Hi Igor, thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with me. To start, what do you do at Wargaming?
So, I recently transitioned over to a new role. I used to be a Lead for World of Tanks Gameplay, and now I recently moved to the Wargaming Prague office to be the Prague Gateway Lead just five weeks ago.
What is the Prague Gateway Team?
I think in order to fully explain what the Prague Gateway Team does, I need to discuss some of Wargaming’s history. World of Tanks, our flagship game, has historically been developed in our Minsk studio [Wargaming’s largest office] in Belarus ever since Wargaming’s inception. Several years ago, when I was still part of the core development team for World of Tanks, Wargaming started to invest and expand development studios internationally. During that time, we in the Minsk office started to consider development support from the other Wargaming studios throughout the world because our World of Tanks players consistently wanted new features and improvements in the game, and the Minsk studio could not keep up with the accelerated demand in game development.
Primarily, those partner studios were dedicated to adapt World of Tanks in their regions since we already have a strong following in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States, formed when the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991], and we saw value in expanding the reach of our games in other countries. Due to this increased demand from our players, we started to work with our partner studios. Unfortunately, this proved to be a very difficult process because there was no dedicated structure between the partner studios and the team in Minsk. In hindsight, we should have helped these partner studios to adapt and integrate to our processes because our video game development projects are very complex and intricate.
We needed someone to help the teams get integrated into Wargaming Minsk’s development, but there were so many factors that created pain points for coordination across cross-functional teams, that it made the execution of the projects very difficult. At the time, the Minsk office was extremely busy, and we were in a hurry to create new features for our players. In my opinion, it was absolutely not possible to help the partner studios get integrated at that point because we didn’t have the best communication process, there was a large language barrier, and there were time-zone differences between offices.
We know it’s impossible to succeed in multinational development if different offices are not integrated in our development pipeline, and this year it was decided that we are going to continue working with our partners. The Prague Gateway team is how we are going to rectify those pain points, and make sure we support our studios moving forward.
Prague is a great place to start this new initiative, and I’m excited to be the Lead for the Prague Gateway Team. The main goal for the Prague Gateway Team is to integrate all the partners to Wargaming productions and phases so that they have all the necessary information and assets to be successful - to remove the hurdles they face. We moved a few people from the Minsk office, like me, to cultivate a culture of cooperation and trust between the teams.
This idea of Gateway is to have full representatives from each discipline be it production, game design, art, and so forth so that we can support our other studios fully without disturbing development in Minsk. Some of these external teams don’t fully understand the culture, delivering standards, phases, and checkpoints at the Minsk office and Gateway is going to be there for them in order to pass through these challenges with ease. We’re not changing the local processes that our other studios have in place because it won’t work and they know what’s best for their teams. We’re there to streamline the whole communication process to make production more efficient.
What challenges do you and your team face?
I think the Gateway Team faces two challenges at this point. The first challenge is how new we are. Are you familiar with Tuckman’s Management model of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing? [model to explain team development and behavior] Well, I think the Gateway Team is currently in the Storming phase [phase in Tuckman’s Management model in which conflicts begin to arise within teams due to team member differences] where we’re understanding who we are as a Gateway Team. This is typically the most difficult point of team development, and I’m particularly having a hard time with it. It’s really difficult for me personally because I would say I’m very good at convincing, motivating, and inspiring my teams in Russian; my native language. In English, it’s very difficult because it’s hard for me to find the right words to say- I don’t just need to explain the idea, but I need to inspire everyone on my team on how important Gateway is for the company.
Since the team is a mixture of different cultures and nationalities, it difficult to build trust when there is such a huge language barrier between us. However, I do believe we’re on the right track in developing the team as a whole, and I’m sure we’re going to do great things once we work together some more.
The other challenge we face is building trust between the Gateway Team and the Minsk teams. Since our primary goal is to build trust between all our partners, this will not be possible if we don’t’ start with Minsk first. Since Minsk historically has been doing development solely at that location, it’s very difficult to prove projects can be done outside that space. It’s difficult task to tackle, but it’s an important step towards our goals in the Gateway Team. We need to show the Minsk development teams that there are many valuable resources outside of that office that can help them facilitate success.
For someone who just recently moved from Minsk to Prague, how has it been for you?
When my wife, son, and I moved we were very anxious, and I think that’s a very human response during big life events. You know those questions start going through your head like “Was this the right move for me and my family?” and trying to find answers for those questions is difficult. You know, I initially thought there wasn’t much of a difference between Belarussian and Czech culture, but I was very wrong. Cost of living in Prague is higher than in Minsk so that’s a change I needed to get used to.
When I first got to Prague, a lot of the thoughts I had were focused on the short-term impact for me and my family, but once I considered the future, I started to look at things in a different light. Being the Lead for the Prague Gateway team is a priceless opportunity for my career and it’s very exciting. I also started to notice different things about Prague. I’m really amazed. People in Prague treat life, family, work, and their free time very differently. I see that the culture in Prague is a bit more relaxed, and the people here seem happier. I hope that as time goes on, I’ll also be more relaxed and happier.
Igor, you’ve been with Wargaming for such a long time, what keeps you here?
I really liked the teams I was on, specifically the people. I’ve been very fortunate to have hard working and likeable teams. I also have the great privilege of working with multiple fantastic bosses that have given me the opportunity to do a range of projects for Wargaming that helped me develop into who I am today. These opportunities have given me the experience I need to tackle the challenges I have for the new team, and for that, I’m grateful.
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