Last month, more than 4,000 women from all across Europe gathered in Amsterdam for the annual European Women in Tech (EWiT) conference. The event is the largest of its kind in Europe and encourages learning, networking, and professional development across a wide range of technological industries. This year, two of Ubisoft’s own – Vicky Lagarre, producing community director at Ubisoft International Production, and Rebecka Coutaz, studio manager at Ubisoft Annecy – attended EWiT as speakers. We caught up with them to learn more about their talks and the experience of attending the conference.
Vicky, can you give us a brief summary of your talk at EWiT?
Vicky Lagarre: My talk was titled, “Boosting Production Agility in the Game as a Platform Ecosystem.” The current move of the industry to a more “platform”-related ecosystem has a major impact on the way our producers organize their teams. These are indeed fast-changing times for our producers, who are having to make substantial changes to their production management methods and processes. This is happening for two reasons: production schedules have grown tighter to offer our players content on a more regular basis, and new people and units are joining their teams, in particular those working on platform-related topics such Uplay, Harbour, and GNS. I tried to explain how some frameworks could help them in this context to build cell-based organizational structures that inject a new dose of agility and operability to their teams.
Why did you feel the need to speak at the conference? What is one thing you hope people took away from your talk?
VL: I was very interested in speaking at EWiT, given the importance of technology in our daily work and lives. I have been very impressed by the quality of some talks, like “The Rise of Bionic Company” by Karalee Close. From my talk particularly, I hope the audience got to know Ubisoft, our values and brands better. The videogame industry is the leading entertainment industry, and people don’t always realize that. I also hope the audience understood how reactive and agile our producers are, putting the needs of our players in the very center of the decision-making process.
What was the reaction like afterwards?
VL: I have to say that I had to decompress for days after the talk. It is a new exercise for me, a real challenge! But I really loved it, and people’s reactions were so great and nice that I am in such a positive mood. Looking forward for the next one!
What was the mood like at the event? Did it feel different from other events because it was centered on women in tech?
VL: It was great to see so many women together in one place, but next time, it’d be nice if there were more men at a Women in Tech event as well. That being said, it was interesting to see that most of the talks were focused on inclusion and leadership topics. There were some inspiring talks, for instance from the former prime minister of Denmark and current CEO of Save the Children, Helle Thorning Schmidt. She said how important it was, as a leader, to be able to go out of your comfort zone but also at the same time to be able to compromise. I also loved the talk from Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder and head of STEMettes. She currently has massive influence in the British education system and is trying to invest in younger generations of students in order to inspire diversity. She and other speakers mentioned that without very key women, computing as we know it would not exist. For example, Grace Hopper wrote the first compiler, and Hedy Lamarr who invented the frequency-hopping technology that Wifi uses.
Rebecka, can you give a brief summary of your talk at EWiT?
Rebecka Coutaz: The objective of the talk, “The Cloud Revolution: Upskilling Yourself and Your Teams,” was to share how we need to prepare our development teams to be able to make better games, thanks to the usage of augmented cloud gaming. I started with an introduction of our industry, then explained the difference between cloud gaming as a distribution model, and what augmented cloud gaming is based on insights from some of our experts in cloud gaming at Ubisoft.
I then focused on cloud gaming; the streaming of our games will help us reach a new audience that does not have access to our games today. This audience will probably play our games in a different way than what we are used to when developing games at Ubisoft Annecy. This is a first step for us to learn and prepare ourselves. We have to continue to use all the data we have access to from our players. I also spoke about the challenges that we are encountering in this distribution model.
I then moved on to the second step, which is augmented cloud gaming, where we are using micro services where we can develop “generic” services in rendering, physics, etc., as our engines and editors will be in the cloud. We’re no longer constrained by CPUs and GPUs. Thanks to the augmented technology, we will be able to make even better games and bigger worlds, and players will be able to customize their experiences more, just like Spotify is doing with playlists. The teams that are already working on live games are already preparing themselves. The key skill we really need to focus on is player experience. We will also have to focus on improving and adapting our pipeline and tools, and of course methods such as Dev Ops will be of great help to achieve continuous delivery.
What do you hope the audience took away from your talk?
RC: Our industry is in the middle of a technical rupture. Ubisoft always aims to be at forefront of new technological innovations; cloud gaming and augmented cloud gaming are part of our strategy. Thanks to cloud gaming, we will be able to create games with nearly unlimited computing power to create more immersive experiences. I wanted to share our vision on how we need to prepare our teams to be competitive and be able to provide players with a great experience.
Why did you feel it was an important talk to give at EWiT?
RC: EWiT is an event that brings 4,000 women in technology in Europe together for two days. There were so many industries represented, even the former prime minister of Denmark held a keynote. I wanted to contribute to sharing our vision of Ubisoft being a company where women can really take a seat at the table. My objective was to show that there are many women in our industry, and that we need even more to make games for everyone. Not only more women, but also people with different backgrounds in terms of culture, beliefs, and perspectives.
What were the reactions afterwards?
RC: A few people came up to me afterwards asking in-depth questions on how to prepare the change of mindset within a team for any major innovation progress. Our technology is changing, and so are people. The way we work, the skills needed, and the way we need to continue to learn, develop, and grow are constantly evolving.
What was the energy like at EWiT? How did it differ from other conferences?
RC: There was a great dynamic with people from so many different countries, with different backgrounds and different beliefs. Everybody sharing their experience, and aspirations, and vision of the future, like the way that other industries will innovate for the future, and build bionic companies where humans and technology will work together in an sustainable environment. It is the first time I’ve participated in an event that is multi-industrial. It is very interesting to see and understand the challenges automobile companies face for the future, and how Tesla turned its industry upside-down! Or how Microsoft supports and helps startups. Or how pharmaceutical companies use artificial intelligence to improve their research and development in the hopes of curing illnesses.
For more stories and interviews like these, check out our Women of Ubisoft series.