This week, we meet Jon Jones, Subject Matter Expert on the Shotgun team!
When did you join Shotgun? What is your role on the team?
I joined in May of 2017 and recently celebrated my first-year anniversary. I'm a Subject Matter Expert specializing in games. New games clients that are interested in evaluating Shotgun usually get routed to me because of my background in game development and as a production management consultant for many years. Basically, if someone is interested in using Shotgun, I would be one of the first people to talk to in order to go over its features, give live demos, answer questions and connect them with the resources needed while they're evaluating.
Where were you working prior?
Prior to joining the Shotgun team, I founded and operated smArtist, the industry's first and only art production management agency. I worked as an art production director and outsourcing producer in the game industry focusing on outsourcing. Over the course of sixteen years in game development, I worked on 50+ projects with companies like Epic Games, Avalanche Studios, Riot Games, 2K Games, Sony Online Entertainment, among many others.
How has your background helped you on the Shotgun team?
The bulk of my career has been parachuting into short-term and high-intensity productions. I had to learn about pipelines, toolchains, and processes on the fly as I documented everything, built or inherited an art team and trained others while building a system to manage the whole production that would keep running after I left. My career-long focus has been on external development pipelines and the tools used by developers so I've worked with a vast number of off-the-shelf and proprietary dev tools and encountered exotic production problems that I've had to troubleshoot my way past. It's given me invaluable insights into the art and science of creative productions (hint: it's mostly art) and how Shotgun could potentially fit into our clients' pipelines to make everything run more smoothly.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
I work from my home in Brooklyn and travel extensively to visit clients, so I have two types of days:
Home base in Brooklyn: I wake at 7 AM, make coffee, feed my three rescue cats, catch up on the news and caffeinate on my patio. On a normal day, I'll have an hour or two of meetings with the sales teams I support to see what's new, and then a meeting or two with new clients evaluating Shotgun, give them a demo and do a live Q&A. If I have time in between calls, I'll work on my own personal Shotgun site to develop new workflows and dashboards to demo; creating quickstart tutorial demos, or generally lending my experience to the organization wherever I'm needed.
On the road: I typically travel for 4 to 6 days at a time to Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, and others. Since my team is distributed, the only time we get to see people physically is while traveling. So, we pair up and drive around the city meeting with clients to give demos of Shotgun; walk through their processes and pipelines to suggest improvements; do live Q&As with the various departments; generate homework or have follow-up meetings to close the loop on what we discussed that day. Frequently, I'll be alone in a room with 5 to 15 people fielding technical and production questions from all sides. That's my favorite part -- I'm surrounded by smart, passionate developers asking me informed and interesting questions about a tool that I love and have a lot of knowledge of. It's challenging and exciting, and I really love being on the road and meeting with developers like that.
Things you wish people knew they could do in Shotgun?
Ask the Street Team for help! It might sound funny to brag about our support, but it was their support for me and my project while I was learning Shotgun that made me a customer. Everyone on the Street Team comes from a background in creative production and knows the software inside and out. They respond incredibly quickly to questions and issues. When I'm doing a live Shotgun demo and get stumped by a question, I "ALT-TAB" to Slack and ask the Street Team, continue the demo, and typically have the answer within minutes. I rely on them heavily for my day-to-day, and in my opinion, the Street Team and their support are the biggest selling point for Shotgun behind the product itself. email@example.com!
What is your favorite Shotgun feature? Why?
Using canvas pages and widgets to create custom dashboards for different user personas. Why should your Environment Art Lead have work from the Character department filtering into his view? You can set up custom pages and filters so easily and so powerfully that your user personas only see interesting, actionable information that's relevant to them. If you set it up properly, it'll even scale with your project as it grows in complexity over time. It helps keep your developers on track and makes it easier to onboard them into Shotgun when they have a landing page that's customized just for them.
Have you heard of any creative/different ways Shotgun is being used? Can you elaborate?
One of the first stunning implementations of Shotgun I'd seen was a mobile games company that ran their entire build system through Shotgun. They didn't use it for scheduling or review; rather it was a database connected to their build tool. When the build ran, it would query Shotgun for all the latest approved versions of the art and any other relevant modules cooks that into a build, then pushes it to the dev kit for testing. It was entirely done using Shotgun's Python API, and it was darn near mad science to me. It is one of my most cherished anecdotes.
Any fun facts you’d like to share about yourself?
I share a name with one of the world's most successful and infamous professional fighters, the UFC's Jon "Bones" Jones, and because I have that name on Twitter, I get all of his hate mail. Since 2012, I've gotten well over 100,000 tweets intended for him, sometimes thousands of tweets per hour. My hobby consists of responding to almost everything and I refuse to change my name. As a result of the massive attention, I've been interviewed on television on ESPN Sportscenter and have been written about by the BBC, USA Today, CNN, The Telegraph, CBS, and Kotaku, among others. I get free tickets to UFC events now, and accidentally became a minor celebrity in a sport I don't follow. It's very weird and I love it.
Here I am on ESPN Sportscenter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktxPC72XcCA
I met a video producer who wrote and directed a professional-caliber fighter promotion video parody featuring me training against Twitter trolls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dltsW31v15g
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