Danny Wei: From Auckland to Ubisoft Montreal

Life at Ubi

It is often said that all roads lead to Rome, but for video game enthusiasts, all roads lead to Ubisoft! This is the case of Danny Wei, who moved from Auckland to Montreal. Let’s get inspired by his incredible journey. 

My name is Danny and I’ve been working as a Gameplay Programmer at Ubisoft Montreal for a little over two years. Originally, I am from Auckland, New Zealand – a small country famous for its beautiful scenery, the Lord of the Rings, the singer Lorde, and the flightless Kiwi bird.

Here’s my story of landing my dream job at Ubisoft Montreal.

The pull of the video game world

When I started university, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to be in the video game industry with the hope of one day working for a AAA company. After graduation I applied to any video game related company I could find to get my foot in the door and ended up at Rush Interactive.

At the time, Rush was a growing tech company with various interesting projects. I enjoyed my time working here, however, I desperately craved to be in the league with the big dogs. I wanted to be making AAA console games rather than porting games.

One day, I discovered that Ubisoft Montreal had a position open in my field. It felt like the opportunity of a lifetime since I was a huge fan of Ubisoft titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Prince of Persia and Rayman Rabids. So, I thought to myself: I will regret it if I don’t even try applying to my dream job. I admit at the time I wasn’t very hopeful, since I was overseas on the other side of the planet.

Dream job calling

A week went by after my application. I opened my email to see a message from Matthew from Ubisoft asking if I would be interested in a chat. It was such a big surprise that I had to double check to make sure nobody was playing a prank on me! After that video conference call, an online programming test, and finally a call with the Far Cry team:  I got an offer!

I was so excited and couldn’t believe that this was all happening. However, there was one small problem: the team wanted me to be in Montreal in just two weeks. After discussion with my wife, we realised that this wasn’t enough time to pack up our lives and move to a brand-new country. Stress and so many emotions!

A new place to call home

And so, on May 23, 2017, one week before my first day at Ubisoft and after 30 hours of flying across 14,381km, I touched down in YUL airport. The whole immigration process was a breeze. Luce-Claire from Ubisoft’s International Mobility helped me organise everything I needed for the visa application, temporary accommodation, and having someone help me settle in upon arrival.

I had never been to North America before. And with the rush of moving, I didn’t do much research. It was certainly a “leap of faith” when my wife and I decided to relocate half way around the world!

I hadn’t expected how prevalent French was in Montreal. Locals speaking French on the street, on the radio, on TV, and even all the signage… I have to admit that it worried me that it would be hard to adjust to new jobs and make new friends since both of us didn’t speak much French (I now regret not paying enough attention in my high school French class).

 

Joining the Ubisoft family

Finally, my first day of work at Ubisoft arrived. I stood in front of the giant Arno Dorian, statue (a main character from Assassin’s Creed) and it was truly a surreal moment for me. I still couldn’t believe that I was actually here and about to start the first day at my dream job; making games that my friends and I play.

I couldn’t wait to get started. That day I met my team lead, Greg and tech lead, David, whom I interviewed with online. They took me out for lunch and were very cool and friendly. During lunch I had made the mistake of ordering chips rather than fries (in New Zealand we call fries “chips”) and ended up with a bowl of crisps to go with my burger. A linguistic difference I will never forget! Afterwards, Greg showed me my workspace back at the office and introduced me to the team. I clearly remember trying to contain my excitement about being here!

Fast-Forward to today

Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and now it’s been over two years of working at Ubisoft. Today I’ve really grown to enjoy Montreal: its artistic vibe, friendly people, and most of all a great career of doing what I love the most – making AAA games. My wife and I still get surprised by the smallest things, such as seeing a squirrel on the street, or a racoon at Mount Royal. There is always so much to explore: the old port and its French charms, shopping downtown, and discovering the flavours of the Plateau’s hip coffee and food culture.

Moving to Montreal from New Zealand was definitely full of challenges and unknowns. Would I make the same decision all over again if I were to go back in time? In a heartbeat.

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