How to get a job in social gaming

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Dai Watanabe’s first job after leaving university (with a degree in archaeology) was to work for a commercial bank in Tokyo.

It’s a far cry from the mobile gaming world he now works in, but he believes it gave him the core business skills to move into the gaming sector. So how did he find his job in social gaming?

Dai Watanabe explains the qualities you need to find a job in this space.

From banking to a job in social gaming

“From my banking job, I joined DeNA, in 2000. Now it’s a global internet company focused on social mobile gaming, but back then it only had 20 employees and was an internet auction company similar to eBay. Like many tech start ups, it’s had several changes of direction – including online shopping, mobile auctions and mobile online ads – until it started mobile social networking, which really took off. We are based in Japan and had already floated on the stock exchange, so when it was obvious that mobile social networking was really going to grow, we started looking to expand outside of Japan.

The switch to social gaming

It wasn’t until 2008 that DeNA started developing social gaming – these are games that you don’t need an expensive console to play on. They have the advantage that you can use your smartphone and you can play socially, through a social networking site such as Facebook, for example. The games also continue to evolve after you’ve downloaded them, which is different to most standard computer games DeNA targets players in their teens up to their 40s and – unlike some traditional computer games – social gaming is popular with women as well as men.

A working day

My role is to work on DeNA’s strategy and build alliances and partnerships. That means my working days can vary widely. This quarter and next I’m focused on recruitment; looking at our key performance indicators and analyzing what’s going well and what isn’t. I’ll hold regular meetings with our recruiting managers to discuss who we need to recruit and how we will make sure we get the best people.

Around 50% of my time is spent in meetings with team members or business partners, but I also spend a lot of time analyzing where the company is going and what needs to be done to maximize its potential. My work can also involve some travel. Recently I've made visits to both Vancouver and Tokyo.  

Competition for talent

All technology companies in Silicon Valley are competing against each other, so it’s hard to find talent that is consumer savvy with experience of project management. There is also a lot of competition for super smart professionals. It’s quite easy to raise money and start your own business, so if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, that’s probably what you’ll do.  

From an employer’s point of view, the level of competition can make it hard to put together the best team because, even if you don’t have outstanding skills, competition from employers is so intense that you can probably get a great job.

Retaining talent

A big challenge for us and businesses like ours is that professionals in the US often have a very specialized skills and focus. We have changed our strategy significantly, and it keeps on changing, which means it can be hard to retain them because their skills are so specialist. For this reason, we tend to prefer to recruit more generalist professionals. Even for something like HR or marketing, if you keep changing your products – as DeNA has – and change your strategy, it can be hard for some employees to develop in line with the company. 

Getting a job in a start up in the tech sector

I’d say that if you want to work for a start up, especially in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t matter too much what it’s doing because the chances are that it will change direction anyway! When I joined DeNA, what mattered to me was that I liked the management team and the way they worked. That’s critical. Do your research into the management team and be prepared for the company to change direction. If you can roll with the changes, it could be an exciting job that gives you a real chance to develop your skills within the company."
See Dai's LinkedIn profile

Find out more about working in the mobile space.

Contact us if you have hiring needs in the social gaming space.

All technology companies in Silicon Valley are competing against each other, so it’s hard to find talent that is consumer savvy with experience of project management. 

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