For Jessica Morris (13), recruiting is more than asking applicants about their work experience — it’s also about creating an experience for them. Morris works as a senior technical recruiter at Niantic Inc.
Niantic makes video games that incorporate augmented reality (AR), an innovative technology in which digital elements interact with real life spaces. Niantic’s most well-known work is Pokémon Go, the popular free-to-play app video game that incentivizes players to travel the real world around them to locate, train, and battle fantastical creatures within the app. Morris said that Niantic’s cutting-edge research in AR technology and its goal to ground digital games in real-life, outdoor spaces sets Niantic apart from other developers. She believes her career in recruiting pairs nicely with the evolving tech industry’s forward-thinking.
“You get to really shape someone’s experience in recruitment,” she said. “You really get to talk about the company, where we’re going, and share that vision.”
Morris didn’t initially know what she wanted to do for a career. She entered PLNU without a declared major, but was interested in the realm of economics. Morris decided the international development studies program would be a good fit.
“It’s very high-level, big picture thinking,” she said. “Some of the classes are on how to develop a nation, which you’re probably never going to do, but it was so interesting.”
Morris is grateful she was a part of a smaller major in a school with low student-to-faculty ratios. She imagines she would have had a less personalized experience had she gone to classes in large lecture halls with hundreds of students.
“Getting to have that individualized attention was really great,” Morris said. “You get to interact with your professors [who] have a lot to give.”
“Getting to have that individualized attention at PLNU was really great. You get to interact with your professors [who] have a lot to give.”
Although international development studies didn’t lead her directly to a career in recruiting, Morris attributes many of her most valuable skills to her time at PLNU. One of these was the ability to relate to and communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.
“A lot of things that shaped me from Point Loma were interpersonal,” Morris said. “For example, it was really cool to live in my hall, surrounded by so many different people who were ultimately there for the same thing.”
Exiting college, Morris got a temp position at DreamWorks, where she managed scheduling, complete expense reports, and interviewed assistants. It was her first job within the technology realm, as well as her first experience with recruiting. She was initially hesitant to be a recruiter since some recruitment jobs are overly competitive and commission-based. However, she soon found recruiting to be a rewarding, people-oriented career path. She moved on to recruit for Snapchat, Inc., online pet care service Dog Vacay, and technology recruitment firm Binc. Morris finds it interesting that recruitment is so seldom talked about in job fairs and education spaces, even though it’s an exciting and promising vocation.
“Zero recruiters I know thought they’d be recruiters,” Morris said. “Recruiting has so little visibility as a career path.”
Human Resources (HR) and recruiting are often regarded as similar — or identical — occupations. Morris explained that although they sometimes share certain duties, the two roles are very different.
“HR takes care of employees, but recruiters take care of people before they become employees,” Morris said.
One important skill Morris learned was being able to convey a snapshot of the company to candidates. Recruiters need a great overview of the company’s vision, goals, and values in order to find out who will be the best fit within the organization.
“Interpersonal work is about shaping experiences,” Morris. “You get to talk with people cross-functionally within the company and have great interactions with candidates.”
“HR takes care of employees, but recruiters take care of people before they become employees.”
Now that she works for Niantic Inc., Morris has enjoyed recruiting candidates for a greater variety of opportunities. Niantic is the first game developer she has worked for, and Morris has been able to connect with creative professionals as well as tech-savvy applicants.
“Niantic is a hybrid of a tech company and a video game company,” Morris said. “I’m still recruiting on the technical side with engineers, but now I get to recruit VFX artists and creative directors and producers.”
Many of Niantic’s founders had previously worked on Google Maps, which led to Niantic’s emphasis on geospatial technology. Niantic wants to lead the conversation around AR, a technology that brings digital content into real-life spaces. Unlike other video games, Niantic’s games incentivize players to go outside and explore while they play. What the player sees on their smartphone is a combination of their real-life surroundings and elements from the video game.
Niantic’s next big release is Peridot, an adventure game that lets each player take care of a fantastical, one-of-a-kind pet as they grow and explore the world. Coming May 2023, the game utilizes more advanced AR technology than Pokémon Go to create the impression that the virtual pet really is interacting with the player’s surroundings.
“We’ve created some really interesting technology around characters interacting with their environment,” Morris said. “If you’re holding your phone and walking behind a tree, your pet goes behind that tree — things like that.”
Also coming in 2023 is Marvel World of Heroes, a superhero game that lets players be their very own superheroes who team up with characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, and the X-Men. It was important to Niantic to make sure everyone would enjoy the game, regardless of gender, accessibility, or favorite super powers.
“The idea of Marvel World of Heroes is anyone can be a hero,” Morris said. “We’ve been passionate about making sure the self-designing gameplay encompasses everyone.”
Morris is optimistic about the future of Niantic and other tech companies that are finally bouncing back from the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s excited to help choose new developers on future projects and to see the direction that Niantic takes after their big games release this year.
“We’ve spent the last couple of years building, and this is the year that we’re shipping games,” Morris said. “The learning that comes from shipping new games really positions us for what we work on in the future.”