About a month before I was laid off from The Gottman Institute, I received a call on my “Gottman phone” in my home office. Since most calls I received on that line were customer service calls that I ultimately forwarded on, I usually let the calls go to voicemail and would triage them from there.
For some reason that I still can’t pin-point, I decided to answer this particular call. It was someone from Canada who was looking specifically for me, saying that he had seen my information on LinkedIn and was hoping to contact me via my current employer. He went on to tell me that he was interested in my expertise as an educational kids’ game designer.
At that point I was definitely listening, as designing and developing educational media for kids is my primary passion and what I consider the primary focus of my career. As anyone in this field knows, though, something happened around 2001 when many of us were laid off from kids’ gaming companies that were suddenly going under and we ended up taking positions in other industries, such as banking, high-tech, and non-profits. I ended up first at a few non-profits, developing and managing the development of media, then at Microsoft, managing content development and technical marketing projects, and finally with The Gottman Institute, directing their Professional Development department. Each job presented different challenges and rewards, but none captured my heart as my position as one of the first five members of what’s now Disney Interactive, or as a designer of the Blue’s Clues computer games, or re-designer of Edmark’s House series, had.
I longed to return to the realm of kids’ educational media and, when I was stunned by the lay-off from TGI two weeks ago, the first thing I did was begin designing a website for my new company, in which I would “manage and mentor media that matters.” The website is still not complete – mostly because I’ve been busy ramping up for my new gig! (And also because I’ve been very sick; that’s for another post!)
As it turns out, I did answer the phone that morning and I heard about a game that an established Canadian company wanted to make for elementary school-aged kids. I told them that I’d happily consult with them for free this time, but that in the future I’d need to charge my consultation rate – especially because I had a full-time job and would have to “squeeze it in.” I gave them my very honest opinion about their planned game, suggesting that they make some fairly significant changes. They embraced the feedback and came back for more, which I would fit in early in the day or late at night.
Then I got laid off and wrote them a “you’ll never guess what just happened” e-mail and… well, here I am!
I’ll be somewhat vague for now in describing exactly what I’ll be doing and for whom, but suffice it to say that I’ll be designing and project managing an educational game about “community” that will focus on my favorite age group, kids in primary and elementary grades. I expect this to be a full-time gig from home, with occasional trips to
Montreal Toronto, and I expect it to last through summer.
Yes, sometimes the universe really does just click!