Graduating from the Master of Digital Media program can lead to many pathways in the digital media industry. The program gives students a ton of career options and the path each graduate takes is always interesting.
Meet Christine Clark. Coming from UBC’s Theatre Program, she took the Master of Digital Media program in 2012 as part of the 5th MDM Cohort (C5).
After graduating, Christine spent some time working on her own startup and building games. From there she transitioned into advertising and she is now Managing Director at Thinkingbox Toronto, one of the largest interactive production studios in Canada with offices in Vancouver, LA and Toronto.
We spoke on the phone about her career trajectory from MDM student to Managing Director, what her day to day at Thinkingbox looks like and her advice for those applying to the MDM program.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself. What was your career trajectory to becoming Managing Director at Thinkingbox?
I received my undergraduate degree from the UBC Theatre Program. After graduating I had a brief stint working as a PA on sets, but I knew that I wanted to go back to school so I could have a greater impact on the productions that I was a part of.
I had learned about the MDM program through one of my theatre classes. It sounded interesting since I was always a bit of a nerd.
At the time, the internship was the in the middle of the program. I had an 8 month internship with Microsoft’s game studio Black Tusk Studios (now The Coalition Studio), where I learned a lot about interactive production.
After graduating, Craig Slagel, Matt Marshall [both also C5’s] and I worked together on a start up (it’s now RunGo) but Matt and I separated off because we were more interested in games and started a game studio Wayward. We funded it with grants and awards and eventually launched our game The Veil. We were really proud and loved it but, honestly, we didn’t know what we were doing with regards to running the business as a whole and decided that we needed to go and get experience with bigger companies.
From there, I had a bunch of odd jobs. I did my first stint in advertising, worked in Digital Strategy for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UBC and I freelanced—building websites, campaigns and working on games.
In 2015 I started at Thinkingbox. It was the perfect marriage between games and advertising. It was hyper-interesting, experimental and I liked that it didn’t take 3+ years to bring a product to life.
One of the things I love about Thinkingbox is that they promote from within. I started in the Vancouver office as a Digital Producer. Two and a half years ago I moved to Toronto to work more on the business side of things as the Director of Production and in March I was promoted to Managing Director where I oversee the company’s end to end operations on the East Coast.
2. Are you doing what you thought you would be doing?
Yes and no.
I really didn’t know what I would end up doing, I came into the MDM program with an open-mind. I guess I thought I’d be more on the conceptual design side of things and didn’t realize that I had an interest and strength in the business side of things.
Christine building projection mapping cubes at CDM.
3. You finished the MDM program almost 7 years ago, do you have any favourite memories?
I remember a project that we worked on in the last term Pixel Dreams. It was an interactive projection mapping experience with hollow 9'x9' cubes—basically room-scale VR but we didn’t have the words for it at the time.
It was the first time that I experienced working with digital interactivity combined with physical space, which is a lot of what we do at Thinkingbox today.
4. What do you do day to day as Managing Director at Thinkingbox?
Good question [laughs]. The CEO, Amir Sahba, says "If people don’t know what you do you’re probably doing your job."
Generally, I oversee the internal operations and strategic direction of the studio. And I manage positioning the company with our clients.
In addition, I work with the executive team that identifies key investments and improvement opportunities in regards to creative workflows and infrastructure.
I also lead the team of producers, providing mentorship and managing production resources across multi-disciplinary teams. I help with planning projects and ensuring that the execution meets the needs of the client, while being true to the overall vision.
It’s a catchall role. There are lots of meetings, planning and troubleshooting. Basically, I keep things moving.
5. What would you tell someone who is applying to the MDM program?
Success doesn’t happen overnight, you have to work hard. I thought that I would graduate and immediately find my dream job but it rarely works out that way.
#1. Work your butt off. You’re only going to get out of the program what you put in. If you’re going to make the effort to go to grad school, you should make an effort to learn. You won’t succeed by coasting.
#2. Push boundaries. The program is supportive of crazy ideas so have crazy ideas, and make them happen.
#3. Make connections. Don’t annoy people. If you do get a meeting, make an impression. If you find a mentor willing to invest their time, jump on it.
Read More Alumni Stories:
Sprinting With A Scrum Master: My Role As Scrum Master at Wooga
How I Became a Pipeline Technical Director in Toronto: Meet MDM Alumni Isabelle Alles