Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. In this special edition we highlight sHeroes from leading mobile game studio King. Today, we publish the last of five King features with Olga Maslovskaya who is Associate Business Performance Manager. Read more about Olga in this interview:
Hey Olga! You are a Associate Business Performance Manager at King. That kind of field is rarely talked about in the games industry, could you tell us a bit about what you do and how it relates to the game development process?
At King a Business Performance Manager is a sort of an analytical Product Manager. We work closely with the game teams, and advise them on a lot of things. My team (called Business Performance Unit) consists of Business Performance Managers and Data Scientists, and together we help the game teams by answering data-related questions and providing insights and learnings from past experiments within the game we work on, as well as across other games at King. I work on Candy Crush Saga, which is mostly developed in Stockholm. But in Berlin we have 2 small teams that contribute to that project, and I am proud to work with them on a game that’s played by millions of people each day.
One example of what I do would be supporting the game team during the phase of a new feature development: to answer questions like what’s the current state of the game (maybe we see that certain aspects of the game are not working / not attractive for our players), how many players would be affected by the change, how to set up the experiments we do (A/B Testing) so that we get the learnings we want and statistically significant results.
I also help producers define priorities for the game and make sure we have a stable backlog of things to do to improve the game. We are a business after all, and need to make sure the game performs according to expectations.
Before working as a Business Performance Manager you were a Data Scientist for King. What was the defining moment in your life, when you decided you wanted to work in these areas?
The switch from being a Data Scientist to being a Business Performance Manager happened rather naturally for me. I like dealing with people, and I love the product I work with. So I started being more and more involved with product-related discussions and decisions during my work as a Data Scientist. I also enjoy the times when I am able to translate statistics and sophisticated analysis that we do into simple learnings and take-aways for non-math people. That helps the game team understand better what the outcome of their work is, and hence makes everybody more involved.
My path to becoming a Data Scientist in the first place is a bit funny. I would say I took many detours in life to get to the job that I currently do. I have studied Japanese language and International Economics in my Bachelor’s. Then during my Master’s I focused on something more applied, and did a degree in Economics & Management, focusing on Marketing and Analytics. For my Master Thesis I was lucky to get an internship at Wooga and write my thesis with their data – I was building a churn-prediction model for one of their games, trying to predict when players are about to stop playing before they actually do, so that they can be targeted in-game and “saved”. That opened the door to the awesome world of analytics in the gaming industry, and I am happy to be part of it now.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a similar career like yours, any first steps?
Don’t be afraid of changing fields if you are not yet doing what you actually want to be doing. It is always hard to start from scratch, and being an intern / junior member of the team might be a bit challenging at a certain age. But everything is possible, and it only takes some years to grow expertise and experience in the field you want.
When it comes to Data Science, I am mostly self-taught: did a number of online courses on R and SQL to get started, and then learnt by doing on the job. I was lucky that my team at King was accommodating for my slow pace in the beginning, and now I got to the level where I can mentor more junior colleagues and help them grow. It definitely feels very rewarding.
Thank you for sharing your insights with us Olga!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. In this special edition we highlight five sHeroes from leading mobile game studio King. Today, we introduce Anastasia Gkelameri who is Junior Data Scientist. Read more about Anastasia in this interview:
Hi Anastasia! You are a Junior Data Scientist at King. The role of a data scientist is not something you hear about a lot, can you tell us a bit about your job and what it revolves around?
Currently I’m working as a Data Scientist in King’s Berlin studio, mainly supporting one of our live games, namely Candy Crush Jelly which is part of the Candy Crush franchise. My job is to help the game team make data-driven decisions as well as to make sure that we avoid various pitfalls coming from the data we use. Most of the work we do boils down to providing sources of truth to our stakeholders so that they have all the right information to run the company; for instance, a simple but essential question to answer would be “How many players did we have yesterday?”. More complicated questions arise, of course, and we dabble in forecasting for the business as well as in solving various optimisation problems on a per game level while it’s in development in order to decide if it provides a good enough player experience before launch.
One of the most powerful methods we use to help us make conclusions about in-game elements is A/B testing; in a nutshell an A/B test is an experiment in which we use our player population to compare two (sometimes even more) variants, A and B, in terms of effectiveness, or which of the two players prefer most. This helps us decide which of the two to keep and make a permanent feature in the game. The tools we use for analytics and other coding work is usually some general purpose programming language like Python, as well as a language like SQL to manage data that we’ve collected that sits in storage, in some kind of database. So as to avoid more technicalities, on a higher level, the job of a Data Scientist is a mix of lots of statistics, programming and some solid math in order to extract knowledge from data.
Before working at King you’ve also been working in jobs outside the gaming industry. What made you want to be a part of this industry, are there any benefits?
The reason why I chose to move into games a couple of years ago was that I simply love the product. Gaming played a big role in my childhood and later life, and I find it very enjoyable to work for a product I personally support and have an intuition for. In various other jobs that happened to be unrelated to the gaming industry I found myself unable to relate to the product, which led to a lack of motivation that affected me personally and professionally. The core of the job is the same in theory; what changes depending on the industry is the application, and how much impact one can have as part of a team. At the moment, I’m grateful to be experiencing a friendly and open work environment that emphasizes diversity and inclusion, space to develop in skills and knowledge, and amazing people to work with and learn from.
If you would have to describe your job to someone else, what do you think is the very best thing about being a Junior Data Scientist?
This is quite a tricky question to answer. In my mind there is not one thing that is “the best“, so I’ll try to summarise the highlights of the job. It never gets mundane, at least for me. There’s always something new to learn or ways to become better in a technique you (think you) already know. The team dynamic plays a major role in ones development; there’s solidarity in knowing that you, as a unit, don’t know about most things, and this is very prominent in the field of Data Science, as most of us come from very different backgrounds and so we take care to complement each other’s skills. In my journey so far, I’ve met many people with such a thirst for knowledge that also fuels mine, actually maybe that *is* the very best thing.
Thank you for your time Anastasia!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke