So here’s a milestone that feels strange to type: today is my ten-year anniversary at Harmonix.
According to all of the statistics and thinkpieces I’ve seen, this is not really supposed to happen. Millennials and game industry employees are both known for frequent job changes (voluntary and involuntary). Meanwhile, I’ve somehow spent nearly a third of my life working at the same studio.
It’s tempting for me to see this kind of longevity as a reflection of some virtue of mine. I can imagine a self-aggrandizing framing of my career that makes it sound like I’ve survived, and even thrived, by the sweat of my brow: I started as contract QA, got hired full-time a couple of months later, jumped over to design after a few years as a tester, and eventually worked my way up to being the lead designer on Rock Band, our flagship series. It sounds almost inspiring, written that way!
The truth, though, is that my own skill and persistence have comparatively little to do with it—I’ve just been extremely lucky. I was hired because Harmonix happened to be growing just as I finished school, and I showed up at exactly the right moment with exactly the right skills and interests. Over the ensuing years I survived a number of rounds of layoffs, also by chance; I’d be on the right project at the right time, or I’d happen to have experience in some area that the company thought it needed. Even that brief stint as a lead designer was largely luck—the rest of the team had moved onto other projects, and I was the one who stuck around doing post-release patch support. (It turns out that one way to become the lead designer on a project is to become…the only designer.) And that’s not even counting all of the other privilege I’ve lucked into throughout my life.
This is not to say that I don’t think I’ve done good work at Harmonix. I wouldn’t have survived long enough to get those chances otherwise! But at the same time—not to get all Nassim Taleb here—I think it’s healthy to recognize how large a role randomness plays in these things. It helps keep your ego in check, if nothing else.
Here’s to another ten years of whatever has let me get this far.