PHIL BALE: Operations Manager at Ubisoft Leamington
One of the vocational courses that we’re known for here at KC, is our Games Design and Development qualifications. Some of our past Games students, include Hazel Brown, Charlie Thompson and Nathan Burton. This industry is expected to continue going from strength to strength, but a few insider tips are always handy!
KC were lucky enough to catch up with with Phil Bale – Operations Manager at Ubisoft Leamington to gain some insight into the skills you need, the challenges you’ll face and what it’s like to work for one of the world’s biggest video games companies.
Such great advice from a true industry veteran will give you some amazing pointers on making your dream a reality!
HI PHIL, THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO HAVE A CHAT WITH US! FIRST OFF, COULD YOU GIVE US THE LOWDOWN ON WHAT YOU DO AT UBISOFT?
"I am transitioning to a new job at the moment with different responsibilities, so I will use both as examples...
Studio Art Manager (this is my old role):
My previous role was very much people focused, some of my main responsibilities included:
Supporting a team of Art Leads (team managers) giving advice, coaching and obtaining a good overview of their and their teams’ needs;
Acting as a link between the artists and senior management to ensure their voices are heard (job families include: Animators, UI, Environment Artists, 3D ‘prop’ or Asset Artists, Character Artists, Concept Artists, VFX and Lighting Artists);
Recruitment: promoting good interview practice, interviewing some artists (Art Leads), overseeing other art jobs interview processes, and also being involved in hiring managers and specialists in other departments;
Representing artists through the promotion process and being involved in supporting their career development;
Working closely with other teams: senior management, Human Resources, the other ‘discipline’ managers (Programming and Design), project (game) producers, Learning and Development;
Involved in giving talks, portfolio feedback, mock-interviews and supporting our work with universities;
Mental Health First Aider;
AND WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DO YOU HAVE IN THIS NEW ROLE?
My new job is Operations Manager at Ubisoft Leamington...
…I have not been in the role for very long, but as Operations Manager for Ubisoft Leamington, I’m responsible for:
Managing the Ubisoft Leamington Operations team of IT, Workplace (office support teams) and Travel & Relocation.
Working with other senior managers to improve how we work and support our projects as well as support all the other teams in making great games!
I’m still learning!
SO HOW DID YOU GET INTO GAMES ART? WHERE DID YOUR JOURNEY BEGIN?
"I loved art and computer games...
“…I studied Graphic Design (BA Hons) but realised this was not giving me what I wanted – I completed my degree course but also taught myself 3D art in the evenings (while also working in pubs and clubs for extra cash!). I applied for my first industry job and worked closely with some very good people to develop my skills. I was terribly naive and looking back I could have worked smarter and made some different choices to make it easier. For advice starting any job I’ll always suggest keeping an open mind, look for opportunities and work hard. Ask for feedback and listen to people with experience, learn from good people and if something doesn’t seem right question it appropriately.”
OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE SO MANY EXCITING ELEMENTS INVOLVED WITH YOUR ROLE, WHICH ONE REALLY STICKS OUT TO YOU, WHICH IS THE ONE THAT GIVES YOU THE GET UP AND GO IN THE MORNING?
… realising that my efforts make a difference and I’m helping someone solve a problem or progress in something they want, or need for their career. This does involve occasionally making someone believe your suggestion was their idea but as long as they benefit I’m happy!”
LIKEWISE, WHAT'S BEEN ONE OF YOUR PROUDEST MOMENTS, THAT THING YOU STILL CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU GOT TO BE A PART OF?
"Entirely not part of my day-to-day job...
“…. but I was asked to introduce our studio “Future Session” which is an annual event with presentations, guest speakers and everyone from Ubisoft Leamington and Ubisoft Reflections attended. I got to introduce each speaker, throw in some jokes about the MD and be part of this big event which I felt proud to be trusted with that responsibility. The going on stage in front of hundreds of people was the easy bit – I knew them and they are all lovely people – the preparation done half an hour before hand was tense!”
WE KNOW IT'S NOT ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF THE JOB AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM?
"Communication is such an important factor...
“…in game development and it’s something we work on all the time. We work in collaboration with Ubisoft studios all over the world – so understanding how we communicate across different cultures is incredibly important. Emails and Teams messages can often be misconstrued so I find it incredibly important to arrange regular calls where possible. Not only to convey ideas and discussions with a clear context but also to help build those working relationships with colleagues that are thousands of miles away. It’s also important to remember that stress and home life pressure can affect anyone at any time. If we ignore that and don’t appreciate that – it can cause friction. Oh… and nevereversend an email when you’re angry!”
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING GAMES ARTISTS, WHAT SORT OF SKILLS DO YOU LOOK FOR IN AN ARTIST?
"Listen to your lecturers...
….teachers, friends, experts online, industry professionals and if you want more from them try asking. Your lecturers actually know what they are talking about – I know, crazy!
I’d also recommend that you:-
Prepare yourself and consider what you want from your first / next job carefully, and do some research, ask people who do the job what it’s like (Build a profile on LinkedIn and reach out to the experts!)
Consider your show-reel or portfolio, don’t include everything you’ve ever done, keep the work you love and represents your current skill set. If you can include work examples in different art styles, can you do character work and vehicles or animate and do graphic design?
Update your portfolio or show-reel, have your C.V. proof-read, join LinkedIn and create an online account. Is your work on Artstation or Vimeo, somewhere easy to access or do you have your own website? Have someone check the links to it. Is it up-to-date?
Consider what makes you stand out – what’s your USP – what can you add to a team?
You will be working as part of a team, practice with group projects, don’t think because you are an amazing artist this is all we look for, we want team members, to work together, form working relationships and use each other’s strengths.
Find someone who will do a mock-interview with you to practice, someone who interviews as part of their job if possible or a friend or parent if not.
Research the company you apply to, show you’re interest and also ask them questions. That part of the interview when they say “Have you got any questions?” have some ready: will you have a mentor, will they help you develop your skills and how will you fit into the team? What on-boarding will you receive? If they just want a drone to make art for them then are the right company for you?
Be yourself at interview, be authentic and honest. Try to relax and treat it as a conversation – you are talking about two things you are the expert for in the whole world – you and your work.
THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS PHIL!
Make sure you’re following Ubisoft Leamington and Ubisoft Reflections on all their socials for updates on the latest releases and what’s going on in the games world!
AND IF PHIL HAS INSPIRED YOU, TAKE A LOOK AT OUR KC COURSES!
Here at KC, it’s important to us that you find your place, that you set the foundation for an enjoyable and fulfilling career. You’ll be taught by industry professionals who are always on hand to answer queries, offer advice and give feedback! Not only that, by we’ve just launched a BRAND NEW course for 21/22; Esports!So if you think your place is within the gaming world, check out our courses and get an application in today!