Playing games at work
As part of an ongoing series to spotlight GPS’s top employers, we profile why Sony PlayStation hires our graduates, plus why current alumni enjoy working there
By Rachel Hommel | GPS News
Who says you can’t play video games at work? Becoming experts in translating data, alumni from the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) chart the path in advancing unconventional insights about technology, all while developing analytic tools with real-world applications.
At Sony PlayStation, work-life balance exists. Each of our graduates echoed their applause at the respectful work environment, laidback culture and employee focused nature of Sony PlayStation, which is full of data geeks, gamers and global leaders.
“Sony PlayStation has been a fantastic source of hiring of GPS grads, with eight hired over the past few years. In particular, Sony appreciates the strong analytics training our students receive,” said David Robertson, director of Career Services. “And our interdisciplinary focus helps too – being able to approach problems from multiple viewpoints, with training in management, economics and policy as well as cultural proficiencies, especially for Japan, that many of our students have.”
Below we highlight three GPS data experts at Sony PlayStation and how they made their tech dreams come true, all while staying in Sunny San Diego.
Amandine Berro, MIA ‘16
When a game is created, Berro is the go-to resource working directly with studios and the broader Sony Interactive Entertainment community. As a data analyst for the IT department, her work supports the studios, from building models to help optimize resource allocation to building reports to help daily operations.
“The ability to explain data to non-data people and being able to speak both ‘business’ and ‘numbers’ is an invaluable skill,” said Berro. “You do it all the time at GPS without realizing it so definitely keep at it! It is rare in the professional setting to find someone who can translate more technical information into business talk to managers.”
In her current position, projects change every few weeks, keeping her always learning. Offering the flexibility and versatility to try new things, every day is an opportunity to work on a new game or celebrate a launch. From 24-hour gaming marathons with local hospitals to video giveaways for staff, it’s a fun and collaborative work environment of global heights.
“I love that my coworkers come from all around the world, and that my department is spread across 3 regions – the U.S., Europe and Japan,” said Berro. “While it makes scheduling meetings sometimes challenging, it is always fascinating to meet people from across the globe.”
From her time at GPS, she cannot stress enough the importance of communicating data. While she believes GPS gave her the hard skills, specifically the quantitative classes, she recommends to students the equal importance of nurturing soft skills and your own brand.
“I’ve learned it’s just as critical how to talk to management and translate the business demands into data or engineering requirements,” said Berro. “The consulting classes, such as the ones taught by Professors Richard Sinkin and David Michael, have helped me think along those lines.
Blake Ellison, MPIA ‘11
For Ellison, GPS opened the door to his career path as the technical engineering manager within Business Intelligence Services. From skills picked up in the International Management career track to the professional Japanese language ability learned in his regional focus, he is grateful for the countless ways his degree has helped him gain an intimate familiarity with data.
“I greatly enjoyed learning about both business strategy and Japan from Professor Ulrike Schaede as well as learning R that gave me confidence in data, code and collaborating with others,” said Ellison.
While no two days are alike, his group works to measure PlayStation user activity in a way that’s private and secure. This includes establishing KPIs (key progress indicators), writing engineering specs, explaining functionality to engineers, testing the tracking in pre-release beta and teaching business analysts how to use tools and data. Interested in applying? Ellison recommends having direction and specific goals.
“Know exactly why you’re applying. The reason should be specific. Your goal should include one or two specific industries, a specific skillset and a specific combination of geographies such as the U.S. and Japan,” said Ellison. “That way you maximize your investment of the two years of school and don’t lose time trying to figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing.”
For Ellison, that industry was always video gaming. Since the age of eight, his goal was to attend E3, the video game industry’s annual trade show. Thanks to PlayStation, his dreams were realized, citing the experience as all the joys of Christmas morning, but for big kids. Historically limited to industry personnel, he knew he had made it.
“Nothing beats attending E3. Gaining the privilege of going was the cumulation of all my dreams of working in the games business,” said Ellison. “Once I set foot on that show floor, it all sank in that my dreams had come true. I couldn’t have done it without all the skills I had picked up in GPS.”
William Honaker, MIA ‘16
Since PlayStation is a Japanese company, Honaker applauds and highlights the language skills acquired at GPS. As the web analytics implementation developer, many of his weekly tasks and phone calls take place in the Japanese language, recalling former Professor Eiko Ushida’s business Japanese classes as well as big data courses.
“While Japanese language ability is not required, it will definitely help you standout for a large variety of positions,” said Honaker. “Knowing Japanese proved to be very valuable in my career.”
As a developer, his position bridges engineering, web development and data analysis, noting Professor Roger Bohn’s Big Data Analytics course as invaluable, which presents data analytics and programming concepts from a business perspective. Adding to his data programming portfolio at PlayStation, Honaker designs and maintains data collection and reporting for a variety of services, such as the suite of PlayStation mobile apps.
“The GPS quantitative classes are a great introduction to data and programming concepts,” said Honaker. “I would also recommend building out a portfolio of data-related projects that demonstrate not only technical prowess, but also the ability to explain data reporting in a business context.”
Data is king at his job, as well as team camaraderie with his GPS classmates spanning the globe. With trips to the London and Tokyo offices offering memorable experiences, Honaker cites the work culture as being second to none. Each year, PlayStation holds an internal hackathon. This past year, Honaker was able to present a web app built from scratch that displays streaming data.
“Building the app was a lot of fun, but what makes it more satisfying is knowing the things I learned and discovered are immediately applicable to the business at large,” said Honaker. “The best part of working here is the abundance of opportunities to learn – there are always areas for further development and innovation, which the leadership encourages.”
Want to work at Sony PlayStation? GPS alumni advise to…
“…work on your understanding of data related questions: even if you don’t want to work in a quantitative field, being able to understand what the data is, how it is structured and how it impacts the business is very important.” – Amandine Berro ‘16
“…master both quantitative methods and business management. That combination of skills is broadly useful at technology companies, and PlayStation’s business provides more and more online services.” — Blake Ellison ‘11
“…know how to work with big data, know Japanese and be ready to talk about your favorite PlayStation video games.” – William Honaker ‘16