How I Broke All the Rules and Ended Up with Two Jobs Instead of One
by Jordi Sanchez Director of Product Management & Senior Game Designer at Outfit7 BCN

My first mistake was wanting too much. Instead of applying for a job at Outfit7’s Barcelona studio, I applied to two… game designer AND product manager. Dani, the BCN studio head, called me to say I really shouldn’t do that, because it shows I can’t deliver in either role. After I passed both expertise tests, Dani called me and said: “I promise that’s the last time I ever assume anything about you”.

I’ve worked in the gaming industry in Barcelona for the past 13 years, on a lot of different projects and teams. I saw how working in a big studio often means falling into a routine, working exactly how someone tells you to and not really seeing your work have an impact. That’s the one thing I was most afraid of for my career. I also experienced how too much competitiveness between employees or departments in a company can turn from a healthy dose of pushing each other to be better into a culture of individualism, where helping others can be seen as a weakness.

Before I joined Outfit7, I met a few people from the company a few times at conferences. They were always fun to talk to and seemed like a cool crowd, but you can’t tell what a company’s really like looking from the outside. Outfit7 wasn’t present in Barcelona at that time, so I really didn’t know much about the team or culture. I think that was part of the appeal for me.

The first time I got to feel the vibe was when I visited Ljubljana before the Barcelona studio was even open. I remember thinking “This feels different.” I was used to seeing stressed out people running around trying to get everything done. Here, everyone seemed so relaxed and ready to help out all the time. I went to Dani and said “OK, what’s the catch?” He thought that was pretty funny, but answered “That’s why we spend so much effort to bring in people with the right attitude.”

When we got started in the new studio, Dani told me I could take our first game in any direction I want, as long as it’s a hyper casual game that will take 2-3 months of development. I felt like he dropped a present in my lap and just wanted me to unwrap it. I started researching, talked with a lot of the people in Ljubljana, got to know what the company’s about and finally decided I had to ask Dani for even more.

Our goal in Barcelona is to get together a team of senior gaming pros and work like a small semi-independent studio, focusing on doing a few projects really well. With a team as experienced as ours, it seemed to me that we were limiting ourselves too much by not going for a bigger game. When I talked to Dani about this he was like “Jordi, that’s the one rule I gave you!” But I laid out my case and he said he would get me a meeting with all the VPs of the company and if I could convince them, then we would go with my idea.

I wanted to do a big project, but I knew I couldn’t sell it all at once. So Dani and I broke it down into stages, added metrics and KPIs and pitched it like this: We keep going into the next phase as long as the metrics are good. And we can wrap it up at any of these stages if the numbers don’t justify the investment any more.

When it was time for my pitch, I was terrified… At that point, I was only in the company for two weeks and here I was: about to step in front of the entire management board and tell them I ignored the only rule they gave me. I thought I blew it. But I said “Get it together Jordi, you’re prepared, you got this!” When I was done, everyone was silent. Then, one by one, they all started clapping. Apparently, that was the first time in the history of Outfit7 a game got approved on the spot.

I know I did a good job presenting my ideas. All those years of pitching games to investors paid off! But it could never have happened if the people at this company weren’t as agile and open to anything. Especially because I was brand new! Except from Dani, none of these people knew me! From that point I’ve had nothing but support and, about one month from today, we’re going to run the test that will determine if my project gets to enter its final proposed stage of development.

Today, there are currently more than 20 of us working in the Barcelona studio and our projects and environment are coming together better than I thought they would. I’ve honestly never experienced a company culture like Outfit7. My biggest fear with working for big companies was not being able to bring my opinion and say what I was thinking. Here it’s the opposite.

I can be completely honest with everyone and they actually want me to bring my ideas and opinions to projects even if I’m not directly involved in them. Of course, they don’t always do what I want, but everyone will listen to my arguments. I also think the Talking Tom and Friends brand has a lot of character and untapped potential, even in the mid-core segment. But the thing I like most is that I got to keep working in my hybrid role – a mix of product manager and game designer. I’m the only one in Outfit7 with that role. Actually, it’s rare to find someone with a job like mine in this industry. I think that’s awesome, because I get to figure out exactly how I can contribute the most to our team. What I wanted to do didn’t fit an existing job description, so the company let me come up with my own.

I love losing. And I love improving. For me it’s all about the learning process. When I play a game, I try to break it down, dissect what makes it work and learn everything I need to get to the top. Then get bored. The way I work on games is the same – I love the process of getting better and figuring out the best way to do it. And for that, you have to sometimes be willing to set aside all rules and limitations. I’m really excited that I found a company were people understand and share that mentality.