We hired Mike Ey out of RIT back when IMVU had a Palo Alto office. My first impression meeting him was that he looked like John Carmack.
My second impression came after completion of a project I can no longer remember. In the post-project code review, a task came up – he had modified a flexible system to add a feature-specific conditional. I asked him to fix it, and noticed a month later that nothing had been done. So I asked him again – still nothing changed. Finally I had to go to his manager. Eventually the task was completed.
In hindsight, I see that, like many people fresh out of school, he struggled with the tension between the tasks on the board and the important stuff that has to get done anyway.
Later on, he and I worked a lot more closely. His background in 3D graphics led us to working on IMVU’s content pipeline together. He did much of the research into whether COLLADA would be suitable for IMVU’s needs.
I considered Mike a talented but junior engineer when my manager came to me and said “I want to take a chance and make Mike Ey the tech lead of our new engine team.” I resisted a bit, but eventually we agreed that I would support him in this new role.
And he did great. Mike brought creativity, positivity, willingness to help, and a constructive attitude, all of which are critical to getting a team off the ground. His concrete experience building games in Unity3D on the weekends kept us focused on solving for actual customer needs.
Around this time, he and I became friends. There’s something irreplaceable about working with someone you implicitly trust. He also made me laugh all the time – we were both fans of Dr. Weird and most days you could hear Dr. Weird quotes in the office.
Mike taught me to solder, inspired me in many of my random woodworking projects, and was always available to chat about what recent games were great. He even built his own quadcopters.
I was super bummed when he announced he was going to Microsoft to work on a secret project with his childhood friend. As it turned out, he went to work on HoloLens, and none of us can blame him. :) You could tell how proud he was when HoloLens was finally announced. After a year of being unable to talk about it, he spent days gushing about the team, the coolness of the project, and the pranks he’d played on other team members during development.
The day he died, I couldn’t believe it. I had just sent him a note asking for a recommendation on something, and while building some shelves in the garage I wondered how his new drill press was working out. Only then did I realize how much he meant to me, and how much he affected my life.
Mike, we miss you!