Game to Learn

Playing in a sector that continually demands new skills, Digital Extremes turns employee development into a self-driven pursuit

Photo: Digital Extremes director of HR, Heidi Flynn

SEPTEMBER MARKS A return to school for thousands of local students, but for game development studio Digital Extremes, serving and ­supporting the millions of people playing their blockbuster title Warframe demands constant, year-round employee education.

Heidi Flynn, director, human resources, says the ­company of over 300 employees is driven by an internal culture of development.

“The development of Warframe is so incredibly fast,” explains Flynn. “It’s live, so changes have to happen in ­real-time. We do tons of updates and hotfixes—the game moves at a pace like I’ve never seen in a business before.”

In managing a massive global hit like Warframe, user feedback and rapid changes in technology constantly ­challenge employee skillsets, as does the need to continually develop new and inventive updates. As a result, Flynn says there is a substantial amount of self-teaching that goes on. In fact, it’s such an important component that their hiring focuses on individuals who demonstrate the initiative to steer their own career journeys.

“It’s truly blood, sweat and tears that go into creating something like this, so our goal is to make them feel valued and like they can grow here” —Heidi Flynn

“We have the best, most dedicated and passionate ­employees,” says Flynn. “It’s truly blood, sweat and tears that go into creating something like this, so our goal is to make them feel valued and like they can grow here.”

With an annual training and development budget of $2,500 per employee, Digital Extremes is committed to ­providing access to the resources their team needs to enhance existing skillsets or re-skill entirely, and then gives employees the freedom to explore training that works for their specific needs—as well as the permission to choose their own paths to professional development.

With a diverse workforce made up of artists, programmers, customer service representatives, accounting professionals and every role in between, each position’s learning journey is different, but the support remains the same.

Flynn says the access to learning is provided with ­minimal barriers or reporting. “All we really ask of [employees] is to do a short write-up. We just want to make sure that we know where the requests are coming from and how they’re going to benefit.

“A lot of the training is for career development,” she ­continues. “We’ve gone into reviews many times where I’ll be able to reflect back on where their previous interests have been and how they feel about their roles, and then help guide them as they wish to re-skill or continue on the path that they’re taking.”

Digital Extremes also places a high value on wholistic development. “From an HR perspective, our goal is to make our team feel valued and appreciated,” says Flynn. “People sit at desks for eight or more hours a day, so whether it’s having our executive chef provide healthy meals or offering incentives for the team to run downstairs to our DE-sponsored lunch-hour boot camp classes at GoodLife, we’re more than happy to do it.

“We strive to provide a platform where employees feel valued, engaged and like they are contributing to something that makes a difference in people’s lives. Our goal is to ­provide an environment where employees can learn, create, grow, share their passion, be their very best selves and make a difference in the company they work for.”

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