A Constant Blend of Work and Play

by Clarice Cho

Daniel Lee (M.Eng. 2013) is a Quality Engineer in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, where he overlooks the design and build of electronic boards and slices, ensuring that the quality and pedigree of each board is good for flight. He also does part-time web development, creating web apps to help the entire section and building.

Daniel remembers attending a JPL information session as an M.Eng. student at Berkeley, extremely intrigued by the opportunity to work at NASA. When he got hired, he recalls thinking, “dang, I never thought that this would ever happen.”

It seems to be a theme with Daniel; he pursues his interests and as a result, he finds himself in a variety of unexpected places. Aside from a sweet gig at NASA, Daniel also happens to be an important figure in the videogamer community. He blogs, analyses, and provides commentary at big game events and conferences. All this chatter has made Daniel quite internet famous, having over 16K followers on Twitter, and a huge in-person following at big meetups and events. In his own words, it is a “very successful side-project” he has going on.

“It seems to be a theme with Daniel; he pursues his interests and as a result, he finds himself in a variety of unexpected places. Aside from a sweet gig at NASA, Daniel also happens to be an important figure in the videogamer community.”

From an early age, being a part of the gaming world was more than just a hobby for Daniel. Although he started out as an at-home gamer, he quickly became more involved in the gaming community. Daniel shares that he grew up in a suburb where the type of people he interacted with mostly came from the same socioeconomic class. Thus, when he began traveling for gaming tournaments in high school, he had the ability to expand his horizons and meet a diverse range of people.

Daniel admits, “Meeting and interacting with others at tournaments are some of the most enriching experiences I’ve personally ever had.”

Though Daniel no longer travels as often as he used to for tournaments, he still remains an active voice in the community, helping to make important decisions, coordinating logistics, and producing content for tournaments. He also continues to have a large online presence on community forums and blog sites like Melee It On Me.

He joined the M.Eng. Program in 2013, which was roughly the same time he became a figurehead in the community, largely by being an all-star player, but also by developing some ideas that brought him into nation wide prominence.

Daniel draws a lot of parallels between what he has done in the gaming community with the skills he learned in the M.Eng. program, “I now do a yearly ranking of the top 100 players in the world, which no one did before I did. I have used user experience, feedback gathering, and user interface design that I learned from the M.Eng. Program and applied that to maintaining a significant interaction with the community…it’s very grassroots. In some aspects what I’ve contributed to the world of gaming has been like running a business or creating product.”

“I have used user experience, feedback gathering, and user interface design that I learned from the M.Eng. Program and applied that to maintaining a significant interaction with the community…it’s very grassroots.”

The biggest thing Daniel stresses is that the M.Eng. Program provided him more than just an education. It gave him experience, and that experience was vital in propelling his professional career.

“I think some of the biggest takeaways I had from the program were my presentation skills and my ability to create powerpoints. I mean, that was one of the big reasons I was able to get my job here at NASA. During the interview process, I had to give an hour long presentation, and all the people who interviewed me loved the way I organized the presentation; probably wouldn’t have gotten my job if it had not been for that. Also recently, I was giving small presentations to my sections, and they loved it so much that they gave me the opportunity to give a 20-minute presentation to the director of JPL; that was extremely cool.”

All in all, Daniel is grateful for the opportunities he has been given, from the M.Eng. program to NASA, and in the gaming community as well. The one complaint he has is that it would be nice to have more time for everything; but no worries, he said he’s got a solution for that, “To make things in my life a little more efficient, I’m actually working on a cloning device to let me be in multiple places at once. It’s going pretty well.”

“I’m actually working on a cloning device to let me be in multiple places at once. It’s going pretty well.”