You’ll notice that I’ve missed a few posts recently. My weeks are generally jam-packed, so I literally only set aside ninety minutes on Wednesday mornings to write and post these entries. The weeks I don’t post anything are simply days when something else eats up that timeslot.
My previous Wednesdays which interrupted this blog were actually pretty noteworthy. First, I recently spent the entire day with Riot’s CFO and General Counsel talking to folks at Google in their Mountain View headquarters. The three of us have also spent time visiting Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (right before they changed CEOs… yikes!). In all four visits, we met with long-tenured leaders from the company’s HR, Finance, and Legal functions and toured their headquarters, talking in-depth and scribbling in notepads.
Why on Earth would the three of us be touring tech companies in Silicon Valley? Simply put, all four companies have experienced incredibly high growth in the recent past. We thought that we could learn a lot about the choices they made when scaling and growing exponentially. How did they keep their cultures alive as they grew and hired at such a fast clip? When did they start seeing the need for more “traditional” processes (at Riot, we don’t have budgets, or headcount approvals, or, well… lots of things that are normal faire at other companies)? What are decisions they made when scaling that they wish they could take back? What are decisions they made that paid unexpected dividends? What advice would they give a pre-IPO, high-growth start-up? These trips constitute a learning journey for Riot Games, because we understand that the daily dilemmas we face as we grow are, for the most part, anything but novel.
At some point in the near future I’ll probably take space here to outline what we’re discovering. The similarities in the four stories are fascinating, despite four very different companies (for what it’s worth, we share the most cultural DNA with Facebook and Google, so those stories were particularly powerful). Each of us took away tons of lessons for our individual areas (the Talent learnings… they are many!) and we’re collectively seeing themes that will help us grow. Before I share anything here, though, we’re gearing up to visit one or two more companies, and then summarize it all for our two co-founders Brandon and Marc.
My reason for mentioning the visits today is my continued amazement that we’re even having these trips. All three of us are in critical, key roles at Riot. Our calendars are jungles, full of urgent, hair-on-fire problems present at any company—particularly one in our maturity stage. Yet the three of us cleared our schedules to take days out of the office for these trips so that we can learn and prepare for the future. We literally bombarded our hosts with questions, so much so that one company quipped that we were like excited siblings.
On the plane back to LA, I reflected on the very act of these trips. Pretty cool. I continue to be impressed at Riot’s innate humility and desire to learn, and it’s those two attributes that make me most optimistic about our future.
And then, one week ago today, I spent the day at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, a huge videogame annual trade fair. Even though I’m a lifelong gamer, I am new to this industry so have never experienced conventions or conferences dedicated to games. This, too, was a learning journey.
Being at E3 was like spending the day in a big, loud, gaming playground. Movie screen-sized monitors filled the convention center, each showing trailers to new videogames. Each booth competed for the crowds’ attention through promotions, often involving cosplay, animatronic robots, or parade-like displays. For example, for the new Walking Dead game, there were creepily-realistic zombies shuffling at random through the crowd the entire day, which was especially funny at they shambled by the Disney Infinity or Skylanders booth. Speaking of Disney, there were also Disneyland-like lines. People waited for hours to play fifteen minutes of an unreleased game. I think the Star Wars: Battlefront line crept up to three hours at one point.
I left my day at E3 with a headache from sensory overload, footsore because of constant walking, and entirely giddy. I’m a pretty niche gamer; I’ve never played console games (with the exception of Wii, which we have in our house for jump-around sports and dance games), don’t like horror games or first-person shooters, and have switched my attention away from solo gaming experiences. I like superheroes, PC MMOs and role-playing games, arcade fighting games, and now MOBAs like League of Legends. Even with these fairly narrow gaming interests, I was in heaven. I now can’t wait for Gigantic and Battleborn, both of which feel like first-person League experiences. Lego Avengers looked a lot cooler than I expected. Street Fighter V was just as cool as I expected. And instead of long lines, I spent a ton of time going to the smaller-company booths and playing smaller-distribution games that I probably won’t buy but which made for a hoot of a day.
All the while, I was absorbing the landscape of videogames today and meeting people who populate that landscape. It was not only a complete nerd-immersion, it was pretty darned valuable for my actual role too.
Sum up both Wednesdays, and it’s pretty easy to come to one conclusion…
I love my job!