November 20, 2020

10 Min Read

inside ubisoftbipoc

BIPOC of Ubisoft – Tahirah Mirza

My name is Tahirah Mirza and I’m the content and channel manager for Ubisoft NCSA (North, Central, and South America). I currently work 100% from home, but during non-COVID times, I work from our Montreal business office. I have been working at Ubisoft for three years. I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, to a Muslim-Pakistani family – both a religion and culture that I continue to identify with, despite sometimes being told that they clash with my Quebecoise identity.

Growing up in Montreal was great for so many reasons. I was able to learn how to speak English and French fluently, while learning Urdu and Punjabi at home. I grew up in an intergenerational home with my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles from my dad’s side. My grandparents came to Montreal in the late ‘60s, and bought an apartment building with seven units in the hopes of filling it with their kids and grandkids one day. It might seem like a scary concept to some, and while it had its dysfunctional moments, it was the best way to grow up.

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I realized very early on that I was perceived to be different. I remember getting stares when my family would wear traditional clothing outside of our home. I remember telling kids at school that I was a vegetarian because having to explain that I only ate halal meat seemed way too controversial. I even remember having to explain to the other kids that I did not celebrate Christmas – that was a tough one. I don’t blame those kids at all – they were genuinely curious as to why certain aspects of my life were different than theirs, but I do think that their parents, in addition to our schools, could have done a better job of making us feel less different by teaching children about diversity and all the positive things that come from it.

I also think the media and entertainment at the time lacked diversity. I would have loved to grow up in a world where, if I watched a movie or played a videogame, I would not have felt the sadness and anger that I did every time a Muslim character was negatively portrayed. I do think things have gotten better, and that there is more inclusion and diversity overall, which makes me hopeful. Man, would I have loved to grow up in a time where people like Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj, and Marvel’s Kamala Khan could have empowered me to love my differences. I’m happy that South-Asian kids have these role models to look up to today.

While I’ve learned to love and embrace my culture, I cannot help but notice that it has aspects that are flawed. There is this perception, particularly in South-Asian communities, that in order to be successful, you need to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. It’s difficult enough to grow up as a person of color in the “West,” and the added stress of constantly pleasing your family for the wrong reasons is draining and outdated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for anyone to disrespect their parents. I just think we need to move beyond parents planning their children’s entire lives for them, and trust that they can make the right choices.

Because of this cultural perception of success, I thought I wanted to become a doctor until I was about 17 years old. When I realized that I was horrible in health sciences and hated physics and biology, I had to have a tough conversation with my parents about wanting to switch from health sciences to social sciences during my time in college. This was probably the biggest hurdle for me, because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, yet I wanted to pursue something that would bring me happiness.

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Working in videogames did not seem like a reality to me, even though I spent a lot of my free time gaming. It was something that I had always fantasized about, but never really bothered pursuing or thinking too much about, because I didn’t think it was achievable. It seemed very unrealistic for a young Pakistani girl to pursue a career in videogames. Thankfully, my dad always ensured that my siblings and I grew up surrounded by the latest and greatest consoles and tech, and my parents never differentiated my passions from those of my brothers solely because I was a girl. Boy or girl, we were both expected to become doctors, though – at least there was no discrimination based on that. All to say, my parents gave me their blessing and allowed me to switch programs, after much convincing.

At that point, I believed that I wanted to become a lawyer, because it was the next best thing and it didn’t require taking any calculus classes, which was a big bonus for me. I tried to make my CV look appealing for when I applied to law school by joining clubs and acting as their marketing and communications VP (which is just a fancy way to say I was handling all their social media).

I realized during this time that I really enjoyed creating and optimizing content. This was a pivotal moment for me, and after consulting with those closest to me, including my parents and my husband, I decided to enroll in an e-commerce management program while I continued my undergrad. The most surprising part of this was that my parents were extremely supportive and didn’t particularly care if I became a lawyer or not. My dad offered to me the opportunity to take care of all the social media and content for his small IT consulting company, which was great because it gave me a little experience.

I knew that at that point I could have stopped pursuing my political-science degree, but obtaining a bachelor’s degree was always very important to me and my parents, so I completed it. While I don’t use my international-relations and political-philosophy knowledge for my job, my undergrad really helped with my time-management and presentation skills, as well as how I work in teams.

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It was about two months into my e-commerce program that I decided to start looking for internships. I saw there was an opportunity to intern for Ubisoft, and specifically to help the Ubisoft Store with their content. I got really excited, because I was always a fan of Assassin’s Creed, and had never really thought about working in videogames, because I believed that a vast knowledge of technical skills was required and that you needed to be a developer of some sort. I had no idea of the different teams and roles that existed within the industry.

I applied for the position thinking that there was no way I would get the job. There had to be hundreds of applicants, all with more experience than myself. I was extremely doubtful, but I had nothing to lose. I applied and received a call the following day for a phone interview. I went through a very quick interview process, and started working as a digital marketing assistant for the Ubisoft Canada marketing team not even three weeks later. After my internship ended, I was hired by the Ubisoft NCSA Digital Marketing team, and have been loving it since. I can also proudly say that my job brings me genuine happiness.

So, what do I do now, and why does it bring me happiness? I’m the content and channel manager, and my main job is to ensure that all our social media channels are healthy and following the latest and greatest platform best practices. Additionally, part of my role is to ensure that I maintain a close relationship with our platform representatives from various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram as well as our livestreaming and video-on-demand platforms, like YouTube and Twitch. I also manage a team of content coordinators who post all the great content you see on our pages. Our role is not only to ensure that we are posting great content, but ensuring that our content performs well by conducting competitive reports, as well as analyzing our platform analytics and strategizing the perfect channel mix for all our important pulse-points across all brands.

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This job brings me so much happiness, and I feel extremely fulfilled for several reasons. The first reason is that I can learn something new daily. I love working in the digital space, because it’s continuously changing. I also love having the responsibility of managing a team. I didn’t think it was possible to do that at my age, so I’m extremely grateful to be able to not only manage my team, but to guide them, motivate them, and help them grow professionally. Finally, I enjoy sharing our team’s social-media knowledge with our cross-functional teams and seeing them take our advice on best practices. It shows that our jobs have value, and that we can impact the way content is put out into the world.

I think my favorite accomplishment thus far is appearing in the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey game credits. This was the moment that I realized I was a part of Ubisoft, and that I had an impact on the franchise I have been so in love with since its beginning. Another accomplishment that I am super proud of is being able to impact our large livestreams and events, such as E3 and Ubisoft Forward, from a social-media and platform point of view. I enjoy being able to execute these events live while everyone is watching and engaging with them in real time. Finally, I’m also super proud of my progress at Ubisoft. I started off as an intern and now manage a team, and that’s something to be proud of.

I don’t think my career choices would have been the same had it not been for my husband, Daniel. Daniel always encouraged me to chase something that I loved and was truly passionate about. He would ask me questions that made me reflect on what I wanted my career to be, and he made me outline steps that I would take in order to achieve those goals. Ultimately, he is the one who pushed me to pursue an e-commerce management certificate and made sure that I managed my time efficiently between obtaining my bachelors, my certificate, and my part-time job. I had A LOT on my plate, but Daniel was there to ensure that I remained focused on my goals.

While I encountered challenges growing up in Montreal, those challenges paved the way for me to be where I am today. This city provided me with the educational opportunities that I needed, it provided me with the dream job that I always fantasized about, it provided me with a life partner, and it provided me with a home. But most importantly, it taught me that being different is being human.

To read the rest of our BIPOC of Ubisoft stories, be sure to visit the Ubisoft News hub.

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