Job Title: Studio General Manager and Vice President, BioWare, a Division of Electronic Arts
Why He’s Top 40: He raises Edmonton’s profile as a destination city for game developers while providing industry support and direction for university students.
What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: “The festivals. With the Fringe and the Street Performers Festival, Edmonton has this vibrant arts community that thrives and it’s a really cool thing to let into your life.”
Eleven years ago, a high-school student asked Aaryn Flynn, then a programmer at BioWare, how to break into the gaming industry. Flynn’s answer was simple, if not cliched. But it was the tried-and-true method that he had used to get there:
1) Finish high school and get good grades.
2) Take Comp-Sci at the University of Alberta and get good grades.
3) If programming is what you’re passionate about – apply.
Five years later, the student did exactly that. Snatched up from the U of A upon graduation, he now works with Flynn, who is currently the general manager and vice president of the game studio that has two locations in Canada (Edmonton and Montreal) and one in the United States (Austin, Tex.).
Flynn is no stranger to young hopefuls in the gaming industry. They make up a portion of his staff of more than 400 at BioWare – an award-winning studio that has produced titles such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, Dragon Age and the Mass Effect trilogy. And when Flynn meets someone who dreams of a job there, he feels a sense of pride in his work. After all, he’s had a hand in almost every game developed there since 2000.
“It’s funny, when my mom first was transferred out here from Oakville, (Ont.) I was 16, and I was thought my life was over. It wasn’t, of course.” A year later, Flynn met his future wife, Jennifer. He then spent eight years at the U of A, earning degrees in both genetics and computing science, only to be nabbed by BioWare immediately following graduation. The next 13 years saw Flynn move from a position as a programmer to a lead programmer before being appointed director of technology in 2007. By 2009, Flynn had moved from a director of operations role into the general manager position.
He sits on the Department of Computing Science Advisory Board in an effort to influence and prepare students for the changing industry, and, as GM of BioWare, he raises the profile of Edmonton as a destination city for gaming industry professionals.
“I would guess that about 25 per cent of the people here aren’t from Canada,” says Flynn. “We see our employees settle in Edmonton and become part of the community. It’s really cool. The same thing happens to them that happened to me. You come for whatever reason, but it doesn’t take long before you love the city. It infects you and you’re a part of it.”
How do Aaryn and his wife and fellow Top 40 Under 40, Jennifer Flynn, as parents to boys aged 10 and seven, keep it together?
Keep Fit: Early in their careers, the couple took aikido classes together – both earning black belts in the martial art.
No outsourcing: Taking cues from their work lives, the Flynns plan their schedules and sync their Outlook calendars to ensure that they optimize the time they can spend with their family. This way, they ensure that even when one parent is travelling, the other is at home with the kids.
Take a (mini) break: When work and family take up the majority of their time, vacations can be hard to come by. The solution? Forty-eight-hour adventures. The couple will take 48 hours every so often to pack up and jet off to a far-away destination such as London, England to see the sights or Denver to catch a football game.