As a Multimedia & Digital Systems graduate, Al entered the job market as a tech generalist. His early career spanned a variety of roles and skillsets, but he struggled to find a niche that really aligned with his values and spoke to his key strengths. Fast-forward to today and Al is an agility leader and development director working for a multi-billion-dollar video game company. Here’s how he got there.
When we catch up with Al, he’s right where he wants to be: an accomplished agile professional with a job he loves. He’s found his niche—helping to build happy, high-performing teams—and he’s living out his childhood dream of working in the video games industry.
But, as idyllic as it sounds right now, it was a long and winding path that led him there. A path with many twists and turns and moments of uncertainty. So where did it all begin?
Al studied Multimedia & Digital Media Systems at the University of Sussex. After graduating, he returned to Vienna, Austria, to apply for jobs. But, as a generalist with a broad set of skills, he had trouble finding his “fit.”
“When I started to apply for jobs, I began to question how applicable my skills were. Some people didn’t really understand where to place me; they didn’t understand what my core skills were. Is he a web developer? A designer? What is he?”
This would be the first of many moments when Al felt like “A Jack of all trades,” struggling to fit into a single niche. Still, this didn’t hold him back. He landed an internship at an I.T. company, followed by another internship at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
There, he honed his multimedia development skills, putting his PHP, HTML and CSS skills to the test. He also applied his skills in animation, as well as podcast and video editing. Although still very much a generalist, Al was starting to see a core strength emerging.
“My real strength was rapid prototyping—hacking things together to make something cool. I produced outcomes for the team, and that gained traction.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first glimpse of his calling into the agile world…
After a few years at the IAEA, Al moved to Canada to do a master’s in digital media. It felt like a logical extension of what he’d learned as an undergrad—and, being based in Canada, he hoped it would help him break into the North American job market.
As he moved through grad school and built a new life in Vancouver, he worked on a variety of projects across different domains. And still he continued to question his place in the professional world.
“I was invested in growing and learning the ropes of the digital media industry, but I was still very confused. I didn’t know where I wanted to be. I kept returning to the idea of how cool it would be to work in the video game industry, but I was weighing up the pros and cons of different industries, and I was still looking through my ‘Jack of all trades’ lens.”
He recalls how there was a sense of pressure to define himself—to slot into a particular niche and label it something specific. As his peers carved out clear routes for themselves, Al struggled with that all-too-familiar beast: imposter syndrome.
“I was very well-versed in the technical side of things, so I found myself taking on the role of ‘tech lead.’ However, this came with a lot of imposter syndrome because I wasn’t really a good developer. I was a hacker, putting things together with a bit of this and a bit of that. I got by with that approach, but any other developer in the field would shun me because my code wasn’t clean. What I built wasn’t scalable or sustainable—it was just a prototype.”
Once again, it occurred to him that his strength was in prototyping. He was a master at getting things done fast in order to build something. There was a clear connection with agile and scrum, and Al fully embraced this iterative, solution-oriented way of working.
While it was great to be moving closer towards what felt like his niche, Al simultaneously felt the pressure of working at such a rapid, results-driven tempo. He describes it as a steep learning curve that had him questioning how healthy this way of working really was:
“I was romanticizing the leadership aspect of it, and felt like I had to be the hero for the team. I felt the pressure of deadlines building up, but instead of delegating, I took it upon myself to get everything done. That resulted in a lightbulb moment where I realized it just wasn’t a healthy way to work.
My mindset shifted and I started wondering: How can I change the face of leadership, or find a position where the work is more evenly dispersed? Or where everyone has a say in the project and can work collaboratively towards a common goal? I looked at agile and scrum as that thing, that magic solution.”
After grad school, Al’s journey took him to Berlin, Germany, where he freelanced as a digital media production consultant. But, missing the agile environment, he soon went in search of something different.
“After working with agencies for a while, I thought: I just need to be somewhere that practices agile. That’s the spirit and the values that I enjoy.”
As it turned out, his wife recommended her employer, Wooga, a mobile games development company where stand-ups and sprint planning were the norm. He took an internship there in product management, which later turned into a permanent position.
Again, Al found he was able to offer real value as a leader and coordinator; someone who could organize all the moving parts to deliver results. From product management, he moved into a job title that finally felt right: Agile Coach.
“Wooga marked a major turning point for me. It enabled me to practice agility and carve out my niche as a scrum master and facilitator. I was like: This is my thing! I am whatever a scrum master / agile coach is. This is my calling.”
From there, Al’s journey took him back to Canada where he taught scrum and agile at the Centre for Digital Media, then back to Wooga in Berlin where he once again worked as an agile coach and scrum master.
His life and career took another turn when he returned yet again to Canada. I told you: A winding path!
After Wooga, Al really began to establish himself as an expert scrum master and agile coach. He took a contract role at Telus (a Canadian telecommunications company) which eventually secured him a permanent position. He recalls:
“The funny thing about working for large companies like those in the TelCo space is that they are often not very agile. But there was this little agency pocket called TELUS Digital, and they were sort of the ‘new kids on the block’ who were doing things differently, incorporating a lot of agile practices. I was like, yes! That’s my home base.”
Al describes his experience at TELUS Digital as “the school of life,” allowing him to get involved in a variety of projects and workshops and to really hone his craft as a scrum master and facilitator.
He put a lot of time into reading about different tools and exercises he could use during workshops, but found that, in practice, it was often hit-and-miss:
“Before investing in Workshopper Master, I would read about different exercises I could use in my work, but it always felt very scripted. I’d often try an exercise I’d read about, only to find that it wasn’t actually working for this particular workshop. Then, as a facilitator, I would panic! I didn’t know what other techniques to use because I’d only come prepared with this specific exercise recommended in one book.”
As a facilitator, you’re a performer of sorts. You have to read the room and adapt your approach depending on how the audience is responding. Often, you need to improvise and completely change direction in order to ensure your workshop is a success.
That’s what Al felt he was missing from his practice—and what he believed he could learn with the Workshopper Master course. So, in a bid to become an even better facilitator, he signed up. Fortunately, the course was everything he hoped it would be.
“The Workshopper Master course really hit the nail on the head. It taught me about the laws of facilitation, and the power in being comfortable with not knowing everything and being able to improvise on the spot to best help the team. It really helped me to feel more confident. It made me feel more like a complete package with a very clear value proposition.”
After completing the Workshopper Master, it sounds like Al really came full circle. He went from being a “Jack of all trades” generalist struggling to find his niche, to carving out a successful career as an expert facilitator.
It’s great to hear that he got the results he wanted out of the course, but I’m curious to know: How did Al enjoy the course itself?
“I loved it all. I loved the material, I loved Jonathon’s teaching style. He’s my spirit animal. I love the AJ&Smart team. It was worth the investment, and I’ve found where I want to be: in a position where I help shape high-performing teams in the digital space.”
Of course, Al’s story doesn’t end there. Armed with his newfound confidence as a facilitator, he took a leap towards his childhood dream of working in the gaming industry and applied for a job at EA.
During one of the interviews, he ran a Workshopper-style session in Miro and, in his own words, “turned some heads.” The rest is history, as they say!
“Almost 13 years since I first had that dream of joining EA, I’ve come full circle. During my interviews with EA, I had the poise and confidence to claim to be a ‘Workshopper Master,’ and that really resonated with the panel. Now I’m working at EA as Development Director and I’m having a great time. The people are just awesome. It was a long road, but I wouldn’t do it any differently. It’s all about the journey, right?”
It sounds like Al has finally found a role that speaks to his strengths and passion:
“The new job relies on all the agile experiences I built up over the years: scrum mastering, agile coaching, people coaching, and management. And of course: workshopping.”
If there’s anything we can learn from Al, it’s that the path to success is rarely ever linear. Life takes us on detours, and sometimes we find ourselves in positions that just don’t feel like ‘home.’ But, when you do find your niche—and when you embrace it and commit to learning and growing within it—amazing things can happen. Like landing your dream job at one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.
If, like Al, you’ve found your niche as a facilitator, the Workshopper Master can help you level up your skills and become a more versatile, adaptable practitioner. Watch our FREE training video and learn the 5 things you can do to become a top 1% facilitator, and earn 6 figures while doing it.