Having interned at a couple of other places, I expected my time at Optera Digital to be like every other internship experience. But to my surprise, it was not.
At any other internship, you expect that you will have to come in at a fixed time, leave at a fixed time, and do a set of tasks that have been assigned to you, but at Optera Digital, we (referring to myself as a part of Optera because I feel like I am now) did not have to follow any strict rules. It was okay to be late a few minutes if we had an emergency, it was okay to leave early if we were done with our work.
On one occasion, I asked Khaya, our content lead, if I could leave early and she replied “This is not a jail Anam” with a surprised expression. The environment was very friendly, there was no culture of taking permission for every single little thing, and every person was considered mature enough to handle things like a professional. We were allowed to do as we please, the only concern being delivering the work on time. On another occasion, I asked Ali Kazmi, our CTO, whether I could quickly head out for a few minutes to deal with some work and he had the same expression on his face. He went “you don’t have to ASK me, you can simply tell.” What I think having a laid back environment like this offered as an advantage was the fact that at one time a person simply had less to worry about. The priority would always be work. Heck one of the employes was even touring Europe while still working with us remotely. In our busy lives, this emptied more space in our brains to focus on the work than to worry about little things like whether or not you’re going to get a beating for having been late to work or being forced to sit in the office even when you had nothing to do. In my opinion, it improves productivity to a great extent. Which turned out to be true when I witnessed how even with little to no strictness, the office did not descend into chaos. Instead, every person took responsibility for their work and enjoyed what they did. Never once did I get the feeling that they considered work, “work”. The office was never gloomy and it did not seem like anyone was being forced to be there. At all times, the vibe was nothing but uplifting.
Mentioning the work environment that Optera Digital boasted, I do not think it will be an understatement if I said I felt as comfortable there as I do at home. Abbas, the CEO, has managed to keep the office environment the safest place a woman, or rather anyone, could work at. There was zero sexism, zero racism, zero -ism of any other kind. It was a friendly place, completely void of any sort of politics or discrimination. Being able to maintain such high standards, I think, requires a strong personality and plenty of hard work. Abbas hand-picking most of his employees is probably something that contributes to this. Not everyone gets into Optera Digital as far as I’ve noticed. Apart from possessing the necessary skills for your field of work, one’s personality has to match the environment, so skillfully maintained here, as well to become a part of the family.
The people at Optera Digital were not simply there because they needed a job, they were there to do what they love. We had the content team, the artists, the developers, and the management, all of whom were passionate about what they accomplished through working at Optera. Behind every project, there was a motive. Through most of the projects, that I came to know about, people of Optera Digital were delivering a positive message, hoping to make the world a better place. It was this sort of inspiring environment that made me wish more people followed their dreams so that they wouldn’t be stuck at a job that they hated.
Though we had different departments of work, overall everyone was a part of a team and they acted like it. When there would be a tough project, every single one of them would be crunching work hours. No one’s effort was every disregarded and neither was anyone left alone to deal with a tough situation. Optera was like one big family of energetic and optimistic people who worked hard when the job asked for it and had game nights every Friday.
To give you an idea of how nice and caring the people were, I should tell you that they have adopted a cat who has faced severe physical trauma in the past and is not at all friendly towards humans now, excluding the three people she trusts. To give that cat company they have adopted another cat who is blind and thus was abandoned by his previous owners. They are the office cats who get pampered by everyone around. Everyone takes turns to feed them over the weekends. If that doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what will.
Working at Optera was quite different. I had my friends, who were interning at other places, tell me that they are given tasks every day which they need to complete, if they do complete them they still have to sit in the office till off time. One of them wasn’t even allowed to use the company’s wifi. My experience was the exact opposite of that. When I joined Optera, Abbas (CEO) already knew I was a CS student interested in game development. He gave me a place on the CTO’s table who was supposed to be my lead. One of the developers, Belal, having the most experience with Unity 3D, was to help me learn. Throughout my entire time at Optera, I wasn’t handed a single task that would benefit the company itself or was of no interest to me. I started with tutorials, getting myself familiar with Unity 3D. When I became familiar with it enough, I shifted to making games. I followed a couple of tutorials for the games and finally, I was making new games on my own. Every time I faced any issues, Belal was there to help. At multiple times he gave up what he was working on and spent a good amount of time helping me figure out problems with my code or teaching me something even when he didn’t have to. There was Google that I could’ve used and there were online tutorials that I could’ve watched but Belal and Ali Kazmi both took out the time to help me learn. Optera Digital gave me space, time, an opportunity to learn and people to help me through it even though they had nothing personal to gain from it. In the end, I was confident enough at working with Unity 3D that I opted to build my Final Year Project using it. To add the cherry on top, Abbas and Ali Kazmi offered me to help with the project whenever required and welcomed my group members to share the office space with them.
Optera Digital is not just another company that is hell-bent on making money, what it stands for and what it instills in its employees is simply amazing. It focuses on the development of its employees not only as an effective workforce but also as better human beings. We have all heard of dream jobs many times but my experience at Optera Digital made me realize that there is such a thing as a dream working environment as well. Kudos to all the employees at Optera Digital for playing their part in making the world a better place. We could really do with more companies like this one.