Sunday, March 31, 2013

GDC Week

I've just spent the last week in sunny, warm San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference. While this post is not going to be exactly Tepper-experience-related, it is related to my own ambitions post-MBA.
GDC, as it's known, is a week-long conference for people in the video game industry. They had a Free-To-Play summit at the beginning of the week, which confirmed my attendance for the entire conference. There was also a Career Expo in the latter half of the week, which is what I've been waiting for all second-year to truly kick start my fulltime job recruitment experience.

Last year, I only attended the Friday Student day, as GDC coincided with Mini 1 finals. This year, it only fell in with week 2 of Mini 4, so I figured it would be all ok.

I learned a lot about the industry and the state it's in currently. I found that to be very useful, as I'm finding myself leaning towards mobile and social games in terms of career - where my MBA will be the most useful - as opposed to big studios where MBA is usually concurrent with either Finance or Marketing. The Free-to-Play (F2P) business model is also fascinating to me - I don't think I've encountered anything like it in any other environment, so it seems unique to video games. Being involved in the early stages of a successful business model is very enticing, I'll admit. I also discovered that a lot of Product Managers in this space assist in the actual game design - to try and integrate monetization methods primarily - which is also just as exciting. To be able to help design a game would be very very cool and tap into that creative side of me that rarely gets any light of day under normal working conditions.

On the other hand, I was a little disappointed with the Career Expo. I was there primarily to network and get a lot of opportunities for fulltime positions. My experience last year looking for internship was tepid - very few people had opportunities for MBA interns; the majority was full-time hire. And there were a lot of companies at the Expo. This time, it seemed that there weren't very many opportunities at all because the number of companies there were fewer! Casino games have become the Next Big Thing, and I really really don't like casino games.

Overall, it was a fun but exhausting week. I reconnected with a contact I made on LinkedIn last year, who I've been in regular email discussions with, and he's taken it upon himself to be a champion of me of sorts - absolutely amazing! I met a good number of people too, of which I have to follow up on.

It was rather sad to have to come back to school and this learning environment after having been immersed in the industry. I wanted to go back to work to apply the things that I knew, not just sit on them to be later forgotten.

As an aside - I am one of the 8000 Google Glass Explorers!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Last Mini Evah!

Well, folks, it's nearly it. This is the very last mini I need to take and then I've completed my degree. What a crazy, wild, exhilarating two years it's been.

A number of my classmates are in Germany for the study-abroad mini. I've been inundated with pictures of Europe on my Facebook account, making me extremely jealous. Spring Break is traditionally when most of the international treks happen, so I got Israel and Japan pictures as well, although those lucky people have come back by now.

Typically, this last mini is usually the easiest for second years. The majority have jobs, have completed all the degree requirements, and are just taking it easy waiting for graduation and the Real World. I'm not in the majority - my recruiting kicks in seriously next week with GDC, I registered for 7 (!) classes, and I'm contemplating making my app project into a side business.

I registered for the 7 last year, and have held stubbornly onto the idea that I can take them all. I wanted to take them all. However, yesterday I came to the serious realization that it would probably be better if I put my focus on a smaller number of things than a larger number. Three courses can't be helped - they're semester-long and carried over from last mini (Game Design, Capstone, Mobile App Project). One course is a requirement of my degree - Data Mining. That left three courses up for the chopping block. Two of them are OB-related: Strategic Human Resources and Organizational Change. The last is Capitalism, and it's taught by Allan H. Meltzer . I decided to drop SHRM after sitting in class on Monday. It's an interesting subject with a lot of good lessons to be learned, but the value I would gain from this class would be slim given the fact I will be so overwhelmed - and I'll just read the book instead. It is also heavy on teamwork - which isn't a problem normally, but I don't want to let my teammate down if I don't do any work. Organizational Change is up tonight, but I am also inclined to drop this one. It's a class I've been wanting to take for a year or so - when I last registered for it, the professor passed away during the break before the mini. Now his wife is teaching it. I'm also afraid it will be heavy on the teamwork

I'm not dropping Capitalism. It's a rare chance to be taught by someone so esteemed in the economic community, plus it looks like it would be a lot of fun.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Break

So I've been on Spring Break for the last week or so, and I'm looking at the conclusion of this break with mild trepidation and annoyance. Like I'm sure many have before me, I came into this break with a lot of intention to catch up on various school-related things - such as designing my mobile app UI, learning how to code for Android apps, applying to jobs, and reading a book or two. I haven't accomplished a single thing.

I did, however, get to level 18 on League of Legends.

My Spring Break wasn't completely unproductive. Not only do I have Monday and Tuesday next week to catch up on all that I didn't do (oops), I returned all the cases I marked for an undergraduate class I am a Teaching Assistant for.

I think that grading papers is a much better experience of learning than actually doing the paper itself, for myself. There is no "right" answer for cases, but there is a need to show thought and reasoning behind every argument. The answer key that the TAs are given can be specific in some areas but intentionally vague in others. It makes for some difficulty in being consistent in marking.

But I found that as I'm looking critically at other peoples' work, I'm finding myself come to conclusions that I should have considered in other aspect - for example, the very first case that my class did, we were accused of just restating the case facts. I'm seeing examples happen in the cases that I mark, and while I add comments to the cases about this, I'm noticing my own ability to critically analyze the case. I'm always writing "why is this important?" in the case when people restate the facts. I realize that the authors are restating it because they feel that there is a knowledge implied in the fact - but we want that assumption out in the open. I also found myself remembering a phrase that a senior manager at my pre-MBA job would always say - "so what?" He had coached us to always answer the "so what?" question... and I need to remember that for every aspect of communication, from capstone to an in-class discussion.

it's a lesson I will need to incorporate next mini I think.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

End of Mini 3

It has been a very long while since I last posted, but that is because a lot has happened over the past couple of weeks that has caused me to neglect my blog.

Everything people had been telling me was that year 2 was supposed to be a lot easier than Year 1. Ideally, one got a job early on, one didn't need to undertake as many classes, and there's a lot fewer extra curricular activities going on to be involved in (like case competitions). My experience has been dramatically different.

Firstly, I am still job-hunting. Granted, my industry doesn't start heavy recruiting until now, so most of my job efforts was reaching out to various people every once in a while to keep my network going.

Secondly, and most importantly, a lot of my classwork is project-based. When a class is homework-based, it's a lot easier to keep ontop of things because there is a clear, defined set of guidelines that one needs to accomplish - answer the questions! Likewise with exams - most of the work happens a couple of days before the exam. If it's individual assignments, that's even better since the only person who is relying on you is yourself! Not this mini for me, however.

My capstone is entirely self-directed. As such, my partner and I spent the better half of the mini floundering around trying to figure out what to do. My partner was a former project manager, so he fell back to habits that had worked with him in the past - schedule lots of meetings. I abhor meetings for the sake of meetings, so that didn't work out well with me either. It didn't help that I wasn't attending the "classes" set aside for us, since I had another class on at the same time that I was allowed to go to instead. I've worked with my partner before, and we've worked well together - but I think a lot of that is that I come up with the direction and the goals, and he performs the motions to get it going - this time I stepped back on this, my attention directed elsewhere, which made him feel like he needed to brainstorm ideas on how to monetize this technology. Needless to say, it didn't work out to well.. However, we did hit a turning point and jumped back on track. We just needed to define clearly the goals for the semester project, and now that we have it, it makes things easier to push forward.

The reason i had dropped my attention was because I was placing it in the project for my Mobile & Pervasive Development Class. While I had originally signed up for the 6-unit course, which was homework- and exam-based, I ended up enrolling into the full 12-unit course, which included getting a mobile app up and running. It's an app based on an idea I had - I went looking for this type of app or service and couldn't find it, and ended up in a team working on the project. I had taken ownership of it, so I took over the design role. It was ridiculously intensive, and I poured a lot of time and energy into determining the user roles, the use cases, and the UI. I need to continue doing this over the Spring Break - ideally, I can see a viable opportunity for this app to be somewhat successful. My work was rewarded somewhat - this is the only class I've had in which there was a $1000 prize for the best app, as considered by a panel of judges. My app was one of 3 finalists (as an aside, I screwed up the final round and wasted my 5 minutes pitching instead of showing off the app itself), and we received feedback both from other students and the judges saying they'd love to see something like this app become a viable product - they would use it! But this was a big concentrate of my time.

Another semester-long class is Game Design, which it too is rather work-intensive. It relies heavily on "playtesting" game ideas with a group of other people in the class. My playtest group have been only other ETC students, and they are in a campus by the river instead of the main campus. This hasn't proven to be an issue, since my partner is also at that campus, but they have little concept or grasp of the value of time to non-ETC students (especially MBA students). Getting the group together at one time is like herding cats. They work on semester long projects in designated rooms, and they determine their own schedule - so it's not unusual for me to turn up to a 4:30 scheduled play only to wait 2 hours while the others find their way in from other "just popped up" issues. This gets very tiring; I nearly lost it one time when I was taking time out to show them how to play a roleplaying game - I was the "expert" in the group - when I had other things that demanded my attention; and they pulled the same lackadaisical manner on me. Luckily I bring my computer and tell them that when they're ready, I'll join them, until then, I'm working.

Developing Star Performers and Market Research rounded out the classes I took for the mini, and neither was particularly intensive when it came to work requirements. That Mobile project just took all my energy, as did Capstone. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I still have to continue them into next Mini so there's not much of a reprieve. Regardless, I'm getting my money's worth from this degree!