Ray Muzyka is entering his second year as an Associate with Creative Destruction Lab at CDL-West Prime, CDL-West Health and CDL-Rockies Prime, as well as joining CDL-Toronto Health this year. Recently named as “Associate of the Year” for CDL West in 2017-18, and inducted into the JA Alberta Business Hall of Fame in 2018, we chatted with Ray to discuss his lessons learned from his past careers and experiences that he shares as a CDL Mentor with CDL Founders. During the interview, we explore Ray’s career as he sheds light on what it takes to build the right team and what it means to be a lifelong learner.
After being trained as a medical doctor and practicing Emergency and Family Medicine for two full years, medicine became more of a hobby for BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. From MDs to video game producers, the two doctors built one of the greatest gaming studios in the world, recognized not least of which by their induction into the AIAS Hall of Fame in 2011. Among BioWare’s most successful (and early) productions was critically acclaimed Baldur’s Gate, a game widely credited for catalyzing the popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and pioneering the concept of storytelling through video games. From 1995 to 2012 the list of award winning games Muzyka developed was prolific.
As one of the fastest growing companies in Alberta, BioWare contributed significantly to the 36 percent increase of Albertans working in high-tech businesses between 1996 to 1998. They attributed their early success to building strong teams despite the fact that they were so far from the density of industry talent that existed in Silicon Valley.
“We got really lucky to hire great team members. Smart, passionate, hard-working people and that’s been something that I think stayed with me throughout all my career chapters. Work with people who are talented and smart, passionate and open to feedback and humble and then you’ll have a great chance of being successful.”
BioWare was sold to Electronic Arts in early 2008, where Muzyka became General Manager and Vice President at EA. In 2009, Ray was promoted to Senior Vice President and General Manager of EA’s BioWare Label, which in 2012 comprised eight BioWare studios and approximately 2,000 staff worldwide. During this time, organizational behavior became a deep interest of Muzyka.
“One of the areas that I’m really passionate about is organizational behavior. Structures, systems, people and finding ways to align them to share the vision, the values, and the mission. And thinking about incentive systems that reward them and communication systems that ensure that everybody’s aligned. And making sure everybody feels valued and respected.”
In 2012, Muzyka announced his retirement from EA/BioWare and decided to focus on mentoring and investing in entrepreneurs in technology, new media, medical innovations in diagnostics and therapeutics, and social entrepreneurship and impact investment.
“I’m in my third career chapter now as an angel investor. I never really thought that the medicine and the video game technology background and B2C (business to consumer) marketing and organizational behavior and growth, structures and systems in a rapidly growing tech company would all align in a future career role, but they’ve all come full circle, and they’ve aligned in a really interesting way now for me as a pre-seed and seed stage angel investor and entrepreneur mentor in technology, social enterprise, and medtech and healthtech at ThresholdImpact.”
During the interview with CDL, Muzyka sheds some light on his advice for future entrepreneurs and the importance of being a lifelong learner.
“Lifelong learning is really important. I think that’s really vital for anybody nowadays in any world. Especially entrepreneurs where you’re in the thick of it and you’re facing really tough decisions everyday. You have to learn and grow as your company scales.”
Even as a mentor at Creative Destruction Lab today, Muzyka continues his journey as a lifelong learner.
“I feel humbled to be at the table with the people who are there because I learn something every single session from the entrepreneurs, to the other mentors, to the CDL team. It’s a really well structured program.”