Otto Berkes | Hungarian-American

Photo credit: CA Technologies

Otto Berkes


Co-founder of Xbox + CTO, CA Technologies


Instagram: @ottoberkes

Born in Hungary, when it was still a part of the Soviet bloc, Otto’s upbringing was filled with plots that people should never have to experience firsthand.

Disdain for state controlled propaganda and political indoctrination in schools, pushed Otto's family to orchestrate a “vacation” in order to circumvent the strict border control. After years of planning, 5-year-old Otto, his older brother, and parents successfully escaped the totalitarian communist regime in Hungary and entered neighboring Austria.

The goal was to settle in Austria, but Otto’s parents quickly realized that an opportunity to be warmly welcomed into Austrian society was near impossible. As a result, another move was necessary; this time, to a Western country. So when Otto was 7, the list was narrowed down to New York, and a place where Otto had no choice but to learn English via full immersion – cartoons and TV shows.

As the years went by, Otto’s father moved the family along the East Coast for work and in attempt to reenter the medical profession as a physician. Buffalo, New York, Rhode Island and Florida were all on their residential map.

During high school in Boca Raton in the late 70s, Otto became interested in electronics. Apple 2 and personal computers had just hit the market, so he began to experiment with electronics from Radio Shack, where he spent majority of his allowance. From building gadgets to having the desire to make things better, his passion for hardware and software merged.

Otto would go on to graduate from Middlebury College with a degree in physics, and a minor in music performance from Middlebury College (1985), followed by a master’s in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of Vermont (1989).

In 1998, the same year that Otto joined Microsoft, he became the team leader and 1 of 4 founders that constructed a prototype Windows-based video game console made from Dell laptop computers. They named it DirectX Box.

The team pitched it to the head of Microsoft’s game publishing business, and it was a ‘go.’ During development, the name was shortened to what we now know today, Xbox.

As a 25-year industry veteran, Otto continues to make his mark. Aside from Xbox and several other achievements, he was the developer for the first Windows-based version of AutoCAD, “leader of the team that created and launched HBO GO streaming service,” holds several patents, and is currently the Chief Technology Officer at CA Technologies.

Sources: The Immigrant Entrepreneur and