September 15 to October 15 is Latin American Heritage month. Ubisoft is observing the month by working with Gente, the recently formed Employee Resource Group (ERG) for those of Latin American descent. Much like the Black Employees at Ubisoft (B.E.A.U.), Women and Non-binary Employees at Ubisoft, Salaam, UbiProud, Asian & Pacific Islander, and Neurodiverse Employees at Ubisoft ERGs, Gente is led and organized entirely by employees and supported globally by Ubisoft. The group's leaders, Erica Urquiza, Jorge Albor, Sophia Carballo, and Miguel Rodriguez head Gente's global ERG, and Urquiza and Albor spoke with Ubisoft News about the group's formation, programs, and goals.
Tell us a little bit about Gente and how it got started.
Erica Urquiza: Gente is an ERG for those folks within Ubisoft who identify as Latine or Hispanic. It's something I am proud exists in this company. It was a long time in the making, and it didn't actually start to formalize until the middle to end of last year. It was organized by a handful of different folks at first, and then when it started to turn into a formal ERG, folks were asking who within the group wanted to step up and become a leader. I think at that point, everyone who is on the leadership team - myself, Jorge, Sophia, and Miguel - all raised our hands.
Earlier this year in July, we published a Mana post to 're-announce' our ERG, and to encourage Latine/Hispanic employees to join Gente. Throughout the course of the week our membership increased from 38 to 93 members! We now have 117 members from Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, and in the US. We're hoping to have local chapters opening up next year!
For folks who don't speak Spanish, what's the significance of using "Latine"?
EU: I think the term that people are more commonly used to right now is "Latinx," and in Spanish that doesn't translate. Saying "Latine" is easier to say in Spanish, and I think it's a little bit truer to the language itself. I also want to point out that we are using "Latine" instead of "Latino" or "Latina" to be more gender-inclusive of those who identify within that community.
Jorge Albor: I think there are a lot of people who hear the term "Latinx" and think that the very concept is one created by folks outside the group, which just isn't the case.
The term itself got a lot more use after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Florida, United States, when there were queer Latine communities who were speaking up and identifying themselves as targets of hate and violence. And so that desire to become more inclusive was one that I think took off amongst a group of people that saw it as really important. I think that's a perspective that we want to continue and maintain. We want to be an organization that is inclusive of everybody, no matter what their gender identity is. I think that a term like "Latine," which rolls much better off the tongue than "Latinx," accomplishes that. It isn't to say that you have to self-identify as "Latine," in your day-to-day life, but it is a tool by which we can reference our community, our wider community, in a way that is as inclusive as possible.
EU: We as a leadership team spent a lot of time and discussion on how to properly identify ourselves. It wasn't something that we decided on a whim. We each individually put in time and research and reflected on our own experiences. Ultimately, we decided we were going to identify as Latine in addition to Hispanic, or in addition to Latino.
For clarity, Hispanic refers to peoples and culture related to Spain or the Spanish language. Latino refers to the people from the geographical region of Latin America, which encompasses countries in Central and South American and the Caribbean.
JA: Right, because just like many other ERGs, our members come from a bunch of different nationalities, different racial backgrounds, different gender backgrounds, and all of those identities are part of Gente. So someone could say I'm a Puerto Rican, I'm female, I'm Black, and I'm queer, in the same way that my own terminologies are not erased by adding on that additional Latine identity.
Was that level of inclusivity taken into account when you named your ERG, because "Gente" means "people" and it's such an all-encompassing word?
JA: It was, yeah. We were also trying to pick a word that worked in Portuguese as well. "Gente" does mean the same thing in Portuguese. I think it's also such a great term because - when I'm trying to think of the unifying characteristics of Latinidad, this identity that spans many countries and origins - some of them are really people-, community-, and family-focused cultures. And for me, Gente just works so well in that regard, because it is inclusive, it does represent a larger group, and it also focuses on the people project that is identity rather than some other term that seems cool and catchy, but doesn't really reflect that sort of cultural underlining of inclusivity.
What sort of programming has Gente done, and what do you plan to do in the near future?
JA: I think the first real thing we did was support a couple of organizations that were close to our goal. One is Latinx in Gaming, an organization that promotes Latinos in the gaming space in particular. The other one was this great organization, Latinas in Tech, that similarly supports women in tech, including in the games industry. We gave a donation to them, and are continuing to work with them this coming year on some of our programs.
The ones that we're most excited to share really are all of the ones that are kicking off this month because of Latin American Heritage Month. We've got two speakers we're really excited about; one is Julissa Arce, who has a couple of great books, one of which is really about assimilation, and rejecting assimilation, and being your authentic self wherever you happen to be. We also have a woman named Elizabeth Johnson, who was a chef in San Antonio and focuses on healthy food, but also the roots of where that comes from, from a cultural sense specifically, like early indigenous populations and the food that they ate. She's going to be a speaker as well, and she'll be sharing some of the logic behind the food that makes us. I think for a lot of the ERG, culturally speaking, food is super-important to a lot of our communities.
I know that mentorship is also something that our members are looking for, and I hope that's something we can provide in a robust and meaningful way. Thankfully, a lot of the other ERGs have forged the way in advance of us, and I think there's a lot to learn from their success stories as well.
Why did you want to create a specific Latine ERG, and what value do you think ERGs bring?
EU: At the time, there was a lot going on with the world, with the United States, and with Ubisoft specifically, and I was really happy to see B.E.A.U. formalize into an official ERG. I started to think, "why don't we, the Latine/Hispanic community, have an ERG?" That's when I stepped back and realized that's something we needed as a company. I don't see enough Hispanic, Latine people in the company, and I think that's something that an ERG does. It brings people together, but it also allows folks to connect with each other, to see themselves in other departments or other areas of focus.
I think having ERGs is super-important for promoting good company culture, for making change, for providing resources to the leadership teams. I know my personal goal is that, with Gente's presence, we can start to see more Latina women in executive positions within the company, because right now there aren't enough. Here in the SF office, Alejandra Sereleas is VP of Financial Planning and Business Performance Analytics, but we need to see more representation in our office and all Ubisoft offices.
I hope that we can help change that. I hope that our presence will be a resource for the company, and also inspire others to go beyond and challenge themselves to go into higher positions. And hopefully it'll open doors for those folks internally, too.
Leading an ERG takes a significant amount of time, effort, and work. Why was it something you wanted to do in addition to your regular job?
JA: There are so many limitations on individuals, especially communities that are underrepresented or people of color, where the cognitive space that you have available to imagine what can be is really limited. You go into spaces in which you are often the only person of color, or the only person within your particular minority group, and it's really challenging to imagine yourself being an agent of change or being represented in a greater capacity. I've learned how important it is to have the space to imagine things to be different. I think from the perspective of someone who might be joining Ubisoft for the first time, maybe someone who thinks "I never see anybody that looks like me in videogames or in positions of power or making artistic choices," or "I don't see myself represented culturally." To be able to have a group of people that share something with you, who can be a model for not just how to behave or what to do in a particular given situation or workplace, but to create that space to be able to imagine what is possible, I think it's hugely important.
Personally, one of the reasons I really wanted to join Gente and take that leadership position was to model that, and create the foundations for an organization that would exist well after I'm gone. If one day I no longer work for Ubisoft, I still want Gente to be here.
What has your relationship been like with Ubisoft's teams in Latin America?
EU: Being an ERG leader has really opened the door to connect with folks who were born in Mexico, Brazil, or any other part of Latin America. For me, it's very exciting to connect with people who are first and foremost Mexican or Brazilian, because I'm second-generation Mexican. I have all those different intersectionality points, but to be able to connect with someone who is originally from my culture or my ethnic background is exciting. I find myself asking questions like, "do y'all do this? Or that?" because I'm trying to piece together where my family's traditions come from and how they relate.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining Gente, but isn't sure it's for them?
JA: I think that there's just a joy of being able to hang out and chat with folks that have similar cultural experiences as you. When we did our first virtual meeting, people were telling stories about themselves, and it was getting really emotional. People were really engaged with one another in a way that I just have never seen before, because we've never really had the opportunity. So I think that there's something really valuable about just spending time with other folks from your similar cultural background. It can be rejuvenating! I find it personally very energizing, because I see myself in them, and it inspires me to want to try harder and work harder and be better.
On the other hand, these ERGs are totally collaborative experiences. If you join an ERG, be it Gente or any other one, you're going to have a voice in defining what you want to see out of that ERG. If you're brand new and you say, "I really want support in this way" or "I have an idea for a project to work with another external organization," as the Gente leaders, we're here to do our best to support that. As of right now, there are currently no local Gente chapters. The moment somebody wants to step up and do their own local things, we want to support them and help them.
EU: When I raised my hand to be a leader, I had no idea what I was doing and what I was getting myself into. But I knew that I wanted to be there, and I knew I was willing to offer whatever I could to help get us off the ground and to do what needed to be done. It's been so rewarding being able to collaborate with the three other leaders, too. It's great to have a space where I can share my opinions. I really appreciate the safe space that I think we, as our own leadership team, have created for each other, and I think the support that we give each other and the willingness to always listen is so important. We may agree or disagree, but it's been so rewarding and so fulfilling to just have this space where we can support each other, in addition to the larger Gente ERG group.
Speaking of support, what sort of support has Ubisoft given Gente?
EU: We have monthly touch points with the Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility team. We do have a budget, which is what we've been able to use to create some of the programming that Jorge mentioned earlier. I think one of the most exciting avenues of support is our ability to have quarterly touch points with Yves Guillemot. It's not often that you get to be in the same room with him - digitally speaking, of course. But being in this ERG allows that to happen, and it's been very cool to have that engagement point with him, where he genuinely appears to care and wants to listen. He's very engaged with not just our ERG, but all of the ERGs in general. That's been a really awesome, unexpected avenue of support.
Gente is still very young, but what do you want it to be five to 10 years from now?
JA: We've had many conversations in our leadership team about what we want Gente to be, and the foundations for success that we want to lay for the future. What we often come back to is two-pronged: What is the support that we can provide internally to our Ubisoft employees? That could be in the form of career development resources that we have specifically for our Gente members. It could be mentorship programs that we develop, it could be opportunities outside of Ubisoft for our internal Ubisoft members to elevate their voices or get career advice, or to be able to take on new roles and grow personally and professionally. I think in 10 years, what I'd really like is to have that robust set of programs that are almost turnkey, that when you join Gente and when you join Ubisoft, you're just gonna have access to right off the bat.
The other side is, how can we support our community that is outside of Ubisoft? Latinos make up a huge proportion of American audiences, but like we've talked about today, they're all over the world. A lot of them play games, and for a lot of people, the prospect of finding careers or representation in videogames is unimaginable. I would love to have a portion of the work that we do be this consistent outward-facing beacon for folks that are underrepresented in this space. I want people to say, "I can do something, because I've seen other people do it." When we as a company say that we are player-first and that everyone is welcome, I want to make sure that Gente is doing their part and making that as true as possible for folks inside the company and out.
EU: The only thing I would add to that is folks taking more of an inward look at our content in the games that we produce. I would love for Gente to play a similar role to that of the global Content Review Group in helping to shape the content that gets put out to our players. We want to make sure that we're handling our content respectfully.
I'd love for Gente be an influential part in how our content gets developed and marketed, be it from the narrative to the setting of a game. Really just being able to provide another perspective and to share any sort of influence that our ERG has. Because like we've mentioned before, there are many different people that make up the community of Latine folks and being able to tap into that and see us as a resource, and see us as a partner in that regard, is where I want to be in five to 10 years, hopefully sooner!
How can folks at Ubisoft get involved in Gente?
JA: I want to emphasize that there's a great opportunity for people to take local leadership roles as well. I hope people understand how valuable of an experience that can be, and there's no limitation to what position you have to have at Ubisoft in order to become a leader in the ERG space. You don't have to be at a senior-manager level or above; you could be brand new to the company, and if you want to take that leadership role and you really want to help represent Gente at Ubisoft and help elevate those voices, there are opportunities for you. This is not a monarchy; we're not going to be leaders forever. If you want to lead the global ERG, we want to invite people and encourage people, because I think it's a great experience, not just as an opportunity to give back, but to grow themselves personally and professionally.
EU: I totally agree. We encourage everyone to join not only our ERG, but if there's any curiosity, any interest in leading an ERG and becoming a leader for a local chapter, go do it and get involved. There are no qualifications that you need to checkmark. You just need an interest. Don't let the unknown stop you from doing anything you want.