The Video Game Industry Needs You!

This post is brought to you as part of the coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.

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“Gaming is an art form that brings technologies to life”

In a world where 43% of gamers are women and only 17% of computer science graduates are women, this disparity has created a major talent gap. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities for women to make contributions and develop the skills and competencies to build towards a career in gaming.

Addressing a packed house at the “Video Game Industry Needs YOU!” session a panel of gaming leaders at Microsoft delivered an entertaining and highly informative discussion on how women can carve their own paths into gaming.

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Bonnie Ross, Corporate Vice President, 343 Industries, Microsoft
You don’t need a technical background to be in gaming.  We (343 Industries) look for a diverse team that brings creative all disciplines together.  You alone or you with a friend can create a mobile game.

If you can make things that you can show that helps.   Even copying an existing game or modifying something else, but showing up with a lot of passion makes a difference.  There are lots of women that didn’t have any gaming experience but wouldn’t stop knocking. Their passion was the driving factor that helped them through the door.

Helen Chiang, Senior Director of Business and Strategy, Microsoft
Advances in technology have made gaming accessible to more people.  I can play games of Candy Crush with my mom or my son can build worlds in Minecraft.

Don’t let the lack of a specific degree hold you back.   I like to hire for passion over skills and experience.  I think technical skills are things you can always learn and people can teach you over time, but no one can teach you to develop that passion.

Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer, 343 Industries, Microsoft
Get your CS degree and figure out what you’re passionate about.  We love a combination of CS and traditional skills, in terms of film writing or story telling, or user-interaction design.  Every one of those roles is a combination of technology and being a great project manager; or being able to tell a great story or compose amazing music.  It’s an interesting combo of new and old.  All of these traditional rules apply, in terms of what makes a good story or what is a great composed environment.

Go out there and start making stuff.  You can go to hackathons or game jams and team up with a handful of people really quickly.  It helps you understand what your strengths are and what areas you may want to lean into.  More importantly, it teaches you to work across disciplines because that’s the one thing about game development, it is every discipline collaborating and working together to solve problems and creating together.   That’s a really gratifying dynamic that you can learn with 3 or 4 or 6 people at a game jam.

Shannon Loftis, General Manager for Studios 1st Publishing, Microsoft
If you love games, play them and play them as much as you can!  Start exploring the tools that are available (like Twine).  Once you get used to telling stories, thinking about stories and thinking about the ways people are going to experience them then you ARE a game developer.

There also opportunities due to an acceleration of technology on the other end:  Virtual reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed reality.  This is inspiring whole new generation of creatives.

 

Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development.  When he’s not attending conferences, connecting with employers or blogging, he’s still enjoying some vintage Atari and Pong.

 

 

 

Talking while Female: lessons learned from two years of technical podcasting

This brought to you as part of coverage for the Grace Hopper Celebration, in Houston TX.

 

“For women thinking about hosting their own technical podcast, go for it.  Know your stuff, own it and do it!”

In October 2014, about the same time when Serial took the podcasting world by storm, Katie Malone, a Data Scientist with Civis Analytics, and Ben Jaffe, a UI Engineer with Facebook, launched their own show, Linear Digressions.   Tapping into Katie’s experience as a data scientist, they created a unique format that looked at the technical side of how data solves problems and delivered content in a way that could be understood by non-technical audiences.

It’s been a great hobby for her and a way to distill her thoughts and share content with a larger audience. Since then Katie discovered made some great discoveries about podcasting and shared these tips at the Grace Hopper Celebration.

“I think podcasting is a great medium, because it gives you the ability to talk about a broad array of topics, while also helping hone your communication skills. Ben and I would be talking about data science and machine learning and it came out in a very conversational fashion, so it translated well to podcasting.  We had developed a good rapport where I spoke about the technical elements and Ben played the part of the non-technical audience. It’s also great line on a resume.”

Their weekly program  takes about 5 hours to produce and post to iTunes.  To accomplish this she has broken the process into two major parts:

Planning

  • Audience – Who are my listeners and what delivery style do they expect?
  • Subject Matter – What topics do I want to cover? How will I continue to find material in the future?
  • Collaboration – Who are my collaborators? What part of the project is own their plate and what part is on mine?
  • Logistics – How will my podcast be distributed? How frequent are new episodes?

Execution

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As they refined their practice and applied a more professional approach they saw their audience grow immensely.  “It took that first year to really understand what we were doing and even listening to my own voice in editing, I was able to improve how I communicate.  I say ‘like’ A LOT and heard myself ending sentences on an uptick so it sounded like I was always ending on a question. It’s helped me to really hear myself and focus on that.”

“For women thinking about hosting their own technical podcast, go for it.  Know your stuff,  own it and do it!”

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If you’d like to hear Katie and Ben on Linear Digressions be sure to subscribe to them on iTunes and if you’d like to contact Katie directly you can follow her on Twitter @multiarmbandit or email katie@lineardigressions.com .

Derek Cameron is the Employer Outreach and Partnership Manager for Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development.  When he’s not blogging or connecting with employers he’s tuning into podcasts, being a dad, walking the dogs or grilling.

Turning Passion into Progress: Advice from WOMEN who INSPIRE

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, an Assistant Co-op Coordinator with the College of Computer and Information Science.

Have you ever been to a panel talk where you were really excited about the topic, but in the end, it was just meh, and you left feeling unenthused? Well, this definitely wasn’t one of those. Recently, I attended “How Innovation and Technology are Business Game Changers,” a panel that was part of Northeastern’s WOMEN who INSPIRE Speaker Series. The idea of the series is to empower the next generation of women leaders, but as evidenced by the large number of male attendees, this panel called to a broad audience. Panelists included Naomi Fried (Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital), Flora Sah (SVP, COO, Enterprise Risk Management of State Street Corporation), and Deborah Theobald (Co-Founder & CEO of Vecna Technologies). I left feeling genuinely inspired and ready to take action on the lessons learned. So, if you need your own dose of motivation from some impressive people, here ya go:

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

From left to right, panelists Fried, Sah, and Theoblad. Photo courtesy of WOMEN who INSPIRE

Make your own opportunities

The panel kicked off by talking about how each of the women found their jobs. The answers went something like this:

Naomi – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Flora – “The job I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it”

Deborah – “The company I wanted to work for didn’t exist, so I created it”

See the trend? Good things come to those who seek them out. That’s not to say you need to go create your own job or company, or that it’s easy to create opportunities, but don’t let preconceived boundaries limit you. Maybe, you want to try a completely unique idea for your final project, because it’s more in-line with your passions. Or maybe you want to ask the CEO of your dream company to sit down and have coffee with you. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to make your own opportunities, which leads us to…

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Image Source: http://jonmichail.org/

Be Confident

Seriously! We’ve all heard mantras like “fake it ‘till you make it” or “attitude is 3/4th of the battle” but these three women are living, breathing proof that confidence really matters. They all shared examples of when their confidence made a difference (can we talk about how much confidence it takes to start a company?) but you could just feel their confidence being in the room. Regardless of what academic level you’re at, by definition as a student, you aren’t an expert in your field. That can be a bit unnerving, but confidence can take you a long ways. As Deborah pointed out, to be successful in any sense of the word, you have to be confident that your passions are worthwhile, even if nobody else sees it right away.

Take Risks

Not only did these women share the fact that they are all confident and made opportunities for themselves, but they are also united in their strong belief that you MUST take risks in order to succeed. Taking risks can be scary. You might fail. Scratch that, you will fail. But as Naomi reminded us, you will learn much more from your failures than your successes, and so even though it’s counterintuitive, failure is a major part of success. So to be successful, you must be able to take some risks.

Michael Jordan quote

Whether success for you means starting your own company, getting a better grade, or speaking up in class, remember these women’s words to help make your dreams a reality.

Katie is currently a Co-op Coordinator for graduate students in the College of Computer and Information science, but got her start as an intern with NU’s Career Development. She’s a Colorado lady at heart and loves anything involving the mountains (especially when her pup can tag along).