Working halfway around the world for a gaming company sounds like a childhood dream, but it’s an everyday reality for Jason Conger ’11.
A graduate of the Bachelor of Innovation program in Business Administration at UCCS, Conger has taken his education from Colorado Springs to Boulder, Berlin and Finland, where he now works as a Growth Lead for Supercell, developer of the popular mobile game “Clash of Clans.”
Conger started on his path before mobile games were nearly as popular as they are today. Along the way, he’s had to learn how to change career directions, live internationally and pick himself up after disappointments.
“At Supercell, we make games for people all around the world to play for years and remember forever,” he said. “To even be a small part of something like that is truly remarkable and super rewarding.”
We caught up with Conger to hear his inspiring story of resilience and adventure. From changing his major in college to a failed brewery business, find out how Conger has used his early missteps as a launching pad for success.
I’m a Growth Lead at Supercell, a mobile game developer based in Finland. You may know them from the popular game "Clash of Clans." I work on the investments team, where I help game studios around the world grow through performance marketing.
I had been working in email marketing and digital advertising for a few years and learned how to make sense of data for decision making. This led me to my career as a User Acquisition Manager. It started in Boulder, at a gaming company called Backflip Studios. It was equal parts network connections, relevant experience and luck that got my foot in the door there.
After a few years, I was leading a team as the Director of User Acquisition and Ad Monetization. I started to think about moving abroad, because I wanted to travel more, and had the opportunity to interview at a company in Berlin. I had never even been to Germany prior, but decided to take on a role at Wooga, a story driven mobile gaming developer. After a few years I was leading the User Acquisition team. Four years later after a global hit, an acquisition, and an IPO, I moved on to Supercell in Helsinki, and that's where I am now.
I work for a gaming company…and not just any gaming company, but Supercell! I feel like that’s pretty special. I have an incredible job that I really enjoy at a company that I love. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember how cool that is and how fortunate I am.
At Supercell, we make games for people all around the world to play for years and remember forever. To even be a small part of something like that is truly remarkable and super rewarding. I'm encouraged to think big, take risks and not be afraid to fail. It's a great environment to be creative, feel challenged, and do really meaningful work.
I check reports, emails, industry news and Slack to get my day started along with a cup of coffee. Then I have some higher-level strategic work such as analyzing data, running financial projections, making presentations or building tools and dashboards. Usually I have a handful of meetings throughout the day with my team, UA managers, network partners, financial analysts, data engineers, game leads, founders/CEOs and more.
My role is pretty cross functional, so I'm often working with a lot of different teams on a regular basis. My day to day is always a bit different and keeps me excited and looking forward to the next challenges ahead. It's a pretty cool environment and there's always something to do.
I’m really proud of myself that I’ve managed to live abroad in multiple countries. Honestly, I never really thought you could actually do that. But when I started looking there were more opportunities than I expected. I took a leap of faith and it's all managed to work out, although maybe it hasn't always been easy. I remember telling myself that I would always wonder "what could have been?" if I had the chance to move to Berlin and never took it. In the end, I decided it might be the craziest experience of my life, but it would never be something I would regret. Now looking back, I can absolutely say that was true and am so glad that I decided to take that chance and never look back.
It’s really hard to make a commercially successful game. I've gotten to work on a handful of games that have made it, but for the few that do, there are a lot more that don't. So that means you might work on a game for years only to see it fail in the end.
This was the case with "DragonVale World" at Backflip Studios. The team worked on a sequel to DragonVale with beautiful 3D dragons, characters and landscapes. We spent more than a year tweaking, optimizing, improving the marketing and trying everything we could to make it work. It's always a tough call, because you have a game team who has sank their blood, sweat and tears into a project that they‘ve likely invested years of their life into. As a UA manager you know and understand the numbers and can expect a certain outcome based on testing and evaluating. It's a true blend of art and science, and nobody really ever has the exact answer or formula or it would be easy.
In the end, though, this game didn't have the metrics, and the decision was made to launch it anyway. It came at a huge financial loss to the company, and many people suffered because of it. I felt like it made me really question if I wanted to be in games if it was going to be this hard and cause so much stress and disappointment.
Only a year later though, I was able to work on a project called "June‘s Journey" at Wooga, which changed everything. We hit lightning in a bottle and we could feel it. The game, the audience, the theme, the brand, the team — it was all there. It helped boost Wooga up and just was a really great experience for a lot of people in their careers. I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been a part of introducing the game to so many players around the world.
UCCS taught me resilience and how to adapt when things don’t go as expected. I switched majors in college after a year and a half after I realized that Game Design & Development wasn‘t the path for me. I knew I loved games, but I wasn’t a programmer at heart. I had to take summer classes and spring break classes just to finish in four years, but I powered through.
I ended up landing into a Bachelor’s of Innovation program in Business Administration with an emphasis in Creative Communication…so what does that even mean? I learned about game development, statistics, marketing, economics, finance, art, music and entrepreneurship. Somehow, in a way, it feels like the program was built for me to end up in this position, although no one would have known that at the time, because this field really didn't exist yet. If I hadn’t gone back to gaming, looking at it from a different perspective, I might not be on this path. Because I pivoted towards business, it gave me a different career in gaming that I didn't foresee for my younger self.
I‘d rather try to live more in the moment than think of where I'll be in the next decade. If you told me 10 years ago that I would live in Berlin for four years and then be living in Finland working for Supercell, I would have not believed you in the slightest. Things can really change quickly. I think a decade from now, I’ll be open to whatever unexpected opportunity comes my way and follow along wherever life takes me.
It‘s okay to fail and make mistakes as long as you learn something in the process. It was always important to me to get good grades and do well in school, and failing was one of my biggest fears. I remember feeling like a failure for not being good at computer science and switching majors. Failing is not all bad, though — and it can be really important because that's all a part of the learning curve. We get so focused on success that if we fail, it all feels like a waste. But there's always something to take away for the next project or team or career or adventure.
Ask for forgiveness, not permission. I‘d rather be a self starter and take chances and make mistakes than sit by waiting.
I enjoy traveling and exploring new places. I love meeting people from different cultures, trying new foods and drinks, and having unique experiences. Living in Colorado also showed me I really enjoy being out in nature and enjoying the outdoors. Whether that is climbing, hiking, snowboarding or biking, I like to get outside and disconnect from the day to day.
After I graduated from UCCS, one of my best friends and I started a brewery! It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I've had in my life. We were young, naïve and ambitious. We thought in our heads we could do it, and we gave it a really good shot, but fell short. I learned so much in the process though and wouldn’t take it back. I'm sure one day when I'm ready again, I'll give it another go.