Leading at Roblox with Dmitri Essiounine
Leading at Roblox is a series that explores the career journeys of Roblox’s leaders and discusses their roles, philosophies, and management styles. In this profile, get to know Dmitri Essiounine, an Engineering Director on Roblox’s Economy Team.
Let’s talk about your career path to Roblox leadership. How did it all start?
DE: In college, I always wanted to start my own company. I was constantly working on different side projects across varied verticals, from digitizing reward stamp cards (like the “buy 10, get one free” cards you can get at your local coffee shop) to a food review app that lets users rate their specific dish in addition to the restaurant overall. While none of these made it big, I learned a lot about business and management along the way. A natural next step for me was people management – I always felt that leading a team is very similar to running your own small company. You gain similar skills and experiences, in a more controlled and sometimes more structured environment.
I started my Roblox career in 2016. Back then, it was just a 40-person web team all sitting on one floor – nothing like our large campus today. We all served as a global on-call system, so If something broke on the platform, one of us was on call to figure out what was broken across any part of the platform: authentication, billing, game join, etc. in real time.
I’d interviewed at companies of just about every stage and scale in the Valley at the time, and felt a strong connection to Roblox both because of the company’s size and the amazing work being done. I first got into computer science by making games, so Roblox’s commitment to the developer and creator community resonated with me on a personal level. I wish I had Roblox growing up!
Anyone in the world can create on Roblox and earn Robux. That’s powerful, especially with the number of creators we have. Hearing stories from developers about how they were earning money and unlocking creativity on Roblox was incredibly inspiring, and I was eager to be a part of this innovative ecosystem. I can’t wait to see how we can make it even easier to do this so more people can create.
What do you do in your current role?
I oversee a few of the Engineering teams on Roblox’s Economy Group. My teams are responsible for real-world and virtual purchasing, the developer exchange system, and our new immersive advertising initiative. Basically, anything that has to do with money on Roblox is my wheelhouse.
The Roblox economy is first-of-its-kind and genuinely mirrors the real world economy – similar to other major global economies, we actually track GDP. Sometimes we call this the GRP, or “Gross Roblox Product.”
What keeps you motivated?
I’ve always been a fan of building things. I’m motivated by creation, and consider myself a maker in both my personal and professional life. My parents always joked that the best way to entertain me as a young child was to give me a block of wood and nails that I would hammer in for hours.
Outside of work, I brew beer, tend a vegetable garden, dabble in game creation, and do woodworking. These hobbies are very fulfilling because I’m able to physically create. I recently got into home automation and smart homes – automation that makes your life easier. When I think about my career, it’s definitely the creation piece that has motivated me. Working at a company that empowers everyone to create is deeply fulfilling, and it’s also the reason why I believe Roblox has so much potential.
What are some leadership qualities that you appreciate?
In my opinion, the most important thing for a people leader is to truly understand the team that you are running, and to be flexible in style and approach in order to fully support them. There are so many different types of leadership, companies, and climates – that’s why the more flexible you are, the more impactful you can be. The most effective leaders I have seen are flexible and adapt their styles based on the climate, team, and company’s needs.
Is there anything about your experience as a Roblox leader that you think is unique?
Roblox has a very bottom-up culture, and leadership is empowered by the executive team to run our teams in the ways that work for us. At other companies, there are a lot of top-down processes – they try to fit you into a certain leadership style that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone across every group. What I appreciate most about Roblox is that the company guides us to manage as if we are running our own small startup. The processes, measurement, and tactics we use are flexible. This allows leaders to develop their own style versus being pushed in a certain direction.
What is something your team has recently accomplished that you’re very proud of?
There are so many! The one that I’m most proud of is our focus on fraud. Roblox has a unique challenge and opportunity with fraud since we run our own virtual economy with money transferring in and out all the time. We’ve been focusing on this by pushing 2-step verification on large transactions, building out machine learning on top of our heuristic rule system, and building tools to identify suspicious activity. All of this has been helpful to improve safety and lower instances of fraud. We’ve made progress on this and will continue to focus here.
On the developer and creator side, I’m proud of the team for respecting the community and ensuring our developers monetize in the ways that work best for them. We are launching our immersive ads system, and it’s going to be another way for developers to monetize and figure out how to add advertising in a non-intrusive way aligned to their immersive experiences. This is in line with our broader approach of providing the tools and infrastructure for our community, and allowing them to operationalize however they want, with the tooling we provide. We have previously launched premium payouts with that same thought process and new features are in the works as well.
You mentioned Respect the Community, which is a Roblox core value. Is there a value that resonates most with you as a leader?
The two that resonate with me the most are:
- Take the Long View: Having worked at Roblox for seven years, I’ve seen this value really help to design and drive the systems that I own now. I also like that the full phrase is “take the long view and iterate aggressively to get there.” It’s not about taking the long view by waiting months and years to achieve perfection, it’s about understanding where you are going and continuing to optimize to get there.
- We are Responsible: Roblox provides teams and leaders with a lot of freedom. With that comes the responsibility to deeply own your domain area. When we think about this value, we think “act like an owner.” This really resonates and empowers me to effectively run my team and ship products.
In closing, describe Roblox in the future. What’s it like?
I see Roblox becoming a true utility, enhancing people’s lives by allowing seamless communication and providing users the opportunity to easily create custom digital identities. It’s exciting to think about our vision – a billion people spending time on Roblox at work, at school, and any time in between. I’m very excited about our future, and can’t wait to see it come to fruition.
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