The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.
The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field – especially in these complex times we are all living through at the minute.
To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the scenes as well as how employees around the world are adapting to the life of remote work, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry in our Jobs in Games: Remote Working series.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Jia Wang: My name is Jia Wang and I am the lead data scientist for Tencent's North American games publishing team. I am engaged in research and analysis as well as building out the North American data science team.
The majority of my day is spent working with internal data organisations within Tencent to collaborate, create better tools, and develop the vision for our international data teams.
I brought experience learned from working at King and Zynga to help Tencent design this new approach, asking how we can use the current Tencent infrastructure to help our North American game publishing team.
I am mostly working on PUBG Mobile, collaborating with other regions for analysis and product optimisation. We have a special expertise in data science and we're trying to lead the effort to impact how developers can use data-driven strategies to improve their games.
I think I can help make people happy, which is why I enjoy working in gamesJia Wang
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
The funny thing is that I hated games when I was studying for my Bachelor's degree - my roommates played games all night long and I couldn't sleep! However, while I was completing my master's degree, I had the opportunity to intern with King on Candy Crush, becoming one of the first team members on their data science team and to this day, I'm still working in games.
It's much more different than I thought, as the mobile/social/casual games industry is very different than what I had thought it would be. Ultimately, I think I can help make people happy, which is why I enjoy working in games.
What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I have a Bachelors in software engineering and a Masters in computer science, with a focus on AI and machine learning. There are lots of resources out there for people who are interested in these fields.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
I have heard people say that they don't have a background in higher education for computer science and mathematics and that they don't understand the deeper algorithms and models that many are building every day.
The focus on the technical end is important and often critical for many business problems but the best metrics and complexity will not necessarily ensure your business success. The most important elements in this role are product sense and your own curiosity. You really need to understand both your product and your customer’s needs. You want to help them to have a better experience engaging with your product.
There's an art to the balance: in an academic world, you want only the best models. Howver, in business you need to solve a problem in an affordable way, balancing the results against time, resources, etcetera.
What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
There are a lot of people rushing into this profession right now because it's so popular and there are so many openings. Even with all the top universities quickly opening programs, this field might not be right for everyone.
I would ask myself if this is something that I am really interested in and something I want to do every day - beyond just being a well-paid "hot job". Does it really fit me? That’s more important.
How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?
I am a mom of two toddlers who are out of school, cooking for a family of four and working in my bathroom. Really, I have taken over the main bathroom in my house, which is the only location where I can go to focus on work. Often, I have conflicts when my kids want to take a shower but I have a Zoom meeting scheduled. Despite these kinds of life challenges, there has not been a huge impact on my role.
There are so many challenges for everyone while working and living at home - especially for working momsJia Wang
My job requires a lot of solo work with my computer, which is often more efficient. I have a very focused mind and appreciate not having the in-office distraction of getting dragged away from my work for meetings.
On the other hand, sometimes I need to collaborate with co-workers and it's challenging. Fortunately, this is not my first time working with a remote team, and I'm used to having team members spread out around different locations and time zones.
What does your typical day look like when working remotely?
My husband and I have kids, so my work day starts at nine. At half 11, I'll take a break and cook for the family, then go back to work at one followed by a dinner break and time with my family.
Since so many of my colleagues are based in China, I have calls that start at seven and can sometimes go later into the night. However, I find this is exceptional to my role and not something everyone experiences at Tencent. I am looking forward to this changing as we hire more people in the North American data team.
What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?
I am saving 90 minutes per work day without having to commute, which is worth a lot to me. Now I can put in my eight hours of work and have an extra one and a half hours of time with my family. I consider this a huge bonus. Also, with my kids around me while I'm working, I can kiss and hug them at any time.
On the other hand, collaboration has become more challenging. Communication and training are much easier face-to-face. It can be hard for people to start a new job, having to figure everything out remotely and not meeting the whole team in person.
Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?
I wish I knew that this was going to last so long, at least through the end of the year. It's life-changing and not something I was prepared for.
Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?
Look for help, support and make sure to talk to people. There are so many challenges for everyone while working and living at home - especially for working moms. If you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, talk to your friends or your boss to figure out how to solve issues together, rather than going through it on your own.
After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in an office?
I would like a 50/50 split. I think that would be an efficient way to for me to work going forward.