Jess Loeb
  • Years in Tech


  • Current Role

    Software Architect

  • Place of Origin

    Fountain Valley, CA

  • Interview Date

    February 8, 2016

For the past 8 years I’ve been navigating different technical positions within the games industry at a couple of the larger games companies in the bay area, from UI programming to gameplay to low-level platform teams. Recently I’ve been focused less on the games themselves and more on games industry culture, engineering culture, and how the industry can improve to help women thrive.

Tell me a bit your early years and where you come from.

I grew up in Southern California. I have always been very logic oriented, and more than a little bit stubborn. I really don’t like doing what I’m told just because I was told to. I grew up doing martial arts and one of the big sayings we had is that when logic and tradition conflict, it’s time to make a new tradition. It has kind of stuck with me my whole life, and sometimes in the past caused problems with authority figures [laughter].

They are just words I live by. Growing up I was always told that I should pursue a career in law– encouraged by my teachers and even to a certain extent my family. We had lawyers in the family, everyone knew what that was. Computers weren’t really a thing or a career at the time, and certainly not prestigious yet. My dad worked in IT and that was like a big cutting edge scary technology thing for a lot of people. It never occurred to me to do anything other than something along the lines of chemistry being a lawyer because those were the things that people really encouraged in me. And so I got into Cornell’s engineering school as an undecided engineering major, and had a vague idea of maybe going to law school later, but really had no clue what to do.

I took a computer science class, and it was awesome, and I liked it. So I stuck with it for a while. Still didn’t know what I wanted to do because nobody had given me the idea that I should, “go be a software engineer for a living.” That never really happened. And then around my first semester of my sophomore year, I found out there was a games class and I took that, and then more games classes, and at that point I was hooked, and was like, “Oh my God, why would you do anything else with any of these skill sets?”

I was lucky. I went to a an incredible school that had a games program when there weren’t a lot of games programs, and it fed directly into EA‘s internship program, which was also really nice.

When was the first moment that you knew you were into tech and/or gaming?

I don’t know. I grew up playing video games and I always thought that was just the coolest thing. Then being able to actually make them seemed just all kinds of crazy and fun, and I wanted to do something that I would have fun doing. Of course I had no idea when everyone was like, “you need to really, really love it to do that,” because they really had no idea. These are dudes talking, and they really have no clue how hard it is to do what we do.

So walk me through that. What was it like first getting into the professional world? And then walk me through your whole trajectory through today.

I had a really great female mentor in college, who spent time with me and worked with me on some of my issues and skills with academics, because I was doing really poorly in school. Like not feeling like I fit in. I felt like I was learning, but I didn’t feel like I was good at school, or doing well. And we had a lot of long conversations about what my hangups were, and she took me to a women in computing celebration, the Grace Hopper Conference, around our junior or senior year of college. And it was just totally this life-changing experience where everyone was just a little bit more like me.

I met a woman from EA before they were hiring interns and talked to her and got my first in with the games industry. Ever since then, I’ve been really focused on staying in games. I had a great time at EA. I loved it there. I worked at Zynga later, and was super into it in the very beginning. I joined there in 2009 and it was right after FarmVille launched, so they were just looking for people to help keep the games going, build more games, and keep the servers from catching on fire. I had some amazing mentors there that really helped me grow and develop myself as an engineer and build a little bit of confidence.

There were also people that smashed it down and it was kind of cyclical there. I would have a really, really good couple of months and then a really, really bad couple of months. Sometimes I’d leave work crying, sometimes I’d leave work super happy and really feeling like I got to actually connect with people and do things that made a difference.

One of my first projects there was doing a charity feature in FarmVille where you got to buy a special seed to plant and it was for Haiti. We donated over half a million dollars to Haiti and at the time I felt like I was this nothing engineer, who got to be a part of this really cool thing that not only did something great for our players, but helped change the world. It’s pretty badass.

Then, there have also been not great moments where I’ve wanted to leave and quit and not do games anymore, maybe not do tech anymore [laughter]. Lots of situations and lots of decisions that kind of led to where I’ve been the past couple of years at GSN, where I feel like we’ve got a much more stable grasp on development than some of the other mobile/web games places. Even though I’m not working directly on the games themselves anymore, it’s still nice to be a part of game creation. But just being a part of the gaming experience has still been pretty important for me for some reason. Maybe it’s because I don’t like feeling like I shouldn’t be there [chuckles]. I don’t know.

When did your attention shift from game making to game culture? What was that impetuous?

I think it was relatively recently. I went to Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing again this year, and for a while I’ve been doing women in tech talks at universities and we’ve been hosting meetups and for women. I think I’ve been engaging over the past year. I had this wonderful manager who was encouraging me to talk and encouraging me to get involved in things. Before that I was just coasting and still stuck in this mindset of trying to figure out where I fit in or how to maximize my ability to coast. He really helped me carve a niche out for myself and find something that I care about again, which made a huge difference for me because it not only reminded me that I do have a voice, but that I’m not the only person who will benefit from using it. I just haven’t had that same passion for games that I did in the beginning for a long time. Being able to recapture a similar feeling has been really good for me.

I can relate, having to sometimes look in new places to find that feeling. What was your experience like, or what is it like, being a girl in gaming and a girl in tech?

Honestly, it’s about equal parts lonely and empowering. It sucks when you’re giving a presentation to 18 dudes, 16 of whom are white, wondering why you’re the only girl in the room or whether you’re being held accountable for your gender. Not held accountable but “why am I representing all female engineers?” “Because I am the only female in the room and there are 20 men here?” It’s tough. It’s tricky.

I feel like on the more balanced teams that I’ve been part of, there’s been so much more collaboration. Whereas when I’m the only woman in the room, I tend to collaborate less and talk less because I’m interrupted more or I don’t feel like it’s worth it to say the same thing that’s been said over and over again in a different way. Sometimes it’s scary to say the thing that you don’t feel like people really want to hear. And I feel like, especially after my time at other places, you’ve been conditioned to expect to be reprimanded, glossed over, or even laughed at for speaking your mind. To be overlooked, labeled as overly emotional, or too invested. It’s still scary to speak up, even now, even though you’re very well-respected and your abilities are very much considered top-notch, but it’s really hard to internalize anything that’s not constructive. And usually the only things that are worded constructively are negative.

Being isolated in many ways– where do you go? What are your support groups? Where did you find them at first, and where do you find them now?

At first I didn’t really have them in the workplace at all. I had people that I could maybe play board games with after work, or socialize with a little bit In a non-frat, “non-brogrammer” way and kind of built on that a little bit. Just finding people I worked with that fit my definition of culture. And I got really lucky. The place I’m at now has a ton of people that aren’t super hardcore into drinking and partying and stuff, which makes me feel a lot more comfortable around my coworkers. Past environments were particularly bad at that, because the way I found support would be to drink a lot with people and go out. That’s what you would do and that’s how you lived that life. It was just a part of that bubble for a long time. It’s one of those uniquely tech-y startup-y San Francisco expectations, and I went along with it for a long time trying to fit in and be well liked, and because that’s just what people who worked there did. Eventually, the culture really started shifting as the startup vibes went away and the teams got too big to handle.

It was very much like this frat that you were either a part of, or you’re even looked down on as somebody who went home and had kids. It still blows my mind that that was the cultural norm and people talked about it like that. It’s just this skewed thing that isn’t real life, but because I was young and desperate to fit in with the Silicon Valley brogrammers, that was my world view for longer than I’m proud of [chuckles].

Wow. How did that culture affect your female colleagues with kids? Did they stay? How did that affect retention?

It was a lot of long hours, a lot of attrition. The company skewed very young. So I think for the people who had already started their families and knew how they wanted to live their lives, they had a much easier time drawing the boundaries. A lot of the younger women got sucked into the whole, “this is how it has to be because this is what 90% of the people are doing and if you want to be cool, you have to be a part of the 90%”. You want people to like you, right?”

It was actually really eye-opening for me because after a few years, I was able to develop friendships and camaraderie with people a little bit outside of that bubble and take a second look at myself and realize, “this is how much alcohol I’m consuming…this is how much self-destructive behavior I’m engaging in”. I even had really good friends that were in the thick of it with me that kept trying to warn me, and I just couldn’t see it until it was far too late and I’ve had a few friendships destroyed because of my drinking.

I remember that scene in general. You may or may not relate if you want to build a brand. In tech, it’s kind of…you want to build your personal brand, and so you feel like there is a social path that you must take. It’s almost like the social path is more important than the work path.

I feel like if I had known that that’s what I was doing… I didn’t understand that I was building a brand. I was just really trying hard to fit in and be respected by my peers. I was hearing these things about people that left at 5:30pm everyday and I did not want them saying those things about me. I wanted to be well liked and well respected, for people to want to work with me. For a while I felt like I really was, until I actually looked in at myself from the outside and was like, “No. This is not what I want to be. I am so much smarter than this.” It’s hard to become your own person when you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re just doing it because everyone is [laughter].


After awhile of that, then leaving and getting out of the bubble and really focusing on becoming a healthy, whole person, I feel like it wasn’t until I was asked to actually say something that I was even comfortable doing that. From there, it just grew. After going to Grace Hopper again this year and getting energized by people who are actually doing some good in the world, a couple of other women at the company were interested in actually forming a professional bond. It’s a cool experience and really motivating for me to reach out internally and involve the men and the women at the company in the diversity issue. I feel like since then, we’ve had—maybe not quite as much momentum as we’d like—enough momentum to get people talking and having conversations and wanting to take a second look at job descriptions to make sure that they’re gender inclusive and little things I’m hoping will add up.

Tell me more about the diversity issues that you have experienced or seen in gaming specifically. I’m curious to see the similarities and differences in that specific area versus the rest of tech.

Yeah. It’s a little awkward at first because you hear the way that your co-workers talk about your players and sometimes, there’s a lack of respect for the players. Especially at some of the younger-skewing companies where you have people talking about the players. I guess it depends on your school of thought, but I always feel like you should have the utmost respect for the people that are paying your salary, but sometimes they can be—and it’s not generally —insulting. Sometimes it can be a little bit irreverent, but some of the memes that you see posted at some games companies, where it’s like, “would grandma understand it?” it’s not really necessary. In gaming specifically, I feel like there’s a lot I had to deal with when I was interviewing as far as culture fit. That specific thing, that term drives me crazy. I can’t believe that’s still okay to say.

I feel like that really caused a lot of problems for me early in my career. I honestly thought that I wasn’t marketable or hire-worthy for a long time, because of just not feeling like I fit in, even though I could answer the technical questions. For a long time it made me question whether I actually should have a seat at the table, because I don’t fit in. It’s evolved a little bit, because now the way that I talk about interviewing, and think about interviewing, shows a much firmer grasp of the process. I’m much more willing to walk away from a bad interviewer, and I can understand what that says about the company.

But I feel like, until you’ve really been in the industry for a while and get to know how the game companies interview, you can’t tell the difference between a diversity friendly game company and one that isn’t, because these are things that you just are told are a part of the industry. There’s this attitude of you’ve got to really love working games and you’ve got to fit a certain profile because this is how the industry is and I feel that’s why so many people have been going indie over the past several years. Nobody wants to work in an industry like that. Especially when it’s one that claims you need the passion to work there and then exploits that passion and you don’t even actually get that much influence at a larger company over the things that you care about. Why would you do it?

How do you feel all these experiences have changed your priorities and what you want out of a job now?


Right now I’m really focused on two things. I work at a games company that has very reasonable balance in hours and generally cares about its people. We’re not the best, we’re not the worse, but we’re stable. We like each other and we’re good people. To me that’s a good enough starting point. We can take what makes us good people that care and do good things together, and foster a more collaborative culture where people like me can speak up. People like our CTO are willing to listen and talk about things like the fact that we only have four female engineers in our US offices, and our C-Staff is empowering us to ask “what can we do about it?”. Those are the types of people that I want to work with and that I want to help me.

We’re focusing more on doing things like meetups where we can actually create that community that we’re missing. And learning how to function on a level playing field. Things like learning how to negotiate. A bunch of members of our women’s group in Boston went to a negotiation workshop put on by the city of Boston (because we are a bi-coastal company). And they got a report back to us on all the things that they learned about negotiating. Even just today, there was an intern who got an offer somewhere else and we were telling her, “this is how you go about negotiating, this is what your tone should be,” just generally helping each other. That’s the kind of thing that really sparked something in me at Grace Hopper, because people generally want to lift each other up.

There’s none of all the fakeness you hear about in female-dominated industries versus all of the cut-throatness in male-dominated industries. We’ve generally seen both sides of the coin as women in tech and we’re not interested in that, and I think that’s a really cool thing. Everyone from every company I’ve been working with has been nothing but supportive and encouraging and wanting to find ways to work together to help. I’ve been talking with companies like Twitter who want to do networking events and breakfasts and talking and going to meetups at places like where they discuss using data mining for good. It’s just incredible how supportive people can be if you let them.

But it’s just so hard to find those willing to put themselves out there and speak up. I think one of the things that made it take so long for me was that I feel like, for engineers especially, there’s this concept of, “you don’t belong in this engineering culture”, and for gamers especially, there’s this “girls don’t belong here” culture. And when you have the two overlapping, it’s really hard to reach out to either community because there are no engineers or very few engineers in the games advocacy groups, and they’re talking about a lot of issues that maybe apply less to engineers. Pay equality is a little bit better for engineers, you’ve got more stable career trajectories, things like that, your work is a little less subjective. It’s not quite the same.

And you get that same sense of maybe not quite belonging from the tech side too. For example, a woman at Grace Hopper told me, “I wouldn’t work in games no matter if it paid better than software because not only is there this gamergate media presentation, but there’s also this, ‘I want to do some good in the world’ attitude that I feel like a lot of women in tech have.”They’re here to really make a difference and help, and that’s kind of what helps keep them going. I kind of feel the same way, but the fact is that games are capable of being this vehicle for change and this binding force for people and culture in so many ways.

I keep thinking about my first project at Farmville where we made half a million dollars to build a school in Haiti in a matter of 24 hours. Had it been this gamer-bro dominated attitude leadership of the team, that whole concept and feature never would have happened. There are so many reasons like this that we need more women and minorities in different kinds of games. Because of this attitude and because of the negative media presentation, I feel like it’s just moving so slowly .

So you’ve started speaking and I’m sure you’re becoming more public every year. It’s great that it’s the new way you’re building your personal brand, but I’m curious…I feel like I would be scared shitless as a woman in gaming building her brand, especially working on culture. How do you feel about that? Do you feel almost disincentivized to do well at this?

Yeah– even if there’s a carrot there, there’s going to be a stick there. It’s scary and it’s not something that I feel like I should want to do or maybe I should do. But part of where I’m coming from is that as an engineer, nobody can take away the fact that I’m a badass engineer. No matter how many 12-year-olds sit behind their computers and try and tear me down, the fact that I write the code I write and that I’m capable of solving the problems that I’m capable of solving, and the fact that my track record does speak for itself in many ways, even if it sucked getting to that point and I have a hard time internalizing it sometimes.

Like—I won the CTO award at Zynga for technical innovation and I don’t know if it’s changed since then, but at the time I believe I was the only female engineer to get one, and the award itself was a pretty big deal, company-wide a lot of consideration went into a bunch of different projects every quarter. So the fact that I can think about problems differently and do these things and have this merit as an engineer, I feel like gives me a unique perspective to reflect on when I feel like I want to question why I’m qualified to speak up. No matter what you say, my credibility isn’t something that can be taken away by anyone but me, and I’m trying so hard to own that and not let myself take it away, which is something that I’ve struggled with a lot over the years. At least from an engineering perspective, I do have the chops to be here. So from that perspective, I think it’s a little bit safer for me to speak about why I should also feel like I belong here than a lot of my peers for art or for design, especially. I don’t know how those women do it because I would not be able to deal with not belonging if my credibility and intelligence were called into question or debated frequently.

Even if I lose my job for something I say, I will find somewhere that will want me to be an engineer for them, and I have options. Even when I wrote my first piece that I published, it was like, “This is only on LinkedIn and I’m only going to write on LinkedIn because I only want people to tie their professional network to the things they say.” And a lot of my coworkers said that that was probably the smartest thing I could have done at that point, and I agree. That’s why I did it. I won’t write anywhere that I will get anonymous comments if I can help it. I don’t have a Twitter, I don’t have a lot of the tools that I think people use in the industry to get jobs and make connections. I feel insecure enough that I think that it’s for the best.

You’ve touched on this in many ways, but what are the biggest motivators behind your work? What drives you?

I don’t know. I want to help the future me’s not have what happened to me happen to them. I want corporate game development to become something thing that you can feel safe doing no matter who you are. We have our most diverse developers and most innovative games being developed as indie games. While I think it’s great that that’s an option for people who have the drive and passion and all the things that it takes, it shouldn’t be your only option if you want to feel safe or create games that reflect on who you are. I feel like given how important games are as a medium, as something that so many people touch every day, the fact that the industry is still so skewed really sucks for both developers and players in the long run.

In terms of the future, I know you still have a lot enthusiasm for games and you were able to execute on some of that. What are you excited to see in the future? What is the positive potential that you’d like to see in games?

I’d love to see games go full circle and start influencing our culture rather than reflect the worse parts of it. Everyone’s losing their shit over Star Wars right now because, “Oh, they finally released a blockbuster movie with a female lead and there’s a female Jedi, and it’s just such a huge deal”. I would love to see games make it the norm such that it’s not a big deal. I would love for women and minorities to be relatable characters because then we’ll be relatable people. Especially growing up, I actively didn’t really play a lot of the games where you had to play an over-sexualized woman. I never really got into the shooting games. Had they been less geared towards men and marketed towards men, maybe that genre might have held more appeal for me. Maybe it still wouldn’t, I don’t know.

I’m just personally curious what your favorite games were growing up.

I am and always was super into RPGs. I loved the 7th Saga, I loved Super Mario RPG, I loved Illusion of Gaia, those kinds of games. I also really love– I’m kind of an achievement whore and I’m a collector, so I love doing lots of side quests. Collecting things like Pokemon was the perfect game for me because it’s literally about catching them all. I love games as a storytelling mechanism for escape, as well as the social component that they bring through local competition or cooperation. I didn’t really have the best network or childhood, or a lot of friends growing up, but I felt like I was really able to not only escape that but really engage with stories and maybe become a better reader and a better narrative teller because of gaming. I was able to bond with people playing Mario Kart or Wave Racers as a kid and have something I could get excited about and make a connection over.

Totally. Side note: do you remember the Pokemon photography game that came out for N64?

Pokemon Snap [laughter]? Yes!

How indicative that that was one of my favorite games [laughter] ever. I played that.

I was actually just talking about that this weekend. It was so good!

I know.

It was so good.

I would love to see more photography games.

I thought it was just amazing. I mean look at how popular Snapchat and Instagram are. Photography games would…

That’s so true. And there’s not been any – I mean, I don’t know. I don’t follow anymore, but I’m assuming there have been none.

Nothing really good since Pokemon Snap.

How do you think your background and life experiences, everything in-between, impacts the way that you’ve approached your work?

For a long time I’d like to really pretend that I didn’t notice, but later I recognized that my approach to things is a little bit unique. Take my first ever engineering internship in games. I wasn’t doing very well halfway through. I was trying really hard to figure out what people wanted. I was having a hard time not doing what was expected so much as just what I felt like I should be doing. I was just taking a lot longer to figure out how everything worked together, and I got some feedback halfway through that reflected that, which I found fair. None of the critical things on that feedback really bothered me other than being referred to as a slow learner, because that’s one thing that I’m really really not. Maybe I do have this tendency to be over-prepared as a result of wanting to get everything right the first time, but I would not consider myself a slow learner and never have, so I spent the rest of my time proving that one little tidbit wrong, and everything else just kind of fell into place.

I think that from then on it was about like not only proving that I’m not a slow learner, but I’m taking a little bit longer to get all the facts straight, communicating that that’s what I’m doing and not that I’m not understanding and just trying to present competence. It’s hard to do that when you’re not very confident of what you’re doing because you feel like you have to prove that you’re confident. Over the years, it’s kind of been stacking a little bit because you have to spend so much energy proving your competence the further you move.

To have to still prove everything from the ground-up is overwhelming at times and it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve developed this terrible case of imposter syndrome where I have to reason through and prove everything and then I get feedback that I’m providing way too much context. Figuring out what’s important to communicate is still a struggle that I think comes from a lot of those experiences. Similarly, being able to take a compliment on my work and take pride in my work is something that has been really hard to develop because of those experiences and because of the lack of constructive, positive feedback.

One thing I used to do in high school is when I got a really good grade on an essay or something and I didn’t understand why I did well, I would go after class and ask, ” Why is this good? What did I do well here and how do I do more of it?” Because sometimes it’s really easy to get it right, and be happy about getting it right, and not really focus on the why. That’s something that I’ve been trying to take forward and take advantage of a little bit, because that’s, I think, a part of what makes me so good at what I do. I’m very capable and focusing in on why it’s right as much as why it’s wrong gives me the ability to replicate good results more frequently, and I think that that’s true of a lot of women.

I feel like women– because we tend to get that a high level of scrutiny and feel the need to justify it, we tend to focus a lot more on why things are right as well as why things are wrong. A lot of the female engineers that I’ve worked with have been especially good at explaining not just their code, but other people’s code or why certain principles are better to follow, or why things were done a certain way. There are a lot of men and women who I’ve admired greatly in many different teams that really focus on why things are good or not so good.

I agree.

It’s not to say that men don’t do that, but there have been a much higher percentage of women that I’ve worked with who have done that than men.

How do your lady friends in gaming feel about their long-term careers? Are they going to stay?

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure. I know that a lot of women have felt pushed out and given up. I have this incredible friend who had just such a rough time at Zynga. She wasn’t an engineer, she was a product manager, but she’s such an amazing, powerful, strong woman who no longer cares about games and isn’t going to do it anymore. And I think that’s really common, especially in games, especially in light of everything. I can’t proudly say I work in games the way I used to be able to. I used to be so excited to tell people that I worked on Farmville or that I was working at EA and got to work on a Sims game or whatever. That was a really exciting moment for me, and that joy and that pride in my industry isn’t there anymore. It’s hard to stay passionate and exciting after these big and small experiences add up and you see your female colleagues, friends, and peers go through things that make you want to cry or throw something or just walk away.

Yea, if you don’t love the games anymore, then why stay?

That’s exactly what it is. I fully recognize that I am far more stubborn than most people should be, and I think the only reason I’m still here is because I’m stubborn, and that’s one character flaw that I will own all the way through, it’s both good and bad.

I feel like I have hope for the positive impact you can have while you’re there. I’m sure you’ve had a moment where just meeting another woman in games is enough to make you feel like you can be in it, you know?


And so just your presence is probably more valuable than you realize.

Yeah, like I’ve almost cried when somebody who I’ve met who’s a minority or female or trans just shows that passion and still has it. That makes me cry with happiness.

Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

That’s a tough one. I’m still kind of in this phase where I’m trying to figure it out. To figure out whether my personal brand and goals are tech related, games related, or diversity related. But I don’t see leaving tech and still feel a strong draw towards games. I like programming too much to leave. I really love the personal satisfaction I derive from creating good software. I love solving hard problems, and that investigative technical super sleuthing makes me so happy that I don’t really see leaving tech, but I don’t know. I’m not sure caring this much about games is good for me, but it is the whole reason I developed these programming chops and passion. In a way, it’s still core to who I am.

Yeah, that makes sense.

I feel like the balance is not always good and while I really believe in the positive cultural impact that games have, I wonder whether…if the industry doesn’t start making the strides that Tech is making…I mean Tech is so much more grown-up about everything then Games is. And if we’re not able to be grown-ups and talk about things like adults, then what can we do? I want to have adult conversations and I don’t want to fight. I want to cooperate and collaborate and I would love to be running an engineering team that really reflects those values. I would love to run a collaborative team where people are supporting each other and solving problems and building things that are exciting to build and working together to do it as opposed to working against each other.

I hate the concept of staff rankings. I hate the concept of… just because somebody’s not doing well in an environment, it’s their fault. There are so few environments setting people up to succeed that I see and really mentoring and working with people. I would love to be part of a female mentorship for games, or for tech. Because when I look above me in the org chart there are no women where I am… none. There is nobody in my work that I can connect with and even just have a conversation and say “what made you the person you are that got you here?”

It’s very hard to find that, especially in games coming from someone who is there. You really have to look to tech to find those high achieving female mentors that you can really look at to see…what did you do right? What did you do wrong? What do you wish you had done differently, and did it make you happy? I used to get asked all the time growing up whenever I would find a loophole to something, whether I would rather be right or happy. That was always such a bullshit question to me because obviously being right makes me happy. The joy comes from finding new ways to be right.  I guess it’s not a hard line always, but I feel like in tech and in games it seems like a choice still. Maybe in tech it doesn’t really seem like much of a choice.

What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself? Like girls who are super in love with games and super passionate about it and hoping to get into gaming professionally?

Honestly, I feel like I would tell myself that it’s okay to focus on being safe, happy, and being unique. It sounds so cheesy, but being your own person and really owning what makes you different as opposed to trying to fit in would’ve taken me a lot further. I don’t think I would’ve been that person putting myself in unsafe or unhealthy situations and not setting myself to succeed and not really understanding why nobody else was setting me up to succeed either.

I would watch male colleges get praised for doing less and being given every chance or opportunity, and being set up for success and I assumed that it was me that wasn’t worthy of being set up. Or that I was being set up to succeed and just doing it wrong.

A lot of feedback I would get on my communication style was that it was very erratic or incompatible with the existing organization. If I could tell myself the science of why it was happening, and help to call out that bullshit as opposed to internalize it, I don’t know I’d be the same person, but I would absolutely give that advice.

There’s no reason to hand over your self-worth to a manager who may or may not be fair, objective, or know what he (or she) is doing. And if you doubt your abilities, take a test somewhere. Do a project. Find a more objective way of figuring out if you stack up. And if you don’t, go back to the basics. There’s no shame in that. But don’t hand your self-worth to somebody else because they typically don’t do good things with it [laughter].

And it’s okay to feel like you’re doing awesome and not get recognized for it. And it’s okay to feel like you don’t fit in because that might mean you’re doing something right.