Teenagers passionate about video games and arts got a rare glimpse at career opportunities at Blizzard Entertainment and what it’s like to work for one of the most influential gaming companies in the world.
About 30 students from University and Valley high schools recently visited Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine, where the company has developed games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch,” during Irvine Job Discovery Day.
They went on a tour of Blizzard’s closely guarded campus, where no video recording is allowed and photos are permitted only in public spaces. About 3,000 of the company’s 5,000 employees worldwide work in Irvine.
A Blizzard Entertainment employee shows local students how augmented reality can make static artworks exhibited on a wall come to to life on an iPad during a tour of the company’s headquarters in Irvine on March 1, 2018. (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)The students also attended a panel discussion featuring 10 former interns who now work for Blizzard in various departments. Here are some takeaways from their visit:
– Blizzard isn’t just a gaming company. There are more job opportunities at Blizzard than just designing games. The panelists included artists, programmers, a program manager, a researcher, an IT specialist and an e-sports event coordinator. The company has a cinematic team that competes for the same talent pool of animators as Disney and Pixar.
– Blizzard is a great place to work. To attract and retain highly sought employees, the company offers various perks similar to tech giants in Silicon Valley. Its cafeteria is subsidized and Starbucks offers exclusive drinks. There are gym and CrossFit spaces and basketball and beach volleyball courts on campus, as well as free health and wellness classes. And yes, employees can bring their dogs. Blizzard is named among Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for.
– Build a portfolio. Panelists said they tailored their college courses for specific jobs once they figured out what they want to do. Many of them recommended students to create their own website or blog to showcase their works. A game designer said she constantly created games and developed apps in college. “Find something you love and do it every day,” a panelist added. Janine Tedford, associate manager for university relations, advised aspiring artists to gear their portfolio to companies they want to work for.
– Network, network, network. Panelists agreed networking, or meeting people in the industry, is crucial in landing a dream job. Like the rest of the business world, it comes to down to who you know. Chief Information Officer Derek Ingalls, who started his career as a firefighter before working for Microsoft, said he got a job at Blizzard in 2014 because he knew someone at the company. The employees also encouraged students to apply for internships. “Just take the chance,” a panelist said.
“They made it more simple,” said Blake Caldwell, a University High senior who wants to become a programmer. “It’s not this big obscure obstacle you have to overcome to get into this workplace. You just have to take these steps – you have to apply, you have to build your portfolio.”
Blizzard is one of the six companies that opened up their Irvine offices for Job Discovery Day, a workforce development program created by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, Vital Link, Google and Irvine Valley College.
About 220 students from University High, Valley High, Irvine Valley College, Portola High, Costa Mesa High and Tustin High signed up to visit Google, Blizzard, Zillow, Johnson & Johnson, Parker and Cox Automotive.
“This is an opportunity for us to bring high school- and junior college-level age students into these kind of 21st century workplaces where they can see what jobs would be available to them,” Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bryan Starr said. “This is really an initiative … to connect the future workforce with the current employers and the future employers and bridge that gap, where instead of just conceptualizing what their jobs might be in high tech or with a STEM degree, actually putting them in front of them.”
Caldwell said meeting people who actually work in the popular, but competitive gaming industry, inspired him.
“The fact that opportunity is there definitely builds interest,” he said.