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Day in the Life: Product Manager

  • Sep 30, 2016

I wake up early, not entirely by choice since my wife kicks me out of bed so I’ll get to the gym by 8. I grab a banana on my way out, eating while I listen to gaming news podcasts. The drive’s uneventful so I make it to the office in time to get my workout in before anyone else shows up.

My desk is neat, but my inbox has stacked up. A few dozen new emails snuck through overnight. I’ve got a presentation for the broader art team due by the end of the week, but there’s a slate of random tasks to finish first. Like writing about a day in my life.

Eleven rolls around and it’s standup time. We use the fifteen minutes or so to keep everyone up to speed on what we’re working on. The added visibility helps us crush our targets and smash any blockers in the face.

A half-hour later, it’s time for ideation and brainstorming with the team. We’re making impromptu speed sketches and crafting design pillars as we go. We end up ditching about 95% of what we came up with. Finding alternate fantasies we hope players will fall in love with can be a messy process.

Then it’s 1 o’clock and that means salad Mondays. Thankfully, meat Mondays seem to be making a guest appearance after months of insufferable carnivore whining. The free hour secures space for a 1:1, so I always try to chat with colleagues while we’re nomming.  

Post-lunch, trash talk fun flies around the office as we roam Summoner’s Rift ripping off fellow Rioter heads! I’m only told to “git gud” twice before my interview with a candidate pops up on my calendar.

Finding the best of the best gamers in the world, and aiming to always hire candidates better than ourselves is one of the best ways to help Riot grow and it helps me improve along the way.

I finish the interview by the time 4:00 blinks on my watch, and I’m heading back to my desk when I’m pulled aside.

Our QA team informs me players uncovered a bug on one of the skins we put into the game mere days ago. We scramble the team to figure out what happened. The bug is obvious, but not game-breaking.  

We start asking questions: Should we turn off the skin temporarily?  Should we drop everything we are doing and fix it immediately? More questions run through my mind as the deliberations continue: How will this affect player perception? Are there gameplay implications?

The team is waiting for an answer. I weigh our options and make the call: We’re going to fix it, now. The team gets on it while I head to the forums to talk with players about what we’re doing.

By six, we’ve got a handle on the issue. Normally, we host a daily newbie game session around this time. The goal is to create a “safe, Teemo-free environment” to help newer League players in the office practice game fundamentals.

I eat dinner in the office with other Rioters who like to stay late. It’s Japanese take-out and I dive straight into a sushi platter before anyone else can get their hands on it. Bonding with other Rioters and building good relationships is a cornerstone to success at Riot, and having a chance to relax near the end of the day with other folks tackling similar problems helps open up new solutions.

Around eight I finally have a chance to jump on that presentation I wanted to work on.  I deep-dive into our ideation process, explaining our core design pillars and showing the visual iterations we’ve been through. I’m feeling confident. We’ve got a good batch of skins and I’m aiming for perfection with this deck.

Before I duck out, I’ll review my weekly schedule and goals before filling in team updates and organizing my calendar. It doesn’t always take half an hour, but you might be surprised how hectic my calendar can get. I leave around 9:30, still jamming to the latest gaming news podcasts on the drive.

You won’t tell her if I let you in on a secret, right? Parking behind my wife’s car so she can’t leave without waking me up in the morning is a strategic play I came up with to avoid alarm clocks. Now if only I could find a way for her to help with bug-hunting...