One-to-one with Natali Altshuler

altshuler-natali-blog

Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.

Our subject this week is Natali Altshuler who, alongside her role on the GVBOT Board of Directors, serves  as VP, Head of Operations, EA SPORTS.

I joined the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade as a director in 2020 but my history with the organization actually began far before that… Starting in my final year of studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) when I joined the Board of Trade's Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) program, which connects post-secondary students with leading industry professionals.

After a valuable experience in the program as a mentee, I was inspired to come back to the program as a mentor later in my career. It's a role that I've now held for a number of years. On top of being a very rewarding experience, I am amazed at the high-calibre, next generation of talent in LOT (a few of which we've hired at EA SPORTS over the years!).

Could you please provide an overview of EA SPORTS and your role there?

EA SPORTS, a division within Electronic Arts (EA), is one of the most iconic brands in entertainment – connecting millions of fans across the world to their favorite players and teams through our top-selling video game franchises

With over 25 years of innovation – and a global team of 1200+ passionate developers – EA SPORTS has the largest portfolio of HD sports games in the world, including EA SPORTS FIFA; EA SPORTS MADDEN NFL; EA SPORTS NHL; EA SPORTS UFC; the highly anticipated EA SPORTS College Football; as well as other new and exciting IP products.


While I've been with the organization for nearly two decades, I took on my current role as VP, Head of Operations for EA SPORTS in 2019. At a high-level, I bring a strategic and operational focus to support and optimize our product development activities, largely focusing on four main areas: business planning, project management, budget, as well as people and culture.

What inspires you? 

Working at the intersection of technology, interactive entertainment, and sports – our playing field is always evolving. And as a business, that provides us with a lot of exciting opportunities that push us to continually improve, innovate, and grow.

Together, our teams turn ambitious goals into reality – and I am constantly inspired by the talented and smart people I work with. And we're all motivated knowing that our efforts will ultimately be enjoyed by millions around the world!

What was your first job?

My first job while in high school was at a local A&W restaurant. 

Now, reflecting back, I think that working in a restaurant is probably one of the best first jobs you can have. Whether you're up front at the till, or in the back cooking or cleaning dishes, you're often problem-solving on the fly, dealing with customers, managing money, and learning how to be a part of a cohesive team in a fast-paced environment – all valuable skills in the business world.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

For me, my biggest challenge wasn't one singular moment; it was more of a journey.

Both my education and my career were built in male-dominated fields. Early in my career, I think I just wanted to be thought of as "one of the guys". It took time and experience to have the courage and confidence to just be myself. Through the years, I've come to realize that the qualities that make me unique are my strengths, and I should embrace them rather than hide them.

What do you think makes a great leader?

Over time, being in this ever-evolving industry has really taught me that business is not necessarily about building the perfect plan and then executing on it. Rather, it's about adapting to a constantly shifting set of requirements and re-evaluating along the way.

So, to succeed as a leader in a world that's always changing, I think you need to be a creative problem-solver with equal parts grit and humility.

Who has helped you most in your career?

It would be hard to choose just one person.

Throughout my career, I've been fortunate to have a series of amazing mentors. From my managers at EA SPORTS over the years who consistently challenged me and provided opportunities to grow, to the professors and mentors during my undergrad who went out of their way to encourage and support me. Ultimately, all of those people helped shape who I am as a leader today.

I also know that I couldn't have gotten to where I am today without the support of my family. My parents made the decision to immigrate to Canada with my sister and I when I was thirteen years old. They wanted to provide us with opportunity. Anything that I have achieved, was made possible by their courage, sacrifice, and teachings shared along the way. And my work ethic stems from a deep drive to make them proud and to show them how grateful I am.

And throughout all of the ups and downs that come with being a working parent – during a pandemic no less – my husband has always been an incredibly grounding and comforting support system for me.

If you could leave one professional legacy behind, what would it be?

When I look back on my career, I hope that I've made an impact on the business and for our players, and that I've empowered people along the way.

EA SPORTS is actively transforming and is at the forefront of change in our industry. We're broadening the appeal of our games; engaging more players in more geographies; and changing the way millions of fans engage with the sports they love. I'm excited to continue driving that evolution, bringing a strategic and operational lens to our efforts.

Through that work, I also hope to build a sustainably diverse and inclusive workplace, and to inspire others to reach their fullest potential.

What is the most important lesson, business or otherwise, life has taught you?

If there's one thing that I've learned over the years, it's that there's no secret or shortcut to achieving success; it comes from hard work, determination, and courage.

What do you like most about doing business in Greater Vancouver?

While EA SPORTS has offices around the globe – including Vancouver, as well as Austin, Cologne, Orlando, Madrid, Romania, and Seoul – I am proud to call this city home and consider it to be an ideal place to do business.

With Vancouver being known globally as a world class city and an ideal place to live; its solid pipeline of fresh talent from local universities; and its rapidly expanding tech sector, we are able to attract and hire top talent, which ultimately allows us to develop some of the most popular video games on the planet.

Secondly, while Greater Vancouver is a city of over two million people, it is grounded by a sense of community – with local businesses often willing to collaborate, work together, and support one another.

Where is your favourite place in Vancouver?

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. With trails along the shoreline, picnic tables, a beach area, and beautiful views – it's a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.

What do you do when you aren't working?

I love spending time with my family, enjoying the great outdoors of beautiful British Columbia. I have two young kids (that seem to be growing faster by the minute!) and lately, we've been spending a lot of time on the mountain, teaching them how to ski.

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EA SPORTS is always looking to attract and hire diverse talent to help them build new, immersive, and innovative experiences. To discover career opportunities with EA SPORTS, visit ea.com/sports/careers.

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