Today’s Notable Young Professional is Toronto-based video game producer Lesley Phord-Toy, who started her the journey towards her dream career before she could even read. We caught up with Lesley to find out where she sees herself in 5, 10 and 20 years and what advice she would share with other young professionals…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m a producer in “AAA” blockbuster video game development. I work with teams of super-talented, amazing people at Ubisoft Toronto.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
When I was five years old, my dad came home with an Intellivision game console. Before I could even read, I was crashing cars and tanks, spinning biplanes out of control, learning how to count up to “21” (aka Blackjack) and, perhaps most amusingly, getting smothered by enemy pickles while trying to build giant burgers. Over time, however, I developed the skills to become an expert driver, pilot, card shark, and burger chef. Games taught me early on that “fun” and satisfaction came in the form of perseverance and overcoming difficulties, and that there would always be new and exciting challenges ahead.
The process of creating and successfully shipping a video game is the real-life version of those new and exciting challenges. As a producer, it’s my job to marry creative vision with production constraints and business goals, while ensuring that each individual on the team has the room to contribute their expertise in a meaningful way. I strive to work with my team to create a visible path towards achieving our goals, no matter what the obstacle. It’s the challenges that keep me engaged and I wouldn’t chose to do anything else.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
The Assassin’s Creed Unity reveal at the 2014 Microsoft Electronic Entertainment Expo Media Briefing. It was the first time that our work in Toronto was shown to millions of people, and it was such a privilege to be up on that stage demonstrating the game to represent my team back home!
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
The game industry is still in its adolescence in many ways, so I honestly feel that there are endless opportunities to learn and explore. We are at a tipping point right now where games are becoming mainstream, meaning that we have a bigger reach and influence now more than ever. I feel that the best way to move forward is for the industry to evolve both in terms of its production practices as well as the subject matter we are willing to tackle. I hope that in 20 years, I can look back and see that I’ve made a difference in helping the game industry mature so that it is as readily accepted (and criticized) as an art form in the same way film and literature are today.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Work hard to try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, and take the time to reflect and learn from your mistakes. It’s the most effective way to test your limits, build your confidence, and grow.
Also, find good mentors. I am extremely fortunate that I had the benefit of learning from and being supported by some excellent managers that I had early in my career.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Ubisoft Toronto is very active in the local community, contributing to a number of charities including The Stop Community Food Centre, Sketch, and Habitat for Humanity, both in the form of financial donation as well as volunteer work throughout the year. We also give our time to support important organizations like Ladies Learning Code, WIFT, Level Up and many student organizations with a passion for gaming. I really appreciate their efforts here as it makes participating a part of my day-to-day at the studio, along with the rest of my colleagues. It also makes our charitable contributions fun team-building activities!
7. What does the word notable mean to you?
At first you may not realize it, but there is something interesting worth checking out.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I love living in Toronto because there is an endless number of restaurants to try. It’s hard to pick just one, but my most recent favourite discovery is Hanmoto for its street-style Japanese food.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser?
I’m a little embarrassed to say, but probably Facebook. That said, I’m lucky to have a bunch of friends that post really interesting articles. There are, however, also a lot of cat videos on my feed…
4. What’s your favourite cocktail?
Unfortunately, my body does not process alcohol, so a cocktail would basically be poison to me. But if you are asking about vices…probably dark chocolate… or gelato… or dark chocolate gelato!
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
To be honest, I don’t worry about that. I focus on the here and now, and I see opportunity in most situations, no matter how challenging. I also love to veg, so even if I am not doing anything, I am still completely content.
6. What would be your last meal? And don’t hold back…
My mom’s roasted leg of lamb with a side of mac n’ cheese.
7. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Why should I feel guilty about something that gives me pleasure?!