Getting your foot in the door can be tough in any industry, so in an effort to encourage and aid young people passionate about starting their careers in tech, Ubisoft experts joined a recent speed-networking event organized by nonprofit Girls Who Code. The virtual event paired young women with experts from various tech-based industries, including Ubisoft representatives, giving each a few minutes to chat and ask questions about how they can start their journey toward getting their first job in the vast technology sector.
Girls Who Code is an organization dedicated to closing the gender gap within STEM disciplines, particularly in computer science and related career paths. According to their statistics, women made up 37 percent of the computer science workforce in 1995, with that number dropping to 24 percent today, a situation they aim to change by educating and supporting college-aged women and girls in grades 3-12 through workshops, clubs, immersion programs, and regular speed-networking events. In particular, the organization reaches out to girls living in marginalized communities to provide additional educational support.
"When we talk to our students about what challenges they face as they explore their career options and prepare themselves for the work world, a few themes show up over and over again,” says Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code. “We hear that they don’t necessarily know what’s out there when it comes to jobs in tech; folks are familiar with what a software engineer is, but what does a business analyst, or a data scientist, or a mobile test engineer do all day? We’re grateful for volunteers, like those from Ubisoft, that can help answer these questions and help our students plan for their own futures."
Each of the people we spoke to was very keen to point out that getting a job in games is not quite so mythical as it may seem, and this is evidenced by the variety of roles they play within Ubisoft and the different paths they took to get where they are. Making games doesn’t just mean programming, and there are many paths and roles available for people to take their first steps into making games. Susan Peterson, production manager at Ubisoft Winnipeg, took a unique path to her role and was glad to be able to share it with attendees at the event.
“There are so many different types of roles within games. We have a lot of talented women in programming at our studio, but there are so many other paths, too,” says Peterson. “It’s very possible to spend your career in one niche and then switch into doing something totally different. I did my studies in architecture, got my degree in interior design, and spent most of my career in the construction industry, managing projects for construction contractors. The sky is the limit, and people shouldn’t narrow their search, but look at all the potential possibilities that exist.”
Noreen Rana is a team lead artist at Ubisoft Toronto, and was excited to be able to speak with young people who want to become a part of the videogame industry. She, too, studied in a field outside of games, but found the skills she had learned were still applicable when looking for her first role.
“It was so great to be able to explain the different disciplines within games, and there are so many options available besides what people traditionally think of,” says Rana. “I studied illustration at university and ended up trying to learn 3D modelling later, because I thought that’s what you had to know to get jobs with games companies. I realized it wasn’t something that interested me, and that the more traditional form of art I studied did have a place, and I’ve been able to use those skills in my roles as a graphic designer and UI designer. It’s nice to be able to tell that story to these young women, and explain that so many skills are needed to make games.”
Anne Farmer, associate producer at Ubisoft Montreal, agrees, and adds, “These girls are so much smarter and more clued-in than I was when I was at their age, but it’s still great to be able to explain what I do and how they could do it too, or take on any number of other roles in the games industry. One girl told me she wanted to get some web design experience somewhere first, as she thought that might make it easier to get a job in games, and I explained to her that if she wants to do web design for games then that’s a skill we need in the industry, too; whether that’s writing .NET code within games or creating websites about games, she doesn’t necessarily need to start somewhere else first. There are really a lot of paths into the industry.”
But equally as important as dispelling that air of mystery is reinforcing the idea that it’s not only possible to get that dream job, but very achievable, too. With the industry continuing to grow every year, roles are opening up in companies all over the world in a variety of fields, and games companies are in need of more than just creators and designers, but a whole host of different skills, specialties, and backgrounds.
“Just apply,” says Peterson. “Don’t doubt your skills, your experience, and what you have to offer. When looking at a job description, many women have the tendency to think ‘There’s no way I’m qualified for that,’ and I had that same tendency too, yet here I am today working at Ubisoft. If you don’t check all the boxes, look at what other things you bring to the table that aren’t listed in the job description. And talk to as many people as you can; we have so many women at our studio in Winnipeg who have come from different backgrounds, and you don’t always have to follow the traditional path.”
Building a support system and talking to women already in the industry is key to breaking down the barriers that women might see before them when considering roles in games and technology, and Farmer agrees that it’s an important step both when starting out and even as one’s career develops. “I’m really excited to attend more of these events and talk to more people about how they can land their first roles in games,” says Farmer. “Having a support network and people who can help to guide you is so important. People are often very passionate about making games, but it can sometimes lead them to undervalue themselves for the sake of working on something they love. Having a support structure there makes it so much easier to see your value and lets you know that you don’t have to do it alone; there are others with their own stories and experiences that can help you.”
Rana and Farmer first met in a chance encounter in an elevator at Ubisoft, and have worked on projects together in the past. “It’s so nice to hear that about support networks and talking to people,” says Rana, “because Anne has been that for me. We’re really close friends, and having that support is so important. I’m very excited about attending these events in future as well, and getting to talk to these girls to give them some of that same kind of support.”
Visit the Girls Who Code website for more information on their programs and initiatives helping youn. women and girls into careers in STEM subjects. If you have dreams of working in games, check out the Ubisoft Careers portal to see the wide variety of roles available at Ubisoft locations all around the world, and keep your eyes on the Ubisoft News Hub for more about events and programs around careers at Ubisoft.