Kraig Brockschmidt (1968-) was born and raised in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Washington. His father was a career electrical engineer at Boeing, who, with a reputation as a brilliant problem-solver and fix-it man, was (and to some extent remains) constantly engaged in a wide variety of projects. Kraig's mother, for her part, was a career schoolteacher for kindergarten and primary grades. In retirement she enjoys playing with her grandchildren and is working toward a long-time goal of sewing 10,000 quilts for Lutheran World Relief (she's nearing 10,000 now).
Early in his life, Kraig showed a propensity for mathematics. As one story goes, his parents were once trying to teach his older brother Kevin to count using M&M candies. Because the reward was being able to eat as many as one could count, two-year-old Kraig caught on rapidly and his parents wisely abandoned the practice. In kindergarten, Kraig sat down one day determined to write out numbers as high as he count. After passing 1,000, he realized he could count as high as he wanted to and didn't need to keep scribbling! Later, in third grade, he completed two-and-a-half years of math coursework, venturing well into the fifth-grade material.
To encourage continued development along these lines, his father bought him his first personal computer in 1979: a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer. At the same time, his father refused to buy any software. “That,” he said, “you will have to write yourself.”
Kraig did just that, taking to computer programming with the same passion that Kevin took to art (Kev works as a freelance cartoonist). By 1984, during his sophomore year at Hazen High School in Renton, Washington, Kraig was writing his own software and selling it through various Color Computer magazines (Rainbow, Spectrogram, and CoCo Clipboard). He also published several articles in those same journals, eventually having a regular column in the latter. In this he found that he loved sharing ideas and writing about computer programming perhaps even more than the programming work itself.
Kraig entered the University of Washington in 1986 to pursue a degree in Computer Engineering (why he didn't go into mathematics or astrophysics is told in Chapter One of Mystic Microsoft). He spent some of his free time volunteering for the Microcomputer Support Lab on campus where he got his first exposure both to IBM-style PCs and to the work of customer support. It was based on this experience that he was offered his first full-time job: an internship in Microsoft’s Developer Support group. (His only other employment, in fact, was two part-time months with a temp agency through which he did damage returns for United Parcel Service.)
During his time in Developer Support, Kraig found that the simple four-function calculator program that was included with Windows versions 1 and 2 was somewhat insufficient for the needs of an engineering student, so as a learning project he decided to write a more extensive one with more capabilities. His manager showed it to the Windows development team, and it wasn't long before this upgraded Calculator was released as part of Windows 3.0. It continued to ship in Windows with few modifications all the way through Windows Vista, and got an overhaul for Windows 7 before being replaced in Windows 8. (For more of that story, see the interview with Kraig on Microsoft's Channel 9.)
Following this success, Kraig was hired to work on some of the other Accessory programs of Windows 3.0 during his junior year of college. The following summer he was offered a full-time software development internship, and he continued part-time in that same role up to his graduation in August, 1990. (For details, again see Mystic Microsoft, as for all his time with Microsoft between 1998 and 1996.)
Kraig then returned to Developer Support where he honed his skills in both understanding the intricacies of technology and communicating that understanding to others. In less than a year he became one of the most productive engineers in all of Microsoft’s support division. A short time later, in late 1991, his unique combination of talents brought him into a much broader role as part of Microsoft’s first technical evangelism group, Developer Relations, where he remained for the bulk of his first tenure at Microsoft.
In Developer Relations, Kraig used his skills to speed the adoption of Microsoft’s newest technologies by other software companies. He authored papers and sample programs that demonstrated exactly how to incorporate those technologies into a wide variety of applications and regularly spoke at industry conferences. In addition, he continued to publish articles in magazines such as Microsoft Systems Journal and Windows Programming Journal.
In 1993 Kraig took his work to another level with the publication of Inside OLE 2 (Microsoft Press, see Books), which became extremely popular and catapulted him to the unsought status of an industry expert. Being in great demand as a lecturer (if for no other reason that virtually no one else was yet available on the subject), he traveled far and wide for several years to help people understand Microsoft’s key technologies. He was also in great demand within Microsoft as other development teams regularly approached him for help with their designs. Thus, he made important contributions to many of Microsoft’s flagship products including Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer. He published the revision of that book, Inside OLE 2nd Edition, in 1995.
Late in his career (if you call age 27 being "late") his life began to take a spiritual turn. Although Kraig had been raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran, he had set religion aside shortly after joining Microsoft. Through the ensuing years spirituality was little more than an intellectual curiosity; at different times he didn’t think about religion at all while at other times he loathed it. Then in 1995 a deep yearning to know truth began to re-orient his priorities; by the end of 1996 his life looked completely different. Kraig had retired from Microsoft, with enough assets from stock options to provide a small but adequate income (he referred to himself as an "Enoughonaire" in contrast to the wealthier multi-millionaires that often come out of the tech industry). He and his wife Kristi, who holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, had moved from their large, almost brand-new suburban home to a humble apartment in an intentional spiritual community in Lynnwood, Washington. In 2004 they moved to a similar community in Portland, Oregon, to undertake a new phase of their spiritual lives that includes starting a family (their first child, Liam, was born October 7th, 2006.) Most recently, in 2011, they moved to Ananda Village, a rural spiritual community (of which the others are branches) outside of Nevada City, CA, and the subject of the film Finding Happiness in which Kraig and his family appear. Here they were able to build a home and have Liam in a truly remarkable school, where Kraig also serves on the Board of Directors.
Since that shift in 1996, Kraig and his wife have both been dedicated to seeking God (Truth, the Higher Self, whatever you want to call it) rather than worldly success, and dedicated to the ideals of non-attachment, service to others, devotion, simplicity, and self-control, specifically as expressed through the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi. They are both life members of the Ananda Sevaka Order, a renunciate order open to householders and married couples, as well as those with children.
For Kraig, this dedication expressed itself in a wide range of diverse activities—all part, he says “of an expanding self-identity that is reaching out—literally, it seems—to embrace Infinity.” When asked what he did with his time, he simply answered, “Whatever God puts in front of me.” When responding to a less spiritually-oriented person he often said “I’m Self-employed.” (That’s Self, of course, with a capital S!) Those activities have included everything from construction (including wiring, plumbing, and welding), writing, music (various instruments), conducting, singing (both solo and choral in a number of domestic and international concerts), and real-estate to importing, photography, forest management, office management, volunteering, cooking, graphic design, web-mastering, consulting (technical and legal), mechanics, retail sales, ministry, and childhood education. In this latter role he even appeared in a program on National Public Radio. Kraig became a nationally-certified Yoga and meditation instructor during this time, taught a variety of classes and seminars, wrote a number of thoughtful papers and essays, and published The Harmonium Handbook, Mystic Microsoft, and Finding Focus (see Books again).
That inner dedication is also reflected in the spiritual name Satyaki, which Kraig uses in spiritual environments. This Sanskrit name, pronounced SAHT-ya-kee, literally translates to "devotion to truth." This is a quality that has long been at the heart of Kraig's inner search. By having those who support his spiritual aspirations use this name, the quality is further reinforced, strengthened, and magnetized. For more, see the philosophy page.
What he's perhaps enjoyed the most throughout this second tenure at the company is that he's doing it in service to others, not for self-aggrandizement or other motives of personal gain This is a way of working that's not lost on his associates both inside and outside of Microsoft, who have often complimented him on his sincere desire to help others be their best.
In the meantime, Kraig serves on the Board of Directors of both the Living Wisdom School of Nevada City, and is Chairman of the Board for the nacent Ananda College of Living Wisdom. Through both he aspires to help create academic settings through which people of all ages can learn to attune themselves to higher consciousness and how that consciousness wants to express itself in their lives, no matter what their outward roles or obligations.
This, too, is the simple goal that Kraig holds for himself: to become an increasingly clear and open channel through which higher inspiration and higher consciousness can flow without obstructions from the ego. He will not at all claim perfection in this, but continually holds it as his primary aspiration.