Remote Working: How Luna Labs CEO Steven Chard runs the company across London and Minsk from home

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The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field – especially in these complex times we are all living through at the minute.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the scenes as well as how employees around the world are adapting to the life of remote work, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry in our Jobs in Games: Remote Working series.

This week we spoke with Luna Labs co-founder and CEO Steven Chard.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Steven Chard: As a co-founder and CEO, I’m responsible for our overall growth and direction as a business. When we first started Luna, my role boiled down to finding a product market fit and making sure we didn’t run out of money. While finding that market fit, we were able to identify a big bottleneck in playable ad production that we wanted to address.

We also soon realised that the production of gameplay video was ripe for innovation too. So, we took on the challenge and further created a piece of technology that reduced the long and arduous process of gameplay video production.

I can confirm that starting a company in games is an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s worth every minute.

Steven Chard

As a CEO, I also empower the incredible team around me to build these products and deliver an exceptional service to the developers using Luna technology. Now, Luna is profitable and has found its market fit. My role has evolved into making sure we maintain our high growth trajectory, deliver a sustainable business model, and continue to find areas where we can innovate as a business.

On a day to day, internally, I work closely with our Product, Engineering and Commercial teams. Externally, I work with investors, focus on partnership opportunities, and most importantly, catch up with our invaluable clients for proper feedback.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?

I enjoyed gaming through my childhood on consoles and PC. I built a mobile game with two friends a couple of years after free-to-play became so important in our industry. The game wasn’t a knockout success, but the build process was super insightful.

My first meaningful exposure to the business side of mobile gaming was at AD-X Tracking where I led growth and worked very closely with dozens of the top developers at the time. These close working relationships helped me understand the levers these studios had for growth and what technologies were available to help them succeed, in the space that required more than just a good game.

In summary, trying to really understand the market and working collaboratively with games studios was always something important to me. So, taking the plunge into entrepreneurship with Luna came quite naturally.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I studied business during my undergrad and learned other skills along the way. Taking Luna as an example, the team is split roughly 80/20 engineers to business operations. The engineers we hire come in different flavours from our engine developers working on our Unity plugin technology to the full stack developers working on the front-end web UI, called Playground.

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Our developers typically have a strong background in either maths and physics or computer science and strong programming skills. Typical courses we would advise for aspiring professionals would be exploring the study of Web technology stack (for example HTTP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS) in addition to having a knowledge of Unity, C#, .NET and the Mono development framework. On the business side, being analytical is important as decisions are now underpinned by a deep understanding of data.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

I can confirm that starting a company in games is an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s worth every minute. I feel very fortunate to work in such a dynamic and forward-thinking industry which brings a bit of fun to people every day.

Games companies don’t always look for specific ‘games’ qualifications or track records. There’s a mix of skills from development, data science, maths, business and art that can be applied to games companies. And often having people come in with fresh eyes from another industry or as graduates works out really well. It’s a very open industry in that respect, and it’s a lot of fun once you’re in.

What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Whether it’s in a games studio or a games technology company, there are many routes in and many opportunities to forge a great career. The industry is growing rapidly and the economics of gaming are also ever-evolving.

My advice to anyone in the space is to work hard, be proactive, and challenge the norm. No matter whichever discipline you end up pursuing, applying these methods day to day will undoubtedly help you.

How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?

The team at Luna is split across London and Minsk. In the early days, it was mostly skewed to Minsk. From then on, we learned to have very regular calls and close comms to ensure we were working as a tight unit despite the physical distance.

As the team grew in London, we continued to maintain this close working culture with our Minsk teammates. Whilst we haven’t been able to meet in person since Covid-19 emerged, we have compensated by having additional virtual time outside of daily stand-ups and team meetings.

I would say that being required to work remotely forced our hand internally to further improve our remote culture.

Steven Chard

From an external perspective, we thought the impact would be worse to not be able to meet new developers, our clients, and attend events. However, we’ve been growing every month, and the whole industry has shown real resilience and willingness to keep pushing on despite the headwinds.

What does your typical day look like when working remotely?

Well, working remotely during lockdown with two children in the house was a lot of fun, I can assure you. I’m in London and things are starting to open up again, kids are back into a school/nursery on a reduced schedule, but nonetheless, some normality is in sight.

A typical day involves a morning stand up where everyone in the team (22 and counting!) takes 30 seconds to a minute to share their priorities and goal for the day. We find having this focus every day to be very important.

I structure my day in a way that helps me balance my priorities, something that’s proven vital to success when there are simply too many tasks to complete in a single day. I focus on my top two priorities for any given day and then fill my calendar with a mixture of both internal and external comms, balancing them in a way that ensures that I complete those two priorities that will make the most positive impact at Luna.

What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?

The advantages are definitely the lack of commute, and the opportunity to approach work differently and still achieve great results.

On the flip side, as a business owner managing home life too, if often feels like there are simply not enough hours in the day. The commute I’ve now realised was quite a good down time to brainstorm and think, which I hadn’t quite realised before.

I would say that being required to work remotely forced our hand internally to further improve our remote culture. We created more opportunities for social events like our bi-weekly Friday quiz and opened up different group chats to share non-work-related thoughts and ideas. These examples have helped our “Lunarians” maintain a balance during these challenging times.

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?

Given my home situation, I quickly realised that I’d have to be very strict with a time schedule to manage and get the most out of a working day. Practically speaking, I wish it didn’t take me a month to order a second screen and a decent office chair because that would have saved some time and pain.

Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?

It is really important to structure your day and stick to it. Turn off or limit notifications for your mental sanity. Exercise when you can and eat well. Self-care is important. If you’ve been working for endless hours, it’s important to go for a walk and have some downtime. Without it, you will burn out sooner rather than later.

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After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in an office?

At Luna, we hosted a team survey to see how everyone feels about returning to the office. The overall response was that our team wants the flexibility to do both.

Frankly, our team is extremely accountable and diligent. We’ve always encouraged missing rush hour and working from home occasionally. We care about the wellbeing of our “Lunarians” and we’ll be moving forward with that balance in mind. Personally, I’ll be glad to hop on my bike and cycle to the office, but I’ve also learnt to appreciate the home set up and will be doing a bit of both from now on.

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