Staff interview: Rob
Rob Towell, Director of Engineering
How does an average day look like for you?
During my time at Wizcorp I do not think I could define an average day, especially in my current role. The work we have is so diverse there is always something to learn and something outside of our comfort zone.
I try to break my days into three time slots: Morning (and I am not a morning person), early afternoon, and late afternoon. I spend my mornings catching up with the projects I oversee and emails for hiring and recruiting. This is also time I use to reach out to the engineers in my team and assist with any blockers they may have. I try to have my meetings in the early afternoon so that if there is anything urgent that needs to be dealt with I can do so right away. In the late afternoon I try to spend time on project work.
This would be ideal, but it often does not go as planned. I also try to keep mid-week for project workdays when I am working as a project lead to give myself fixed time blocks during which I can put my head down and get some programming done.
How did your career evolve at Wizcorp?
I’ve had a fun ride at Wizcorp so far, and it is the place where I really started my game development career. Before coming to Wizcorp, I spent eight years as a software engineer in corporate environments. Jumping into the game industry is no easy task and requires a lot of skillsets that are unique to games. I started as a junior to mid-tier engineer and had to quickly learn new technology stacks as well as transferring my knowledge of C# into a Unity environment. The first few years were a bit of a roller-coaster, but having a strong lead engineer guiding me along the way helped me quickly bridge the gaps in my knowledge.
The middle few years, I started to take more ownership over projects as a lead engineer. This at the time was way outside my comfort zone; I not only had to make sure a project was on track, allocate work, and make sure everything was running smoothly, but also produce high quality architectural designs for game systems.
In the past 2 years I’ve stepped up into the Director of Engineering role where I am really learning the intricacies of management. I also feel that being a small company, Wizcorp’s roles are not as defined as in some big corporations. I enjoy this because even in my role I get to do tasks that are not normally associated with my position.
I also want to highlight that people who tend to thrive and enjoy their work the most at Wizcorp are those who welcome new challenges and who are ready to get their hands dirty in all types of work outside their job descriptions, even when they don't know how to tackle them at first.
What do you find the most annoying?
Being a third-party contracting company, our business margins are very thin. We are not always guaranteed work all year around and this unfortunately limits the salaries we can pay to our engineers compared to other large game companies or even other technology focused companies against which we are competing for engineers.
With remote work now a heavy influence inside Wizcorp it is an opportunity to allow our engineers to work further outside of Tokyo, but some of the appeal of Japan is the Tokyo experience. I hope that as the company grows and we gain more experience in our current game development area we can improve this situation.
What do you like the most at Wizcorp?
I think this is going to be echoed by most people who will write about their daily job on the blog. The people in Wizcorp are some of the most respectful and professional people I have worked with. They are also some of the most fun and I have made some great friends over the years.
The other major point is the working environment. Over the past year with the pandemic, it has been made clear to me that Wizcorp cares about its employees, their safety, and what matters to them. I have tasks to improve the work-from-home situation and as a company, we are striving to improve our working environment every day.
What have you learned?
I have learnt a lot about the good points and the bad points of the game industry. I think one of the biggest differences between games and other software engineering is the creative process. As a software engineer this can be challenging, you always want to produce high quality code but often as you move through the game development lifecycle, code is replaced, or thrown away completely. Knowing when to spend the time writing high quality code and when to get a feature in front of the game designer fast is very important.
Not getting attached to code or the perfect process has been a learning experience. Working with bigger studios and seeing a few weeks of work thrown out because of a design change has been more common than I would have liked but at the end of the day I feel that the game has always been better for it.
I think to some extent it was my own assumptions about how games are developed that led me to be frustrated with the creative process; it’s often messy and never straightforward, but having flexibility in the way you approach problems and how you deal with changes is a huge part of making a successful game.
What are your aspirations?
I think for me the biggest aspiration I have right now is to help grow an engineering team that can tackle the hardest engineering problems out there and do so whilst having the right mindset to always be learning.
What would you want someone interested in Wizcorp to know?
I think to work in an environment like this you must have a certain perspective on how you approach work. Be mindful that Wizcorp isn't the perfect company and we do not have everything nailed down into a fixed process that you can just slot into. You will have to work with your manager to find what work suits you best, what you can do, and what you will need to spend time skilling up. Being prepared to tackle things you wouldn’t normally associate with the role is also important.