Clayton Stark will do something today that he’s not entirely comfortable with — accept plaudits and an honour from a school that gave him a chance to take on the world on his own terms.
Stark, 46, senior vice-president at game studio Kixeye Canada, will be presented with an award from his alma mater, Camosun College, as its 2016 Distinguished Alumni during graduation ceremonies.
The outspoken technology leade admits he’s a bit taken aback and humbled by the award.
“My honest reaction was a big smile ... any kind of recognition is heartwarming, and this is an honour,” said Stark, sitting in his office at Bastion Square.
At Kixeye, Stark is responsible for technical strategy and execution for the company’s online video game platform, which reaches tens of millions of users around the world.
It’s a long way from his days learning mechanical engineering at Camosun between games of hacky sack and other recreational activities. Stark said he’s never forgotten the school and the pivotal role it played in setting him on his career path.
“I think it proved to me that I could go from point A to point B, where there was quite a gap between the two, and make a transformative change in a relatively short period of time,” Stark says. “It was the first great example that allowed me to think I could pretty much do whatever I set my mind to.”
Stark, who had no high school education, saw Camosun as the only means to getting a post-secondary education through its bridging program, an intensive six-month program that he said basically compressed all of high school into six months.
After that he took and graduated from its three-year mechanical engineering program.
The college helped him to establish confidence, which when married with knowledge allowed him to excel, he said.
“Camosun gave me some wonderful opportunities ... I had good exposure to a lot of things. I took the investment [in school] as the minimal viable investment to start a career.”
That led to work in oceanography, construction, energy management and software design and then into building top-flight technology and putting together strong tech teams.
He helped to create a company called Flock, which was acquired in 2011 by San Francisco company Zynga, in a deal designed to lure strong tech talent to Silicon Valley.
But Stark soon returned home to establish Zynga’s Victoria office, and in 2012 he joined game studio Kixeye and established that company’s first Canadian space in Bastion Square.
He laughs when he considers how often over the years he, as the Camosun grad, has been around boardroom tables and held court with MIT, Harvard and Yale graduates. “I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic. It isn’t really about requiring a particular pedigree, it’s what you do with it.”
When he talks with Camosun students, he said he tells them not to impose limits on themselves based on their level of education.
“The limits you set yourself are going to be your biggest problem, it isn’t what school you go to.”