How Playing Video Games Helped Me Achieve My Dream of Getting a Job in Silicon Valley
This story started two years ago, when I was invited by a friend named Borat whom I met in TF2Center (a TF2 competitive matchmaking website) to be a substitute player as the class Soldier in a competitive team for a game. We played a few games while we chatted in Mumble (the Skype of the gaming world), and in the first few games, we clicked pretty well. A few days later, this friend asked if I was interested in joining their team full-time as their main soldier for the upcoming season. I first hesitated, but eventually agreed because I thought the dudes were all very swell.
Fast forward a few months, we were deep into the weekly games. Our team didn’t have the best aim, or the best players, or even the best strategies, but gosh darn, we had team work and good vibes. The group of guys were just great people that encouraged each other when things went south, and in general, made the sometimes-toxic UGC environment tolerable, and even fun!
Speaking of toxicity, this is how the story really started.
As you all know, some teams would bring in unregistered players (often times higher skill divisions than what the current team is), imposters with the same name and display picture (played by a higher level player), or sometimes, players that are unregistered out of not knowing it’s against the rules. Prior to a match, there isn’t much time to actually check one-by-one whether the player on the team is really who they say they are, or whether they’re in the official roster. My team leader, let’s call him Messiah, knew that I was a software developer. He is also one. He expressed to me his frustration, and it clicked to me that maybe I should try to take a stab at solving this problem.
A few weeks later, the UGC Roster Verification tool (now offline) was born. Initially, only the players in the team used it. After awhile, I started sharing it on /r/tf2 (Reddit TF2 subreddit), /r/truetf2 (Reddit competitive TF2 subreddit), the UGC forums (TF2 competitive league), TF2Center (TF2 competitive matchmaking) forums, and more, and it kinda blew up. I recall over 1000 unique players used it, and for a kid like me, that was pretty insane. Hearing people’s thoughts on the tool prompted me to learn to gather user feedback, test for bugs, and ultimately implement new features to it. This was a great feeling, and it really trained me to become a better software and product developer.
Fast forward a few more months, the team sort of disbanded because we all had real life responsibilities to attend to (although no worries, we all shoot the shit on our Slack channel on a daily basis). I was talking to Messiah how I was graduating soon in June 2016, and whether he has any tips for me for job search.
Little did I know, Messiah, who I absolutely admire because he is also the main dev of another popular TF2 website, works in a company in Silicon Valley. I was absolutely flabbergasted. Recall, I’ve known him for around a year and a half by now, and this is the first time I knew about this. He keeps it very low key, a hint to his character. He asked me if I was interested in his company, which is conveniently located in the center of Silicon Valley.
Am I interested? Am I?? My life long dream has been to work in Silicon Valley. I think interested was an understatement. I was more like — heck yeah I am!
I honestly tried to apply for internships in this area all five years of my college career, with no luck each time. Being able to begin my career in the Valley would actually fulfill a long-time dream of mine.
Messiah put in a good word for me to the CEO of the company knowing what I did with the UGC Roster Verifier tool (and our fun technical discussions on coding and tech in Slack/Mumble), and I scheduled my first call with them.
One call led to another technical call. Then a third culture call. Then finally, I was invited to their office in the Valley for a full day of on-site interviews. I flew over from the East coast; everything was paid for. Was I nervous? Goddamn I was. At this point, I was rejected by a few companies already, and morale was at a new low.
I arrived at their office a few weeks later in beautiful California. I went through the rounds of interviews starting at 9 AM. After the seven and a half hours of interviews, of testing me everything from algorithms, data structures, building simple apps, asking me questions about design/UX/UI, career motivations, culture fit questions, and more, it was over. I was emotionally/physically/mentally exhausted, but I felt good. I even got to meet Messiah in person for the first time in two years, and he gave me a TF2 shirt. Even after meeting him in person, I still can’t put a face to his voice from Mumble. It’s just too unreal.
After I flew home, I went through one more phone technical interview with them, just to get more data. Considering they are a data analytics company, that made a lot of sense.
So after around 11+ combined hours of interviews, one day, my now-boss called me to extend me an offer. It was my first offer, from a company of my dreams, and after all those rejections! I don’t think happiness described it. After literally nine months of rejections after rejections, of reviewing those excruciating data structures and algorithms questions (which takes time away from me from developing great applications), of waking up knowing I *still* don’t have a job while friends around me were getting offers — it was finally over. It actually took me three days to fully process the mental load that it’s over.
I achieved my dream, but I didn’t do it alone. Playing TF2 actually helped me achieve my dream. Thank you Messiah, Borat, and the rest of the team for being such good people. I honestly can say I couldn’t have done it without them!
So this is my story of how TF2 helped me achieved my dream of getting a job in Silicon Valley.
The lesson I learned is — just be a good person. Be a good person even under the veil of anonymity. You don’t know when it will bite you in the butt, or when it will literally help you achieve your dreams. Just do it!