Opportunities on the way
App development involves numerous career opportunities right from entry-level testers to business development managers. “Entry-level people can test applications. Then there are people who reformat applications, for instance if there’s a wallpaper of the latest movie then they have to ensure that it supports 18 different phones and screen sizes. At a slightly higher level, there are opportunities on the programming side. Then there’s the need for artists, visualizers and creative people to come in and design these applications. There are also numerous opportunities for product and business development managers.” In India, games are the most popular apps being built, but video and music apps are also becoming important. Vishal also points out that we will see a lot of enterprise apps because businesses want to be phone-enabled.
Know your forte
For those who think mobile app development is the place to be, it is important to know where specifically within the development domain their interest lies. Vishal says, “It is important to know which segment you are looking to work for, that is designing, programming or product development, but I think the primary requirement for people is to know apps well. A lot of the time we come across people who want to pursue a career in game development but don’t remember the last time they even played a game on a phone. I think the starting point should be to start using a lot of these apps and to get an idea of user interface and design. There are a lot of resources online that talk about building apps and there are many groups and forums you can participate in to get queries clarified, ask basic questions and chat. I think you need to engage in online gaming and application development communities.” Furthermore, programming knowledge is important only if you are actually creating the software for iOS, Android or other platforms. Then, testing comes into the picture, wherein one needs to think of all possible scenarios and see what could cause a crash. Programming knowledge isn’t essential for those who want to pursue a career as an app designer. Vishal describes mobile app development as movie making, wherein a group of people with different and relevant skill sets come together.
What you need to know
While hiring, Vishal looks for programming knowledge only if the person wants be a programmer. The rest is basic understanding and aptitude. He didn’t take any classes, but he loved gaming and programming, and eventually the hobby turned into a business. “When I started, all I had was a computer and a few books; not even an Internet connection. Today, students can use the various tools available online to hone their skills," he says. “My first bit of advice is that aspirants should use as many apps as possible and get a good smartphone be it Windows, Android or iPhone. They need to experience apps before they can create them. Moreover, be active on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets, find relevant groups, and participate in forums.”
The world of gaming can be quite engaging, not to mention addictive. For those who aren’t fond of console games, lighthearted social games have evolved as a perfect solution. The fact that they can be played in the company of family and friends has added to their popularity.
Shan Kadavil holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering from Model Engineering College, Cochin, and is an entrepreneur at heart. He started out as a programmer and went on to establish Dbaux Technologies, a cloud/ appliance based product company. However, there is nothing he enjoys more than the challenges of building scalable organisations, mentoring talent, and fostering a fun and productive culture within the organisation. Little wonder that as the Country Manager at Zynga India today, what also finds a place of pride on his resume is his Farmville score.
Shan Kadavil, Country Manager, Zynga India
Developing a social game is significantly shorter and faster than PC or console games. Social games allow you to iterate and improvise constantly even after launch.
– Shan Kadavil, Country Manager, Zynga India
Gaming goes social
The social networking phenomenon has also given rise to a wave of social gaming. India has over 10 million social gamers. While it’s true that these games were made popular by social networking sites, they have now emerged as social networks in themselves; platforms that allow players to bond over common interests. Speaking about what makes them popular, Shan Kadavil says “Social games offer fun, entertaining and enjoyable social interactions that are inspiring more people to play. With social games, you make a connection with your friends whenever you play and that connection is creating a new daily habit of play for more people. After we launched FarmVille, Zynga saw a new audience for games emerge."
Gaming vs. Social games
When you think of gaming, you invariably think about console games. While both forms have to undergo the same stages of development, there are a couple of things that set them apart. Explaining this, Shan says, “For one thing, developing a social game is a significantly shorter and faster process than PC or console games, which are lengthy, more complex and hence take longer. Another significant difference is the fact that social games allow you to iterate and improvise constantly even after launch, based on player feedback. This makes social games dynamic and exciting to work on.” Shan wants to connect the world through games. He says, “We believe social games are the future of gaming, both on the Web and on mobile devices. People want to connect with their friends for brief moments during the day and share experiences no matter where they are. Also, we believe that the future of games is free to play. There are three major shifts happening in the market right now—the app economy, the social Web, and the user pay economy. Zynga is able to leverage all three of these. We want to inspire people to put more play in their day.”
Social game development
Shan is quite bullish about the opportunities in the social gaming arena. He believes that social gaming will be big in the coming years and is also positive that India has the talent to cater to the demand. That’s one of the reasons that made Zynga open an office in India, Shan says, “The social gaming industry in India is growing rapidly and going through changes in all aspects of game design. I believe that a career in social gaming is as exciting as playing them as long as you are creative and passionate about bringing play to people. A game studio requires strong talent across a range of skill sets from engineering, game design, art, product management and quality assurance.”
When looking for a candidate, Zynga looks for people who have a solid understanding of their discipline be it art, engineering or management. They also need to have the ability to learn, adapt and lead change. Apart from that Shan says they also look for candidates who are creative thinkers and amazing problem solvers. He says, “Besides having a passion for developing games, at Zynga we look for those who have the right mix of excellent analytical skills and high creativity so that they are able to excel in the dynamic and fast-paced manner in which we work.” But it’s not as easy as it sounds and Shan cautions students to do thorough research about the demands of this profession before taking the plunge. And if you have made up your mind about this field then it’s a good idea to start putting your thoughts down on paper. He says, “Like any other career, you must be passionate about games if you want to be a game developer. One also needs to keep himself/herself up to date on the industry and the developments that impact it as a whole. I would advise students to start experimenting; make a game on paper, and make games with your friends. Your first game will probably not be the best one you ever make, but it is an important step.”
What it takes to work at Google
Google is a brand that needs no introduction. The various services and products coming out of the Google labs have transformed the Internet. It has been a true game-changer and continues to be one. No wonder then it’s also dream workplace for individuals who want to make a mark in technology.
A BCom graduate from Mithibai College, Mumbai, Jayashri Ramamurti went on to pursue a PGDPM&IR, Management (Postgraduate Diploma Program in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations) from the reputed XLRI, Jamshedpur. She has an experience of over a decade in managing HR for companies including Titan, Arvind Mills Limited and Hutchison Max Telecom Limited. Since 2006 she has been the Head of People Operations, Engineering and Products, Google India.
Jayashri Ramamurti, Head of People Operations, Engineering and Products, Google India
We take our interview process seriously, because we believe that if we hire the right kind of people then most things fall into place.
– Jayashri Ramamurti, Head of People Operations, Engineering and Products, Google India
What does it take?
Google has engineering facilities in Hyderabad and Bangalore, apart from sales offices in Mumbai and Gurgaon. Some of the projects underway in India include Map Maker and Geo. There are opportunities not only for engineers and programmers but even salespeople, product managers, interaction designers and more.
Jayashri elaborates, “The ability to work with a team is critical irrespective of whether you are in engineering, sales or even HR, as we rely heavily on collaboration. The ability to deal with change in a fast paced environment is also typically what we look for. Somebody who is used to being at a senior level in a hierarchical setup will probably find difficult to adjust. We are very fl at and don’t believe in too many hierarchies. The ability to deal with a fl at kind of structure is something that we typically look for. Another important aspect is strong coding skills. We look for people who are very much in touch with coding. At Google even managers spend a lot of time coding.” Apart from technical skills and aptitude they also give preference to people with well-rounded personalities. They look for people who are passionate about some hobby or talent—anything from music to trekking or even a socially relevant project.
Joining the ranks
You might have heard stories about the elaborate interview process at Google, which can take a couple of months. Jayashri explains that it’s just a precaution. She says, “I wouldn’t say that it is easy, but for the right candidate with the right skills whose fundamentals are good, Google is certainly an option. We take our interview process seriously, because we believe that if we hire the right people then most things fall into place. If that means going through more rounds of interviews, then so be it. We like to do due diligence in terms of getting feedback from people within Google about a candidate before we take the final decision. So we take our time over every hire, but we try to keep the candidate informed as much as possible about expected timelines”. She states further, “Typically, a candidate goes through about four rounds of interviews. For freshers we have a written test as well. The level of expectations is different for a college student than for someone who is experienced. But even they go through a fairly detailed process. We visit college campuses and even have students approaching us directly. Even they go through multiple rounds of interviews and the process is more or less the same.”
Interning with Google
Google is a great place for internships. If you are able to prove your mettle then you might be absorbed into the company. Jayashri says, “Ideally we would like to have longer internship projects, as then that gives us an opportunity to give them more long drawn out projects. So we do go to colleges and solicit applications and we also interview people for internships. We take our internships very seriously and give projects that are meaningful, because this is a very good source of data for us. We evaluate the internship projects and those who have done well end up becoming full time Googlers. Even in that case they have to go through interviews.”
Google as a workplace
Google offices are well known for the facilities provided to employees. “People have a lot of fun working, but a lot of serious work happens behind all that fun. We encourage innovation irrespective of which function one is in, not just engineering, but across the organisation. So I would say it’s an innovative, fun kind of organisation, but there is also a lot of transparency and collaboration. There is a lot of internal mobility; we have people moving from one role to another, which may be very diverse even in geography. We encourage people to move, we provide them with the tools that will enable them to do so and we make them aware of the opportunities”.