Rockstar Games' Amanda Crane on the Technical and Team Skills Needed to Succeed
When you get your friends together, you probably think about how to create a community that everyone can enjoy.
That's exactly what Amanda Crane does every day at work—only she does it for 100,000,000 people, all at the same time.
As the Associate Director of Social Club Development at video game developer Rockstar Games, Amanda's role includes developing the Rockstar Games Social Club website, where players of Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, and other Rockstar titles can earn bonuses, connect with other players to join "crews" and play together, and track performance.
"Gaming is commonly portrayed as an isolated individual pursuit, but that cannot be further from the truth," says Amanda. "The applications we build are focused on making gaming a truly socially inclusive activity, and the art of creating our games and all the infrastructure required to support them is highly collaborative."
We sat down with Amanda to learn more about her path into gaming, how her team does their work, and what kind of people she's looking to hire.
London to Edinburgh to New York: leaning into love for development and travel
As a resident of New York City and a student of archaeology, Amanda can, in normal times, be found spending weekends wandering around all of the art and history museums the city has to offer. Her passion for art has always been a part of her life, though her first jobs in software didn't quite highlight it.
She started her career in London, writing accounting software and developing a range of coding skills, then worked freelance for a while and relocated to Edinburgh for a long-term project with a global energy company. She worked on designing, building, and managing an online system that enabled remote engineers to share their knowledge—and gained experience that she uses daily in her current role at Rockstar.
Amanda knew she was ready for her next career move to involve more art and creativity and had been thinking about Rockstar for a while. "I was familiar with Rockstar's games and really appreciated their artistry and just knew that was where I wanted to be," says Amanda.
Amanda applied for a role at Rockstar and was offered a position on the Social Club team, based in New York City, where she could use her experience with web technologies and help grow Social Club from a social platform to a cutting-edge way to manage and improve player interactions with Rockstar's online services.
And that's exactly what she's spent the last ten years doing.
Driving engagement requires collaboration
Along with running the development of the Social Club, Amanda partners with all of Rockstar's business departments to realize their goal of providing a reliable, engaging, and safe online community to their entire player base. That requires her to collaborate on company-wide processes, especially with Rockstar's Player Insight and Analytics, Online Operations, and Marketing teams.
"There are so many opportunities for working with different people, technologies, and applications," says Amanda. "Rockstar encourages collaboration across teams and studios, everyone is super passionate about the product and works really hard to ensure every detail of what we produce is top quality. Passion, collaboration, and love for the product really is at the heart of all we do."
She also oversees a team of nine developers who report directly to her. She makes sure they're getting the training and development they need to be successful at Rockstar and over the course of their careers, and that the environment they're working in is a positive one.
"We need to ensure our environment is able to evolve constantly, but we also need to keep it safe and inclusive," says Amanda.
What you need to succeed on Rockstar's Social Club team
Rockstar is constantly on the lookout for new hires for the Social Club, so if being a part of creating a safe, engaging community for other game lovers sounds like something of interest, take notes on what they are looking for:
Technical skills needed:
- Front end web development (with strong UI/UX skills)
- .NET development
- Database development (including SQL)
- Build and Release engineering
- Test Automation engineering
Soft skills needed:
- Collaboration. "Our team spans multiple time-zones so a lot of that collaboration occurs remotely. This can bring unique challenges and requires a highly communicative and collaborative nature," says Amanda.
- A flexible approach. "New projects can often be presented to our team in early stages of design and frequently require research into new technologies/methodologies and lots of discussion, documentation and planning before development work can begin," she adds.
- A growth mindset. "Demonstrating that you have a passion for technology and continued learning is important," says Amanda.
- Developing websites with a strong design emphasis, strong security protocols, and a high concurrency rate in order to create the best possible user experience of public-facing applications
- Working directly with product owners and end users and communicating across different audiences
- An appreciation and understanding of the factors that can impact performance, much like data manipulation and presentation in the financial sector ("it's a close parallel to much of the work," explains Amanda, "especially that which involves the analysis of game telemetry")
4 tips to stand out in a technical Rockstar interview
Whether you've long dreamed of a career at Rockstar or Amanda's story has convinced you to apply, keep these tips of hers in mind as you go through the interview process:
- You don't have to be a huge gamer, but make sure you do your research. "[Get some] insight into the wide technological infrastructure supporting online games, and the many roles available beyond actual game development," says Amanda—which would include roles on her team! "It also helps to invest the time to familiarize yourself with our online games and the Social Club platform. I love when people I'm interviewing make a reference to a feature on the Social Club website and can discuss it in the context of their own experience."
- Connect the gaming industry to other tech sectors. Many of the technical difficulties faced in gaming are found in other places, like an awareness and vigilance of around security, performance, and maintaining the infrastructure behind tens of millions of user accounts. Highlight your understanding of those problems, even if you haven't come across them in a gaming scenario, says Amanda.
- Show your work. Amanda loves to see candidates that keep up to date with recent frameworks and innovations on their own time. "If you can demonstrate with a personal project that you have familiarity with the latest frameworks, that goes some way to inform us that you are passionate about technology," she says.
- Give credit to your team. Being a geographically dispersed team, Rockstar relies on collaboration to succeed. "We need to be open with our ideas, share them across the teams, be able to communicate ideas to non-technical stake-holders, and mentor other members of the team to help them fully understand what we are doing and, just as importantly, why," says Amanda. "What I love during interviews is when people emphasize the team aspect of their successes, and even when talking about failed team projects, are able to communicate lessons learned and how those were applied to subsequent successful team projects."
Ready to apply?
Ready to become part of the future of gaming communities?
"A career in the gaming industry is a fantastic opportunity for anyone with a desire to work within a highly collaborative and communicative environment, on products that embrace social inclusiveness," says Amanda.
If that sounds like something that interests you, check out Rockstar's open roles!