Interview

Jobs in Games: 6waves' Ernest Wong on how to get a job as a Director of Product

Jobs in Games: 6waves' Ernest Wong on how to get a job as a Director of Product

It takes a great number of individuals working together in various disciplines to make any commercial enterprise function.

The mobile games industry is certainly no exception, offering dynamic and diverse roles to thousands the world over.

As such, PocketGamer.biz has decided to celebrate this with a regular series of interviews where each week we chat to a mobile games industry professional from a different field - be it game design, art, or PR - to learn about how they bagged that job in games.

Obviously every career path is different, but the goal is to give a picture of the sorts of skills, qualifications and ambition one might need to find themselves in such a role - and how we can all learn from it.

This time, the spotlight is on Ernest Wong, Executive Director of Products at Hong Kong-based publisher 6waves.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about your current role and what it entails.

Ernest Wong: I am the Executive Director of Products at 6waves and I am in charge of the Product Management team.

When the company was in its early phase, I was the product guy who helped with partner integration, QA, localisation, product optimisation and live operations - pretty much everything hands-on throughout the whole product life cycle.

Now the company has grown significantly, my main duty is to manage a team of product managers, community managers and customer care specialists to work with our partners to integrate, launch and operate their games around the world.

Here at 6waves we always prioritise people, product and profit, in that order.
Ernest Wong

My daily focus, though, is people management. Here at 6waves we always prioritise people, product and profit, in that order.

Internally, we care about our staff and externally we care about both our business partners and end users.

I therefore spend a significant amount of time talking to my staff, understanding their needs and providing them the best environment, tools and spiritual support so they can shine and excel in what they do.

For the rest of my time, it's all about playing games - for QA testing, for competitive analysis, for business reviews and for leisure. It's a fun job!

How did you first get into this job?

The founders of 6waves and I were all Yahoo Hong Kong employees.

When they left Yahoo and first founded the company back in 2008, they were focusing on the development of social apps and I was not too interested.

Later on, they turned their business into social games publishing and I was excited to become their first hired product guy in the team.

While working at Yahoo, I was a less common type of staff who started as a Senior Web Developer, then became Senior Interaction Designer, and I was offered the position of Product Manager when I left the company.

I believe my all-round knowledge and skills in product development earned me the job, and of course, my extreme passion in video games too.

6waves' latest release, Heroes of Skyrealm

It was during the rise of Facebook games and we were one of the earlier companies to ride the wave.

I remember we used to sign one new game almost every week at peak and I had to manage around a dozen titles simultaneously. It was really crazy.

Of course we had to expand the team to take care of the workload, and I helped to grow the product team, define work processes, develop integration platforms and establish game review procedures.

I have been working on this for almost eight years and am still enjoying it.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

Ever since I watched a cartoon about video games when I was three years old, I already pictured myself having a career in the games industry one day.

It's just that the games industry is quite broad with many different roles. I always thought I would be some programmer or game designer, and didn't expect myself ended up as working on the publishing side of the business.

What did you study to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

As I always aimed to have a career in the digital world, I chose to study Computer Science and Software Engineering, minor in Virtual Reality and Human Computer Interaction.

Back in my teenage years there were no universities offering courses in game development.
Ernest Wong

Back in my teenage years there were no universities offering courses in game development. I would love to take one of those degrees if I could choose again.

Frankly speaking though, I guess most of us programmers would share the same feeling that a degree is absolutely useless for learning how to make computer games.

I would argue that university offers a great environment and equipment for students to get together, know people, exchange ideas and even provides opportunities to grow some of those ideas into real products.

The textbook part of life, however, is unnecessary. A lot of the knowledge we gained are better learned by ourselves online. Find and read some code, then compile and run - I guess that's how most programmers started.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

I think many people are like me, having childhood dreams about working in the games industry one day, creating what we think is the best game in the world... I wish someone would have told me that this is not the true reality.

The truth is, most of the games are created to make money. There is no best game in the world, only the most downloads or top grossing titles.

Also, no one told me to prepare to face the cruel reality of seeing most game ideas being banned, or developed but never reaching launch due to various reasons such as marketing, politics or lawsuits.

Many of us see game development as an art, but the business side of things will eventually take control and then the whole thing becomes something else.

So my advice to the creative people out there: either be your own indie developer so you can do whatever you want, or choose your publisher carefully.

Ensure they don't hijack your idea and value your creativity like we do at 6waves.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Entertain yourself as much as possible! Whether it's movies, games, sports or even cooking. Everything we do in our daily lives can become great game ideas.

And of course, play lots of games. Whether they are games on console, PC, handheld, smartphones or even conventional board games, play them all!

You'll realise every game you played will become important references for your future work some day.

6waves is hiring.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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