Saturday, June 6, 2009

Career Path

The more time goes by, the closer October gets.  And the closer October gets the more anxious I get.  When I first started this job I had a very “see what happens” attitude.  I figured if things didn’t pan out I’d just move back to Winnipeg and continue with my life.  But I wasn’t expecting to like this job as much as I do.

It’s more than just “sweet I get to browse the net at work!” or “I get paid to play videogames!”, it’s being a part of a team that works on a product I love and can really invest in.  It lit a fire under my ass, and I became ambitious.  I had found something I loved doing, I was good at, and paid good money.  I HAD to get a permanent position!

I try to be be ambitious.  Recently I volunteered to train some of the new terms coming in.  It’ll be weird being in the position of my trainers, training some new terms who are in the position I was in 6 months ago.

But as October gets closer, I realize how much I have riding on this now.  It’s not like when I started.  “See what happens” just doesn’t cut it anymore.  I don’t have a life in Winnipeg anymore, my life is here now, and I really love it here.  Plus I could never go back to having a job just for paying the bills.

With the headcount limit, the one year max on terms, and the fact that there are dozens of terms fighting for a permanent position, many of whom I feel are higher on the list than me, I began to get pretty pessimistic about my chances.  But I couldn’t know for sure.

I emailed my boss telling him that even though terms normally don’t get performance reviews, I’d really appreciate getting one.  I wanted some feedback to know where I stood, to know what I could improve on and what my strong qualities I could cultivate were.  He told me he’d be glad to and to organize a meeting with him through Outlook, which I did for 3:00.

3:00 came and we went to one of the break-out rooms.  I can’t go in to too much detail due to NDA stuff, just playing it safe, but he had a lot of good stuff to say!  Told me I was very adaptable, which is a huge quality to have in QA, and that he always kept me in mind when the shit hit the fan, because of that.  He really didn’t have anything bad to say.  I then asked him about career paths, because I’ve never made it a secret that I wanted to make a career out of this, and was hoping for a permanent position.

This is where I got some really good news.  Again, I can’t go in to much detail at all, but he told me he saw a lot of potential in me for QA Design, which is definitely where I wanted to go!  It sounded like he’d had this in mind for me for a while!  We discussed this for a while, and while I can’t get in to specifics, there is a good chance I’ll have an opportunity to get a permanent position before my contract is up in October!  And if that doesn’t pan out, I take my 3 months off, and come back after for another year term.  If this is the case, he made it sound like the chances of me getting fulltime in the second year are quite high, and that’s only if I don’t get it sooner!

This put me in a very good mood!  I’m not taking anything for granted, because the talk was only about potential opportunities, and even though he seemed to have a lot of faith in me, I have to continue to work hard, and not count any eggs until they’ve hatched.

I really do hope I get it though.  QA Design seems like the perfect career path for me.  It’s like I was meant to do it.  And it starts at 45-50k a year! 

There are 2 branches to QA.  QA Tech and QA Design.  QA Tech is more what I do right now, what all terms do.  You play through the game, looking for technical bugs, and file them accordingly.  Requires minimal training and only an elementary understanding of video games.  QA Design is more about, well, the design of the game.  If I got it, I’d have a much more involved role in the creative process of the game, especially the beginning drawing board stages.  QA Design’s roll is to test the game from a different angle.  You’re not looking for technical bugs, you’re testing its subjective design elements, like how FUN it is, and how emotionally impactful the story, cinematography, etc, is.  Once you have an opinion, you have to make it as objective as possible with research, you have to be able to stick to your guns and make your case, because the other half of your job is essentially to change the mind of the creators.  And that’s no easy task.  When someone makes something, they tend to be very attached to it, and you need to show them why it needs changing.

And that’s something I didn’t think of.  My boss, during our conversation, corrected my assumption that I was competing with the rest of QA for a fulltime position.  QA Terms are sort of the hiring pool, and there are many career paths from there.  So even though I know of a lot of terms who had been there longer than me, and who had proven themselves, the path they were walking down, wasn’t the same as mine.  So I’m on a much shorter list than I thought, and from the sounds of it, I’m relatively high on that short list!

Sometimes in the office my co-workers and I get in to debates, usually game-related.  Anyone who knows me knows I love to debate, am quite fluent at it, and definitely stick to my guns.  The thing I find funny is my boss brought this up during the career path section of my performance review.  “You know those debates you always have in the office?  That’s a major part of QA Design, the part you either have or you don’t.  Can’t really teach that side of it.  And you have it!  You always back up your opinions, you’re not stubborn but you will stick to your guns, and you make your point without insulting anyone.  That is a rare quality!

When I think of 6 months ago, in Winnipeg, right before I moved out here…  I was so unsure of myself, of this path.  But I knew I needed a change.  I’m so proud I ignored my doubts and followed my instinct.  It’s already changed my life completely.  I’ve learned so much about myself through having this job, living in a new city, making a whole new group of great friends, etc.  And now it’s looking like I’ll get a career out of this, and spend my life doing what I love.  I feel so lucky.  Every day I smile thinking about how lucky I am.

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