career day advice

Career Day James Gwertzman Vice President, Asia/Pacific PopCap Games

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Post on 11-Aug-2014




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This is a presentation I gave at "Career Day" to graduating seniors at my children's school last fall. I'm sure most of the lessons in here went in one ear and out the other, since you can't really understand this stuff until you've been out there for a while.


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Career Day

James GwertzmanVice President, Asia/Pacific

PopCap Games

Page 2: Career Day Advice

What happens AFTER graduation?

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You live in a knowledge economyYour knowledge and skills create your success

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You build your own career path

You must figure out yourself:• Where you want to go• How to get there

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Who am I?

Vice President, Asia/Pacific











Game Designer


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Careers are messy

• Don’t be taken in by clean career narratives– Every career, in hindsight, forms a narrative– But that’s not how you experience it

• Life is actually a series of decisions & branches– Very different “in the moment” than looking back

• No one follows a straight path

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What my resume shows…


MicrosoftProgram Manager


Microsoft, Asia HQOnline Mktg Mgr


Escape FactoryPresident


Sprout GamesManaging Director


PopCap GamesDirector Business Development


PopCap Games, AsiaVP Asia/Pacific


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What it actually felt like…

Where should I go after I


I’m bored… I should quit and

join a startup

Wow, Asia is fun but I really want to do a startup.. But what? How about games?

I failed, now what?

Success!! It’s great that so many people want to buy us. What

should we do?

Should I help PopCap expand to Asia? Or run its Online business

in North America?

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On making career decisions…

• You won’t know till later which decisions mattered– So don’t stress about them too much…– And never stress about the paths you didn’t choose– You don’t have as much control as you think

• Some general principles you can follow– Follow your heart– Stay focused– Line up the next shot

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If you follow your heart…

• You’ll work harder• You’ll be happier• You’ll be more passionate about your work• You’ll be more fun to work with• People will like you more• You are much more likely to be successful• You’ll get more and more opportunities• Money and status will follow….

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This is not as easy as it sounds!

• You’ll feel pressure to conform– Pressure from parents (“Get a good job”)– Pressure from your friends (“Get a BMW”)– Pressure from society (“Successful people drive

BMW’s…”)• Pressure from yourself (“I want a BMW”)

• You may not be any good at it• Your heart may not know what it wants

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Seek greatness, not money

• Greatness is not measured in money• Answer for yourself what it means to be great– Making a difference in lives of others?– Making the most of your talents or opportunities?– Having an impact on the world?

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Be honest with yourself

• Everyone has strengths and weaknesses– It is very hard to change yourself…

• Pick a career that plays to your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses

• Be ruthlessly honest with yourself– If it’s not working out, life is telling you something

• Not everyone can be a rock & roll star– But maybe you can do PR in the music industry…

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Hold onto your hobbies

• Your hobby can help you find your path– No one cares what you do for fun– So you can try a lot of different things– Figure out what you really love

• Everyone needs a way to recharge• Take your hobby seriously– You never know where it will lead

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Loved going backstage as a kid

Joined stage crew in high school

Ran stage crew as a junior & senior (TD)

Designed the set for “Pirates of Penzance”

Worked at a summer theatre festival

Designed sets for many shows at college

TheatreLearned programming as a kid

Wrote an email system for my high school

Majored in computer science at college

Summer internship at Microsoft

First job at Microsoft


Summer job building computers

Started a computer game company!

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Stay focused• Be careful about jumping around too much– Beware of “grass is greener” syndrome

• Stick with something to build a reputation– Companies want to see that narrative

• To change careers, “line up the next shot”

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On getting your first job

• Starting a career is daunting• To get a job, you need experience– But experience comes from the job, right?

• How to break into any career?• Just do it!– Work for free– Volunteer (but be serious about it!)– Do it as your hobby– Find someone to shadow– Create your own job

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On interviewing for a job

• Things I look for when hiring:– Passion– Horsepower– Effectiveness– Cultural fit

• Why should I hire you? How do you stand out?• Best thing I want to hear:– “What is your toughest problem? Give it to me and I’ll

make it go away.”

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On succeeding at work

• Good managers love initiative– Nothing helps you stand out more

• Put yourself in your manager’s shoes– How can you help your manager the most?– It’s not about you anymore…

• Most powerful words in business:– “I made a mistake and I need your help”

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On the importance of humility

• Be humble when changing schools / jobs• You need to be willing to take one step back in

order to take many steps forward• No one knows yet how great you are– Let them discover it for themselves– Don’t worry, they will

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On mentors

• Mentors are key to your success– They can open doors and give you honest feedback– It’s like getting another brain… You can tap into their

experience, contacts, wisdom, etc.• Figure out what skills or experience you lack– Then go seek it out…– Everyone loves to talk about themselves– Don’t be afraid to talk to the CEO

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On mentors

• Mentors are key to your success– They can open doors and give you honest feedback– It’s like getting another brain… You can tap into their

experience, contacts, wisdom, etc.• Figure out what skills or experience you lack– Then go seek it out…– Everyone loves to talk about themselves– Don’t be afraid to talk to the CEO

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On the importance of luck

• Don’t underestimate the importance of luck– But don’t just wait around either

• You need to put yourself in the path of luck

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On importance of communication

• Everything in life is communication• Become an expert communicator– This is a life-long task…– Start now!

• Treat every writing assignment as good practice– School essays are great opportunities to learn– Don’t treat them like a horrible chore– Master the essay and nothing can stop you

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• Best advice I ever got from a teacher– Applies to all aspects of life

• Never make it hard for someone to help you• Put yourself in their shoes– Filing expenses– Submitting a term paper– Applying for a job

“Your job is to make it as easy as possible for me to give you an A”

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On Intellectual curiosity

• The world is a fascinating place• There is so much out there to learn• Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school– For some people learning starts when they leave

• Be an active learner– Follow your interests– Use school to learn HOW to learn

• Read, read, read– Most great leaders are avid readers

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On work life balance

• No one ever looks back at their life and wishes they worked harder

• People do look back and wish they spent more time with family & friends

• Early part of your career is the time to work the hardest

• Establish yourself and figure out where to focus your career

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James [email protected]