Meet Mr. Shuai Liu
Shuai is a software engineer at one of the world’s largest video game developers, Blizzard Entertainment. Watch the video and keep reading below to hear about Shuai’s experience in the video game industry working on many aspects of game development.
Interview with Shuai
Have you always wanted to go into programming as a child?
Where I grew up, personal computers weren’t really a thing. However, I was lucky enough that the elementary school I went to actually had a special computer lab. Early on in my childhood, I was introduced to ‘BASIC’ programming, and since then I was hooked. It was fascinating what you could accomplish. Although I went to college for biology, programming had always been an interest of mine, so then I went to graduate school for computer science. Growing up, I did not know what I wanted to do, but it has been a wonderful circle, helping me realize that computer programming was where my passion is.
How did you get into the video game software development industry?
I got into the video game industry mostly by chance. My first job in software development was a consulting firm; we built custom solutions for our customers. One day, I was lucky enough to be introduced to video game software development. A friend of mine told me that there was a startup in the area starting this new game development studio. So, absolutely, I was interested. I really enjoy working in the field and being a gamer myself, I relate to the product better because I’m making things that I care about.
What do you enjoy the most about being a software engineer in the video game industry?
Working at Blizzard, one of the largest gaming platforms in the world, we’re always looking to expand, become more accessible, and provide a better experience for the people. No matter how much you know or how much you learn, there’s always more you’re going to do. It’s a never ending challenge and learning experience. It brings me enjoyment to produce products that I myself appreciate while working with people who share the same passion.
What is one thing that you wish you had known before starting your career?
Early in my career, the work life balance was pretty bad. There was a lot of overtime number crunching, and it wasn’t uncommon to work 60 hours a week/7 days a week. You can get burned out that way. But throughout the years, the gaming industry has matured a lot, and we’ve been taking a more maintainable and respectful approach when it comes to work life balance.
Day in the Life (not in pandemic):
First thing we’re covering in the morning is to make some coffee; don’t have a conversation with me before I drink coffee because it will not be a good experience. I have a five year old so in the morning, I help my wife to get him ready to go to school. We’ll drop him off and go to work. My wife actually works in the gaming industry as well; we both work at Blizzard Entertainment. Get to work, make another pot of coffee. I’m one of the engineering managers here, so I do a bit more cross team collaboration. My work day consists of collaborative conversation and looking at high level initiative and design with other teams for stakeholders, or customers. We will then look at some things that are on the roadmap for right now or maybe in the next quarter. As a manager, I spend a good amount of time coaching for the professional development of all the individuals on the team as well. When I find some time, I try to get my hands on a keyboard to do some coding as well, but nowadays it’s a little bit limited there.
What kind of skills would you say are important for a job like yours?
Being a self starter certainly helps. There’s always new technology that you need to learn about, right? Having both the interest and the drive/initiative is important. Problem solving skills are also critical as well as having the analytic skills to understand the root cause of the issue and then coming up with a solution to be able to solve it. In terms of soft skills like collaboration and communication, I would say it’s a highly collaborative environment not just for people within the team, but also for the people across teams as well. You will never really work on something all by yourself, so we always have constant communication to make sure that we understand some of the challenges our customers are facing and what we can do to allow us to be the force multiplier that provides a service that enhances the experience of all our games.
What would you say to a student who is interested in pursuing a career in software development?
Everybody should learn how to program. Whether you want to be a programmer or not, it’s a very useful skill in a lot of other science fields as well. There are so many resources available now compared to back then, so there are many opportunities. Pick up a programming language and have some fun. Even if it’s not something you want to do longer term for your career, it is a very useful tool to add to your ‘arsenal’.
What do you think are some advancements that will happen in your field in the future?
One big advancement is to continue to provide accessibility and service to people all around the world. In the future, we can implement a more VR type of platform. My personal desire is to have more advancements in terms of security by providing better protection for the user and a safe platform environment. There’s an increasing awareness in the area, and I’m hoping that in the industrial world, we’ll take a deeper look at how we can continue to do what we do but also provide a respectful, safe, and secure platform for everybody.