Leading at Roblox with Claus Moberg
Leading at Roblox is a new series that explores the career journeys of Roblox’s leaders and discusses their roles, philosophies, and management styles. In our first profile, we get to know Claus Moberg, VP of Engineering, who heads up our User Group. This year, Claus is also leading Roblox’s Hack Week, a week-long opportunity for all Roblox employees to bring our core values to life by pursuing self-directed projects that push boundaries and accelerate the future of our platform.
Let’s talk about your career path to Engineering leadership. How did it all start?
CM: You could definitely consider my path to engineering leadership unconventional. My grandfather was a meteorologist, and I spent a large chunk of my summers hanging out with my grandparents, like a “grandparents summer camp” kind of thing. Through that quality time, I became really interested in the weather. When I was in high school, I completed internships doing research on hurricanes at the Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab in Miami. I then chose my college, the University of Wisconsin, because it had a really strong meteorology program. One thing led to another, and I migrated from pure meteorology to really focusing on air pollution, which is where the atmospheric chemistry portion kicked in. My PhD explored the relationship between air pollution in one corner of the world and its impact on the health and wellness of people in a completely different place.
And what led to your transition into engineering?
Here’s where things take the pivotal turn that led me to Roblox. I had the opportunity to get involved in a business idea competition that really piqued my interest. I wound up winning a prize in the competition and starting a company based on my idea. The company made toys that would unlock characters in video games, and that’s how I got into the video game and entertainment space. It was through this company that I met Dave Baszucki, Roblox’s Founder and CEO. Dave and I got to know one another, and he gave me a job offer as an Engineering Director at Roblox. Here we are, nearly seven years later.
I’ve never been the kind of person who has followed a linear career plan. I’m always looking at the opportunities that are in front of me and trying to maximize the ones I think will be most entertaining and fulfilling. Roblox has clearly been that one for a very long time.
So you started off as a Director of Engineering at Roblox. Can you share a bit about your career path?
I started at Roblox almost seven years ago as an Engineering Director leading efforts for our mobile, console, and VR gaming clients. Within about a year, I was promoted to Senior Director and began overseeing our Lua Applications and Infrastructure teams. I spent about two years in that position, and then was promoted into my current role as VP of Engineering, overseeing our User Group and our Chinese subsidiary, Luobu.
And what does your current role entail?
I currently lead the User Group at Roblox. “Users” are what we call the consumers on the platform. We think of Roblox as a two-sided marketplace, where creators and developers come every month to create incredible immersive virtual 3D experiences, and then millions of users come every month to consume those experiences. My team is responsible for ensuring the time those users spend on Roblox is positive and seamless. In practice, that means I manage the team that owns the actual apps that you install on your device, as well as all of the social features on the platform that allow users to communicate and interact just as they would in the physical world, like text chat, voice chat, asynchronous messaging, groups, communities, and more.
I also lead engineering for our Chinese subsidiary called Luobu, which is a joint venture with Tencent, a tech and entertainment company based in China.
It sounds like you’re managing a lot of people with different experiences, backgrounds, and career goals. What’s one thing you’ve learned as a leader at Roblox?
I’ve learned so many lessons in my career by making mistakes. A big one that jumps to mind is the importance of communication and transparency when you’re in a leadership role. It isn’t easy, but I’ve learned that communicating with facts and authenticity is the best way to expedite the process of finding a path forward. This is where innovation happens, in the moments when you tackle problems head on instead of trying to shine a positive light on them or avoid addressing them at their root. This was a lesson that I personally had to learn the hard way, but it’s really important to how I operate on a day-to-day basis at Roblox.
How do you help to lead and build a culture of innovation at Roblox?
I use Roblox’s values as an algorithm for innovation. In other words, I encourage my team to use our four core values as a tool that they can use in all of their decision-making. For example:
- Take the long view → Ask yourself: “How do I want this to work five years from now?” Are you moving toward that or away from it?
- Respect the community → Consider which of the options in front of you benefits the largest number of people. Start out at the highest level and consider what’s best for all of our users.Then move down the funnel: what’s best for the company, the team, and the individual.
- We are responsible → We remove personal interest and make the right thing happen.
- Get stuff done → How can we do the right thing most efficiently?
If you use our Roblox values as a decision-making algorithm, it’s very rare that you run through all four, and you still don’t know what to do. Inherently in that process lies innovation. In my experience as a leader here, the values constrain how I think about solving problems and have helped me guide my teams to innovate in the right ways.
If you had to choose a value that most resonates with you as a leader, which one would it be?
All of them are imperative, but at this moment at our company, Take the long view is extremely relevant. I think it’s important for my team to keep in mind how rare an opportunity we have right now. With a single product, we have, theoretically, the capacity for every human being on earth with an internet connection to become a user. And if we execute the roadmap in front of us and continue to make Roblox the best platform for innovative 3D creation, then our total addressable market is 3 billion people. In other words, we’re building for 3 billion monthly active users six years from now, today. So how do we think about solving that problem? How we answer that question is where innovation comes from.
In closing, can you share a moment from the last few years when you were most proud of your team?
There are so many, but a big one that stands out is the evolution of our mobile app. When I first joined Roblox, our load time was slow and the experience was clunky. We knew that if we improved the experience, our growth rates would accelerate from where they were, which was already very strong.
At the time, every mobile app in the App Store fell into one of two buckets. One option was a native build, so teams would build an iOS, Android, and Windows app simultaneously. That meant if you were building a new feature, you had to build it many different times: once for each of the platforms that we support (Objective C/Swift for iOS, Android Java for Android, C# for Windows, C++ for Xbox, etc). The second option was to transpile web code as an app using something like React Native. With this option, teams only had to build and maintain each feature or change once, but it was an imperfect experience everywhere— a single codebase with a lackluster user experience all-around.
At Roblox, we opened a third door that wasn’t possible for anyone else: rebuild our app as a Roblox game. The first thing we do when we port Roblox to a new platform is integrate our game engine at the lowest level APIs available to us on that hardware and operating system. So, everything you do on Roblox after the splash screen is itself scripted in Lua and rendered by our game engine. This means that we have a single code base that powers all Roblox experiences on every platform. Last year, we released what’s been called the Universal App on desktop. This was one of the last platforms that lacked a version of our Lua Universal App powering the experience. It took us four years to do this, but we now have a single codebase that powers a first-class experience on every single platform, including mobile. Since launching, it’s been dogfooding amazing features for our developers and debugging thousands of issues within the game engine itself that were limiting us from building the thing that we wanted to build.
When we fixed the app, every scrolling frame and every game across all the millions of games on Roblox was fixed overnight. That was a really brave big bet that we placed, and now it’s starting to pay dividends.
Our team was presented with several technical challenges to overcome and some big decisions to make. Seeing my team use our values as a decision-making algorithm to define our path forward and set them up for success was a great moment for me. I’ll always be so proud of our team and what they accomplished.
Inspired by Claus’ story? He and his team are hiring! Visit our careers site to explore open roles on the User Group.