How I Became a CTO with Noonies Nominee Sonny Alves Dias by@sonnyalvesdias

How I Became a CTO with Noonies Nominee Sonny Alves Dias

Sonny Alves Dias is the CTO at Pixelmatic. He is nominated for a 2021 Noonies award. He is a generalist software engineer and he works in the gaming industry. He believes Bitcoin is the most exciting technology of the present and has the power to change the world. He has been nominated in the following categories: HTML, webdev, networking and SEO. Dias also nominated for the Noonies Award for Best HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - Web Developer.
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Sonny Alves Dias

Curious game developer and CTO at Pixelmatic

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Hey Hackers! I’m Sonny Alves Dias, and I’m the CTO at Pixelmatic.


First of all, a huge thank you to the HackerNoon community and staff for nominating me for a 2021 Noonies award! I’ve been nominated in the following categories; please do check out these award pages and vote:


  1. HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - HTML: https://noonies.tech/award/2021-hackernoon-contributor-of-the-year-html
  2. HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - networking: https://noonies.tech/award/2021-hackernoon-contributor-of-the-year-networking
  3. HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - SEO: https://noonies.tech/award/2021-hackernoon-contributor-of-the-year-seo
  4. HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - web: https://noonies.tech/award/2021-hackernoon-contributor-of-the-year-web
  5. HackerNoon Contributor of the Year - webdev: https://noonies.tech/award/2021-hackernoon-contributor-of-the-year-webdev


As someone both in the crypto and the gaming industry, I believe that the most exciting technology of the present is Bitcoin because it has the power to change the world. Learn more about my thoughts and opinions on Bitcoin and my journey in the tech industry via the interview below.


1. What do you do, and why do you do it? (tell us your story)

I am a generalist software engineer, and I work in the gaming industry. How did I end up there?Well, I was living and working in a pretty small town in France. There was really nothing very exciting there, a pretty industrial area of France, so as a computer scientist you generally end up giving services to these industries.


But I met a girl at university, who became my wife, and she happened to be Chinese. She wanted to go back to China and me; having completed my last university term in Japan and cultivating an interest in Asia since forever, I was up for it.


At the same time, I thought it was maybe the right moment to try to land a job in the gaming industry. Like a lot of us, as a kid, I was dreaming of making games once I became an adult. Six months before moving to China, I started to look for a job remotely in a couple of different cities. After tons of emails, I got almost no replies... So by the time we moved there, I still had no job. And also, my visa was valid for six months… only… So I was freaked out.


After a couple of months of desperately looking for something, I finally landed a job in a big indie developer studio called Spicy Horse, created by the well-known American McGee. This is where my journey in the gaming industry started.


And… very quickly, I experienced something that happens commonly in the gaming industry: a title cancellation. After two months at Spicy Horse, I got laid off. Fortunately, American McGee, within my short stay still saw my potential and offered me introductions to multiple of his entrepreneur friends. Weirdly enough, and maybe because I was still in the euphoria of finally working in the industry and living in Shanghai, I was super excited. Looking back at that moment, being laid off just felt like a very small bump on the road.


Then after a couple of intense weeks doing interviews and networking, I found an opportunity at Pixelmatic. And that is thanks to a colleague at Spicy Horse, a great engineer called Muhammad Moniem who works in Canada at Compulsion Games now. I got the opportunity to become the CTO of Pixelmatic and have been able to grow the company in the past 7 years.


2. Tell us more about the things you create / write / manage / build!

Computer and software are both my work and my hobby; whenever I have some spare time, I like to code and create stuff. For example, recently, I started to build a website to centralize some of the API and functions I would usually google, things like DNS resolutions, password generation, etc. And I took the opportunity to test new languages and techniques with that website: Dart, Svelte, Golang, Insomnia, OpenAPI, etc. Experience that I bring back to work them to try to grow and improve our practices.


I have a blog https://sonny.alvesdi.as/ where I write articles about things that are worth sharing with the world like my last couple of articles were about how the server-side rendering works in Angular and how to add a date variable in a Slack Workflow.


And this year, I also decided to start a podcast to interview and put the spotlight on some of the best contemporary software engineers. I recently released my sixth episode where I interviewed Mathias Buus, the lead developer of the Hypercore Protocol. He was an early adopter of Node.JS, and he has tons of published packages on npm. He has seen the technology grow from the beginning; it was super interesting to hear his point of view on the current ecosystem. Also, the Hypercore Protocol is really a high-tech piece of technology nowadays, allowing you to do peer-to-peer software pretty easily with Javascript and Node.


3. How did you end up on your current career path? Do you like it?

I am the CTO at Pixelmatic, a video game developer company. As a CTO, my role consistently evolved. Several years ago, we were about 10 people in a small office working on a couple of outsourcing projects, my role at that time was essential to lead the development of these projects.


As we started to grow, my role slowly changed to something closer to a head/VP of engineering, where I would lead multiple teams on multiple projects and try to make sure they had what they needed to work, recruiting new talents for the teams, and filling the gaps here and there as much as possible.


Nowadays we are more than 50 people in the company, and I hired a great VP of Engineering, Jordan Guinaud, so now I am focusing on the overall technical direction, in terms of tech stack and technical choices, but also in terms of good practices and quality of code. Of course, I am still filling the gaps here and there whenever I can. We are in a tough period where workflows from the past do not work anymore because we have a lot of people involved (with different timezones) and require people to focus. So we switched slowly from a startup mode where everybody wears multiple hats to a scaleup where people specialize more and more in their field.


In the near future, my ambition is to open an R&D team at Pixelmatic to focus on innovation applied to games. Mostly around AI, to use the latest discoveries in the field for the gameplay and have an even more immersive experience for our players.

4. What tech are you most excited or passionate about right now and why?

To be honest, a lot! Too much, probably! So I will try to limit my answer to a few.


  • Bitcoin, as I said, it has the power to change the world, and I hope we will all work together to make the world a better place.
  • Hypercore Protocol, see my answer to question 2 for why.
  • Photon Fusion, it is the latest multiplayer framework for AAA games, made by the Photon team; it’s probably one of the most high-end multiplayer frameworks ever seen.
  • Dagger, while doing research on Docker and its creator, Solomon Hykes, I noticed Solomon was up on something else. I had a look and instantly saw great potential here. Dagger is basically the glue that will allow having to deploy pipeline as code.
  • Finally, ECS as in Entity Components System. I have a couple of my podcast episodes around the subject. It’s a recent programming paradigm based on Data-Oriented Design, that allows for very high efficiency and performance, as well as very low coupling of the code.

5. What tech are you most worried about right now and why?

Ethereum, for multiple reasons.


I saw them stealing the concept of Web3, while I was already discussing semantic web and Web3 in 2005 before there was any blockchain at all. If decentralization is Web3 direction, then I would put my bet on the most decentralized and secure network, Bitcoin, and things like Lightning, RGB, and Decentralized Identities with ION (https://identity.foundation/ion/).


6. If we gave you 10 million dollars to invest in something today, what would you invest in and why?

In genetic research. My first daughter is affected by a very rare genetic disease. And the genetic field is at the edge of several breakthroughs. They are potential treatments feasible to help my child, but it’s still very early, and it is still going to take some time to have full product medication for her, so if I could accelerate that, I would.


Also, I would invest in things like artificial intelligence, robotics, transhumanist technologies as it could ease the life of my child and the weaker on the planet. And it would probably help us to travel through space as well.


7. What are you currently learning?

These days, I am learning Svelte on my own. Working with the latest version of Svelte Kit, and I like its simplicity and its very fast compilation time. At Pixelmatic, we mostly use Angular, and the compilation time is one of the pain points with it.


I keep working on my Go proficiency too. We have a great Platform team at Pixelmatic, building services in Go, and I am way out of their league, so I try to catch up. I really like the efficiency of Go, its portability, and quick compilation too.


Also, I am training myself on BDD and ATDD currently to improve our work methods.


8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given someone?

Sometimes very motivated young developers ask me how to develop their own game. Making a game is a huge project requiring tons of different skills. So my advice is generally to find people to work with first. And for that, don’t be afraid to share your project and ideas. Ideas are worth nothing if there is no execution after.


9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One common mistake when working in a team is to make assumptions. For example, you can assume maybe something was decided when you were not present in a meeting, or you can assume someone writing some lines of code well-thought-of the problem.


In software engineering, we try not to reinvent the wheel at any moment, but don’t assume you have the proper tire in all circumstances. The situation is constantly evolving, so we should avoid making assumptions and don’t be afraid to question anything.



About HackerNoon’s 2021 Noonie Awards

The annual Noonie Awards celebrate the best and brightest of the tech industry, bringing together all who are making the Internet and the world of tech what it is today. Please be sure to check out our award categories, nominate, and vote for the people and companies who you think are making the biggest impact on the tech industry today.


The 2021 Noonies are sponsored by: bybit, Dottech Domains, and Avast. Thank you so much to these sponsors who are helping us celebrate the accomplishments of all our nominees.

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