— 2 November 2022 | Portrait
Together, We Are Ubisoft Québec: Wissam, Chief of Staff
While most Ubisoft Québec employees arrive at the studio with a backpack or lunchbox, Wissam Zeidan arrives with his luggage.
Hired at the beginning of the summer as a chief of staff, Wissam is a shining example of the metamorphosis of the workplace in the wake of the pandemic: he works in Québec City, but lives in Montréal.
And while he’s in the Capitale-Nationale about once a month, most of the time, his day-to-day life resembles what we all experienced during the major covidian shutdowns.
Remote meetings and the omnipresence of Teams are nothing to disorient Wissam, who sees it as a continuity after two years of remote work, despite some initial apprehensions.
“It’s going much better than I imagined. Because, like a lot of people, I had made plans! From the time I signed my contract to the time I started, it was about a month. I had time to think about it, to wonder if it would work from a distance. In short, I had my apprehensions, but in the end, it’s going really, really well,” he says during a meeting at the studio in late September.
In a way, one might think that the idea of pursuing telecommuting had, among other things, encouraged Wissam to apply for a “remote” job at Ubisoft Québec, but the reality is quite different… and much funnier.
“When I saw the offer, it was someone who sent it to me. It really matched my profile and, in fact, there are very few offers like that that come through at Ubisoft or in the video game industry. So I applied! But I realized in the end, once I had sent my resume, that it was in Québec City… I didn’t know it was in Québec City,” he admits between two laughs.
However, things worked out for the best. After having applied a few times in the past, without success, for other positions at Ubisoft, it was finally the offer that would allow him to join the ranks of the company, after a little more than two and a half years spent at Hydro-Québec as a chief of staff to the environment director.
A Bit Like a Doctor
But what exactly does a chief of staff do?
Wissam smiled when he heard the question, which he had obviously been anticipating for a few minutes already.
“It’s not a job that’s easy to describe in concrete terms. In fact, yes, it is easy to describe, it’s just that the job title is very vague for people.”
“In fact, the chief of staff, in the role he has, accompanies a person. In this case, it’s the executive team and more specifically our general manager, Nathalie, whom I accompany on a whole range of issues that are important to Ubisoft Québec. This can range from the studio’s strategic planning to the organization of large meetings between general managers to promote collaboration between Canadian studios, as well as the work of structuring the governance of the Assassin’s Creed brand,” explains Wissam.
As a sort of right-hand man to the executive, he helps the management team plan its priorities and those of the company, “based on our challenges, but also on what we see in our internal and external environment.”
“My role is also to try to make sure that people are focused on the right things. That is that we work on the right stuff, but more importantly, that we don’t overdo it and that we respect our abilities. Often, we can have a tendency to go off in all directions, to want to do too much, and then, in the end, things don’t really land,” says Wissam.
He refers to his day-to-day role as a chief of staff as an “all-terrain” role, which aims to support management, but also other members of the studio.
“It’s something I really enjoy and find fun after three months at Ubi: I get to touch on a lot of different things. Sometimes I’ll be working with finance, human resources, communications, or with Marc-Alexis [Côté] on production stuff. It’s interesting, because I get to work in a variety of areas,” says the Montrealer by adoption.
If Wissam were to summarize his role to the extreme, he would compare his mission at Ubisoft Québec to that of a doctor, who must diagnose and then propose the best solutions, “the best remedies.”
“It’s a person who has to listen; listen to what the issues are, what the symptoms are, to be able to ask the right questions and put the finger on the right problem,” he sums up.
Asking the Right Questions
When you sit down with Wissam, you have no choice but to see that the parallels with a medical professional, if not a general practitioner, deserve to be drawn.
The Frenchman exudes a natural calm, articulates his ideas with precision and no one can doubt him when he describes himself as organized and highly analytical, two essential skills for any self-respecting chief of staff.
As for his years of experience in consulting for many different companies, they have given him a jack-of-all-trades side that has come in handy since he joined Ubisoft Québec.
“I’ve worked in banking, in finance. I’ve worked in entertainment for Moment Factory, for example. I’ve worked for convenience stores, gas stations. I’ve worked for different clients, but the common thread between all of that is that you’re never really an expert, either in the field or in the subjects you’re in. But I think that in my role, my goal is not to be an expert,” says Wissam.
Analytical by Day… Creative by Night
Knowing Wissam’s multidisciplinarity, it’s half a surprise to discover that once the evening comes, our new colleague swaps his chief of staff clothes for those of a photographer and musician!
“In my family, there are six of us. I have two sisters and a brother. And generally speaking, everyone has more or less an artistic passion. For one of my sisters and my mother, it is even their job! So, it is sure that I was surrounded by it,” he confides.
However, Wissam’s artistic side came to him a bit “late.” After learning to play the guitar in his early twenties, Wissam took up photography a few years later, when he arrived in Montreal.
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“It came quite naturally, because I said to myself: ‘Here, this will be an opportunity to meet people.’ Because when I came here, I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any friends, and making new friends isn’t necessarily easy! So photography was a way to meet people and to discover the city, to discover Montreal. And it hasn’t left me since,” he shares.
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A glance at his Instagram page is enough to see that Wissam does not fail to invest himself fully in what he undertakes. And this, whether it is about passions, career or life path.
Opening New Doors
This was the case when he decided to move from France to Montreal four years ago, after being won over by the city during a visit to his sister, who was living there at the time.
“I arrived in Montreal and saw the green spaces, the kindness of the people. I realized that you could live in a big city where there were great professional opportunities, while having a pleasant living environment. Paris is a beautiful city, but for those who have been there, it is not a very relaxing place to live,” he recalls.
Beyond the more balanced living environment, Wissam also had a desire to find a “more open mentality” in Canada, especially in terms of work.
“I find that in France, we tend to put people in boxes according to the codes, the diplomas that you have. On the other hand, what I perceived here in Canada and Quebec was that if you gave yourself the means and if you proved yourself, you could perhaps open doors that you could not open in France,” he explains.
Doors that led him to Ubisoft Québec, where another great adventure is just beginning for Wissam. An adventure that will undoubtedly be as enriching for him as it is for our entire studio.
Quick Facts !
Your go-to comfort food?
The underrated TV series that everyone needs to discover?
Jericho, season 1, “because season 2 sucks”
The first CD you bought?
A CD of the Lion King songs
A person, anyone, you’d like to chat with over a drink?
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
The first app you open in the morning?
Eurosport, a “French sports app”
If you were not a chief of staff, you would be…?
“Something like a physiotherapist, a job not in front of a computer”
Console or PC
What games are you playing right now?
Until Dawn and Hitman 3
What do you put in your coffee?
“Nothing, black coffee!”