Interview

Remote Working: Nadav Ashkenazy's five-year rise to general manager at Supersonic

Remote Working: Nadav Ashkenazy's five-year rise to general manager at Supersonic

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.

This week we spoke with Supersonic Studios general manager Nadav Ashkenazy about how his time in the games industry and how the company has coped under lockdown.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Nadav Ashkenazy: As the general manager of hypercasual gaming company Supersonic Studios, my biggest focus of the last few months has been building our company from the ground up since we launched in February. Our main goal is to build a tech-oriented game company with a strong DNA of transparency and fairness along with sharp and accurate execution.

Mobile games are such a dynamic and young industry that you must be comfortable with adapting to changes, and quickly.
Nadav Ashkenazy

Over the past few years, I've had a chance to view the publisher-developer relationship from the outside, and I believe there is room for a new model for that relationship, one that is based on transparency, fairness and true partnership and collaboration for the long term.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?

My story began when I joined the original Supersonic Ads five years ago, in the early days of mobile gaming, when hypercasual didn't yet exist. I began in business development and continued in the same framework once we merged with ironSource shortly after.

A few years later, while vice president of global business development and partnerships at ironSource, I worked closely with all of the major players in the games industry and massively enjoyed creating and growing these partnerships.

When ironSource decided to expand into game publishing I took the opportunity to expand my love of growing games into helping to develop and create them too, using my deep know-how of the market in a more hands-on way. We decided to name the company after the original Supersonic, and now I'm the general manager of this new entity.

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

I did a BA in IT and Management and then an Executive MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, specialising in global markets which I think gave me great tools to now manage a global company.

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

I'd recommend aspiring professionals get as involved as possible in the games market - attend events (albeit now virtually), network with experts, and get engrossed in what they care about which will give you a deeper understanding of how to better serve your clients, and on where the market is likely to be heading.

It's also important for a person to be adaptable. Mobile games are such a dynamic and young industry that you must be comfortable with adapting to changes, and quickly. Every month is different from the one before. For me, that's incredibly exciting but for some people, the lack of stability can be unsettling.

Supersonic Studios staff in a Zoom meeting.

Finally, they must love data. Creativity is obviously very important in an industry driven by creating fun experiences, but more and more, decision-making is coming down to what the numbers say, so it's important to be data-minded.

How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?

The strange truth is that we haven't really known anything different. Our initial, small team of five met in the office for the first few weeks of Supersonic's launch and then Covid-19 hit and it has been work-from-home ever since. Since this is all we've known, it ended up defining us and making us stronger.

From the get-go, our global operations were built with remote working in mind which I think gives us an advantage over companies suddenly left to deal with the drastic change. We're now a team of over 70 people (of which the majority joined during Covid-19) split between two countries and working with developers and studios around the world. I'm grateful to say that communication between the team members and between our partners because of remote working isn't an issue for us.

What does your typical day look like when working remotely?

My day begins with going over the data from the previous day for every title and channel, highlighting things that we should be focusing on. Then I check the status of the market to see what's topping the charts and to identify trends.

Ultimately, it's in this environment that we've become one of the top five hypercasual developers in the world, so we're not complaining.
Nadav Ashkenazy

Next up is to go over any prototypes that we tested and to understand our launch pipeline and status per game. Then I'll go over the numerous slack channels that we have with each of our developer partners to see the status of each studio. Somewhere in the middle of all this are calls to check up on our product plans and prioritisation, calls with clients, and of course many internal syncs.

What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?

In many ways, working from home is more efficient. No time is spent commuting and there are fewer people to be distracted and disturbed by so productivity is higher (though the laundry may be calling your name). Focus is definitely sharper and as a team, you become much more organised (because you have to be), so everything is tracked and documented better. It's also a blessing for those who want more flexibility in how they allocate their working hours and balance it with their personal life.

On the flip side, the social connection is hugely missing and therefore the team bond isn't as strong. This is even harder to create between different teams whose paths don't cross frequently. From my perspective, it's much more challenging to build and shape the company DNA and also to monitor the engagement (or lack of) of employees, and to know who needs extra support or guidance.

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?

It came so early on in our existence that it's not something that we wish we had done differently since it's all we've ever known. Ultimately, it's in this environment that we've become one of the top five hypercasual developers in the world, so we're not complaining.

Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?

On a professional level, hands down my biggest recommendation is to use a task management tool which will increase visibility and supercharge your efficiency. You'll instantly be 'in-the-know' without having to chase down the right person for an update. You could also go a step further and integrate it into your product so that your product updates are automatically integrated into your tool.

On a personal level, increasing face-to-face interaction is key. We have multiple syncs throughout the company on a team, departmental and company level. Additionally, all of our meetings are carried out with the video functionality of whichever conferencing tool turned on. This is key - no excuses for messy rooms or noisy children.

Since we have a substantial number of employees in one location, we also meet once a week physically in the office. Obviously, this must be done in accordance with local regulations, but for us this real face time with each other helps create the bond I previously spoke about that can be missing with remote working.

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 think a mix is the right way forward. Two to three days in the office with the rest working from home will help us maintain the right balance of the benefits that each of these setups brings to a company.

Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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