18th May 2021

Staff Spotlight: Working in a leading Game Development studio

At Keywords, we provide a full spectrum of software engineering services to the games industry and interactive entertainment sectors.

Our Game Development service line provides external development solutions to developers and publishers, including full-game development, co-development, porting and general software engineering consultancy.

Recently we spoke with two of our people working at Snowed In Studios, a Keywords Game Development studio based in Ottawa, Canada. The company has experienced rapid growth in the past two years, nearly quadrupling in size since being acquired by Keywords.

Alexandre Sabourin joined Snowed In four years ago as Lead Programmer, while Sherri Flemings joined the studio in January 2020 as Senior Producer.

What does a typical day at work involve?

Alex: As a lead programmer, my role spans a wide breath of activities. Primarily, it involves working to grow and improve my teammates, working to improve our processes, helping in solving technical problems and learning new technical concepts, assuring that we’re upholding the high technical standard of Snowed In Studios, as well as a healthy sprinkling of programming.

By far, my favourite aspects involve working with the team to grow as individuals as well as solving interesting technical problems.

Sherri: I recently switched tracks this year to become a producer. It’s up to the producer to make sure the game gets made.

This involves assembling the team(s), outsourcing, coordinating schedules, budgeting, monitoring tasks, teams and client relationships and trying to keep everyone headed in the same direction … preferably the correct direction.

A producer must know how to speak the language of many disciplines and help translate between them. One of the things I love most is helping teams get organised. Keeping everyone on track requires a lot of organisation and is so important since game dev. can be unpredictable.

Staying organised can at least help us react in predictable ways.

Sherri Flemings & Alexandre Sabourin
Sherri Flemings & Alexandre Sabourin

How did you get into video games development?

Alex: It was a bit of an accident. I was intending to go into music and be a rockstar but that required a portfolio and that seemed like a lot of work. So I picked game dev. instead and [it] turns out I like programming!

Sherri: I grew up in a gamer family. We always had games in the house and regularly played video games, board games, card games and even made up our own from time to time.

I sort of stumbled into game dev. and love how complex and creative the whole game making process is.

What do you like best about working for Keywords Studios?

Alex: The community and the culture. The people and the studio leadership is unendingly supportive. I don’t think I could imagine working at a better studio.

Sherri: I still feel new to the Keywords family but as I work on more inter-studio projects I’m meeting some amazing and talented people. I love our focus on health and well-being.

Taking care of my teams is so important to me and knowing the company I work for shares that sentiment is reassuring. Our no-crunch policy sets us apart from a lot of other studios.

What have you gained from working in Keywords Game Development?

Alex: So much. I’ve had the opportunity to be surrounded by endlessly supportive coworkers, the ability to improve my communication, learn new programing concepts and make invaluable relationships.

Sherri: With all of our growth, lots of new positions are frequently available. I was recently able to take on a new role as a producer which is something I’ve been wanting to try out for years.

What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career video games development?

Alex: My advice would be to work hard at being a strong, empathetic communicator as well as working hard to hone your craft. Being a strong communicator is essential to working effectively in a team.

Sherri: Aside from the usual advice of attending conferences and joining local game dev communities (very important), I would recommend applying for jobs on games that you wouldn’t normally play.

You’ll learn so much about different game mechanics, art styles and audiences that will help to broaden your experience. You should also play a lot of games with the intent of analyzing and dissecting them.

Becoming familiar with different game mechanics, styles and concepts will improve how you communicate to your future teammates.

Tell us an interesting fact that people may not know about you.

Alex: I’ve roasted my own coffee beans before! They were bad…

Sherri: I’m kind of an open book but it might be a surprise to my programming peeps that, before I found code, I was planning a career in the arts to combine my love of painting and writing.

Snowed In Studios is searching for a wide array of talented game developers locally and internationally at its Ottawa location – designers, creatives and experienced programmers to help create the next-generation console games.

You can find current open positions on the Snowed In Studios careers page.

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