Joining Naughty Dog’s Kennel

Naughty Dog Mug

This post is part of My Career Series.

Here is the Chinese translation of this post.
本文之中文翻譯在此

I got an offer from Naughty Dog at the beginning of last November in 2013, and I’ve accepted it. I will start working for Naughty Dog mid-May this year after my graduation from DigiPen Institute of Technology at the end of April. I was told that this is the first time Naughty Dog has given an offer to a college grad. Naughty Dog has been my dream company for so many years (since junior high if I recall correctly), and that was one of the best days of my life!

Some of my friends at DigiPen were curious about how this entire thing happened and asked me to write a blog post about it, so here it is. I wrote this post right after the offer, and it took a while for me to actually publish it because I was waiting for Naughty Dog’s PR to review this post. It got approved last week, and here it is 🙂

It All Started at GDC 2013

Earlier in 2013, I went to GDC with a couple of my friends from DigiPen. We were not able to afford the all-access pass, so we bought the cheapest expo hall pass, which gave us 3-day access to the GDC expo hall. That being our first time to GDC, our plan was to practice meeting people from the industry and selling ourselves.

We spent the first morning just wandering around the expo hall, checking out various booths and demos. We were very lost and did not know what to do in the midst of such massive event. After fooling around for long enough, my friend and I started with the smaller booths; we gave out a few resumes and business cards, and we talked to several recruiters. We then got bored and headed out for lunch; afterwards, we resumed our mindless quest in the expo hall.

And all of a sudden, something caught my friend’s eye.

“Hey. That lady over there is wearing a Naughty Dog shirt. We should go talk to her.”

“No…it’s so awkward.” (I’d really like to talk to her, though.)

“I’m just gonna go for it. Come on.”
And so we went.

My friend tapped her on the shoulder and introduced us to her. It turned out that she was a recruiter from Naughty Dog.

“I’m on my way to meet one of the lead programmers from Naughty Dog, you guys want to come talk to him?”

“Yeah!”
We couldn’t believe that we were so lucky!

So we followed her to the lecture hall to meet with the lead programmer, and we spent a couple hours chatting together, mostly about how to prepare ourselves for the game industry as a student.

That is how we made our first connection with Naughty Dog.

After GDC, I still kept in touch with the recruiter, asking her various questions on how I can apply for Naughty Dog when I graduate.

My plan was to apply for Naughty Dog about three months before graduation. I would have had plenty of time to study for the interview (the lead programmer told me at GDC: “Always study for your interviews!”). But as you know, things don’t usually turn out as you have planned.

And There Came Microsoft

In 2012, I passed the first-round on-campus interview with Microsoft for a summer internship, but I didn’t get into the final-round on-site interview, because they “were looking for students nearer to graduation”. Microsoft automatically entered me to the final round on-site interview for a full-time position after my graduation around mid-May this year.

The day after my on-site interview with Microsoft, I was informed that I got an offer with a two-week deadline. Normally, one would have been very excited: Microsoft is one of the best companies to work for as a software engineer. But I had something else in mind: “If I take this offer, this means good-bye to the game industry I’ve always dreamed of for at least a few years.”

I called my dad for advice.

“Congratulations. But haven’t you always wanted to work for that one game company (Naughty Dog)?”

“Yeah. My plan was to apply for Naughty Dog next year, but now I have a two-week deadline from Microsoft,” I sighed.

“What are you waiting for then? Don’t you know the recruiter? Ask her if she can get you an early interview!”

The Phone Interviews

In the next morning, I wrote an email to the Naughty Dog recruiter, explaining my situation. She told me that they could start an accelerated interview process for me, so I could know whether I would get an offer from Naughty Dog before Microsoft’s deadline.

Then, I got a phone call from the recruiter later the same day at 2:30pm.

“Allen, we’re gonna give you a first-round technical phone interview at 4pm. Get your phone charged. Get ready, and don’t freak out.”

Well, I freaked out.

I grabbed my earphones and started listening to meditation music, trying to calm myself down at DigiPen’s parking lot before the phone interview.

It was time. I reserved a meeting room and got myself some papers. The phone interview lasted only 15 minutes.

Immediately after it finished, I got a phone call from the recruiter again.

“Allen. You got 100% on the first round. Second round is at 5pm. Get ready. Don’t freak out.”

Well, I freaked out again. I listened to more meditation music at the parking lot as I waited for the next interview.

The second round was longer and more technical. This time it lasted around an hour.

After the phone interview, the recruiter called again.

“Allen. We’re gonna fly you over next week for an on-site interview.”

I had three years to prepare for the entrance exams for high school and college, but I only got one weekend to prepare for probably the most important test in my life! I was so excited and nervous at the same time.

The week before the on-site interview was a hectic one. I had to take classes at DigiPen during the day, and study for the interview at night. I read through all my old class notes and whatever books I thought were relevant. Luckily, some professors were kind enough to give me extensions for homework assignments after I told them about the interview, so I had a little more extra time to study.

The On-Site Interview

They flew me to the LAX airport on a Sunday afternoon. I spent my final hours in the hotel that night reading though the class notes and a physics textbook I brought with me (that was the heaviest thing in my carry-on luggage).

The next morning, I arrived at Naughty Dog. And so my on-site interview started. I was interviewed by one of the co-presidents of Naughty Dog and two lead programmers. It was indeed a very technical interview. I got stuck a little bit on a couple questions; however, I was able to come up with answers to every question in the end. Time passed by so fast that I didn’t realize that it was almost time for lunch.

After having lunch with the two lead programmers, I was told by the recruiter to meet with the co-president in his office.

“So this is the final round,” I told myself.

I took a deep breath, and walked in to the co-president’s office.

“Allen. Have a seat,” said the co-president.

I sat down, nervously waiting for whatever difficult technical questions he prepared for me during the final round.

“We’ve decided to give you an offer.”

My jaw dropped, literally.

“…What?”

“After the interview, we thought we liked you, so we’re giving you an offer.”

I got an offer from Naughty Dog! I still couldn’t believe it when I walked outside the office building, dragging my luggage, also carrying the Naughty Dog mug and t-shirts the recruiter gave me.

That was an unbelievably crazy week, and my dream of working at Naughty Dog has come true. This entire thing happened only because my friend and I ran into a recruiter from Naughty Dog at GDC by accident.

About Allen Chou

Physics / Graphics / Procedural Animation / Visuals
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15 Responses to Joining Naughty Dog’s Kennel

  1. Lupin Ken says:

    Good Job man!
    I am also working to get in the games industry from Taiwan and am totally motivated by your story.
    Awesome accomplishment!

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Great story!

  3. birdinforest says:

    Congrates and thanks. I learned two things from your experience: study hard in technical area and move ahead to the target. Be happy to work in dream place. 恭喜!

  4. Oguzhan says:

    It’s not hard to understand how and why I stumbled upon this entry. 🙂 Congratulations! After I read that, I felt really happy for you. And I kinda envy you. I’m not a programmer kinda guy, and I have no experience on game dev and such. I’m a former tech & games writer and present Film & TV student and have just decided to use my skills in game industry. So, your experience you wrote down there is totally inspiring and couraging while I’m “working out.” Thanks a lot for sharing.

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  7. Ivan Chen says:

    Yes, Congrats. I like their games and idea. Hope you and make the best game for you and ND in the future. Congrats again.

  8. MelanieAnnS says:

    Congratulations! Thanks for sharing some good news.

  9. Dan says:

    Awesome story. Clearly you’ve worked incredibly hard for Naughty Dog to take notice and eventually offer you a job after graduation. The few people from ND that I’ve met were amazing, you’re going to have a great time!

  10. Midgard says:

    Oh man, I felt hyped with the way you have told things, I seriously liked this post.

    I feel so nice for you, I wish I could reach that level of the game industry! Oh my, seriously.

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  12. Vishwas S says:

    Congrats, i can relate being getting a chance to work in a place you wanted to work in. That’s the happiest feeling.

    Also glad that your dad gave you the perfect advice, and your skills to pass it.

  13. Ricardo says:

    As a Brazilian dreaming of working in big studios, I can say that story is much more than inspiration. It’s something to remember that sometimes the big barrier is not get risk.
    Thank you so much for sharing and congrats.
    Be happy in living your dream 🙂

  14. pk says:

    Congrats! You’re also so lucky to have an awesome dad who gave you great advice. 🙂

  15. wolvtodd says:

    Congrats.
    : )

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