Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 12, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why A Thinking Ape Entertainment Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2018):
- A Thinking Ape Entertainment offers its humans a nice place to unwind in an employee lounge complete with fresh fruit and vegetables, an assortment of healthy snacks, a massage chair, mini golf area, vintage arcade games and a fully stocked fridge for Friday gatherings
- Employees at A Thinking Ape Entertainment can also take advantage of weekly onsite yoga classes led by a certified yoga instructor
- A Thinking Ape Entertainment's employee social committee organizes numerous fun events throughout the year, including quarterly team outings that include every activity, from trampolining to movie screenings to bubble soccer
A Thinking Ape welcomes thinking people
Kenshi Arasaki, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based digital games company A Thinking Ape Entertaininment, makes two unusually bold promises to people who come to work for his firm.
"The first thing we offer is that we will attempt to help you do your life's best work," he says. "We will give you challenging projects with as much ownership as you can take, and as much professional development and skills training as we can give you."
And the second thing? "When you come into the office, you will be surrounded by the smartest colleagues you have ever worked with."
Arasaki says that focusing the company's outreach on these two points "makes recruiting and retaining really, really great people very easy."
A Thinking Ape was founded in Silicon Valley in 2008 by Arasaki, a native Calgarian, and two partners, who eventually moved the company to Vancouver to find a more stable workforce than the job-hopping Valley. The mobile games, which originally grew out of an online chat platform, involve a strong sense of mass community among players of such varied titles as "Kingdoms at War" and "Party in my Dorm". "Clans" from the games are known to plan real-world vacation trips together, and there has been more than one marriage of couples who met while playing. In-app purchases fund the company.
Arasaki says the company recruits its people from across the country, including a strong contingent from the University of Waterloo, as well as internationally -- "wherever we can find great people" -- and pays relocation expenses for successful candidates. "We're currently in growth mode," he says. "We're hiring software developers, machine learning engineers, data scientists, game artists, 3-D artists, user acquisition analysts, player experience champions and product designers -- basically every category."
Working at A Thinking Ape is built around the company's core values, such as ownership. "I talked with a group of interns today and they were very surprised at how much responsibility they get," Arasaki says. For all employees, such responsibility is tied to strong mentorship and learning, including a $1,500 per year stipend for individual training and development.
There is also free catered lunch once a week, free snacks, in-office massage, gym subsidies, arcade games -- naturally -- and this year a Christmas gift of a Nintendo Switch gaming system for everyone.
There's one other perk -- "we have wonderful arguments," says Arasaki. "It takes a lot of getting used to for an intern or a new employee to come and tell me, the CEO, that I'm wrong, and here's the data to back it up. But once they get a handle on it, it's very, very liberating." He also points to a strong sense of humour, notable in the latest game title "Kingdoms of Heckfire". "One thing we've embraced as a company is that we're very weird."
Software Development Engineer Geoff Gollmer has experienced all of those elements, starting as an intern and then joining full-time in June 2015. From the first day, he says, the experience was exceptional. "You're always being challenged, but to a degree you can achieve," he says. "And it gives you this opportunity to prove to yourself you're capable and to grow at an insane rate."
He recalls proposing ideas as an intern that he then worked on when he joined. "That was a validating moment," he says.
At the company's downtown Vancouver location, there is an easy-going environment full of bean-bag chairs and whiteboards. "It's all about openness, and the ability to talk to anyone about anything at any level for pretty much any reason," says Gollmer.
Core hours are set as 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., so people arrive and leave at various times depending on work and lifestyle. There are unlimited sick days, with an assumption that people won't abuse them. In all ways, says Gollmer, "there's a lot of employer trust in everybody that we hire."