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People of Ubisoft Toronto — Meet Keegan Hawkeswood, Production Manager

June 20, 2024
5 minutes read
Matt West Web Banner

As a Production Manager, peer mentor, and reality tv enthusiast (where our Survivor fans at!), Keegan knows the power of communication in collaborative problem-solving. Drawing on his seven years with the studio, he shares his career journey from Dev Tester to Production Manager, and gives us an inside look into what being a part of the Ubisoft community is all about. 

Hey Keegan, tell us more about what you do as a Production Manager? And what’s your favourite thing about your role? 

As a Production Manager, I’m on top of the day-to-day tasking and planning for my team – as well as looking ahead to the future. Anticipating the needs of both my team and project is super important to make sure that any work that is needed can fit into our timeline and budgeted for accordingly. I love working as a Production Manager because I really enjoy talking to people and trying to solve problems. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming together as a team to solve a complex issue. Sometimes it’s easy as an individual to get stuck on a task and I enjoy being the conduit that brings people together to unblock these situations! 

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

What did you do before working at Ubisoft Toronto? How did you break into the games industry? 

Before working at Ubisoft Toronto, my career went all over the place! A small sampling of my previous jobs include: marketing at a fashion styling agency, retail management, film and television coordinator, reception at a medical office and frequent television game show contestant. If you’re lucky enough to get cast on a game show, you can win big – trust me! 

But as a life-long gamer with a creative background, I was excited and determined to break into the industry. I knew I could find ways to contribute my skills to help shape projects. I was also lucky to know many people who already worked at Ubisoft Toronto, all of whom spoke highly of their experiences! It sounded like a total dream job!I applied whenever the opportunity arose and officially joined the studio as a Development Tester in 2015.

Keegan 5

Since joining Ubisoft Toronto, you’ve worn multiple hats — dev tester, quality control and now production management. What led to the shift and how did you make that transition? 

Being a Dev Tester was an invaluable experience (and shoutout to all the testers past and present!) You learn so much about the process of creating games by interacting with truly every role on the project. One day you’re learning from programmers about their code and the next, you’re sitting with artists and watching them create beautiful spaces for our players to run around in. This laid a very valuable foundation and was fundamental to every step in my career progression. 

For myself, moving into Production was a natural progression of my own skills. When I left Dev Test, I was a Lead who had shipped multiple projects including Far Cry 6, Watch Dogs: Legion and Starlink: Battle For Atlas, and I knew that my communication and organizational skills could continue to grow beyond my current role. Dev Test has an important and specific mission of shipping bug free, high quality games, and jumping into Production has given me perspective of doing that from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

Can you describe the production management community within Ubisoft? 

We have a really supportive Production community within Ubisoft and particularly, within Ubisoft Toronto. We have regularly scheduled meetings to link up with other people in the Production field – at all levels of experience – to discuss general issues we’re facing and share our experiences with each other. It’s great being able to bounce ideas off each other and have access to mentorship to help guide us towards solutions. While we may not always know the answer to something right away, having other team members act as a sounding board is an invaluable resource.

Keegan 1

What are some tips you’d give to someone hoping to land a similar role to yours?  

For anyone looking to get into Production, I’d encourage talking to people in those positions. In Toronto and other cities, there are lots of local game jams and events that are free to attend where you can meet devs from any number of job families and chat with them about the work they do.  

Secondly, developing communication skills is key! Production managers are the bridge between departments that helps untangle the complicated conversations and problems that can arise through the game making process using their communication skills. You’ll often find that you’ll need to communicate with various people with different levels of understanding of various subjects or issues and manage competing interests. 

Finally, having a background in organizational tools like Jira and Confluence would be a great start for most people – and you’ll quickly become everyone’s friend if you can master an Excel spreadsheet.

Pride and UbiProud

You’re part of our studio’s UbiProud employee resource group (ERG). What does being a part of this ERG mean to you? 

UbiProud is our local 2SLGBTQIA+ ERG within the Toronto studio. It’s a place for anyone who identifies within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and works at Ubisoft Toronto to join in – both to socialize and also to discuss any issues they might be facing in a safe space.  

In the past, our ERG has taken part in providing community learning opportunities to the wider studio, raised funds for various local causes and even marched as part of the Toronto Pride parade. It feels great to have a dedicated space for our team to fully be themselves and speak about their issues. 

Have there been games with 2SLGBTQIA+ representation that has deeply resonated with you? 

I’ve always been a big mythology fan and Hades absolutely scratched that itch for me. I loved the representation we got to see throughout that game, including *minor spoiler* Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship (side note – if you dig those characters, read the Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller!). Hades II is one of my most anticipated games of this year (next to Star Wars Outlaws) and I can’t wait to see how the new and returning characters expand on this representation. 

What are your hopes for the gaming industry in the near future in relation to representation, diversity and inclusiveness? 

I think it’s really important to make sure that as an industry, we’re supporting, listening to and uplifting all marginalized voices and not just bringing people in to check diversity boxes. Diversity doesn’t mean anything if people cannot actively influence change. 

Over the years, I think the industry has gotten better at trying to bring authentic representation to games. Characters being part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ Community have shifted from being under-and-misrepresented to becoming major figures within games. And the impact of these decisions isn’t going unnoticed by gamers within our underrepresented communities! It’s so awesome to see things like fan art from people of their favourite characters who they relate to and feel like they can share a voice with. 

JUST FOR FUN

Winstonandlarry

What do you do to relax? 

I share two dogs with my husband — a Corgi named Winston and a Golden Retriever named Larry. We enjoy playing and walking around the neighbourhood with them. I love reality television (Survivor, Top Chef, Real Housewives and RuPaul’s Drag Race) and can easily lose hours of time to it. I also write and perform stand-up comedy regularly around the city of Toronto and recently got a chance to perform at Toronto Comicon! 

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