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How Level Ex cultivates ‘a mindset of curiosity and critical thinking’

A professor welcomes a group of medical students. Today, surgeons in training will practice transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion – a difficult spinal surgery that fuses two vertebrae together.

The professor wastes no time and jumps right into the instructions: “View the patient record, perform a TILF, and use the provided hardware to treat your patient during surgery.”

The students soon realize that they are looking down on a spine. They carefully begin to remove part of the intervertebral disc to make room for a cage between the vertebrae.

However, these vertebrae are not in a real operating room; they’re in a video game.

Discover the spine is a recently released medical video game to train surgical assistants, one of many gaming and medical technology companies Level E.g has made. Working in this unique crossover between the medtech and gaming worlds means Level Ex teammates must be extremely versatile and open to learning new things – which is the bread and butter of the company’s workplace culture .

Art director for example Mouhsine Adnani talked about how designing the virtual operating rooms – like the one used to teach spine surgery – helped him gain new skills.

“The most exciting aspect of these efforts was the ability to set them up in VR and experience them firsthand by walking through the virtual spaces,” said Adnani. “This journey at Level Ex has not only broadened my skillset, but also given me a deep sense of satisfaction and excitement for the impactful work we do.”

Adnani worked as a 3D artist for the company for two years before they promoted him to art director of the newly formed surgical team.

“I have experienced significant personal and professional growth,” he added. “From the start, I have immersed myself in the company’s projects and actively worked with our game engine from day one. Exposure to various projects to improve healthcare systems has developed in me a mindset of curiosity and critical thinking.”

Adnani further explained how the unique environment allows him to collaborate with top talent in the video game industry, medical fields and more.

“This signature mix allows me to connect with individuals from different disciplines, from experienced surgeons to astronauts – an unexpected opportunity that I did not expect in my role as an artist,” he added.

“(Working at Level Ex) allows me to connect with individuals from different disciplines, from experienced surgeons to astronauts – an unexpected opportunity that I did not expect in my role as an artist.”

Group photo of Level Ex employees attending the 2023 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Level E.g

In the video game art world, keeping up with the latest tools and platforms “means everything,” Adnani said. Level Ex’s culture of continuous learning is being built in time for Adnani to work in online tutorials from renowned platforms such as ArtStation, Flipped Normals and 80lv.

“This proactive approach not only keeps me informed, but also allows me to share relevant insights with our arts team, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration,” he added.

Level Ex (a Brainlab company) makes a point of providing professional development opportunities that empower employees who are eager to advance their careers. Adnani was instrumental in creating this in his department. He worked with the HR team to build a transparent career development framework tailored to artists in the company.

“This initiative aims to provide artists with clear pathways to enhance their roles and skills so that they feel supported and equipped to pursue their career ambitions within the organisation,” he noted.

It’s not just the art department that has access to unique opportunities and professional development programs at Level Ex.

“I have achieved a lot here at Level Ex and am proud of all the games I have built,” said Senior Product Manager Sam Dreyerwho helped create Discover the spine.

Not long ago, Dreyer moved to Munich to work with Level Ex’s parent company, Brainlab. His move allows him to contribute to more products in the Brainlab portfolio.

“Our technology will assist doctors during operations, in addition to training and preparing them for certain scenarios they may experience,” he added. “This is a very exciting time for both companies and I can’t wait to see the impact we have.”

    Level Ex' Sam Glassenberg and Sandra Smith after an event on the Nasdaq floor.
Level E.g

This new chapter in his career comes after several years working at Level Ex, which Dreyer credits with helping him take his career to the next level.

“Level Ex has helped me grow enormously in the years I have worked here,” he says. “I didn’t know what a product manager did when I started at the company. When we needed someone to lead a new product offering, I threw my hat in the ring and they believed in me and supported me along the way.”

As a product manager, Dreyer has learned how to deeply understand the needs and pains of potential customers. “It allowed me to become a better leader of cross-functional teams by working closely with my counterparts in design, art and engineering,” he noted.

Dreyer is now part of the development team for Level Ex’s first “mixed reality” projects using the Magic Leap platform.

“It’s an exciting experience to be able to bring our built-in 3D assets to your living room or office and it’s always a hit to show off on the floor of a professional convention,” he added.

Level Ex team member demonstrates one of their games
Level E.g

When Senior Lead Producer Jennifer Chu When she came to Level Ex, she was ready for the unique crossover in the company’s industries, as she studied molecular and cell biology in college and worked in AAA game development after graduation. Chu notes that having both medical and gaming experience in her professional background helps her “translate some of the more scientifically in-depth topics” that Level Ex covers.

“In the years leading up to my work at Level Ex, I experienced quite a bit of stagnation in my career,” says Chu. “I was working for a very successful game studio, but I didn’t feel challenged at all in my role and had started looking for new opportunities or a career change. Moving to a small startup was a scary step at the time, but for me it was undoubtedly the right professional decision.”

She further explained that each new project brings a different kind of challenge and a new medical specialty to learn about.

“It also gave me the opportunity to grow in my role as a producer,” she added. “Where I learned that I enjoy playing the role of a servant leader for my teams – facilitating conversations and interactions between employees and identifying roadblocks so that my team can work as efficiently as possible.”

“Moving to a small startup was a scary step at the time, but it was undoubtedly the right professional decision for me.”

Chu noted that Level Ex is incredibly open to trying new ideas and processes.

“In a larger studio, it can be difficult to foster innovation and creative problem-solving because of the multiple layers of bureaucracy that need to be involved,” she added.

In her early days as an associate producer at Level Ex, she remembers being given a lot of freedom in managing her team and projects.

“I often experimented with different tools and variations of agile project management to find truly custom processes that worked for my teams,” Chu adds. “I also had many opportunities to interact with customers, physicians, researchers and CEOs – which really helped me hone my soft skills and build my confidence in public speaking and presentations.”

    Level Ex team members and medical professionals watch a demo with Ryan Blake, a Level Ex art director.
Level E.g

Chu noted that collaboration and continuous learning are a natural part of both the video game industry and medical academia.

“There is so much interesting knowledge to share between these groups,” says Chu. “Our customers and partners are often fascinated by video game development, not only by how advanced the technology can be compared to traditional medical training and education, but also by the amount of thoughtfulness and care that goes into making a video game truly fun and make it interesting. For some of our more progressive employees, this can also be a very inspiring process for them.”

To further her own professional development, Chu said she received formal training in agile project management through multi-day workshops and was able to earn a Scrum Master certification.

“Level Ex is truly a learning-centric company,” she concluded.