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Perpetual coffee, personality crisis, and careers in GameDev: ICEF alumni have hosted Unconference

Perpetual coffee, personality crisis, and careers in GameDev: ICEF alumni have hosted Unconference

Big Data: big deal or big hype?

Natalia Lvova, Head of Business Analytics at Axel Springer media company, Berlin

By every measure, data science is just hype, and here’s the reason why: as technologies for data processing and storage evolve, they alter contents and hence change jobs and trades.

How does data affect the final product? Novelist Boris Akunin says he relies on the consumer data to arrive at just the right amount of male and female dialogues to make his next book a bestseller, while Liverpool Football Club hires players based on sport consumers’ search results for “most attractive football players.”

A highly effective data analyst

 formulates the right questions;

 maintains high levels of creativity;

 has problem-solving skills;

 translates technical terms into the language of business;

 thinks critically and spatially;

 structures information easily.

Data science is what economists fit right in just perfectly: with clear vision of the business challenges, economists approach new technologies from the perspective of monetization and strategy, guided by the logic and their ability to discern patterns. As for IT skills, these are a matter of a couple training courses.

It is the ability to analyze data – all sorts of data apart from big – that underlies career success in any field to date.

Job-seeking in Canada: lots of coffee, patience and LinkedIn messaging

Nikita Naichukov, 2016, Associate, Trading & Strat at TD Securities, Toronto

To job-hunt for six months is a norm in Canada, for deliberateness and unhurried manner are intrinsic to the local people.

Unlike how we expect the process to be – with job application to be made first, call waiting and doing an in-person interview – in Canada you are supposed to head on over to LinkedIn, select employers you like best and send them coffee chat requests. What follows next is coffee interviews. You do them over coffee and then it’s either yes or no. 

Canadians tend to be quite conservative. Resumes showing a succession of jobs or job experience in a field different from the one the applicant is qualified for, look suspicious to them. Be prepared to be asked to explain this “chaos”, as they would call it.

I sent some 1,000 LinkedIn messages, did 150 coffee interviews and had just enough of cups to experience eternity

Be prepared for the drudgery of having to tell your story over and over again until you sound a good fit to the conservative Canadian mindset. And do you know what, I landed my job through someone who is an HSE alumnus. Even so, the job quest I have put myself through landed me a lot of friends.

Real branding and what we really know about it

Alena Gladilina, brandmaker, Moscow

Contrary to popular belief, branding goes beyond the visual perception of a brand. Branding is what sets a business apart from its competitors and is a values platform that brings together such vital processes as marketing, logo design and tone of voice in customer service. 

Identity and visual design are what follows after branding, whose core task is to bring out your company’s philosophy. Branding is a way to find a narrative to earn you your unique place on the market. 

That branding is expensive and affordable to only big market players is a myth. It stems from the heavy price tag the design agencies put on their full-service packages. But, if you already have the concept and have shaped your specific request, some of the branding services can be obtained from private contractors with more competitive pricing.

Should branding be started before or after the business is up and running? In fact, it is advisable to have a brand designed as early as your pitching to investors so as to see early whether your brand can work for this or that audience.

The best way to understand how branding works is by practicing it on your own self as if you were a “product”. That’s how I learned it.

Game designers: who they are and why economists feel right at home with GameDev 

Valentina Vorozheikina, game designer, Moscow

Game designer is a cross between a writer, like screen writer in film industry, and programmer. Game designers take creative lead in imagining and bringing to life stories, images of characters and game environment. Bigger game developers usually have narrative designers, whose job is to create the “feel of the game” by adding the right background music and elements of atmosphere. 

And oddly enough, people with the academic background from ICEF seem to be making game dev work for them just perfectly. Economics is there in the game’s world, too. There are values in the virtual world that need to be maintained and balanced as players are progressing in the game.

Game market was doing well even before the pandemic but has made a huge leap forward thanks to it, needing game developers with all sorts of backgrounds. As an industry, game development offers decent pay and captivating tasks that go with it. Three months after I left Changellenge for a new job, I grew to become a super cool and sought-after specialist because game development is utterly lacking in staff.

Valentina Vorozheikina
Valentina Vorozheikina

One product currently trending on GameDev market is mobile games – particularly, casual games, targeted at a wide audience and with various gameplay options, as well as meditation games, which owe their popularity to the bane of our age, stress. While casual segment of the games market grew by 52% in 2020, the entire market for the mobile games, for example on IOS, by 22%.

Games have prototype phases. Those that get 20-40 minutes of gameplay on day 1 and show good metrics can last to day 7, and then, if they garner praise, they can become full-time projects. This is how game dev works on the mobile games market.

As a venue format, Unconference was suggested by ICEF graduates in 2017 to enliven the conventional Alumni Meets. With Christmas tree as backdrop decoration, participants gather for a stand-up with immersive PowerPoints. This year saw Unconference unfold for the third time. Speakers come to tell about their progress, revelations, professional and personal life hacks, and things that make vital sense to all of us and yet defy all proof. Set in an informal atmosphere, Unconference is where hosts and audience can talk on some of the most relevant topics.

What to do if your “successful success” has passed you by

Varvara Danilova, Product Owner at Beluga Group, Moscow

Being at the bottom of the league, not getting a place in a graduate school in London, not getting a job at McKinsey – that can happen too. As Homer Simpson said, “Remember, you will never be completely useless. We can always use you as a bad example.” That’s actually how the majority of people are, taking lumps. So look where you slipped, not where you fell.

All this is extremely vexing, indeed. But don’t hold back emotions – they are to be lived through and can ultimately make our lives better.

The first thing you encounter when you enter the workplace after college is no time for anything. You get frustrated, which is normal, but will find your perfect work/life alignment in a year or so.

After all, life rewards those who are willing to invest in their own progress. So, work a lot and hard enough to be paid off nicely.

Better be sure than sorry. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it is better to understand that something now than carry the weight of it later. Remaining idle would be the worst choice.

Existential crisis hits even when things are going well and welcome back, Depression

It’s a malaise of present-day societies that stems from heightened awareness and watching too much of TV series. You need this crisis actually, because it'll bring you to an improved version of yourself.

If you don't hear people tell you “you’ve been underperforming recently” when you know you’re an underperformer, be sure you are working in the wrong place.

“I don't need to see a counselor.” Are you sure? As our minds get stuck in stereotypes and self-conceptions, it becomes simply necessary to turn to someone who can push us off the hackneyed patterns of behavior and into a new dimension. The mission of a counselor is to turn our eyes to our destructive thoughts and find ways to change them. 

2020 made us face ourselves and denied many of our hopes. Finding a purpose, be it getting your desired job or boosting self-confidence, will be half the battle towards a happier life.

The benefits of networking and where to network amid social distancing

Liza Minaeva, editor-in-chief at Heg.ai, film direction student at the Moscow Art Theater School

Like many people, I used to think that turning ideas into reality was a luxury available only to gods. But, startupers turn out to be ordinary people. They simply continue doing what they do and move forward with what comes out of it.

Job seekers can spare themselves the drudgery of search on HeadHunter website. All we have to do now is write “I’m looking for a job” on Facebook.

We hear teachers tell us at every turn about the importance of networking, but no one tells us what it is. In a professional setting, networking measures by the number of cards one has given out to people and received in exchange, while in real life networking is about people who make you feel good about yourself because you share the same values and because they can help.

Having the right people around opens doors to markets and expertise in any country. It gives the super power of being able to solve any problem.

Your useful connections can land you a mentor who has been through it himself and knows what to advice, a co-founder, a partner, a contractor or an employee. 

Where to source useful connections: heg.ai (experts and investors community), The Breakfast app (co-founders), QD Community (techies and venture guys). 

Digitalization as a catalyst of change in education and life

Alina Myalo, head of IES Evening School at ICEF, lecturer

We tend to spend less time on social networks in 2020… Zoom is our second name. 

As gamification penetrates education, and with it new words such as “examus” and “cyberbroker”, lecturers have received an overdose of digital skills.

We have a few changes coming up:

 online learning opportunities will see further expansion,

 as will personalized learning,

 working from home will become the new normal,

 social media platforms will be used much less often,

 educational online games segment will see further growth,

 privacy will become a basic component of lifestyle and more people will prefer country living to urban life,

 emotional well-being will be seen as an essential social value,

 teaching will become more flexible,

 online guidance counselors and experts in soft skills online training will be growing in number,

 depression will become the norm and likely to lead to improved treatment, adaptation strategies and answers to soul searching questions.