How Level Ex Cultivates ‘A Mindset Of Curiosity And Critical Thinking’

The video game company that teaches medical professionals is also teaching employees how to level up their skill set in a culture that’s “all about learning.”

Written by Taylor Rose
Published on May. 01, 2024
How Level Ex Cultivates ‘A Mindset Of Curiosity And Critical Thinking’
Level Ex
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A professor welcomes a group of med students. Today, the surgeons in training will practice a transforaminal interbody lumbar fusion — a difficult spinal surgery where two vertebrae are fused together. 

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

The students soon find themselves looking down on a spine. Carefully, they start to remove a portion of the spinal disc to make room for a cage in between the vertebrae. 

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

Xplore Spine is a recently released medical video game to train surgical residents, one of the many that gaming and medical tech company Level Ex has created. Working in this unique crossover between the medtech and gaming fields means that Level Ex teammates have to be extremely versatile and open to learning new things — which is the bread and butter of the company’s workplace culture. 

For example, Art Director Mouhsine Adnani shared how designing the virtual operating rooms — like the one used to teach spinal surgery — has helped him acquire new skills. 

“The most exhilarating aspect of these endeavors was the opportunity to set them up in VR and experience them firsthand by walking around the virtual spaces,” said Adnani. “This journey at Level Ex has not only broadened my skill set but also instilled in me a deep sense of fulfillment 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’ve undergone significant personal and professional growth,” he added. “From the get-go, I immersed myself in the company’s projects, actively working in our game engine from day one. Exposure to various projects to improve healthcare systems has cultivated a mindset of curiosity and critical thinking within me.” 

Adnani went on to explain how the unique environment allows him to work alongside top talent in the video game industry, the medical field and more. 

“This distinctive blend allows me to engage with individuals across various disciplines, from skilled surgeons to astronauts — an unexpected opportunity I wouldn’t have anticipated in my role as an artist,” he added. 

 

“[Working at Level Ex] allows me to engage with individuals across various disciplines, from skilled surgeons to astronauts — an unexpected opportunity I wouldn’t have anticipated in my role as an artist.” 


 

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

 

 

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 builds in time for Adnani to work in online tutorials from reputable platforms like ArtStation, Flipped Normals and 80lv. 

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

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

“This initiative aims to provide clear pathways for artists to elevate their roles and skill sets, ensuring they feel supported and equipped to pursue their career aspirations within the organization,” he noted. 

It is not just the art department that has access to unique opportunities and professional development paths at Level Ex. 

“I’ve accomplished a lot here at Level Ex and am proud of all the games I’ve built,” said Senior Product Manager Sam Dreyer, who helped create Xplore Spine

Not long ago, Dreyer moved to Munich to work alongside Level Ex’ parent company, Brainlab. His relocation will allow him to contribute to more products across the Brainlab portfolio. 

“Our technology will be assisting physicians during surgery, beyond just training and preparing them for certain scenarios that 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 floor of the Nasdaq.
Level Ex

 

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 tremendously over the years that I’ve worked here,” he said. “I didn’t know what a product manager did when I started at the company. Then, when we needed one to lead a new product offering, I threw my hat into 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 design, art and engineering counterparts,” he noted. 

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

“Being able to bring the 3D assets we’ve built into your living room or office is an electrifying experience and always a hit to show off on the floor of a professional convention,” he added. 
 

Level Ex team member demoing one of their games
Level Ex

 

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

“In the years leading up to working at Level Ex, I had been experiencing quite a bit of stagnation in my career,” said Chu. “I was working for a very successful game studio, but I also wasn’t feeling challenged at all in my role and had been starting to look for new opportunities or a career change. Making the transition to a small startup at the time was a scary move, but it was undoubtedly the right professional decision for me.” 

She went on to explain that every new project has a different kind of challenge and a new medical specialty to learn about. 

“It also gave me the opportunity to grow into my role as a producer,” she added. “In which, I learned that I enjoy playing the role of servant leader to my teams — helping to facilitate conversation and interaction among employees and identify roadblocks so that my team can work as efficiently as possible.”

 

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

 

Chu made a point to note that Level Ex is incredibly open to trying new ideas and processes. 

“At a larger studio, it can be hard to foster innovation and creative problem solving because of the different layers of bureaucracy that have to be involved,” she added. 

In her early days as an associate producer at Level Ex, she recalls being given a lot of freedom on how to manage her team and projects. 

“I often experimented with different tools and variations of agile project management to really find custom processes that worked for my teams,” added Chu. “I was also given many opportunities to interact with clients, doctors, researchers and CEOs — which really helped me to hone my soft skills and build my confidence in public speaking and presentations.”

 

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

 

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

“There’s so much interesting knowledge to be shared between these groups,” said Chu. “Our clients and partners are often fascinated by video game development, not just by how advanced the technology can be compared to traditional medical training and education, but by the amount of thoughtfulness and care that goes into making a video game truly fun and engaging. For some of our more forward-thinking collaborators, this can also be a very inspirational process for them.” 

To help further her own professional development, Chu said she has been given formal training in agile project management through multi-day workshops and was able to become Scrum Master certified. 

“Level Ex truly is a company that’s all about learning,” she concluded. 
 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Level Ex.

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