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Success Story – Lior Cohen, PHP Developer at Mytopia / Hadas Shimoni

Lior Cohen, 25 and recently married, showed a love of computers at an early age. After his IDF service he worked as a programmer with no formal education or official experience. Following several jobs and professional advancement, he started to work as a PHP developer at Mytopia a year ago, a job he came to through the Jobnet site.

"I've been involved in computers since the age of 10. Over the years I taught myself how to program using books and driven by a love for the computer field. I hoped to find a leading workplace that recognized my skills and didn't have requirements like a degree or coursework at an institution of higher learning. After about a year at my previous job I was hired by Mytopia, which operates in the world of virtual games, a field that has always interested me."

Before Mytopia did you work professionally in computers?
"After the army I held several jobs in the field of communications and in my spare time I continued doing open source programming for various projects. At a certain point I came across an online forum with a job offer for a beginning programmer at a small startup in Ramat Gan, where I worked for about a year."

Lior Cohen (left) and CEO Guy Ben Artzi (right) at the company offices

Why did you decide to leave?
"The decision was based on several reasons, most of all a feeling that I had no more room to grow there professionally. Although there was a good atmosphere among the workers, I didn't feel I had a future at the company because it was small and not flexible in terms of its products. After I left we maintained excellent ties and I respect them a lot, both professionally and as individuals."

Which considerations did you take into account when you set out to look for work?
"I was looking for a small, stable company with a flexible vision and a solid future. From a professional standpoint I was looking for a job in the field of Web and social networks that required command of PHP and JavaScript, the languages I specialize in."

Where did you look?
"I looked mostly on job-search sites. Through friends I came to Jobnet, which is known for its broad range of positions in technical fields. Although I didn't have a formal educational background, companies got back to me immediately; two days after sending my resume I had heard from six companies."

How did the recruitment process go at the company?
"First of all I liked it that the CEO of the company, Guy Ben Artzi, made a special effort to accommodate me. Because I was short on time he called me in for an interview on Friday morning. I went through two technical interviews with the manager of development and the chief architect, and eventually a personal interview with Guy. A few days later they notified me I'd been hired. Based on the professional questions they asked me I got the impression it was a serious company with a lot of experience and a high caliber technically."

What attracted you to Mytopia?
"After a round of interviews I lost interest in the other offers I received and it was clear to me this was the only company where I wanted to work. I felt a special atmosphere at Mytopia, a young and dynamic atmosphere. All of the workers were enthusiastic and believed in the company's ability to succeed. Another consideration was that the company has an old Street Fighter II arcade game, which I happen to be very good at, and that has Guy regretting he hired me…"

You didn't have concerns about entering another small startup?
"I liked the company concept – the online games industry and social networks – so I didn't look at its size, although compared to other startups Mytopia is considered relatively large. It's an innovative company on the cutting edge in its field, which gives the workers an opportunity to work in one of the most exciting, high-demand field in today's software world.
For hardworking developers who want to learn, grow and be involved in an area of software related to Internet development and social networks, Mytopia is definitely the perfect place to be."

CEO Guy Ben Artzi on Mytopia:
"Mytopia was founded in 2007 and offers web users a games community in which players from around the world can hook up to one another for a range of casual games. The company has a branch in Petach Tikva with 25 employees and another branch in the US.
Those who use social networks, e.g. Facebook, hi5, MySpace, etc., along with the various widget platforms on Microsoft, Google and Apple, can install our applications straight from the social networks they're registered on, identify who's online, compete with them in a broad range of games and forge contact."

What is casual gaming?
"The casual game market is considered on of the growing fields in the world of computer games. What distinguishes these games is their simplicity. They don't require a high level of strategy, but have simple rules, without a long-term commitment or great skill on the part of the player. Most of these games are easy to learn and a fun way to pass time. Producing them is also relatively simple.
We developed a technology that allows you to write a code just once and distribute it on all of the critical platforms on the Web in order to prove our platforms' abilities through the game market."

Lior, what do you do as a PHP programmer at the company?
"I'm in charge of developing the Web platform that encompasses the company's games and I'm involved in research and support for the other development teams that develop for this platform. I also develop the interface systems for the various social networks and the various widget engines. Because of the company's dynamism, a lot of emphasis is placed on quick, independent learning of totally new fields, various protocols and competing products. I'm learning new languages and technologies every week and remain at the technological vanguard."

What kind of a company is Mytopia as a startup building virtual games?
"It's a company that doesn't compare with any other company I've worked at in the past in terms of the atmosphere, the people and the fields of operation. The workers at Mytopia are young at heart and all of them are hardworking and bright, and everybody is on close terms with one another. They aren't afraid to stay late and even enjoy it, based on a sense of mission and a commitment to the company's success. The CEO and the managers show a lot of trust, respect and encouragement toward the employees and cooperate fully.
The work environment is challenging and exciting because the place is bursting with ideas, which drives all of the workers to initiate and run forward with their ideas. Each and every one of my colleagues excels in their fields and together form a technological commando force."

Do you feel you've arrived at the right place, and do you see yourself at the company in the long term?
"Definitely. I feel I can make a difference and make optimal use of my skills. Since Mytopia is a small company that encourages its workers, I'm not just a little cog in the works but serve as a central and important factor in the system.
I'm very happy to have found this job and I get a lot of gratification out of it. On the technological level we're working with innovative technologies in a fascinating sphere, and in the field of games we're one of the most talked about companies in the Silicon Valley and the international media, with coverage on outlets like USA Today, the BBC and the Wall Street Journal."

What words of advice do you have for jobseekers?
"I recommend that jobseekers be honest and genuine and always keep in mind which companies they'd like to work at, both for professional and personal reasons. I think in order to succeed in the field you have to really like what you're doing or else you won't last long at a job."

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