Mariko: Please introduce yourself and your role at NERD.
Janos: My name is Janos. I’m an Executive Committee member and Chief Scientist at NERD. I oversee the scientific side of NERD’s activities. My role covers various areas. As an Executive Committee member, I handle strategic topics; as a group manager, I have my own team and supervise four managers. As a Research and Development engineer, I explore topics in a variety of fields, mainly physics, robotics, rendering, and high-performance computing.
Janos at his desk
Mariko: How did you join NERD? Were you headhunted or did you see a job offer?
Janos: I joined NERD in 2012. I’m technically the first NERD employee. Our Managing Director, Alex, was looking for people who could build the company after Mobiclip was bought by Nintendo. Apparently I was recommended to him by others, and then I was contacted out of the blue.
Mariko: Were you surprised when you were contacted by Alex?
Janos: Not necessarily, because I had been contacted by other companies in the past for previous roles, but Alex made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was interested and confident I would like the job because it was an opportunity to work for Nintendo and I saw that they were really investing in the area of Research and Development.
Mariko: What had you done before?
Janos: For 10 years I worked in a video game company that makes real-time strategy games on PC and consoles. I was the Lead Research and Development Engineer at that company. I also co-founded a company called Hermione Interactive in the year 2000, which lived and died with the dot-com bubble.
Mariko: Your current project is about researching 3D animation. What do you like about it?
Janos: It has a good mix of deep theoretical aspects of physics and math. It’s also a very visible element in games.
Mariko: Please describe your typical day.
Janos: I bike to the office and arrive around 9:00am after dropping off my daughters at school. Usually there are meetings in the morning because that’s when we can connect with our headquarters and colleagues working in other time zones. Then I take some time to discuss organizational and technical topics with my team. Half of my time is devoted to research and programming. This is a typical day, but in a year, approximately four weeks are dedicated to business trips.
Mariko: What are your current hobbies?
Janos: I like going fast and high… My hobbies are backcountry skiing, downhill mountain biking, windsurfing, kitesurfing, wind foiling, speed riding, and so on. And to also note something calmer: I recently wrote an unpublished book about mathematics.
Mariko: Wow, you’re so active!
Mariko: Now let’s move to some game-related questions… What is your favorite console?
Janos: I hope people won’t get mad… My favorites are the NEO GEO and Nintendo Switch. When I first held the latter it in my hands, I thought, “This one is going to rock!”.
Mariko: I heard you have quite an interesting upbringing.
Janos: I was born in Montreal, Canada. My mother is Finnish, and my father is half French and half Spanish. I grew up in France and the United States. As my mother used to be an au pair in the UK, we spoke English. But we still celebrate a Finnish Christmas with Finnish songs and Karjalan piirakka1.
Mariko: You’re one of the advanced Japanese speakers at NERD. How many years have you been learning the language now?
Janos: I have been learning Japanese for 10 years now at low intensity.
Mariko: What is your favorite Japanese word or proverb?
Janos: Hmmm… that’s a hard question. Maybe ichig-o ichi-e (treasure every meeting)?
Mariko: Why this proverb?
Janos: It’s to keep in mind the importance of relationships, and to find newness in old acquaintances.
Mariko: You’re also famous for your jokes and play on words. What’s your favorite Japanese one?
Janos: Chimay beer + Kiri cheese = shimekiri, meaning deadline in Japanese. I had some people over at my place and we had a deadline coming up, so I thought it was funny.
Chimay beer + Kiri cheese
Mariko: You were the first generation of NERD employees working in the Kyoto office. What’s the story behind that?
Janos: I was the one who actually proposed the NERD in Kyoto initiative to Alex. I often walk with Alex towards the metro station, and one day I was telling him that it’s hard to know what’s going on at our headquarters. I said we should send people there. He then asked me, “Well, would you go?” and I said, “Sure!” after thinking for like…two seconds. (laughs)
Mariko: What do you think you accomplished during your time in Japan? What do you think is different for the current employees in Kyoto?
Janos: I think NERD became more visible, and I hope we were helpful in the projects we participated in. Before going to Japan, we didn’t know what jobs we could work on so we had to figure out things as we went. I think that’s the difference between back then and the current generation of staff working in Kyoto, since we have more established processes now.
Mariko: Please show me something interesting that’s on your desk right now!
(Janos shows a small bag and takes out a calculator.)
Janos: This is my old calculator, I learned to program with it. It has 256k of RAM!
Hewlett Packard 48GX calculator and 256k RAM card
(Janos digs inside the bag and finds some old pieces of paper.)
Janos: Wow, this is my pilot license! I was thinking about it the other day.
Mariko: Glad you were able to find it!
Karjalan piirakka: Finnish pies made from a rye dough and stuffed with rice porridge ↩