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Amir Satvat has long aspired to be trusted member of the video game community. It has happened, but not in the way that he expected. And it wasn’t for his work at tech and game companies. It was through a do-it-yourself listing service on LinkedIn.
Last Thanksgiving, amid the layoffs at big tech companies like Meta, Satvat was grieving for those who were getting bad news right before the holidays. So in his off-work time, he started to use his skills with spreadsheets and data collection to do something for those people.
“I felt so bad because it had been before Thanksgiving, and it was really before the really heavy layoffs came,” Satvat said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We were sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner. And I started hearing about friends getting laid off. And I said this was unacceptable to my wife. And that was kind of the genesis.”
He added, “We see the numbers and it’s tempting sometimes to forget that it’s real people. And eventually, as the numbers get bigger and bigger, you just can’t stop paying attention. My friends wished for something that made it easy to browse for jobs. I thought, ‘I’m pretty good at Excel macros, and web scraping. I could write something that does that.’”
14,000 game job listings
He put together lists that were automatically updated with the latest job openings at more than 732 game companies around the world. He “scraped” the job listings and embedded them in an easy to use Google Sheet and posted it on his LinkedIn page. Soon enough, he had hundreds of listings of fresh jobs, and he rotated listings that were a month old. Now, there are 14,000 game jobs listed, and that number has stayed steady for a number of weeks. That number gives him confidence a recovery is under way.
On the sheets, people can sign up to say that they’re looking for jobs, with a list of their skills and what they’ve done. Since that time, more than 450 people told him that his Game Jobs Workbook was partly responsible for helping them get jobs in the game industry.
If you stop and think about that, nobody does this, except professional job recruiters who are paid handsomely in good times to fill tons of jobs at fast-growing companies. During an economic downturn, nobody does this out of the goodness of their hearts or for free. This work made Satvat into a kind of celebrity on LinkedIn, and they gave him the honor of being a “Top Voice” for contributions he made in the realm of video games. He has grown from 4,000 or so followers and friends to over 43,000.
He figured he could aggregate jobs for people, making job hunting easier. It turns out this worked.
“I’ve often thought that a lot of the things that can be the most powerful are things that are simple,” he said. “People over-engineer things. I noticed there are a lot of sites to help people, but there are maybe 100 sign-ons that you do. Or you have to go to a portal and look at databases. I bet I could just put something like Google Sheets up and make it easy. People will use it. That ended up being true.”
In a post, he celebrated, saying, “This is the pinnacle for me. My lifelong aspiration has been to become a trusted member of the video games community, to have a voice that resonates with people and garners and earns their time and respect.”
Satvat, who just left Amazon and is now joining Tencent Games in business development, noted that this wasn’t about personal glorification, as the LinkedIn fame helped him further reach people in the game industry who needed his help and his kindness. He was speechless about the testimonials coming in.
“Hello Amir! Thanks for accepting my connection request. It’s so nice to make your acquaintance! I’m trying to break into the video game industry, and as you’ve mentioned, it can be very difficult. I just want to take a moment to thank you sincerely for everything you’re doing to help all of us find jobs,” said one person on LinkedIn. “I know I’m not alone when I say that I’ve been working my hardest to make myself the kind of developer that studios will want to hire… and after a while, it can be discouraging. What you’ve done- both with the Games Jobs Workbook, and your posts of support and encouragement- has been not only incredibly helpful, but also incredibly inspiring.”
The poster added, “Even just being reminded that there are wonderful people like yourself out there who really do care about helping us… it means the world to me, honestly. I could probably go on and on expressing my gratitude, but this message is already too long haha. Please just know that you have a new friend, and that what you are doing is immensely appreciated.”
Another person said, “I’m writing to you to let you know that I’ve received a job offer from [company anonymized] as a senior gameplay engineer. I’m just waiting on some formalities to be completed before I officially announce it. I just wanted to let you know my heartfelt thanks for everything you’ve done for me and others who were laid off, for all the work you put in curating job resources and your helpful and encouraging posts, it really helped me a lot! You’ve also inspired me to want to actively give back and contribute to the gaming community as well, maybe in the form of being a mentor through the mentor program or writing helpful posts of my own sharing my learnings. Thank you so much, I’m really glad you were around during this period, and wishing you all the best in your life.”
There are hundreds more like this from people he didn’t know. Not bad for a hobby. His previous manager told him it was fine to do as long as it didn’t interfere with work. And Satvat clearly extracted a lot of meaning helping people find jobs.
Breaking into games
This worked tapped his skills, but it was completely outside his work. He was in the startup division at Amazon, assisting companies with Amazon Web Services in the cloud sales center. He had been there four years, and had a stint in the games division. At Tencent, he is starting anew, tapping into his training in business development and strategy.
He got an MBA in grad school and degrees in policy and engineering. He worked as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. He was in his mid-30s before he broke into games. The new side hobby made him think about his own career goals, and he decided to move back into games.
Since he started working in games during COVID-19, next week will be the first time he will attend the Gamescom event in Cologne, Germany. His new remote job lets him work from a home that is about five minutes from the house where he grew up in Farmington, Connecticut.
As for the Game Jobs Workbook, he added new pieces to it, like getting people to sign up to be mentors and have 30-minute conversations with people who ask for the help. Recruiters and hiring managers are proactively getting in touch with Satvat to list jobs. And he has also added a separate network of over 100 people who have volunteered to read resumes and help people improve them.
And Satvat has added information on internships, as that’s a way for people to break into the industry.
“A lot of schools have written saying that almost means as much to them as the entire rest of the work,” he said.
Efficiently helping people
Of those he helped, 450 said that his community was the primary resource for them in finding jobs. There are thousands more who have commented. His LinkedIn grew like a hockey stick and that’s pretty good for someone whose job has nothing to do with human resources. HR people will answer his questions about jobs and proactively seek him out.
Part of the key is figuring out how to do things automatically, like modeling or web scraping. He taught himself these tasks and learned Excel in a way that most of us never do. The work may take him anywhere from two hours to 10 hours a week, leaving him time for family and recharging.
There’s a lot of work resolving discrepancies and commonalities among job sites across the industry and international borders. One region where it’s hard to get good data is with Japanese language web sites in gaming. But most others work.
“I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t have to do much manual work,” he said. “My algorithm pulls all that stuff down.”
Early on, though, he had to figure out how to handle translation into different languages and making sure that the job data was fresh. He didn’t seek a reward.
“I have a job. I have my income. I don’t feel like I need more money and rewards for being humane,” he said. “I’m not trying to push people to a recruiting site or sell a consulting service. That makes it easier.”
As for those who thank him, Satvat said, “I was touched that a lot of people call out to me. That matters. And I think this is very unique to games. As you know, games is almost like a vocational profession. People love it, and will do anything to work in it. People can break in. People tell me that the positivity that we’ve created around the community, constantly being genuinely encouraging, telling people they can do it — I think that is as important for job searchers as the resources.”
He also hopes to do more to help the industry address the challenges of not having enough diversity or having too much toxicity.
“One thing I can do is be part of being attentive about inclusion and positivity,” he said.