City Focus: Quebec City
With its name derived from the Algonquin “kepék”, meaning “narrows”, Quebec City is situated on the Saint Lawrence River in the province of Quebec. It is the eponymous province’s second largest city after Montreal. According to Québec International, the city’s 2018 GDP was $35.8bn, an increase of 2.4% compared to the previous year. As of May 2018, the population was 817,408, representing 9.7% of Quebec province at large.
Along with Montreal, Quebec City forms a mega region for the development of video games, in part thanks to enticing tax credits from the government. Investissement Québec says the region’s reputation in the field can be traced back to the 1980s, with some 230 video game industry related companies in the province as of 2016, employing around 11,000 people. These companies range from traditional game developers, to educational game makers, game testing and quality control companies and game publishers and distributors.
The city’s largest game developer, with over 500 employees according to its website, Ubisoft Quebec was founded in the city in 2005. A subsidiary of French video game publisher Ubisoft, they initially worked on smaller games as well as porting Ubisoft’s larger titles to other systems. Since 2015 they have taken the reigns of Ubisoft’s AAA Assassin’s Creed series, developing the critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Having just moved to new offices in the Saint-Roch District of the city, the studio recently announced its latest game, Gods & Monsters, a multi-platform title drawing on Greek mythology.
Beenox is a game developer based in Quebec City, and a subsidiary of Activision, the American video game publishing giant. Founded in 2000, according to Game Job Hunter they have over 200 employees. Specializing in both porting other studios’ titles to other platforms and developing their own games, the company’s versatility has seen them work on large titles from Activision’s stable. Projects have included a remaster of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for current-generation consoles, a number of titles using Marvel’s Spider-Man property and its latest game Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. They are currently working alongside Raven Software and main developer Infinity Ward on the latest Call of Duty title.
Describing itself as being in possession of broad transmedia expertise, Frima Studio is a digital entertainment company active in video games, virtual reality and animation. Founded in 2003 in the city, the company has worked with the likes of Lego, Mattel, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Zynga to create works based on their properties. They have also created original works such as the video game Chariot, released in 2014 and recently ported to the Nintendo Switch console. Their latest project sees them assisting Oddworld Inhabitants on development of the latest in the Oddworld series of games, Oddworld: Soulstorm.
Quebec City is one of North America’s oldest conurbations, playing a pivotal role in the history of Canada and North America at large. Indeed, the word “Canada” is thought to derive from the Iroquois word for village, in reference to a settlement at the site of what is now Quebec City. Founded proper in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City served as a stronghold of New France and font of French culture. In 1763, the city came under British control along with the rest of New France, but to this day the city is overwhelmingly French speaking. A consequence of this history is that the city is often considered to have a European sensibility, with intact city walls dating from the 17th century just one of many sights more commonly found across the Atlantic Ocean.
Upcoming events in the city include a convention from Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, from August 17 to 23 at the Québec City Convention Centre. At the same venue from August 18 to 22, the 18th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering and the 8th Canadian Permafrost Conference takes place. Despite its historical core, Quebec City possesses a modern, forward looking economy, with good prospects for workers. According to Québec International, the average salary in the city was CA$44,963, increasing year on year by 2.6%, beating inflation of 1.5%. With its balance of old and new, the city stands in good stead to continue growing its population and economy.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.