DOMINIC Lusardi knew from a young age what he wanted to do.

A keen computer game fan, he was always destined to work in animation and graphics.

However, his progress wasn’t just about mastering console challenges.

Mr Lusardi’s great-grandmother, Francis, who came to Britain from Italy as a migrant, was equally intrinsic to his success.

She instilled confidence in him and told him how, with self-belief, he could fulfil his dreams.

The Teesside University graduate studied a visualisation course including animation, programming and design before working at a gaming company and multi-media operation, to gain industry experience.

However, it was 2006 when his career properly took off.

Ten years ago, he co-founded Middlesbrough-based Animmersion with fellow university graduate, Sam Harrison.

The business now produces animations and interactive tools for marketing and training, as well as manuals for touchscreen devices.

It works across a number of sectors, including engineering, manufacturing, healthcare and retail, and counts organisations such as St John’s Ambulance and Schneider Electric, and supported Canadian-based Singer Valves with a virtual city to demonstrate its product range.

However, Mr Lusardi says he will always remember the guidance and support Francis, who ran a corner shop and ice cream business, provided.

He said: “My great-grandma was an inspirational person and taught me I could do anything.

“As a young person starting a business, confidence plays a key part, and she really gave me that.

“She left me some money and I used it to start the business.

“I feel very proud of that.

“She really was where I got my impetus to do things from.”

For Mr Lusardi, playing computer games wasn’t just about the end goal and defeating programmers’ wily creations.

His fascination came from working out the logic in how they came together in the first place.

He said that in-built desire to calculate technology’s mechanisms, allied to their visual impact, has helped him grow Animmersion as it seeks to stay ahead of the curve in animation, virtual reality, holographics and touchscreen technology.

The business, one of the first success stories from Teesside University’s Digital City programme, is now based at Middlesbrough’s Boho One.

Employing 17 people, most of whom are Teesside graduates, Mr Lusardi said it has benefited from the university’s strong digital focus to find recruits, as well as the momentum around the sector.

He added: “One of the reasons why we stayed and have built in Middlesbrough is Digital City.

“But we also have the university, which has delivered some excellent students, and we have built a very good team.

“The business is something we really want to celebrate as the area strives to stake its place on the map for emerging sectors.

“Teesside, and the North-East as a whole, can achieve a lot by working together and encouraging developing industries like ours.”

Five minutes with... Dominic Lusardi

Favourite North-East building and why? The Sage at Gateshead. It’s an amazing building to just look at but then the combination of technology and architecture is truly stunning. It’s a place where old meets new and has so many uses.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid? A cleaner for the science and tech department at my school. It fitted in with classes and it paid £5 an hour.

What is the worst job you've had? Car valet. I worked in a classic and sports car garage one summer and while driving the cars was fun, having to clean them every day when they were clean from the day before was a bit soul destroying.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner? Steak or a roast.

What would your superpower be? To be able to pause time.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party: Dalai Lama, John Lasseter, my great-grandma and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Most expensive thing you've bought - other than car or house - and how much? An engagement ring. I couldn't tell you how much, but is more than my first three cars put together.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why? @realdanlyons. Asks the questions and raises the points we're all thinking.

Favourite book? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

When did you last cry? The day of the referendum result.

What is your greatest achievement? As a kid I was inspired to do animations and computer graphics from playing a ridiculous amount of computer games. I always told my parents I was training for my future career so working on a massive release for the PlayStation 2 after graduating from Teesside was quite the feeling. To set out when you’re at university with your dream job in mind and then get to actually do it was a great feeling.

What's the best piece of advice in business you've ever been given? Trust my gut. When everyone has an opinion that contradicts the next and you're not sure what the right choice is, trust your gut, it makes it much easier from then on.

Favourite animal and why? My cat Bob. He thought either I was another cat or he was human. Either way, we had a lot of fun together.

Most famous person on your mobile phone? I don't have any.

What was the last band you saw live? Foo Fighters.

Describe your perfect night in: Sitting out in the back garden, with friends as the sun goes down and a fire is lit, talking away the troubles of the world.

In another life I would be... A professional swimmer in some capacity.

Who would play you in a film of your life? Robert Downey Jr.

What irritates you? Not sleeping.

What's your secret talent? Getting on with anybody.