Q&A with Robert Schmidt - Part Two
Meet Robert Schmidt, a Columbia College graduate now living in China and working for Ubisoft. Over a three-part Q&A series, we'll "talk" with him about his experience living in China, his work, his thoughts about gaming and how students today can find success.
What is a typical day like for you?
Work “starts” at 9 a.m. here. But it’s quite laid back and relaxed, so as long as we arrive by 9:30 for our morning scrum meeting, it’s not an issue. I live next to a metro station and Ubisoft studio is also next to a station, so generally it only takes me about 25 minutes to get to work. If I ride a bike I can get there even faster. Fortunately I don’t need to buy a bike because of the bike sharing companies here, so usually you can just grab one on the sidewalk, unlock it with your phone and you’re off. Regardless of which way I get to work, it’s extremely crowded in the morning. If you don’t mind being crammed onto a metro train with a thousand other people, or riding a bike in the world’s worst traffic, then you’ll do fine in China.
About 6 p.m. is when work ends, but since our headquarters in in Paris, we often stay later to have calls with them. This means I’m usually in a rush to get dinner and go home. There are many parks and rivers nearby, so it’s nice to walk around. I’d say the nicest thing about living in China is that you can walk pretty much anywhere and feel comfortable doing it. If you are walking down Stadium Boulevard in Columbia, for example, you’ll feel a bit awkward I think. Just imagine the area around the stadium during a Mizzou football game going on, and that’s what Chengdu is like all day long.
On the weekends it’s nice to get out of the city and go to some of the smaller towns/cities around. They have high speed trains to many places so you can get to Chongqing (the largest city in Western China) in about 1.5 hours by train. It’s about the same distance as STL to KC (Missouri needs to get one).
What does your apartment look like?
I just purchased an apartment about a year ago with my girlfriend, and moved in recently. Housing arrangements in China are completely different from the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s usually in a frustrating way. I think most foreigners here will agree with me that it’s one of the most difficult parts of living in China, as there are almost no “apartment complexes” where you can rent from a company, and instead you must rent from an individual.
What's it like working for a large company like Ubisoft?
I was shocked to find out how small Ubisoft is. I previously worked for Cox Health in Springfield, and discovered it had more employees and quite a bit higher revenue than Ubisoft does. I’ve found Ubisoft to be very ad-hoc in management style. Each studio is quite independent from others. Basically, we need to take care of ourselves and our HQ is there to provide help. You’ll often hear people refer to specific studios when a game comes out, because what Ubisoft Montreal releases can be vastly different than what you’ll see come out of Ubisoft Shaghai for example. In some ways, it’s a bit of a weakness because there is a lack of standardization. But it’s also a strength because each studio is unique and can be a specialist in certain areas.
What kind of projects do you typically work on?
I previously worked on casual games for console, so I worked on the Hasbro Game Channel, Scrabble, UNO, some bundle packs and Wheel of Fortune. I also helped out on some projects like Valiant Hearts and a Facebook game: Smurfs & Co. 2. Most recently, I’m working on a project I can’t talk about, but it’s by far the most exciting project I have ever worked on.
All images provided by Robert Schmidt.
Continue the series: