10 Questions with Neeraj Wadhwa


Neeraj is one of those key enablers within the mixed reality ecosystem whom you’ve probably never heard of. He is a Senior Development Lead at Microsoft and is the guy responsible for curating the HoloToolkit—the set of open source modules we all use to get anything done when developing for the HoloLens. He came to the HoloLens team after working on the Xbox Kinect and Kinect for Windows.

He goes about his work quietly and without fanfare, seeing his role as one of nurturing the community behind the scenes rather than trying to stand out within it. Today, however, we’re going to put the limelight on him for a change. Here are Neeraj’s answers to the 10 Questions:

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
I am a huge movie and TV buff and have very eclectic tastes. It would be super hard for me to pick one. There are so many Indian movies that have inspired my sensibilities and emotions. Some international cinema that influenced me a lot while growing up include Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Matrix and all the Julia Roberts films. Clearly, I am most in love with the fantasy genre.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Mario Brothers, Contra, Dangerous Dave are some of my earliest gaming memories. Wow. Seems like forever ago. My cousins and I used to compete over the summer holidays.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
My parents, especially my mom, shaped the core of me; but my wife has made me the adult and man I am today. I truly get inspired by so many qualities in them. Both my parents instilled in me the value of not just hard work but smart work, aiming high and dreaming big, respecting others and cultivating love for family. The most important lesson my father always repeats to me is that ‘failure is ok’ and however the odds may be stacked against you, persevere and you will get through it. Don’t give up.

My wife taught me to value diversity in thinking and approach, making the most of what resources are available, adapting to change, resilience and patience.

I would be nowhere without these north stars in my life.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I like to believe I’m a strong-minded and strong-willed person but when presented with a good reason for a different cause, I absolutely change my mind about it.
I am super fickle about matters in my personal life, though, like daily chores etc.

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
JavaScript. At one point in life I tried to learn it when I was working on Windows Runtime but gave up on it. It might be nice to pick it up again once our new baby is older and I have more time.

What inspires you to learn?
Not knowing the answer to something and wanting to solve it is the greatest motivator for me. When I see others around me do remarkable things, it inspires me to better myself.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
Come what may, I can handle it.

Be so prepared that I can handle anything that I did not prepare for.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
That the wizarding world exists and I can do magic. BAM! I know spells. 🙂

Faith is something very personal and to each his own—but I don’t like defending those beliefs. If it makes me stronger and better, I roll with it.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
Seamlessly work across device categories and technologies. Imagine realities truly mixing with not just my HoloLens or immersive headset but encompassing my IoT devices, phones, watches, cars etc. My experiences, choices, data being truly mobile and adapting with the environment I’m in. Screens should not block or determine my experience!

AI is awesome and will hugely help here.

What book have you recommended the most?
Again, hard to pick just one but some good ones are: Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson), Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) and live a little, go read the Harry Potter series. It really does bring forth so many awesome lessons in life.

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