Makers of The Metaverse: Josie Darling Of Synodic Arc On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Passion — there will be hard work and long nights. Make sure that whatever project you dream up, you believe in it and you’re passionate about it. Involve your team in key decisions so that they can be passionate too.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Josie Darling, Head of Operations at Synodic Arc.
As the only business major in a room full of artists, Josie knows a thing or two about herding cats. Accounting, human resources, and enforcing deadlines are a few of the ways she helps bring the Synodic Arc ideas to the finish line. Originally from Chicago, she currently lives in Seattle, Washington.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Thank you for having me! Let’s see, where to start. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois, and I grew up with eight siblings. My parents are separated and remarried so depending on where you cut it, I can be the oldest, middle, or baby. I would say my love of video games comes from my big family. One of my brothers, Christopher, is seven years older than me and would always give me a controller that wasn’t plugged in so I could feel like I was playing along without messing his game up. I remember doing the same thing to one of my younger brothers later!
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Oh, gosh, I would have to say Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. In the book, Ender is this isolated child who’s taken away from his family because of his great military potential. Throughout the book he has so much heart and empathy for those around him, but he’s being manipulated by forces he can’t possibly understand. The ending is such a twist that even now, on my seventh or eighth read through, it still makes me emotional! I love a character who still cares about others despite all odds.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
I think more than one particular story, what drives me in this industry is the unlimited challenge. There’s so much potential, so much uncovered ground that it makes every day exciting. When I hear about successes from our programmers, it feels like they’re doing things no one has ever done before. I couldn’t be more proud of them and that ability to trailblaze makes this industry so addicting.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
You know, I think all my best stories are still covered by NDA! I’ve gotten to shake hands with some very influential people since we started this journey and I’m always fascinated by the doors it opens. I’ve been in meetings with investment bankers and biotech engineers who are more interested in what I’m working on than talking about themselves. I was meeting with a scientist who had more PhDs than I could shake a stick at, and all he wanted to know was what we were working on next.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
First of all- I think everyone in this industry shares the same funniest mistake. If you claim you haven’t slammed your knee into your coffee table while wearing your headset, I’m calling you out! Testing your game or program can be so rewarding that sometimes it’s hard to step away and get back to the computer. Sometimes it feels like hours and hours of coding go into getting one tiny feature to function. Don’t lose sight of the big picture; you’re still making progress!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Of course I’d have to say the founder of Synodic Arc, Michael Pulis. He is one of the best bosses I’ve been able to work under. He is so thoughtful, intentional, and he takes your advice seriously. Everything we do is collaborative. He’s got this great drive and ambition but he knows that I’m keeping an eye on the business so he doesn’t have to. He told me that before he makes big purchases, he thinks about if I’ll approve the business expense. If he can’t justify to me, he can’t justify it for the business! It’s a good check and balance system.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am, I am! We have a few different projects in the pipeline. We’re preparing for our game launch this holiday season and I think it’s going to take people by surprise. I truly believe it’s going to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of AR and MR technology in the video game industry. We’re going to be right on the forefront of a new movement and people will see things differently after this.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
As I mentioned before, the most exciting thing about the industry is the potential. You can sit down for five minutes and think of twenty new games that would be so fun to play. Number two would be connectivity. Just imagine having a mixed reality experience that you and your friend can have at the same time in your living room. You can go on an entire adventure together without leaving your house. Lastly, I’m excited about applications outside of games, especially for hospitals and hospice. What if a patient could take that trip to Italy they always wanted, right in their hospital room?
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
- Funding. We know it, the whole industry knows it. You can’t undertake such revolutionary technology without having investments. And it could be a long time before those really pay off! This is a long game, not a quick buck. We’re developing the future.
- To go along with that, I would say public perception. I think there’s still a dystopian element to VR that some of the public has, and we need to be honest about it and address it. Publications like yours go a long way in helping us bridge that gap.
- Last- but not least! — COMFORT! We have got to get those headsets more comfortable for long term wear. People come in all shapes and sizes, some wear glasses, like my younger brother. If people can’t wear the headset for more than thirty minutes, it’s going to continue to be a barrier. It’s a big challenge for hardware developers but they are constantly improving with each new console.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
I’m actually friends with someone whose bosses gave her a VR headset for her lunch break. They would play beach scenery with seagulls and waves. I think we haven’t even begun to think about the work applications for this technology. Data visualization comes to mind. I’d love to really get in there with a 3D graph. Start walking around my data sets, pulling out and expanding points. That might be a little nerdy.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
I’d like to explore more into the hospital and hospice idea I mentioned earlier. I think here is where we can really improve lives. They say that your mentality plays such a huge role in your recovery and even your success in surgery. VR can take someone anywhere in the world and put them in a better state of mind. Imagine someone learning to walk again, and instead of staring down a bleak hospital hallway, they’re using mixed reality to see milestones, or points, or cute little bunnies. I believe this is coming, and I believe it will improve lives.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
Any preconceived notions about what it’s like to work in the industry should be thrown away. We are still so early, in the grand scheme of things. You can make whatever path you want, as long as you really want it. If you think it’s too hard, or too expensive, or no one will care about VR then you will manifest those things to be true. The only way to understand this work is to jump in and see for yourself.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”
- A good team — you can’t do it all. Don’t overwhelm yourself with so many tasks that you burn out immediately. Surround yourself with people who can help you.
- Passion — there will be hard work and long nights. Make sure that whatever project you dream up, you believe in it and you’re passionate about it. Involve your team in key decisions so that they can be passionate too.
- Hard deadlines — this technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, you can get swept up in thinking ‘oh, if we wait for one more update, we can include X’. Three or four of those and you’re way past scope and way past budget. Decide your end point and stick to it!
- Patience — VR, AR and MR takes a lot of trial and error. There aren’t as many boards you can go to and Google your way out of a problem. There will be times you have to try and try again. This is where patience, level-headedness, and calmness can see you through the other side of a problem.
- A good mentor — this applies to everyone, but I really believe it! It doesn’t even have to be someone in the industry, it just has to be someone whose opinion you respect, who has experience to share with you, and can be a sounding board for ideas. It’s like your rubber ducky but for business ideas instead of coding.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Wow, thank you! For me, personally, especially in our industry, we need to take a stand against crunch culture. We cannot continue to treat our teams as disposable, burn them out as quickly as possible and move on to the next one. Your team is everything, and they deserve to go home and see their families! If it can’t get done this sprint, then we move it to the next one and learn better for next time how long that task takes. We have to get rid of the idea that people are just so lucky to work in this industry that they should sacrifice their mental and physical wellbeing and be grateful for it. Happier employees are more productive, more creative, and will respect you for respecting them.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
That’s something of an intimidating thought. She really might be reading this! If I could, I would want to meet Sofia Chang, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America. I’m a lifelong Girl Scout, and I attribute so much of my success to the skills I learned through them. I’d love to meet her and hear her life experiences and how she handles the pressure of being at the top and having the future of so many girls under her direction. That would be such a dream for me.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success in your great work!
Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure. You can check out our games at www.SynodicArc.com/games.
Makers of The Metaverse: Josie Darling Of Synodic Arc On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.