Welcome to Piltover Parley!
This is a series (Sometimes audio and sometimes written) where I interview significant figures in the League community and get their viewpoints, thoughts and ideas about the game!
Riot sometimes seems like a mountain you just can’t climb when it comes to getting in. For that reason, I sat down with Alexander “Riot Yuujou” Quach to talk about scouting talent for Riot, success stories and…super sentai?
Bear in mind: This is a SHORTENED TRANSCRIPT of the full interview which you can find here for full viewing or here for listening. This written portion will merely cover some questions for those who are looking for the specific questions/answers.
Getting into Riot and Working There
David aka “CaptainMarvelous”: Real quick, tell us how you ended up working at Riot because it seems like it’s not a company you don’t jump RIGHT into.
Alexander “Riot Yuujou” Quach: Absolutely true on that end. Riot’s not a company you can just, like, pop in and start right away. I started on the sales floor actually! I was folding clothes at Banana Republic and then I traded up to being a supervisor at a retail store. I was at Wallgreens. From there I went on to retail HR. I was the executive human resources at Target before this and then I just fully integrated. Traded retail for games at Riot.
CM: What’s it kinda like working at Riot? There’s a lot of conflicting stories about how Riot is but let’s hear from you; What has been your experience working at Riot so far?
AQ: For me, working at Riot, I work not on the player-facing side. I work internally on our talent discipline. I face Rioters rather than players. Really for me, it’s been an incredible experience. I absolutely love working at Riot! It definitely has had its ups and its downs; people are very nebulous, they change their opinions, they get confused, they can get frustrated. But ultimately, working at Riot has been the best experience of my entire career.
CM: So what would the day in the life of you look like? Is it something you start at six A.M.?
AQ: No no no no. Definitely not at six A.M.! Riot’s very nontraditional in that kind of way. We’ve kind of abolished the nine-to-five paradigm. We’re gamers and we tend to sleep in. We’re everyday people like you or everybody else.
So my day typically starts at ten or eleven because I can’t wake up that early. I’ll get in, probably grab some breakfast, and then trudge through my e-mails to see if I missed anything and then I get into meetings. So my jobs are people-focused. I’m often face-to-face with individuals being a “thought partner” in their work or giving them advice on how to deal with stuff. Other parts of my job include making presentations or designing learning. We’re very bored of the traditional status-quo of classroom teaching and stuff like that. It’s all about innovating that space and making it world class for Rioters.
Looking for the Unicorn
CM: In essence, you talked a lot about how Riot is looking for that unicorn, that perfect person. What is some stuff that is, for lack of a better word, a red flag for you? That “this person has potential”? Would it be talent? Experience? Something they’ve done or even just an awesome cover letter?
AQ: So there are a few things that make-or-break talent. The first is “player empathy” or just being a gamer yourself. Different rioters have different opinions on how much of a gamer you have to be to work at Riot but we all agree, at the very minimum, you have to have player empathy. Our goal is to make the best game experience and be the most player-experienced company. If you can’t understand the pain of being a player, you probably shouldn’t be working here because it’s not going to drive you to fix the things that are wrong and you can’t develop the best products for players. That’s one huge issue we have in un-gaming-related parts of our company. We’ll find people who are HR experts who have never played a game in their life. It’s like “Ugh you’d be SO GOOD but you never played a game in your life.”
On the flipside, we get tons of applicants who are hardcore gamers but have never worked a day in their life. They’re like “Just please Riot, give me a chance! If I can come face to face with someone I know I can get the job!” but they’re really lacking the experience we need to level up our company and level up our team to make our products better. I’d say those are the two big things that stick up as red flags when it comes to hiring people.
CM: Isn’t trying again something Riot’s big on as well? That person whose not going to submit that first application and say “Well they said no. I guess that’s it.”?
AQ: Absolutely! We’re definitely looking for people who are full of perserverence, who can thrive in adversity or face a challenge head on and aren’t afraid to fail. That’s definitely a strong trait we look for in potential Rioters.
Success and Failure at Riot
CM: You talked a little bit about this in your own story but what would be an example of you helped with or you were a part of that was shocking or incredible?
AQ: Hm, significant or incredible…for me, in my time at Riot, I don’t think I’ve had a significant hand in something crazy for a hire but I will tell a story about something one of my peers has done: At Riot before, we didn’t originally have a centralized recruiting model. We were all kind of piecemeal. Originally when Riot started, we didn’t have ANY recruiters. Just very recently we hired a head of recruiters and he came from. It’s very cool to see him integrate into the company because he’s been working at this very established company. Nike’s been around for such a long time.
So he’s come to Riot because we’re this brand-new playspace for him. He’s really come into his own. He’s never played League of Legends in his life but here he’s played so many games and he’s thinking outside of the box. Ways we can improve our recruiting process and ways we can reach out to more people. Help them know what Riot is so they can come to apply to our company. It’s been super cool to see that transformation and have a hand in that.
CM: As a counterpoint to that, what was kind of a situation where someone you really believed in or someone who looked like they had a lot of potential but there was just something that didn’t click? A rioter who you had to pull aside and tell them “This isn’t working”?
AQ: Yeah, we had a guy on campus. He was a super diehard fan of League and was like “Oh my god I’m gonna work at Riot! This is my dream come true!”. But day in and day out, the only thing he did was play games. He was just so into the gaming aspect of Riot that he let his responsibilities fall to the side. It was unfortunate but, because he wasn’t executing on his responsibilities and we weren’t getting any value out of him being here, we ultimately had to see him go.
He was super cool, super chill, great on the rift but in the end he wasn’t “doing” anything and was just kind of riding along. Enjoying being a part of Riot without really providing anything in exchange. That was unfortunately a time where we had to see someone go.
Closing Thoughts and…Super Sentai?
CM: So I have a major question for you: What’s your favorite sentai series?
AQ: My favorite sentai series has to be Samurai Sentai Shinkenger. The theme song was epic, I loved the plot and how gritty it was and the plot twitst took me by surprise.
CM: I just thought it was kind of overrated.
AQ: You do!?
CM: It’s good, it’s just not the best.
AQ: It was my first so I have a strong attachment to it but I’ll take that into consideration right.
CM: Is there anything else you’d like to say for people listening or people interested in Riot?
AQ: I got a couple parting words! My first is for anyone who aspires to be a Rioter. If you’re looking to make it into games and you don’t think it’s possible? I am living, breathing, speaking proof that you don’t have to have ever worked in video games to work in video games. Just believe in what you do, believe in your dreams and passions and it will take you to the right place.
My second kind of parting words is to go check out Super Sentai. It is like power rangers but it is a thousand times better!