back to normal.  In other previous jobs I’ve helped my team meet quotas, work through crises, and let’s not forget the ultimate team, being part of the United States military.

Another reason I was always an integral member of any team was my flexibility.  Managers, superiors, etc. always knew they could count on me when things needed to be done.  Obviously you have to be flexible when you’re in the Air Force so no need to go into much detail there.  I mentioned working on CAT teams before and there’s no better example than that.  Anyone living in North Texas knows how storms can practically come out of nowhere, yet I was always ready to take on the extra responsibilities or pack up and go wherever I was needed the next day.  Then there’s flexibility in my programming skills.  I’ve never been one to be set in my ways.  I’m always adaptable and if something were to change in the 11th hour, I’d be ready to go and do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal.

Ah, agile.  I freely admit that a couple months ago I didn’t truly know what that meant (at least when it came to software development), even though I kept hearing it everywhere.  So I went out and learned what I could taking courses on agile project management and building an agile team.  Not only do I see the value in it, I feel that’s already how I would want to approach a project anyway.  So while I may not have professional experience being on an agile team, I think I would absolutely thrive in that type of environment.

Bachelor’s degree in computer science, related field, or equivalent training and professional experience.  It’s in the qualifications so I can’t ignore it, and even brought it up at the very beginning of this post.  No, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, although I did earn some college credits before joining the Air Force.  We already know about my lack of professional experience too.

Equivalent training though?  While at Coding Dojo alone, I’ve put in roughly 11oo hours of coding.  And that doesn’t include the time I’ve spent coding, learning, and working on projects since graduating, or the time spent beforehand.  Coding Dojo isn’t just some run of the mill coding bootcamp either.  Their curriculum is top-notch and they’ve even recently partnered up with Microsoft and are teaming up with colleges.  They also don’t just stop with the stacks, every day we were given algorithm challenges to complete in teams working with arrays, linked lists, binary search trees, queues, stacks, recursion, sorts, etc.

More importantly though is what I’m capable of.  Just in my short time coding, I’ve exceeded all expectations and graduated from Coding Dojo earning a Black Belt (Coding Dojo’s testing standard) in each stack with Perfect Scores.  That’s something that only a select few can claim (according to Coding Dojo only about 5-10% of students achieve multiple Black Belts, not factoring in perfect scores).  It’s not just about the number of years experience either.  Just like when Lyanna Mormont said “and every man from Bear Island fights with the strength of 10 mainlanders”, what I can become in just 1 year is worth what many others would take 10.  Wow, cocky much?  Nah, and honestly, if you knew me, you know my personality is the polar opposite.  It is confidence though.  Confidence in my abilities that I’ve proven over and over again throughout my life and that I’ll go into more detail shortly.


Real-world experience with Amazon Web Services.  I’ve deployed projects through AWS EC2 at least a dozen times now using Ruby on Rails, Node.js, and PHP.  Two of the projects are still up and running and are in my portfolio.  I’ve taken courses on AWS including an essential training course through Lynda.com where I launched multiple instances using ELB, RDS, and auto-scaling groups (much of which was discussed in the GDC presentation).  I’m also going to be taking another AWS pre-certification course and will be an AWS Certified Developer – Associate within the next few weeks.

Experience working on games or mobile app backends.  Doesn’t look like I’ll get any extra points here.  I am working on a basic Pac-Man game though using strictly javascript.  Just figured I’d mention that, you know, since something is better than nothing.

Full-stack experience including C, C++ Java.  Maybe not any of those 3, but I do have full-stack experience in LAMP, MEAN and Ruby on Rails!  I did learn some Java through a course on Udacity and would like to learn C and C++ one day.  Knowing 3 full-stacks and each having been easier to learn than the previous one I have no doubt I can pick up a new stack in no time at all.


Who doesn’t want a top-performer, a badass, for their team?  That’s something I’ve been all throughout my working and learning life, in just about everything I’ve ever done, and everything I’ll continue to do.  Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look into the past.

To start, we’re going to go back 26 years!  I want to show a pattern here so may as well go back as far as I can, and maybe embarrass myself a bit in the process.

Detroit Free Press Carrier of the Month

That’s right, carrier of the month at only 12 years old!  That was in the Sunday paper on July 29, 1990.  No need to repeat what you can already read in the scan, but yeah, only 12 and already a badass!

Next,  let’s fast forward 8 years to when I was in the United States Air Force.  Throughout my military career, I learned exceptionally fast and received only excellent reviews.  Originally I went through training to become a crew chief on the F-16 Falcon.  During the 6 month training I continuously achieved perfect scores on the exams and evaluations (something I was told only 1 other person EVER accomplished).  Because of that, I was chosen to go work on the F-117 Stealth Nighthawk, and received this award recognizing me as the top graduate:

AETC Commander's Award

and thus becoming a member of the ……

Society of the Nighthawk

Training in the military never stops though, especially when working on something as advanced as a stealth fighter jet.  I was expected to continue taking Career Development Courses (CDC’s) and had to meet certain requirements within a certain amount of time.  Not only did I complete the course in a fraction of the time (3 months ahead of anyone else), but I also scored a 97%, earning recognition from the group commander and the base General.

CDC Top Score

It doesn’t stop there.  Not only did I keep earning excellent reviews, I was even recommended and put up for Below-The-Zone (BTZ) Promotion.  Only the best of the best are put up for this opportunity which can result in a promotion 6 months earlier than anyone else.  Here’s just some of the reviews I received as well as the recommendation I received for BTZ.

BTZ Recommendation

May 2000 Evaluation (front)

May 2000 Evaluation (Back)

Letter of Recommendation

And yes, I was Honorably discharged.

Moving on from the Air Force and moving back to Detroit, I landed in a job at 84 Lumber.  No images of accomplishments here, but I was still such an important and valuable member of the team, that when I left in 2003 to move to Texas, my manager tried everything he could to get me to stay, including more money, more power, and anything else he had the authority to do.

From what I know, the question, ‘are they re-hirable?’ is the most common one when checking with a potential hires previous employers.  You’ll find that answer is ‘Yes’ with everywhere I’ve ever been, and even have proof.  More than a year after moving to Texas I found myself needing a job, so I called up my old area manager with 84 Lumber, who said he would vouch for me with the area manager of the DFW locations.  He did just that, I was re-hired and again became an integral part of the team.

Let’s keep going with another drastic career change into a field I had ZERO experience in…insurance.  This is where Geico comes in. You already saw a couple of my early awards above from when I was working in the call center taking and handling customer claims.  I didn’t get any more of those because in just 9 months I was promoted to Auto Damage Adjuster.

The training for this position was 3 months long, with the first month being locally here at the Dallas Regional Office.  I bring this up because in the 2nd month, all trainees from all the regions go to the Washington D.C. area for what’s called Auto Damage Basic (a bootcamp style training course), at the end of which they recognize the Top 5 trainees.  I did so well during the first month my local instructor (who’s been training for several years) told me he thinks I could be his first ever trainee to come back in that Top 5.  I looked at him, smiled, and said “Top 5? I’ll be Top 1!”.  In that course we started with 28 trainees, 6 flunked out, and I came back #1 in the class.  When I say I’m a fast learning badass, I mean it.  Soon after completing all of the training there was an Auto Damage Conference.  Unbeknownst to me, (and not something that had been done before), my region had an award made up and the CEO of Geico himself presented me with this:

Geico Award

My badassness didn’t stop in training.  I was so good at what I did in the real world, that I was always being chosen to work catastrophe’s, pick up slack from others, train the new guys, or sent to low-performing direct repair shops to turn things around.  Body shop managers took notice too,  and I was constantly being offered positions to switch sides.  Eventually, I did.

The body shop I went to was in really bad shape as far as their performance as part of Progressive’s Concierge program.  In this program, customers take their vehicles directly to Progressive’s service center and Progressive doles out the work between the various shops in the program.  Shops that performed the best got the most work and the ones that performed the worst got the least. The shop that hired me was not only in the worst category, but was suspended from getting any new work.  That’s where I come in, not only did I turn the shop around, I consistently got it to the top of the rankings.

Even though I left that business in 2014, I left so much of an impression that just a few months ago I had the Regional Manager with Progressive call me to ask me if I’d be interested in a position with them and that he could really use my help.  And just the other week I had another body shop contact me to see if I’d come on board.

Then of course is Coding Dojo, where I dove head first into code, with almost no experience, and came out at the top.

No matter the industry, the skills needed, or the amount of experience I had, I’ve proven to be a top-performer everywhere I’ve been since I first started working at the age of 11.  That’s 27 years worth of proof and I’ll continue to add to it over the coming years, this time in the coding world where I plan to live the rest of my days.


So now we know why you would want to hire me, but I haven’t told you why I want to join Gearbox.  After all, you wouldn’t want to hire someone that doesn’t really want to be there.

First, I don’t want just a job.  I want to be somewhere that I can be part of a team.  A team that works for each other towards a common goal.  I don’t want to be somewhere that I just ‘do my time’ and leave as soon as the clock hits 5.  I want to be part of a team where I can contribute and not just be a number out of thousands of people.  I want to be on a team that will get together after a tough sprint and have a beer, or scotch, or ginger ale, you know, whatever you fancy.  Everything I’ve learned about the culture there in my research tells me I can find all of this there.  From watching the GDC presentations, reading reviews on glassdoor, and following Gearbox on social media, everything I see is what I want in the company and people that I work with.

I won’t lie, location has a little bit to do with it too.  With where I live, there isn’t anywhere else I could work that would be closer to me.  I already spend a LOT of time in Frisco, and my daughter is in a daycare pretty much down the street.  I go to the movies at the Cinemark that’s right there, go to the various activities like Arts in the Square and Frisco StrEATS, shop there (at least I did when I was employed, haha), eat, etc.  In fact, some of you may have already seen me, not just around town, but working in the same building!  Yup, that’s right, whenever I’m able to I’ve been working out of Nerdvana downstairs while enjoying the coffee with an almond croissant and the various toasts (especially the Ham & Gruyere, or the Caprese!).  I sometimes have a hard time starting up conversations with people (the introvert in me that I mentioned), so if you see me, come say Hi!

Of course there’s the video games!  If you look back up to the newspaper segment where I was carrier of the month I just want to point out where it says “likes to spend his spare time….playing video games”, don’t forget, that was back in 1990.

Yes, I love video games.  Why would you want someone that doesn’t working for you?  At a recent Ruby meetup I was talking to an industry veteran about Gearbox and he abruptly said “You don’t want to work there”.  Seeing the look on my face he continued on, “Let me rephrase that, Do you like video games?”.  I, of course, said yes.  He responded with something like, ‘Ok then, in that case it might be for you, if you aren’t into video games you would hate it’.

I grew up with games.  My first system was an Atari 2600 and from there I’ve owned a Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, Original Xbox, Xbox 360, and an Xbox One.  I always describe myself as loyal, and to a fault at times.  I was a Sega fanboy which is why you don’t see any Nintendo systems on that list.  My friends had those though so I still played some Mario Bros. back in the day, and of course there was all the Tecmo Bowl tournaments while I was at Central Michigan University.

It would be wrong of me to leave out Gearbox games.  I’m not going to say I’ve played every game Gearbox has ever made, because I haven’t, but I’ve played a few.  I did play some Brothers in Arms Hell’s Highway and then of course there’s Borderlands.  I remember playing it with my brother when it first came out.  I bought him an Xbox 360 as a Christmas gift and that was the game I bought to go with it.  I still think that may have been the best Christmas he ever had, and Borderlands helped bring us closer at the time.

Unfortunately, and I hate to admit this, I never was able to finish up the series.  However, I decided it was time to go back to Pandora and I’m currently dividing my game time between replaying the original Borderlands and Battleborn.  I also have the Handsome Collection for Xbox One ready to go as soon as I finish up the original.  I do owe you and everyone at Gearbox a big thanks though.  It’s not always easy fitting in some game time with a family, but since my wife is all for me working at Gearbox, I’ve just been able to say, “I’m doing research”, which means more game time for me! Oh Yeah!


While doing some homework on Gearbox, I came across an interview question that asked to create a program that counts the nodes in a linked list.  Having plenty of algorithm challenge experience I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give you my answer.  This is written in Javascript so you can just copy & paste it into your browser console to run it. I also added it to my Github here.

function SLL(){
this.head = null;
function Node(val){
this.val = val;
this.next = null;
SLL.prototype.add_node = function add_node(val){
this.head = new Node(val);
var current = this.head;
current = current.next;
current.next = new Node(val);
SLL.prototype.get_count = function get_count(SLL){
var count = 0;
if(this.head == null){
var current = this.head;
current = current.next;

var test = new SLL;


So let’s sum this up.  You have a web developer position open.  I’m a web developer.  I may not have a lot of ‘years’ of experience under my belt, but what I offer is worth a LOT more than that.  Everyone is always talking about and looking for that elusive Rockstar developer.  I’m your chance to get in on the ground floor with one.  I may not be that Rockstar yet, but I guarantee I will be, and I’ll get there in record time.  Take a look at Tom Brady, love him or hate him, you have to admit he’s good, but when he went into the draft he didn’t have much experience to show off.  Yeah, he qb’d at Michigan, but by looking at his past experience, there wasnt enough there so he went extremely late in the draft.  What if you knew how good he would be?  Would you pass that up?  That’s what I offer.  Wait, did I just compare myself to Tom Brady?  Hell Yeah I did, except I don’t cheat (yup, I went there too).

Here’s the other thing, rockstars are EXPENSIVE.  Seniors are expensive.  I may get there, and faster than Barry Allen, but I’m not that naive that I think I’m going to get paid like one.  That means I come cheap, for now (but let’s not get carried away, I’m not just giving myself away for peanuts either).  That means the risk/reward is heavily in your advantage.  I might play a 1-15 season to start like Troy Aikman, but then I’ll help bring you championships.  I said ‘might’ though, I seriously doubt I could possibly have that rough of a start, and yes, I just compared myself to Troy Aikman too.

As my guest-blogger said in the post prior to this one, it’s bad to appear desperate.  Let me be clear that I’m not, but I do know what I want.  If I was desperate, I would have geared this post towards ‘any’ company.  I even have an opportunity to go back to Coding Dojo as an Apprentice Bootcamp Leader because of how well I performed there.  And if I was truly desperate, I could easily walk into several local body shops, talk to the manager and have a job starting next week making 60-65k a year.

So pull up my application (or let me know if I need to re-submit), check out my portfolio, read through some of my past blog posts, look up my LinkedIn profile, review my code on GitHub, find me on Twitter (I’ve actually been following quite a few of you on there), or even scope out my xbox gamertag – gouge93.  Then call me, e-mail me, tweet at me, or possibly even find me downstairs sitting at Nerdvana.  I’m ready to talk and I’m available anytime.  And if you’ve read this far you may as well make the time spent worth it, what do you have to lose, like I said, the risk/reward ratio is in your favor.

TL;DR – Dear Gearbox Software, you have an open web developer position, I’m a badass, hire me!

Back to Top

(UPDATE – AUGUST 22,2016: Well, both the Web Developer and DevOps positions appear to have been filled as they are no longer open at gearboxsoftware.com. And no, I’m not the one that filled either of them, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. So, for all you fine people at Gearbox Software, when the time comes that you need a web developer or DevOps engineer, I’ll be ready to talk. In the mean time I’ll be taking on a role elsewhere that will help me further enhance my expertise. This also means I won’t be able to work out of Nerdvana anymore so you won’t find me there as much as I used to be. Then again, the place is pretty awesome so you might still catch me out there every once in a while.)

Author: Chris Ulanowicz

Full-stack web developer made in Detroit currently living in the DFW area. Always trying to learn as much as I can about everything I can, especially new technologies and programming languages. When I have time I'm into gaming, comic books, ice hockey, drag racing, and spending time with my family of course.

3 thoughts on “Why would Gearbox Software want me on their team?”

  1. Impressive resume Chris, it was interesting to learn that about you! Now I feel like a kid that’s been living under a rock lol. This post has given me crazy motivation. Wish I had that motivation sooner in life. Gearbox would be crazy to not hire you. Good luck with the job search!

  2. Hi Chris!

    I’m the recruiter at Gearbox Software. I happened upon this post completely by chance and I am disappointed I did not become aware of it sooner. Unfortunately I missed your attempts to contact me, and had I seen this I absolutely would have contacted you. We didn’t end up filling the position you applied for, and we don’t currently have an active listing for a position you’d be qualified for, but I’d love to connect and speak with you anyway! We are always looking for talented and passionate people, and I can tell from your post that you fit the bill!

    So what’s next? Reply to my email privately and reference this message. Let’s plan a time next week for me to call you,and let’s network! You never know, we may have the perfect role for you coming up sometime this year!

    I hope to hear from you soon!

    Rachel Begovic
    HR Recruiter, Gearbox Software

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *