I can’t remember how much, if any, of this I’ve written before. It was somewhat time sensitive, but I think I can safely write it now.
I found out a few weeks ago (as did BioWare) that there is an obscure law stating a company cannot keep an employee on contract for more than 2 years unless they are a private contractor, after which they can NEVER work on contract for that company again. So after this contract ends I can never work for EA again, let alone BioWare, as a term employee. In other words, I have less than a year to get fulltime or else I can not continue working for any EA studios under contract. I could still apply at other non-EA studios, but EA is like half the industry. And BioWare is the only studio in Edmonton.
So I’ve been working really hard to get myself noticed. I created a Term Tester Progress Report doc that is now being used department wide, as well as a plot-flow diagram template which is now being used for every plot in the game I’m working on. But no matter how hard I work, I know how business works, and if there are no fulltime positions to give out, I’m screwed. I know I’ve already got great references from all the leads, a great thing to have. But I love BioWare and want to stay with the company, and I’m comfortable in Edmonton. It took a year and a half, but this is home. I have a great group of friends, one of which moved out here from Winnipeg to get a place with me, and I love the city.
But that’s life. I’m finally comfortable and it looks like change is on the horizon once again. As much as I’d like it, I can’t just sit back and hope something works out at BioWare Edmonton and I get fulltime before my contract ends. This industry has woken up a passion inside me, and I’m ambitious now. My most pertinent goal in life for the past year and a half has been to get a salary position in the industry. Something with job security, and hopefully decent pay.
When you want something bad enough, all the obstacles are just the things that keep everyone else from getting it. And when all the second year terms got the news that they could never work another term for EA, many of us got quite discouraged. These are my friends, the people who started at the same time I did, the senior QA terms now, and this was our life plans getting completely re-written in an instant. The leads told us they fought it as hard as they could, and will now be trying everything they can to get some fulltime positions approved for us, but that it’s not something we can even remotely count on. Fulltime positions are hard to get approved by HR. And there are at least 8-10 of us second year terms. And as discouraging as it was, I began to realize this could be the catalyst to do what it takes to get the job. In an environment where many are in relationships and can’t move, or just aren’t willing to move, I’m single and have already moved once for work. And while this may discourage some to the point in it showing in their work, this just lit a fire under my ass.
I began exploring my alternatives. Zac, my first lead from when I was on Dragon Age Origins, is moving to Austin, Texas to work at the BioWare location there which works on the upcoming Star Wars MMO. I had a meeting with him asking about any opportunities there. He told me he’d hire me fulltime, no question. However to get a work visa in the USA you need to be able to prove you’re not stealing a job from an American, meaning you have to prove you have a skill they should import. As much as I consider myself good at what I do, I know the government would only see it as “I play videogames better than anyone else!”. If you have a company to sponsor your greencard application it really helps, but it costs the company lots of money in legal fees, and as great as BioWare is to their employees, they’re not about to go out of their way just to get a term employee a fulltime gig. So as it stands, if I could find my own way to get a work Visa to get into the U.S. I’d have a job waiting for me. I looked into that, and getting a work Visa for the U.S. is not only insanely hard, in my case it’s likely downright impossible. So it’s not off the table, but I should explore other options first.
BioWare also has a studio in Montreal, so I sent off an email to them expressing my interest, and that I was willing to move. That was a few weeks ago, and earlier this week I finally got a reply. They were opening a position internally and wanted my resume since I’d taken the initiative to express an interest earlier. It’s a position I’m really suited for too. They’re organizing a phone interview.
A position also opened in Edmonton, but I suspect my chances are higher in Montreal. Not many people are willing to move for work, so there will be less competition. The company pays for the move, and I’m single, so the company would likely take that into consideration, that I’d be cheap to move. Edmonton, however, has several dozen terms all fighting for a fulltime position, and depending on what type of QA position they’re looking for, I may not be the best suited. I’ll still give it my all of course.
So I have a decent chance of getting the job in Montreal. And that would mean uprooting again and moving to a new city all over again. The initial loneliness, finding ways to make new friends, getting to know a new city all over again, starting a new job, etc. I won’t lie, the idea of moving again is daunting. But not as daunting as not getting into the industry. I cannot imagine going back to working at a job that I didn’t absolutely love, a job I didn’t feel meant to do, after having a job that encourages creativity and treats their employees so well. And let’s be honest, the money is nice too. If I get a fulltime position in Montreal, they pay for my move and the costs of setting up in a new city, and my pay will be nearly double what I make now, plus benefits, pension, stock options, etc…
I’m very conflicted on this though. Chad just moved out here, we just got an awesome place, and I’m really loving life here right now. It sucks that Chad would have moved out here, and we finally live in the same city again, and then a few months later I move to the other side of the country. No matter how this turns out, it will be bittersweet. If I get the job I’ll be happy because that’s a major step forward in life, but it means leaving all this behind. If I don’t, adversely, I’d get to stay, but unless a miracle happens and I get a fulltime position in Edmonton within the next 10 months, I’d still probably end up moving after my term ends, and probably not to work for a studio as great as BioWare. I know it’s the right decision, and I’m not even remotely second guessing it. It’s just a shame. But I’m at the bottom, trying to get my foot in the door, and beggars can’t be choosers.