"I don't care if my name is remembered in the history books. I do care that in 20 years-time—like the Chadwick Boseman, Denzel Washington situation—someone can turn around and say, 'Cj Pace helped me get to where I am.'"
Clayron (Cj) Pace Jr. is a mobile commerce manager for Call of Duty mobile. His unique position at Activision Blizzard affords him the opportunity to be at the table with trillion- dollar companies such as Apple and Google in order to maximize our gaming experiences.
Born and raised in South-Central Los Angeles, Cj accredits his academic achievements and solid professional foundation to his parents.
We sat down with Cj to find out about his cool profession in the gaming industry.
My mom was a bus driver. My dad is a security guard. I came from very humble beginnings. I was fortunate in that both of my parents valued education heavily, despite the fact that my father never finished high school and my mother only received her high school diploma. Their mission as parents was to have their kids go to college.
I grew up in a very dynamic household. For example, to keep us out of trouble and to keep us constantly busy my mom required a book report every week. From the time I could read to the time I got out of high school I owed my parents a book report every week. It didn't matter whether it was Goosebumps or The Odyssey. My job was to turn that in every Friday. It was the only reason I ever had a weekend.
It was very strict in a lot of ways. Shortcomings were often met with a lot of stern warnings, but I grew up in a house with a lot of love and a lot of structure.
They knew where they want wanted us children to go, they just didn't know how to get us there. So, they spent a lot of time putting us in the right places so that we could make good decisions. They moved us on the edge of a good school district in Torrance, California so we could attend a good school (Magruder Middle School, then North High School).
I didn't know this as a child, but my family could not afford to live there. My mother struggled for years to maintain our address there just so I could finish school. When I turned 15, my mom got really sick—it would end up materially affecting our existence. She had to retire from work. And the lifestyle we had, which was meager, took a significant dive. And when she got sick she assumed she would not make it to see my sister and I graduate. So she started teaching us how to be very independent — how to make our own food, how to buy clothes, how to balance our checkbooks, how to do everything we needed to do by the time we were 18 in case she “checked-up-out-of-here.” That's exactly how she used to word it.
I think those little lessons, having a parent that teaches you how to value education, and then having a system that teaches you how to exercise your independence and good decision-making early on, really helped set the stage for what I would achieve later on in life: when it came to college, when it came to being married, when it came to assessing my responsibilities as not only a Black man, but as a Black role model for a future student, my own children, or people I work with.
I think those little lessons, having a parent that teaches you how to value education, and having a system that teaches you how to exercise your independence and good decision-making early on, really helped set the stage for what I would achieve later on in life: when it came to college, when it came to being married, when it came to assessing my responsibilities as not only a Black man, but as a Black role model for a future student, my own children, or people I work with.
I think she did a great job in terms of creating a structure for Black excellence. She didn't know what she was doing, she used to say it all the time, but she did a great job.
Because of the sacrifices of his parents, Cj was able attend University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. His study of financial analysis paved the way to his current profession at Activision Blizzard.
I am the Mobile Commerce Manager for Call of Duty: Mobile. I work between the product and development team and our platform partners, which are Apple and Google. My day-to-day is interfacing with Apple and Google on different initiatives to help grow CoD Mobile on their platforms in a way that is mutually beneficial. I work with them to let them know what's coming on the CoD Mobile roadmap and find ways we can work together on their respective platforms, so that we can not only create visibility and awareness but also drive engagement as dynamically as possible.
If you were to go to your cell phone right now, or you were to open up the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, you might see [something pertaining to] Call of Duty: Mobile. A key part of my job is making sure we get that placement. It’s almost like digital marketing to drive organic installs or organic engagement. That's a big aspect of my role.
The other part of that is business development with Apple and Google to find new opportunities to not only grow the mobile space but grow Call of Duty mobile within their respective mobile spaces. It's a job that, honestly, I did not know existed before I was offered the opportunity. And it's been a very fun experience learning about the mobile business.
What is an average week look like for you?
There are lots of meetings. I'm a liaison between organizations, between my product team and between Apple and Google. I work with the product team to understand what's coming. Then I go back and work with Apple to find the opportunities in between.
A good example of this is the way Call of Duty: Mobile launched on Apple and Google last October 1st. We worked with Google and Apple to ensure that we had a significant support on their store. And the way we do that is by bringing them into the product development and game development process so that they understand what we're trying to do, what we're trying to accomplish, what features are going to be engaged, how are we going to engage our users, how are we going to create something that grows from a revenue standpoint and an engagement standpoint. My team works with Apple and Google to figure out where the opportunities are and execute those opportunities.
My job is actually so cool because no one knows it exists, and I get to participate in a lot of great conversations. I joke that I'm a happiness broker between the platforms and my product team.
What is the culture like at Activision Blizzard King?
From a workplace standpoint, it's absolutely phenomenal. I feel like I'm a part of both sides almost. I work with Apple and Google on almost a daily basis. I work with our product team on a daily basis. From a cultural standpoint, it's very collegial. It doesn't feel like there's a lot of bureaucracy. Everyone feels like they're on the same level, even with leadership. You can go directly to leadership and say, “I'm having this issue, I need to understand this. Can we do this?”
Culturally, I think I've found a group that I fit well with not only ethnically but professionally. We have people representing all walks of life, and we all recognize that we're all a part of a group that is not typically represented. And because that dynamic works, it has sort of galvanized us as a group to work hard together.
How many hours a week do you work?
60 hours. It doesn't seem like it, but gaming is a very hour-intensive industry. And I didn't realize that going into it, but I routinely work 60 hours a week.
What's next on the horizon for you?
That's an interesting question. If you'd have asked me that before the George Floyd protests, before the Breonna Taylor protests, I would have said my focus was on making as much money as possible, getting to the highest level in an organization, and absolutely being a beast.
Recently, however, that has shifted a bit. I'm actually reassessing what my future is going to look like, if it should be more focused on my community—less inward, more outward. What I'm trying to figure out is how do I achieve the goals I set for myself as a person and at the same time give back to a community has done everything it can to put me in the position I’m in.
I'm reading a book called Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm. She’s the first Black woman to ever run for President. And she talks about how when she was coming up, there were no Black State Assemblymen. You read that and start to understand and see the backdrop of where the nation currently is and it’s like, ‘based on my upbringing and based on the position I'm in, I have a responsibility to contribute to my community.’ When I think about the next five
years, the question I have now is, ‘what does that mean?’
And honestly, I don't know.
I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm reaching out to mentors and friends, and I'm trying to understand the news cycle and the political landscape much better than I ever have before because in my mind, my goal needs to shift from being about making the most money and creating the safest life for Cj Pace to creating opportunities and spaces for future Black professionals. Whether it's in gaming, in tech, at USC or any academic institution... I do not know yet. But I know I want to make that focus a bigger part of my life, and I think the backdrop of the US has really inspired me to do that.
What is the ultimate legacy you want to leave behind?
I used to always joke I wanted to make enough money to have a building named after me at USC. That's literally been my driving goal since I stepped onto campus. I think the legacy I want now could be definitely much quieter. If at the end of my life, I can look at myself in the mirror and say, "I contributed to that idea of Black excellence in terms of creating future opportunities for the next generation of Black students — and not only being a representative” I think that is becoming something that I definitely care about, more than I've ever cared about it before. And I want to be a part of that initiative. I don't care if my name is remembered in the history books. I do care that in 20 years-time—like the Chadwick Boseman, Denzel Washington situation—someone can turn around and say, “Cj Pace helped me get to where I am.”
If one person can do that, then I have left a legacy that I care about.
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