Held on Thursday night, March 9th, the Alumni Back 2 Campus panel offered students at UCI a glimpse of what life is like after college. The event featured four UCI graduates. First was Ciaran Foley, a ’96 graduate who is the co-founder and CEO of Immersive Entertainment, Inc. and the second was Aidan Moon, a ’14 graduate now a professional esports shoutcaster at Riot Games. Third was Kathy Chiang, a ’16 graduate who co-founded one of the largest gaming clubs in the world, The Association of Gamers at UCI and is the coordinator at the newly opened UCI eSports Arena, and last but not least was Johnny Hou, a ’06 graduate who is the founder and CEO of a leading manufacturer in the PC gaming industry, NZXT Inc. The Dean of the Donald Bren School of Informatics and Computer Sciences, Marios C. Papaefthymiou, acted as the moderator for this installment of the Back2Campus series which consisted of careers involving the computer and gaming sciences.
During the panel, Dean Papaefthymiou brought up a question that applied to many in the audience with: “What is life like after UCI?” Responding first, Johnny Hou claims that he is happy with how far he has gotten as his company, NZXT Inc., manufactures gaming parts and currently sells to over 50 countries around the world. “I’m doing what I love,” he states. Sitting two chairs down, Aiden Moon, shoutcaster for Riot Games, shares his daily routine. Moon says he starts the work day off with “understanding what [the team] is working on and what they are trying to do in the future team-building and how to focus on synergy.”
As the panel progressed, topics such as a response to failure, greatest fears, and sharing moments of success emerged as the major take-aways of the panel. “Can you tell us something about failure and how you recovered from it?” asked the Dean. Sharing his entrepreneur experiences with the audience, Ciaran Foley gave us a glimpse of what it was like to start from the basics. He began to describe a project he and his colleagues had been working on for two years. Upon release, it was successful – until an economic crisis hit. “It really humbled me,” Foley said thoughtfully. “Two years of our lives fell down the drain and we cried for like 48 hours… but then we picked ourselves back up.” Agreeing to his words, Hou says, “Failure really is okay. It’s part of life and you can learn from failure.” Continuing on, the NZXT founder emphasized that the most significant part of failure is “getting up and figuring out what went wrong.”
Also offering his thoughts, Moon describes how everyday is full of failures for him. However, he opens his mind up to positivity and says that such failures allow for him to “figure out how to move forward with them.” They don’t necessarily have to be your failure, he explains; you can learn from other people’s failures too! Coordinator Kathy Chiang tagged on to Moon’s statement, saying, “The more experiences you go through, the more failures you have.” Of course, one must also keep in mind that just because one can learn from failure, it does not give one the incentive to validate continuously failing. Johnny Hou says, “As long as you are smart about [failure] and understand the risks you are taking, then it is okay.”
Gradually, the panel transitioned to a heavier note when Dean Papaefthymiou asked the panelists about their fears when pursuing their current career. This time, Moon spoke first and relayed to the audience about his biggest fears. “I was so scared about what came next,” he said as he reminisced about his past, “because if I failed, do I go back?” At the time, Moon’s career as an esports shoutcaster was very rare since the commentator aspect of gaming had yet to emerge at large. “No one really made a career of it just yet,” the Riot shoutcaster told the audience. “There is always fear there when blazing a new trial. It’s hard to be what you can’t see with no example.”
Nodding in agreement to Moon’s comment, Kathy Chiang then described her fear in college before working as an esports coordinator. “I spent a lot of my time event planning for TAG (The Association of Gamers) and only passed my computer classes with the minimum grade. I also barely had any outside research projects,” she says. “When I then began job hunting, I wondered, should I go back and try to do programing?” She continued, “However, I realized that it would not be practical to put myself on a path where I was many years behind my peers.”
Of course, wherever there are fears and failures, success is usually around the corner. When inquired about their achievements, each relayed their own stories of success. While Foley’s was “a rush and rewarding feeling after each one of those fundings”, Kathy’s was a sense of satisfaction a few weeks after the eSports Arena’s grand opening. While Moon’s achievement was being selected to commentate for the midseason invitational, Hou’s was being able “to go on forums and look up products and see that consumer reviews were positive.” Although the panelist all had different stories, they had one thing in common: they all started with their fiery passion towards gaming. As the panel came to a conclusion, Aidan Moon offered his own words of wisdom. “Know what you are worth. You undersell yourself a lot when you are finding a job,” he says. “Passion comes first, money comes after.”