Friday, December 31, 2010


New Year's Eve. Another year comes to a close. 2010 was a big one for me. This time last year I was living with my cousin; my first term at BioWare had just ended and I was starting my 3 month break between contracts and learning the Unreal 3 Engine. I'd put on weight and decided it was time to do something about it, and began working out, though it took a while to figure out just how to get what I wanted out of it. I applied for a full-time position on the Mass Effect team, but didn't get it (my good friend Reid did). I'd been living in Edmonton for just over a year and figured things were settling down. I had a life in Edmonton and was ready to stay there. But life, it seems, had other plans.

After my 3 months off I went back to BioWare to work on Dragon Age 2, and hope this year would bring a full-time salary position. But if it didn't I was happy working terms at BioWare as long as it took. It was my best shot at getting into the industry (or so I thought) and I liked Edmonton. And Chad was planning on moving out to Edmonton that summer, so good times were ahead.

I created a term-tester progress report at work and quickly made it onto the content team, responsible for one of the major plots in the game. The economy seemed be lightening up a bit so I had at least a small hope that a full-time QA position would open up.

Chad moved out that summer. We rented a really nice apartment from my good friend Dave and I drove to Saskatoon to meet them half way, and we transferred all his stuff from his Mom's car to mine. It was great having my best friend living in the same city again. And it made Edmonton feel even more like home. Olga would be moving out soon too. Life was looking great. Chad met all my friends, started working at BioWare with me, we started working out together after work. It was the kind of life I'd always wanted.

A few months later Kristina and Olga came and visited us in Edmonton, and it was a total blast. Edmonton was my home now, and having my friends from Winnipeg visiting and meeting my friends in Edmonton was amazing.

At work there was talk of some QA positions opening up, and I felt I had a real shot at one. Several of the higher ups let me know I wasn't far off in that assumption. I started to get very optimistic. But it wasn't long before a major bombshell was dropped on me. EA had instituted a 2 term limit for contract workers. And I was almost half way through my second... That meant if I didn't get full-time within the next 7 months I could never work for EA again as a term, and it would make it MUCH harder to get into the industry in a full-time salary position. It was all or nothing for the rumored full-time QA positions opening up.

Sure enough, 3 positions were opened. Hundreds applied. The QA department was bloated with terms, all chomping at the bit to get in full-time. 2 positions were in Edmonton and 1 in Montreal. I cast a wide net and applied for all 3.

They made a short list for all 3 positions, about 5 people per list, out of the hundreds that applied. I managed to make it onto 2 of them. One for the Edmonton position and one for the Montreal position. Needless to say I was really hoping for the Edmonton position. It was for a content lead position, something I was already kind of doing, and there was heavy emphasis on management, which my term tester progress report showed I had the vision for.

It was a tense week as I waited for the news. Nathan and Chad were both very supportive. And finally, after one of the longest weeks of my life, I got called in by the QA Lead. He let me know it was a tough decision but they went with someone else. It was devastating. I knew what I was really finding out was my life in Edmonton was coming to an end. Once my term ran out at BioWare I wouldn't be able to come back for a third, and I knew the chances of another QA position opening in the next few months was extremely unlikely. If I wanted to stay in the industry, and make a career for myself doing something I loved and was good at, I'd have to move.

Around this time I got in contact with someone I'd worked with at BioWare who had moved to Halifax to work at a new studio, Longtail. She recommended me for a QA Lead position that had just opened up. I expressed my interest and had a phone interview which went really well. As the gears turned and I was informed they were going to fly me to Halifax for an in person interview, it was very bittersweet. On one hand I was on the verge of getting a full-time salary position in the industry, something I'd been fighting for for almost 2 years now which had started to feel impossible, but it meant leaving behind the life in Edmonton I'd spent the last 2 years building. I had some great friends in Edmonton, including my best now that Chad had moved down. I loved my life there, and did not want to leave.

I flew to Halifax and was picked up by a limo at the airport. I was put in a nice hotel for my stay and had my interview, a whole-day ordeal that had me interviewed by 2 people from every department. But I felt it went really well. I spent the rest of the day exploring Halifax, and it really stated to dawn on me. I would probably be moving here.

When I got back to Edmonton Chad and I sat on the balcony and discussed the crazy turn of events. We spent over a year imagining how great it would be for him to move down, for us to live in the same city again, and both work at BioWare, one of the best companies to work for in the world. And just a few months after he arrived, I might be leaving. And I really didn't want to. It was pure sacrifice for my career.

Sure enough I got the call from Longtail offering me the job. I accepted. I'd be moving in 3 weeks. I gave my notice to BioWare. Life became a dream I was drifting through. It was like Edmonton was rejecting me like foreign matter. I trained my replacement at work, and moved offices. I was back in the office I started in. I hung out with my friends as much as I could, and on my last week Nathan threw me TWO going away parties. Such a great friend, and one I didn't want to have to leave.

But as I sat at the bonfire at the second party and looked around at all my friends and reflected on how far I'd come since that depressing night in my cousin's basement when I first arrived in Edmonton, I knew I'd be ok. I'd done this before, I could do it again.

And after an extremely stressful ordeal with some incompetent movers and an emotional goodbye with my best friend, I left for a week in Winnipeg before leaving for Halifax. This really sucked. When I moved to Edmonton from Winnipeg there was some personal reason to it, I felt I had to leave to grow, find my place in the world, etc. There was no personal reason for leaving this time. I wanted to stay. It was purely career.

My week in Winnipeg didn't help. It felt great to be home, I missed it. I felt so lost, and Winnipeg felt so familiar. But after a week I got on a plane and left it behind. When I landed I was in Halifax, what felt like a completely random city. But I wasn't on visiting, I wasn't leaving, I lived here now.

I spent a month in a corporate hotel, before moving to the worst area in town in a shitty apartment. The startup costs of moving meant I was completely broke all the time. Work was intimidating, and at first felt unwelcoming. I felt completely lost. I couldn't go back to my life in Edmonton, BioWare was no longer an option. I couldn't go back to my life in Winnipeg, in a lot of ways it wasn't there anymore. I'd drifted apart from a lot of my friends, and one of my best friends there wasn't there anymore! Chad had moved to Edmonton! I felt like there was no home anymore. All the things I missed couldn't be retrieved. My first few months in Halifax were among the darkest of my life.

But, I'd done it before, and even though it ended up being a lot harder than my move to Edmonton, I did start to form a life. Work began to get better, and eventually became fun. I made friends at work, and even outside of work. I met Ryan through a friend and ended up moving in with him in a nice place in a much nicer area. Money really started to flow. Things were finally starting to feel better. And I had a career now! And while the lifestyle required by this industry has been very taxing, it's also been very rewarding. Life is an adventure. I've done so much I never thought I'd do, and seen some things I never expected to. I've walked the waterfront during a hurricane. I've sat and dangled my legs off the edge of the continent while the waves crashed down below. It's been a wild ride so far!

After almost 5 months in Halifax I came back to Winnipeg for a visit, and Chad did as well so we got to meet up. I'll write a more in depth entry for my trip, but I will say it's been great to be back. I reconnected with Tim, Brett and Linda after a 2 year estrangement. But my friendship with Kristina seems to be hitting a low point, which is very disappointing. But that's what 2010 has been. Ups and downs, surprise detours, life lessons, and change. Progress.

The year ahead is so different from the last. Longtail, QA Lead, Halifax, Atlantic Ocean, new friends, career and adventure! Here's to 2011!

Written on my iPad.


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