Published on August 8th, 2022 | by Charles Myambo0
The Unprecedented Rise of Netflix’s Gaming Analyst, Jessica Qiu
Jessica Qiu is a mercurially talented computer science expert. She has worked for some of the largest companies in the world. Some of the massive conglomerates she has worked for include video game giant, EA Sports, Pokémon Company, Bentley and most recently Netflix. Jessica’s stellar occupational repertoire is testament to her unprecedented work ethic coupled with raw intellect. This young lady has successfully overcome several huge obstacles on her way to the very top of the video game industry. The Hype Magazine’s Life & Style correspondent, Charles Myambo (CM) sat down for an interview with Jessica Qiu (JQ). Below are some excerpts from the interview.
CM: Dating back all the way to 2010, you have shown yourself to be an avid contributor when it comes to volunteering. What compels you to offer volunteering services and what significance do you associate with such practices?
JQ: I started volunteering at the Greenville Literacy Association as my mother took English classes there. I’ll admit, at first, it was something fourteen-year-old me did to pass the time, but, as I grew older, I realized that I had a penchant for volunteering: so, in high school, I joined various clubs that would allow me to experience new and different volunteering opportunities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t volunteer as much as I would’ve liked during my university years, but, now that I have more free time, I do like to volunteer as a tech mentor here and there. Teaching young students is something that was consistent with nearly all of my volunteering opportunities. I like to think that I’m helping to provide the basic steps of success in life by tutoring them in math and reading. I believe volunteering widens an individual’s perspectives. I’ve volunteered at homeless shelters and tutoring associations for low-income areas, and it has made me wonder how else I can contribute to the betterment of society.
CM: A person truly needs to be profoundly gifted to work for the caliber of companies you have particularly at such an early stage in their career. How is it that your first ever full-time job was at arguably the consensus greatest video game company worldwide i.e., EA Sports?
JQ: I genuinely think I’m not gifted, but I was gifted with brilliant and patient mentors and former coworkers. From my first internship as a Bioinformatics Assistant at the Biosystems Research Complex to being a Technology Development Intern at Optum (UnitedHealth Group) then as a Business Intelligence Engineer Intern at Amazon, I was extremely lucky to have such talented and inspiring mentors. Even after graduating and landing roles in full-time professional positions, I have continued to have amazing coworkers and managers. If it weren’t for these brilliant people and the many lessons, they taught me (both technical and personal growth), I don’t think I would have been able to land my first full-time professional position at EA Sports. Inwardly, I thank them every day for all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from them.
CM: Your career milestones and trajectory thus far are indicative of a focused person. What about your mindset do you believe sets you apart from most and could you briefly describe any instances in your life where your mental fortitude was called upon?
JQ: I think what has helped me the most was having realistic and achievable goals, having concrete plans to attain them, and possessing the dedication to see those goals through. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be in the video game industry, but I also knew that it was going to be an incredibly difficult and tedious road. I knew I couldn’t assume everything would fall into place as soon as I graduated from university, so I took the necessary steps to ensure the highest possible chance of success. For example, it took me a couple of years to create a modification for a game that had a significant impact on my life. I was a one-woman team who was doing all the coding, debugging, musical compositions, and voice acting. I spent many long nights trying to code and debug my modification. In fact, I remember vividly spending my Christmas break debugging it, just so I could release it right at the start of the new year to the gaming community. I thought about giving up many times, but the desire to contribute to a game I loved and the possibility of making it into the video game industry inspired me to continue. I made that small goal a reality, and it was my first step in making it into the video game industry.
CM: You also had a brief but largely successful stint at motor industry leader Bentley. Why the switch from the gaming sector to the motor industry and what adjustments did you need to make if any at all?
JQ: Wrong Bentley! The Bentley Systems I worked for is a software development company known for their 3D reality modeling software, which is used for creating and managing the world’s infrastructure such as bridges and skyscrapers, just to name a few. However, I can still answer your questions: my switch from the gaming sector was because I felt I no longer belonged there. After a multitude of unfortunate events at EA Sports, I felt insecure about my abilities and whether I deserved to be there, so I left. Regarding the adjustments, yes, there were definitely some adjustments there; I was not used to this industry’s vocabulary, so it was a learning process trying to catch up on all the new terminology. Additionally, because I was pivoting into more of a developer role, I had to spruce up on some of my programming languages, such as Python.
CM: One thing that has remained consistent in your vast occupational ventures is your role in “Analytics”. Is this because of passion or is it merely circumstantial?
JQ: At the start of my journey as a computer science student, my ultimate goal was to get into the video game industry. I believed the only sure-fire way to break into the industry was to be a software engineer. However, as I pursued further schooling, I discovered another path, data analytics. What attracted me to data analytics was the ability to “tell a story”. With these nonsensical numbers given to you in a dataset that you most likely had to clean and normalize for hours on end, you had the power to create a compelling story and that’s where the visualization part comes into play. My passion for analytics is like a passion for storytelling. On top of that, I realized how powerful data is in influencing company’s decisions, specifically the video game industry. Should we include this particular game mode? Is this feature overpowered? Both of these questions can be answered by data and in return, I have the ability to improve the player experience which means I can l potentially bring a smile to someone’s face.
CM: What is the fulfillment you derive from your 9 to 5 and has the thought of entrepreneurship ever so much as crossed your mind given your clearly sublime talent?
JQ: People enjoy Netflix all around the world, so the fulfillment I derive from my 9 to 5 is the hope that more and more people will discover and enjoy games and give them the smile that games gave me. I have briefly thought about entrepreneurship, but those thoughts have only mildly intrigued me. There’s so much I still need to learn, not just within the field of analytics but in regard to personal growth as well, such as learning how to lead effectively and learning to trust my own judgment.
CM: For someone to work for EA Sports is impressive, for someone to work for Bentley is truly astonishing but for someone to work for EA Sports, Bentley, Pokémon and Netflix is simply unprecedented. Do you ever take time to reflect on your otherworldly accomplishments to date and where does your inspiration come from?
JQ: I’m not certain if I’d call my accomplishments “otherworldly”. I think anyone can do it with the right mindset and the right amount of perseverance. I’ll admit though, I still wonder how I was able to work at EA Sports, Bentley Systems, The Pokémon Company International, and Netflix. My inspiration comes from my love of my games at a very young age. I grew up watching my father play video games, especially one in particular, Baldur’s Gate. One day, I thought to myself; “How do the quests trigger? How do these characters know when to talk?” This led me to discover the Infinity Engine and the modding community around it. I was about twelve years old at the time and created my first-ever mod, but I didn’t think anyone would want to play a modification a twelve-year-old wrote, so I made a mental note to return to it in the future. Fast forward to senior year of high school when it was time to pick an undergraduate degree, and I picked computer science. The choice was obvious because of the tremendous impact one game had on my entire life. As silly as it sounds, this one game shaped who I was and my future, and I’m better for it. If I could help to create another masterpiece, maybe I could also reach the hearts of many others and potentially put a smile on their face or give them inspiration to pursue their own passions.
CM: Onto the dreaded but pertinent subject of adversity, what is your personal experience with failure, humiliation and perhaps borderline depression?
JQ: My first failure came from EA Sports. My time at EA Sports was a roller coaster: there were incredible highs and incredible lows. One instance of my nadir was during my first week at EA Sports. I was informed by a coworker that I was “probably the diversity hire.” That diminished my accomplishments thus far and made me feel vastly undeserving of my position. Additionally, EA Sports and I did not see eye to eye when it came to positions and levels. I was considered an “associate data analyst”, despite having identical experience and a higher level of education compared to another coworker who was considered a mid-level data analyst. This made me question myself and my confidence: “Why was I not considered equal to another coworker who had a similar skill set as me? Why do I have to work harder just to be seen as equivalent?” It took a heavy toll on my mental health, but luckily, I had the support of some coworkers turned friends to alleviate some of my self-doubt. Unfortunately, when things started to look up at EA Sports and my self-confidence grew again, I was hit by another obstacle that left me totally defeated; in fact, I was so defeated that I believed I just didn’t belong in the video game industry anymore. Thus, my first failure was leaving the video game industry, the industry that I loved and always dreamt about. However, my time at Bentley Systems made me fully realize I needed to be in the video game industry, and I promised myself that I would never let anyone destroy my confidence again. I promised that I would be a force to be reckoned with.
CM: What have your biggest critics in life taught you about yourself and if possible, could you provide an account of your most challenging encounter with critics?
JQ: The biggest critics in my life have taught me the importance of perseverance. I believe one of my most challenging encounters was actually with my own father. To put it lightly, there was a lot of doubt on my father’s end when I entered the computer science field in university. In fact, he tried to dissuade me many times from pursuing this path. Oftentimes, he would sit me down, show me all the open jobs for computer science careers in the area (we lived in a relatively small city, so there weren’t too many) and tell me that I shouldn’t do it. He also told me a few times that he thought I “couldn’t” do it. Hearing those sorts of negative statements over and over again causes a person to eventually believe that he or she shouldn’t or couldn’t do it. However, I knew deep down that this was what I wanted to do, and I promised myself I would push my mental capabilities as far as I could to succeed. In spite of my father’s disbelief in me, I had the support of my sisters. I recall a chat from my oldest sibling at the time, and she asked me, “Do you like what you’re studying in school? Because it’s not too late to do something you like.” I distinctly remember nodding my head and telling her this is exactly what I wanted to do, and she was proud of me for staying the course. Both of my sisters were proud of me, despite our father’s disapproval. Their unwavering support of my actions further inspired me to pursue my computer science degree. Overall, it was the perseverance of the mind, proving to your critics that you “can” do it despite what they might think.
CM: What legacy do you envisage leaving for your immediate family as well as non-relatives and when it’s all said and done, how do you wish to be remembered?
JQ: The only real desire I have for my career is to be able to put a smile on as many people’s faces as possible. When I was younger, video games were my escape from reality. In video games, I learned that neither your identity nor your background can define you: you are the hero of your story. I want people to remember that. I want more people to experience video games and for them to realize that they are the heroes of their own story too.