Why work in production at Improbable?

23 July 2018

Zara Yaqoob works in our Games Development and Production team. Previously, she worked as an Advocate for women in tech and entrepreneurship, and was a Business Associate at Google.

How did you end up at Improbable?

Funny story. So, Improbable was on my radar for some time because I watched a talk at E3 in 2015. I was really quite interested in the tech, I love gaming, and I was impressed by what they could do with this new piece of technology that no one had really heard about. And it always stuck in the back of my mind.

So, when I was looking for opportunities after I finished university, Improbable came to me spontaneously. I started talking to people at the company, there were probably only about sixty people at that time, and it was very clear that everybody bought into the mission and the vision of what they were trying to achieve. I don’t think that vision has changed much today. So, yeah, it was love at first sight.

Now that you’re at Improbable, what’s your favourite part of working here?

I’ve moved around quite a lot, so I’ve seen a lot. I started out in the Enterprise division, as a commercial analyst, and then did project management in various engineering teams. Now, I’m working within the Game Development and Production team. As a gamer, it’s quite interesting to see how games are actually made. There’s been a steep learning curve for me, but that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I am also fortunate to be able to learn from people who’ve got a breadth and depth of knowledge of the games industry, that I currently do not have. It’s very rewarding.

So, connecting those dots… in my specific role as a Project and Operations Manager, I’m very fortunate to have that holistic overview of the technology,  production and commercial facets of games development. It really feeds my natural curiosity about the games industry, about how this type of company functions and evolves as we start to gain more partners. It ticks all the boxes.

Zara Yaqoob at work

What is the actual function of the production division? We’re guessing… production?

The aim of Production at Improbable is to ensure that our development partners are successful in launching their games on SpatialOS. I’m not going to dive into it too deeply because there are so many different angles that we can take to support our partners. There’s mitigating production risk, technical risk and commercial risk, as well as providing monetisation and analytics support. The reason why we’ve taken this approach is that we’ve realised that partners need support that we can provide – because we have the experience and the specialist knowledge that is required to work on SpatialOS specifically. We’re very much of the opinion that our partner’s success is our success. We want them to be successful in their development on SpatialOS.

What have the challenges been for people learning this new Production function for the company?

Before we decided to make this change to a closer working relationship between Improbable and our partners, we talked to existing partners about whether this was something that they wanted. Overwhelmingly, our partners were on board with this.

Like I said before, we have a knowledge of SpatialOS that our partners do not, but there are inherent challenges. For example, some game studios are known for being very private and independent, others want us to get more hands-on. We don’t want to damage our relationship with any partner, so we take a tailored approach for each of them.

What’s exciting about working in the Gaming & Production teams?

One of the great things about Production is that we work with multiple partners at any one time. So, you can work on different projects at once. You can work on a first-person shooter, a real-time strategy game and an MMORPG. There’s a lot of variety and breadth of game genres that you could be working on at any one time.

We also have some of the best people in the games industry working on SpatialOS, so you get to work with industry veterans, which is an amazing opportunity for somebody just starting out. The way that I like to frame it: we’re different from the rest of the games industry because we’re solving problems for people who have extensive skills in game design and development, and a clear vision for their game, but don’t have specialist knowledge of SpatialOS. 

With our assistance and intimate knowledge of SpatialOS, we believe that we can empower them to fulfil their full ambitions for their games. It’s a unique position because you’re essentially the SpatialOS specialist. You work with big companies and they’re looking to you for answers. So you have that responsibility of making those decisions and sharing that knowledge with people we’re working with.

Since your arrival in 2016, you’ve seen the culture develop rapidly. How has it changed?

It hasn’t changed much. There are two things that I consistently really love about Improbable. One is the people – I love the people here! It’s this incredibly bright crowd of people here, who can hold a conversation, have a laugh and don’t take themselves too seriously, and who also happen to be incredibly intelligent – which is just great.

The second thing is that everybody here is genuinely working towards the same mission, the same goal, and that’s always been the case. When you have that shared vision of trying to get somewhere, you realise very quickly that people are willing to do whatever’s possible to get there, and that’s something I’ve just seen time and time again at Improbable. You know with all these kind of opportunities coming through, people just get it done and they do it well. The quality bar is very, very high here.

Do you see this new technology creating new sorts of jobs? What opportunities are developing at Improbable?

There are lots of positions coming up at Improbable, particularly as we want to inject more Games talent into the company. Within Production specifically, we have a number of Game Solutions Engineering roles, which entail working very closely with our partners. This unusual job varies from tackling partner-specific requirements to supporting games with bespoke engine integrations, to providing live ops support.

There are other roles too. The one I’m most excited about is Producer. As a producer, you are ultimately the owner of a game project and are responsible for driving both its commercial and technical success. It’s very different from traditional production, as you’re managing both internal and external party relationships, rather than just an external developer. If you’re the type of person that likes overseeing many different moving parts and are excited to see what our technology can achieve, working in Production is the best of all possible worlds.

To see our current available roles in Production, visit our careers pages.