Setting an example to inspire the next generation: an interview with Jessica Hildebrand of Ubisoft Winnipeg

Is it really possible to carve out a career in the video games industry without venturing far from home? Absolutely! Jessica Hildebrand, team lead programmer at Ubisoft Winnipeg is living proof.


Growing up in a quaint Manitoba town, Jessica was obsessed with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and later managed to transform her passion into a career. Now, she holds a leadership role at Ubisoft’s Manitoba studio, celebrating an impressive five-year tenure.

“I’ve always loved video games, but the gaming industry seemed out of reach, especially in Winnipeg,” Jessica explains.

So, when it came time to think about her professional future, she opted for a more conventional career in software development, with a degree in computer science from the University of Manitoba in hand.

After four years at a Winnipeg software company,  Ubisoft’s arrival in Manitoba turned her plans on their head.


A different vision for a different studio

“When Ubisoft set up shop in Winnipeg, my trajectory shifted in a way I never thought possible. It was genuinely exciting to be able to do something I really loved. Now I could create games and work in the industry, right here in my own province”, Jessica recalls.

And so, just a few weeks after the new Manitoba studio officially opened, she joined its ranks as a tools programmer in March 2019.


She immediately appreciated the studio’s culture, similar to a startup where innovation is not only encouraged, but celebrated as a cornerstone of the company.

“Everybody was completely committed, and since we were constantly in brainstorming mode, we had a lot of innovative projects in the pipeline. The studio’s main objective was to create the best tools to help create the best worlds”, she explains, adding that one of Ubisoft Winnipeg’s greatest strengths was the importance it placed on innovation.

“It’s kind of the whole foundation that our studio was built on: the idea of testing the limits of what we can do and what we can bring to the industry”, Jessica continues.

It was an ideal environment for her first foray into the world of video games and for expanding her abilities as a developer.


From programmer to team lead

Jessica has made great progress in her years at Ubisoft Winnipeg, growing and evolving along with the studio, which turned five this year.

After starting her Ubisoft career as a tools programmer on Roller Champions focused on UI, she also took part in several different projects at the studio.

Over time, though, Jessica aspired to another role: leadership.

“I worked with studio management, and they helped me prepare a development plan so I could find the resources and training I needed to achieve my objective,” she recalls.

She first took on a temporary role managing the Winnipeg team working on Far Cry 6, before she was appointed team lead programmer as part of the Rainbow Six Mobile team.


She has been performing that leadership role for three years now, with tasks far different from what she had done before.

“My work essentially consists of helping my team and making sure they can do their jobs. I manage our sprints, make sure nobody is stuck and get the right information so we can be sure we’re delivering the right things,” she explains.

In other words, her priority is to make sure that the seven tools developers on her team are flourishing and working to their full potential – the way a leader should!


Inspiring the next generation

Jessica is proud of what she has accomplished and of where she is today, and would like to see more young women from her home province follow in her footsteps.

“When I was younger, I didn’t know many women working in the STEM fields. Representation is definitely important because seeing women in these roles makes it normal. And at the end of the day, you develop an interest in areas where you see people like yourself working and succeeding”, Jessica says.

With that in mind, for several years, the Team Lead Programmer has been involved in a range of initiatives aimed at encouraging young women in Manitoba to pursue a career in STEM.


Whether giving talks at area high schools or meeting IT students from the University of Manitoba, Jessica makes an effort to speak about her profession and convey her passion to as many young people as possible.

At Ubisoft Winnipeg, she has also taken part in recent months in the Develop at Ubisoft mentoring program, in which she has had the opportunity to support a second-year computer science student and help her to create her own game.

According to Jessica, all of these initiatives are gradually moving the needle and are encouraging more and more women to choose a career in the games industry.


The studio is constantly seeking ways to contribute to equity and inclusion. It has a longstanding partnership with the Women in Computer Science group at the University of Manitoba, has already made efforts to ensure pay equity between the sexes, set up a consulting group of women run by women employees, implemented the Canadian supplement to Ubisoft’s parental leave, and initiated the Nova leadership training programme.

Even so, Jessica feels that there is still more to do, and notes that every action counts when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.

“It’s a long process, but I really think we’re going in the right direction. For example, our studio does everything it can to ensure the workplace is inclusive, which is really great to see. I think we’ve created a culture that is genuinely welcoming by trying to make a difference in our community. I also see more women in my old university program than when I was there. It’s really exciting to see. I hope things continue to change, and I feel like we’re on the right path to get there,” she says.

Jessica will be proud to carry on this mission in the years to come, even as she continues to write her own inspiring story at Ubisoft Winnipeg.