Chair : Mary Matthews, Strategy and Business Development Director, TruSim (Blitz). Panelists : Kim Blake, Education Liaison Manager, Blitz Games Studios; Simona Tassinari, Software Engineer, Rare Ltd; Helen Grimbly, Software Engineer, Attractive Games
A lot of information on how it is to work in the industry as a women, the challenges and other things.
For the photo later, it’ll be Kim on the left, then Simona, then Helen, then Mary.
MM: What are the differences we face coming into the industry? Sexism was present when I got my first job in the newsroom with a comment “You might be working here but I don’t agree with women in the newsroom”.
ST: Absolutely not. Games industry has been kind to me so far.
HG: Did a computer science degree, went into banking programming. Went to do some graphics degree, virtual reality and the world of graphics. Games industry could provide a way to do graphics programming and work with art. One great thing is how nice the people are, and it is really pleasant.
MM: How do you perform on your job compared to men?
HG: You have to do your job. Equally with men.
ST: How much more depends – a new team took a while to engage in communication with the lead.
KB: No more effort now. Did when moved into project management (not her early days as script writing). When got into personal pressure, didn’t tell anyone on the job which in hindsight wasn’t a good idea.
MM: Came from a business background, and have had to work a lot harder to establish credentials to prove knowledge of knowing a good game. Also have kids, which many people don’t in the company which is another difference. Time commitments, does it affect you?
KB: No, it didn’t during development, but then again I didn’t have kids. There is a certain addictive quality to crunch (sometimes!).
ST: In my team we don’t really have defined crunch time. My team tends to work more when others are in crunch. I also don’t have kids as well.
ST: It seems Rare is a closed knit company. Since there are so fair women, and everyone knows everything about them – nice that everyone was being kind.
MM: Anything that was completely different from past working experiences joining the industry?
ST: While everyone in previous jobs had the same experiences and influences, in the games industry you mix with designers and artists so much.
HG: Artists and designers are so creative, great ideas, creativity is fantastic. The people are very friendly.
KB: I didn’t have any preconceptions – going in I didn’t like games and didn’t play them – ironically brought in as a designer. Didn’t have preconceptions (15 years ago) – was very chaotic, not terribly different from anywhere else. Big difference was it was so much fun, and is why still there.
ST: Interest in Art vaguely, but now can talk to artists directly.
MM: How teams were structured, and the terminology, the same as any specialised industry – the learning curve was difficult. If I didn’t talk in their language didn’t get any respect whatsoever.
MM: The sense I get is the industry is maturing, businesses are becoming businesses. Trying to become stable businesses and employers. Definitely since people are raising families and staying in the industry.
MM: What’s your view on career progression? is there a glass ceiling? or can we not see it yet?
KB: It’s incredibly vague progress. Can create your own job title, but very hard to say to someone “You should go into games” since there is no clue as to progression compared to banking or other industries. A long time to have something to point to as “that is what we are doing”.
ST: Teams are quite flat. Interactions between team members is simple. Unhappyness of someone however who has been there all the time and thinking themselves above a new hire. How do you split it though?
KB: Went in as a junior programmer. Have to start at the bottom, game programming is very specific. So moved up to immediate programmer – there is a process up to upper-intimidate, senior. There is a career path.
MM: Is there a career path to senior senior management? Where do they go after the senior programmer? Or are they going to be satisfied at that level in a cool industry? Is it something to address, to bring new blood in so they can be taken to the very top of their tree?
KB: The seniors have more itchy feet defiantly. One lead has a lot of directional power, but one has moved over from programming to being a producer. It’s a bit “Where do you go?” at higher levels.
MM: It perhaps remains a young persons industry if we lose that upper level going since they have no where to move to. Perhaps, not sure.
MM: Lots of talk about improvements, mentors, and so forth. What would you say to women to influence to make the move, or increase their skill level, or even young girls to get into the industry?
HB: One of the biggest challenges from outside to inside, was not knowing where to start. (Found job via. game agency). Programmer you need C++, and perhaps C. Need projects, need to show potential employees your interest – the creative interest. Do a computing course and try and get a project done too. I’d say “You’d also enjoy it” too.
ST: Mentors, a centre where all the information is available, would be a good thing. A lack of information for the outside world is a problem.
KB: Need to revamp the website for careers advice for all levels, for secondary school age to students, and other industries. It’ll get done as and when, but I’d love to see other game developers and publishers putting in more thought into this. Sony and Microsoft will get much more, so they need to do something.
ST: Centralising with traffic is a good idea.
KB: Publisising as well – Skillset website as well.
HB: Women are scared a bit of it, so some truth about the industry, that it’s fun. Also didn’t know what to put in a portfolio, as a programmer, since was asked for it. Put art and stuff on portfolio. Need some help for programming for women. CS degree it is quite a lot to just learn programming. The other problem is coming up with a demo is good enough, so needs to be some help there.
Crowd: Dare to be Digital should be done by students, is a good thing for getting a job.
MM: The industry isn’t united enough for getting into the industry. GameUp campaign is lobbying and getting the profile raised. A targeted effort to talk to politicians, press, would be much better to see it as a proper industry, and career choice. Who you know is absolutely essential. Everyone has responsibility to be mentors and give an insight, and introduce when we can.