Paul Mayze of Avid Games talks to BQ about managing energy in his business, the need for non-management progression opportunities for technical specialists in the industry and developing a growth mindset.
What is it the company does?
We give fans a way to engage with their passion every day, via digital collectable card games. These are like the Match Attax and Pokemon Cards that you see at supermarket tills, but on your phone. To date, we’ve made collectable card games for the NBA, the NFL, Discovery Channel and Formula 1.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Making sure everyone can do their work to the best of their ability. Which mostly means removing obstacles that can get in their way (I am sometimes one of them…) and trying to make sure energy levels are intact. I’m a big believer in the need to manage energy as much as people.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I have worked in digital start-ups since starting at Europe’s first digital agency in 1998. The variety, the creativity, and the energy of startups just about balance out the volume of work and the wild swings of fortune.
Most of my early career moves were the result of a colleague or friend working on something interesting, and seeking me out as a potential collaborator, so there wasn’t much career planning involved! I’ve spent most of the last decade with game developers though and I can’t see that changing - it’s such a great industry.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Trust. A drive to keep getting better. Willingness to make the hard decisions. Making the main thing the main thing. Listening. Serving employees rather than ‘bossing’. These are the things I aspire to and on a good day, I might manage to do one of them well.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I’ve always liked the Kipling line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same…“ so I try to keep an even keel regardless of the challenge. I’m better at that now than I used to be!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I exercise and meditate. Although I tend to drift off while meditating, so maybe I should just call that napping. Yeah, I exercise and nap. And I have an awesome family - up, down and sideways. They look out for me – I’m very lucky like that.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A spy (James Bond). Or an archaeologist (Indiana Jones). Could have saved me some time if I’d been told what those jobs really entailed. It was only in my late 20s that I realised I could have a career in video games, at which point that was a no-brainer.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
My biggest pet hate is presenteeism. If you can only believe that employees are working when you can see them, you either hired the wrong people or you don’t deserve employees. I also have a bit of a thing against closed-door meetings. They engender suspicion and politics and those things are a waste of time and energy in a startup.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Making millions of people happy in little ways every day. Maybe that’s by doing what we’re doing now, but we work in technology so change is fairly inevitable.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Understand why you want to be a business leader first. There are plenty of other things worth aspiring to!
I find it sad when a brilliant developer (or scientist, artist, engineer, etc) feels that they are limited in their career progression unless they move onto a management track. Industries need to be better at valuing and promoting subject matter experts even if they don’t handle a team of fifty.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
To pay attention to the incremental power of small things done repeatedly.
I used to get frustrated if I didn’t get good at something quickly - in Carol Dweck’s terms, I was of a ‘fixed’ rather than ‘growth’ mindset. The idea of building constructive habits and watching them pay off over the long term was alien to me - and stayed that way until I took up running in my early thirties. Seeing how much I improved over the years that followed helped me realise how important regular practice was everywhere in my life.
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