Interview – A Professional Geek – The Computer Hardware Reviewer…


My new friend Dan, 24, from Romania as offered to write a series of IT based posts for my blog and some about life in Romania, so before we get onto those let’s find out more about Dan and his career as a computer hardware reviewer.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about you?

A. My name is Dan Motoroiu, I’m 24 and I’m from Romania. There isn’t much to say about my family, we’re middle class people, nothing fancy. My father is a teacher and my mother works for an insurance company.

Q. How did you first get involved in your career and why?

A.I’ve had a passion for computers since I was 10 years old. At first I wanted to be a programmer and my parents chose my schools accordingly (math intensive profiles, math and programming for high-school). However, when the moment came to buy my own computer, I started reading the articles about computer hardware in the magazines I bought to learn what it’s all about.
It was hard putting it all together at first, but reading everything I could get my hands on helped a lot. Afterwards, I became a part of a hardware forum from my country and found out I was rather good at it. After I finished high-school, I went to college to make the last steps in becoming a programmer. However, the place I went to turned out to be a joke (not a good one at that, either) and I left after the first year. My folks weren’t happy, but I got into another college, same profile, but no joke. However, I needed to get a job to pay my own way through college (it’s much less expensive in my country).

I got a job at a computer hardware store five minutes away from where I live. Basically, I was doing the service part, which means testing malfunctioning computers or parts and computer assembly and maintenance. By then I was pretty good at doing this and I had no trouble keeping up. I left after six months due to a personal matter and focused on college. In another six months’ time, I got a hint that the best IT magazine in my country (XtremPC) was hiring computer hardware reviewers and I sent them my CV. I got called for an interview the next day, got called back the (next) next day to discuss financial matters (this was a friday if I remember correctly) and started working for them the next monday.

I was 20 back then, and this was my favorite magazine. Practically, this was my dream job. Apparently, I not only had the technical skills, but also the all too necessary writing skills. By then, computer hardware had become my main focus and “outranked” programming. A few years later, I got the chance to work as a programmer. After a month and a half I quit because I found it to be much too boring compared to hardware (falling asleep on the keyboard type of boring). So no more programming, hardware all the way.

Hardware is incredibly dynamic. Personally, I find this to be the most dynamic industry in the world. Nothing comes even close. Things change every day almost and there’s always something new and exciting just around the corner, not to mention that if you can filter through the rumors you can have a very good picture about what’s coming to market in six months time or more. Think of it like Christmas all over again every other day or so, or getting to test race cars for a living.

Besides, there’s overclocking. Perhaps some of you have heard about it. Basically, through overclocking, you can make your PC run much, much faster. Nowadays, the chances of frying the expensive hardware you buy are close to nothing, but getting the best results possible requires in-depth knowledge and skill. It’s just another challenge, one that took years to master, but it was totally worth it.

Q. What is the most challenging thing about your work?

A. There are two great challenges in my line of work. First, there’s keeping up to date with everything happening. That means reading a lot of hardware new sites and filtering through the rumors to get to the truth and discussing technical matters with colleagues, friends and company representatives. This way you can get a really accurate picture of what is coming, even if you are bound by a non-disclosure agreement for a time.

Then, there’s the work. A lot of work. You have to make sure everything is working as it should and problems always occur. Sometimes, it gets really frustrating and you want to smash the damn thing to bits, but patience and being stubborn really help. After everything runs smoothly you have to run the tests. You end up remembering every last image in every benchmark you’ve ever run. Then there’s the writing. If you work for a site everything’s good because you don’t have spartan space restrictions, but the real “fun” is when you work for a magazine and have to compress all the information so it fits in the allotted number of pages and still sounds right without leaving anything out.

Q. Can you tell us about any interesting people you’ve met through your work?

A. I’ve met a lot of interesting people, from CEOs to the rank and file employees. Most are polite and a pleasure to talk to, especially the more technically oriented ones. I remember taking an interview of Mr. Henry Kao, Senior Vice President GIGABYTE Motherboard Business Unit. It was really impressive talking to him, what with the age difference between us. One thing I noticed is that although he was really trying to hide it, you could see it in his eyes that he was very tired. As one would imagine, being a senior vice president is no easy task, but this was the first time I could actually get a glimpse of what it’s actually like.

I’ve also met the lower echelons, the people that actually do the work. Honestly, I prefer being in their company. They’re more modest, more open to discussions and you don’t feel like you’re in the army and have to be perfect all the time. They’re the normal people in all this and aren’t buried so deep in their responsibilities that they forget how to live.

Then there are the marketing people. Those from my country are generally idiots that only care about money and would gladly stab you in the back for the slightest benefit. I say they’re idiots because they don’t even take their job seriously, most of the press releases I receive could be written better by eight year olds. It’s true, there are very, very few that do a really great job, but most seem to be brain dead. Compared to those I’ve met from foreign companies, they surely are brain dead. This is why I generally have a very bad opinion about marketing people, although I give every new person I meet the benefit of doubt. Like one of AMD’s marketing people I spoke to last year at a press conference. He was a very, very smart guy and we talked about AMD products at length. He had an engineering background, so maybe this explains it.

Q. What do you do when you aren’t working?

A. I watch movies, listen to music, go out on dates, go out for a couple of beers with my friends, go to parties (and LANparties), play computer games, draw, read sci-fi books, write and generally have as best a time as I possibly can.

Q. What is your most favourite thing about your work?

A. Overclocking. It is the most challenging part of my work. Probably the most rewarding, too. You need to adapt quickly, notice every change in behavior by monitoring everything at once and most of all not to give up on pushing the limits. It’s a trial by failure process and you have to persevere. Maybe I’m making it sound like climbing mount Everest with one arm broken, but it’s much easier than it sounds. Patience and the will to keep going are the keys here. It’s all about discipline, really. You could say that overclocking is the bushido of computers and you wouldn’t be far off.

The results can be very rewarding. There are international overclocking competitions if you wish to test your skills. The greatest are GIGABYTE Open Overclocking Championship (GO OC) and MSI Master Overclocking Arena (MOA). Also, there’s an international community for overclockers on hwbot.org. So far, I got one world record, ranked fourth in my country at GO OC 2009 overclocker finals and first at the press finals of GO OC 2009 and 2010. A Romanian overclocker called Matose won both GO OC 2010 and MOA 2010 and is the current overclocking champion of the world. You wouldn’t say it’s something useful for day to day home use as well, would you?

Q. And the least?

A. I hate stupid people and I have to deal with them on a regular basis. That wouldn’t be so bad if they wouldn’t be in a position to ruin everything, but they mostly are. XtremPC died because the person in charge of securing contracts for commercials in the magazine was severely incompetent. That and she blamed anyone and their cat for her failures. Everyone hated her but she was friends with our employer’s mother, so she was untouchable. When the financial crisis hit, the company started bleeding money like there was no tomorrow. It was profoundly frustrating.

Q. If you hadn’t chosen this career what would you like to do?

A. A lot of things come to mind. Writing would be on top of my list probably, but there are other things like career military (proud tradition in my family) or even psychology.

Q. What tips would you give to someone looking to get into your career?

A. To get into this and be successful you need a few things. A passion for computers, an analytical mind, lots of patience, an obsession for details and the ability to put everything you notice on paper in a reader friendly manner are essential.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share about your career choice that you haven’t already mentioned?

A. There would be one thing. If you want to last, don’t trust anyone other than yourself. Always find out everything you can, from multiple sources. Always be fair and balanced in your approach. Trust only the results, and do that only after you’ve made sure everything is running as it should. Maybe not even then.

The Fun Questions

1. What did you have for breakfast?
Nothing. Can’t eat in the morning (family trait on the male side).

2. Who would win a fight between pirates and ninjas?
Ninjas, definitely. They’re dirty fighters too. Besides, since they strike from the shadows, they’d probably catch the pirates off-guard and it’ll all be over before anyone knows what’s happening. You can’t win a battle you don’t know you’re fighting, can you?

3. If you were a tree what tree would you be?
Never gave it much thought… a fir tree probably.

4. What is the last book you read?
Can’t decide if it was Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” (re-read) or Isaac Asimov’s “The End of Eternity” (re-read, also). If you mean first time reading, it was Ben Counter’s “Grey Knights”, which I’ve found to be rather brilliant.

5. What is your favourite song at the moment?
Dj Project – Lumea ta (Your World).

6. Which of my blog posts is your favourite and why?
Although a lot of posts are very interesting, my favourite would probably be the one about returning to work after a BPD crisis. It’s all about the insight it gives. I’m no medic and don’t know much about conditions, but understanding how and why people do what they do has always been a full-time hobby for me.

Many thanks to Dan for the interview, I’m looking forward to reading and sharing his future guest posts about Romania and Computers 🙂

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One comment on “Interview – A Professional Geek – The Computer Hardware Reviewer…

  1. Pingback: Interview – Running your own business in the IT Industry « Day in the life of a Busy Gal…

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