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Career Advice

From Puzzle Solver to Data Detective: Rockstar Director of Analytics Caroline Peika Talks Data Analytics in the Gaming Industry

Caroline Peika has loved puzzles—and mystery novels—for just about as long as she can remember. Both are extensions of the same core interest: problem solving.

It's this interest that led to her studying math and computer science in college, and ultimately, to her current role as Director of Analytics at Rockstar Games, solving data mysteries on the front line of AAA game development.

"It's the same kind of mindset. I'm trying to figure out something with whatever clues or information that I have," she says.

We sat down with Caroline to learn more about her path into analytics, and to hear her advice for those considering analytics as a point of entry to the gaming industry. Read on to hear how she got her start in gaming, the ways analytics in gaming is unique compared to analytics in other industries, and the difference between data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers.

A Career in Data: Caroline's Path into the Gaming Industry

After studying math and computer science in college, Caroline was approached by a business school to join their all-new business intelligence program, which combined math, programming, and business. Caroline was smitten: "I fell in love, I had to do it. And from then on, it's been my career."

Living in Montreal at the time, a hot-bed for the gaming industry, Caroline knew lots of people working in games—and she's a pretty big fan of video games herself, enjoying everything from Grand Theft Auto (GTA) to the Lego video games that her toddler son enjoys.

"I had a lot of insight on how fun the industry could be and how every day was a new experience. So I knew I wanted to be there—it was just a matter of how to do it."

A role in data forensics at Deloitte gave her her first taste of the video game industry. As a manager, she approached game companies to propose projects, such as health monitoring and anomaly monitoring, which they could use to detect, correct, and prevent errors in their games. That experience helped her land a full-time role at Ubisoft before she moved to San Diego for her current position at Rockstar Games, where she's worked for the past six years. (For those of us who are also into games, Rockstar needs no introduction. For everyone else, Rockstar are the creators of a string of hit video games including the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, both pop-culture hallmarks, with iterations spanning decades.)

So far, the experience has surpassed her expectations. Working at Rockstar, Caroline says, is all about collaboration. "Everybody wants to help. Everybody wants to hear what you're working on—and why—and how they can help. It's so easy to connect with coworkers and have conversations that fuel your own work."

Emphasizing Innovation: Realizing Her Vision at Rockstar

Caroline not only got to realize her own dream of working in gaming by joining the Rockstar team, but her vision for a robust, optimized analytics department as well.

When she started at Rockstar, Caroline was eager to invest in improved tools and infrastructure for the data analytics team so that they would be able to answer business questions more quickly.

"When I joined the company, there was a lot of opportunity for us to build and develop analytics as a team, and Rockstar empowered me to help make that happen—there were no roadblocks or micromanagement."

Caroline sees this emphasis on continual improvement as the backbone of Rockstar's culture: "It's all about innovation. How can we be better? How can we leverage new technologies?"

Understanding the Impact of Data Analytics in Gaming

Part of the reason this investment in architecture and infrastructure was so important to Caroline was because she knew that without it, her team wouldn't be able to answer stakeholders' many questions quickly enough… and when you work in a department that touches every aspect of the business like analytics does, efficiency is essential. But whether the team is helping optimize internal operations or providing insights on how players are interacting with a particular game, the goal is always the same: leveraging data to solve problems (or puzzles, as Caroline sees them).

"For people who love puzzles or challenges, every day is different. That's something that other industries may have, but it's the name of the game in the gaming industry. You get to experience this great balance of fighting fires in real-time with live ops, while also planning ahead and looking forward to new games and releases."

Roles in Data Analytics: Analysts, Scientists, and Engineers

As you might expect, the far-reaching applications and impact of data analytics on gaming means that analytics teams also tend to have a variety of members on staff, each with unique focuses and expertise.

Caroline was kind enough to break down the three main roles on Rockstar's data analytics team and the skill set required of each one:

Data Analyst

Data analysts are the closest to the data. They're responsible for designing the data and making sure it's usable. They work closely with stakeholders to make sure they understand how the data is going to be used and the requirements for the end product before creating the final output, be it a report or a deep dive analysis on a specific topic.

What does it take?

  • A basic understanding of statistics
  • Good visualization skills and problem-solving skills
  • A quantitative background, in fields like business, marketing, or economics

Data Scientist

Data scientists push those analyses a bit further. With a toolkit a bit bigger than the analysts', they are able to answer questions and, most importantly, build solutions. They use advanced analytics and machine learning to create clusterings, predictions, models, and optimizations.

As Caroline says, "It's not just answering a question that can be used in decision-making, it's actually creating a product for a team and making sure it can be used and it keeps updating correctly."

What does it take?

  • A strong technical background, in a field like computer science or statistics
  • A good grasp on business

Data Engineering

Data engineers are the ones who bring the product built by data scientists into the production line. They are the owners of the final production pipeline--and the ones that will get called to fix it if it breaks.

What does it take?

  • A background in software engineering or data engineering
  • Fluency in programming languages
  • The ability to adapt and switch to different technologies as needed

Across these profiles, every member of Caroline's team is focused on something specific, related to the stakeholder they are working with. Some tasks may be aligned with the skills of a data analyst, while others require the attention of a data scientist.

Breaking Into Data Analysis: How to Be More Than a Number

Whether you're starting out as a junior analyst, or looking to pivot into game analytics, Caroline shared her recommendations for people starting out in the field and, most importantly, what she expects from someone who wants to join her team:

  1. Understand Game Analytics: "Do your personal research of what this is all about. You really need to understand what you're getting into, which is a very varied and fast-paced environment."
  2. Know how to apply your knowledge: "If you're just starting out and you have the tech skills, what you're missing is an understanding of how to use them in actual business environments. Do your research and read books on the different ways businesses leverage analytics. Make sure that you're not only good at analyzing data, but telling a story with it that will be meaningful in a business setting."
  3. Show your hand: In the interview, don't be afraid to mention what you've done in the field and what you enjoy the most. "We want to hear your selling points. We love to hear about what you like to do and what you're comfortable doing, because we can always think of a place on the team where we can leverage that."
  4. Ace the test: Portfolios aren't expected. Instead, Caroline sends out a task—an open-book test: "That's your way to shine," she says. "This is where you can show what you bring to the table. We're not expecting perfect answers. We just want to see how you work, how you think, how you're creative."

Interested in solving puzzles with Caroline and the rest of Rockstar's data analytics teams? Check out their open roles here.


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That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.


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We recently chatted with working moms at technology skills platform, Pluralsight, about their best advice for striking that elusive work-life balance. Here were their key points:


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She went from being one of eight engineers on a small team building a streaming service to joining a company that was five times larger and had a much bigger scope.

That company was Plex, where Adriana has been working remotely as a software engineer for the last four and a half years.

As her team grew from two people to ten, Adriana decided to lean into the opportunity to grow; along the way, she found herself deepening her technical skills, her self-confidence, and her relationships. We sat down with Adriana to learn exactly how she did that, and to hear the tips she has for other engineers experiencing growth opportunities on their team.

Career and Interview Tips

10 Tips to Stand Out at a Virtual Job Fair

Your guide to preparing for virtual career fairs and making a great impression with recruiters

According to a LinkedIn survey, up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking. For job seekers, virtual job fairs make networking with recruiters more convenient. You can interact with potential employers from all over the world, ask them questions, and apply for jobs. Every event is different, but they most often include video conferencing features, chat rooms, and Q&A sessions.

Dilyara Timerbulatova, Virtual Job Fair Coordinator at PowerToFly explains that, "virtual job fairs have many benefits, namely connecting top talent and recruiters that would otherwise never cross paths. These events are a tool to help companies build well-rounded, diverse teams that align with the company culture and business vision."


Pride At Work: Learn more about Our Partners, Sponsors & Speakers

Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our June 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Pride At Work, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.

Our Pride At Work summit certainly made us proud! PowerToFly was thrilled to present talks by members of the LGBTQIA+ community alongside some amazing allies. Our conversations ranged from leaders at the highest levels of government positions to visionaries in the worlds of business & tech to artists from the music and entertainment industry. If you tuned in, and celebrated our speakers, thank you! And if you missed the summit or would like to re-watch any of the talks, those conversations will all be available to watch for free on PowerToFly.

We want to extend a HUGE thanks to our amazing sponsors American Express, NGA, Smartsheet, S&P Global, Raytheon Technologies, PwC and Esri plus our media partner MMCA.

If you can, please consider donating to some of the amazing organizations we highlighted at the summit including GLITS, fighting for the health and rights of transgender sex workers; Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, with over 150,000 members; National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, including people living with HIV/AIDS; and NYC Anti-Violence Project, empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.

Plus, don't forget to visit our Merch Store and grab yourself some PowerToFly apparel. 100% of the proceeds from our sales will be going to TransTech Social, supporting transgender and non-binary people in tech.

Finally, registration for our July 12th - 15th virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Tech For Social Impact is now open! Join us to learn about founders from mission-driven organizations and their social impact. Register for free here
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