Whenever I reflect on my experience as one of the relatively few women in the gaming industry, I think of a student I met at a Game Writers' Roundtable the last time I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
She was talking about learning to code so that she would become a more well-rounded professional and "not just a writer." I only had one year of game-writing experience, but I was older, already employed in the industry, and significantly chattier than most people there. So, when I got my hands on the mic, I took the chance to reflect briefly on this perception of writers as lesser professionals, and remarked that we should defend ourselves and our craft whenever possible.
Afterwards, the student approached me and thanked me for my words. Maybe she did feel somewhat lesser than, and needed to hear that she wasn't. I kept thinking about this interaction, mainly since I have never heard a programmer saying they weren't a well-rounded professional because they didn't know how to write compelling dialogue. And I felt the asymmetry was unfair.
The perception of programming as superior to game writing and to any other "non-technical" discipline involved in making games is absolutely defined by who does what.
Nowadays, and even with notable women working in the field, programming is seen as something that men do. But this wasn't always the case. Many pioneers of computer science were women and, for decades, the number of women in CS classrooms surpassed the number of men.
So, what happened? Steve Henn at NPR reveals that "The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers." It so happens that, in the 80s, the first PC models showed up in the market, and someone decided to sell them as toys for boys, beginning the sexist narrative that got us to where we are today.
And where is that, exactly? Well, I have never worked in a less diverse environment than the one I find myself in as a woman in the gaming industry. And I'm not just talking about gender here.
In the industry, as well as in the games themselves, white, middle-class, straight men are still the default player avatar.
Allow me to illustrate. Just a couple weeks after I started my one of my first jobs in the industry, I was at a meeting with our CEO, and I asked why we couldn't make our game's protagonist a woman. He answered that he didn't have the budget for a new character model, which I reluctantly accepted. Why not a man of color, then? That was surely a cheap change to make to our protagonist model.
He answered like he was doling out a piece of wisdom that I wasn't particularly worthy of: "Do you know who will be playing our game?" He asked, but didn't wait for a reply. "White males 18 to 35. So that's who our protagonist will be."
Not coincidentally, that's who he was, too.
There's a lot of effort being made to diversify the gaming industry; as usual, women of color are doing much of the heavy lifting. Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games and Rebecca Palacios of Pixelles are just the first who come to mind. In different ways, both of these amazing organizations lift the voices and experiences of women and other people with marginalized identities, and even get them to GDC through their scholarship programs.
But even if we manage to get more women through the door and into the workplace, there's not much being done to keep us here. I've seen the same pattern repeated in every company I've worked at: the more women the department employs, the lower that department's average salary. At one point, I even started to think the student at GDC was right: if I wanted to be taken seriously--if I wanted to make more money--I should just learn to code. I had simply chosen the wrong career.
I was wrong to think this. As Claire Miller reveals in this amazing New York Times piece, "when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before." It's not that we chose the wrong careers, it's that we're playing at a disadvantage. Blaming our lack of financial success on the careers we chose instead of on the society that doesn't value the work of women is simply another flavor of victim blaming that I've chosen not to tolerate anymore.
I'm not actually saying you shouldn't learn to code. By all means, we should all do whatever we feel will empower us the most. But I found that my own empowerment as a woman in the gaming industry comes from doing what I love, doing it well, and doing it proudly.
Erika Morrison is a naturally passionate and encouraging leader. From leading her family in giving back to their community, to coaching adolescents in track and cheer, to managing her team at Light & Wonder during the pandemic, her experience is rich with lessons to share with up-and-coming leaders.
“I believe in motivation, positivity, inspiring, finding the good in everything, everybody,” she says. In addition to 30+ years in the tech field, Erika is a wife, a mother of two, an avid exercise lover, and has even been a small-business owner.
We sat down with Erika to hear about the experiences that have led her to her current role as a Software Engineering Manager at Light & Wonder, as well as three practical ways to lead with purpose.
Seeing Potential in Others
Erika has always been fascinated by the world of technology. Growing up, she loved cassette tapes, DVD players, phones, and whatever other gadgets she could get her hands on. When her dad brought home a PC Junior, it didn’t take long before she started programming on it. She designed her own trivia game, using what she learned in her middle school programming classes. “I was typing the questions in and programming the answers. I had a blast writing it and showing it to my family. I remember I wanted to show everyone what I made. That was my first real desire to get into programming.”
Erika followed that instinct into college where she majored in Business Administration and minored in Computer Science. The kickstart to her tech career came when she landed a computer operating job while still in school. She comments, “I was originally applying for a secretarial position at this company. But someone looked at my studies and experience and saw potential in me. I didn't think I was ready for that because I was still so young, I was still in school.”
Erika went on to work as a programmer analyst and software engineer for multiple major Casino based companies. During this time, she even started and ran a local event-planning business, which fine-tuned her skills in successful customer service.
Then, someone saw potential in Erika again. A former coworker reached out and offered her a leadership position with the company that would become Light & Wonder. Erika took on the role of Software Engineering Manager and says “it’s been opportunity after opportunity ever since.”
Managing Through the Pandemic
Erika believes that the best way to lead a team is to really get to know its members. “A lot of leading is knowing the people on your team,” she explains. “Know what each person needs — What may work for one person may not work for someone else. We have to take a little bit of who they are into consideration when attempting to motivate, to coach, to inspire because we're not all motivated by the same things.”
Prior to the pandemic, Erika and her team worked together in the office, which gave her the opportunity to do so. Once the pandemic hit, however, she had to pivot to incorporating virtual meetings to be able to generate that intimacy. She organizes bi-monthly check-ins with her team members where she intentionally asks for their individual preferences on communication and feedback.
“I have one-on-ones with each of my staff every two weeks. We go over the issues that they've had and then any questions or concerns or anything that they want to chat about. Sometimes it's business and sometimes it's personal. But, I feel like taking that extra time out just to have those conversations is extremely important.”
She also cohosts weekly remote Friday cocktail hours to cultivate her team’s relationships and check in on their mental health. “During the Friday cocktail hours, we would relax, ask some questions, or play some games. And it was nice to have that interaction again and connect with the team. It also allowed me to check in on everyone's mental health and make sure that if there was anything that we could do, we were here.”
Inspired to Encourage the Team
Erika is inspired by the example of her past and current mentors and their vision for her professional trajectory. She acknowledges that it was thanks to key people who saw her potential that she has been able to have these experiences. Erika’s own personal drive and passion for encouraging and uplifting others have led her to love her leadership position.
As a manager, Erika seeks the highest level of respect and excellence for her customers, while creating an encouraging work environment for her team. “I want to make sure that my team has everything that they need in order to succeed and get their jobs done the way they want to. I want them to have the level of success that they want.”
Erika ensures that her team members feel their significant contribution to the company and how they are serving with purpose. “We need to feel like we are part of something significant,” she says. “That’s my goal as a leader and for my team.”
3 Ways to Lead with Purpose:
Drawing from her experiences as a tech leader, business owner, coach, and community volunteer, she gives us three practical ways to lead with purpose in whatever context.
- Understand the “why”. “It’s extremely important to know the why of your company. Once you understand it from the company’s perspective, you can communicate it clearly to the team. And once you get that down, you’re able to help build a strong path for them to follow so that both “why’s” are in alignment. Knowing the why of your individual team members allows you to better manage, assist, and build a relationship with them.”
- Build consistency. “I think it’s very important that we are consistent and don't deviate from the why and the task at hand. Building consistency with others motivates and inspires people to give their best, even when we don’t feel like it. When dealing with a change or a huge transition, it’s extremely important to stick to the why’s, the steps we’re taking, and the right attitude."
- Remain positive. “You have to find positivity in everything because no matter what, it could always be worse. We can always find the negative things, but there are also always positive things. As a leader, I need to be empathetic, kind, and encouraging no matter what. It’s extremely important that I’m positive and involve my team members in the process.”
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
Katie Thursfield, Director of Content at LetsGetChecked, on Pursuing Non-Traditional Roles in the Health Technology Sector
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Katie Thursfield enjoys spending time with friends and taking advantage of good weather. “Ireland is not renowned for its weather,” Katie laughs. “So when we do get sun, we like to make the most of it.”
When she’s not soaking up the sun in the great outdoors or listening to a great podcast in her downtime, you can find her mindfully managing her team as the Director of Content at LetsGetChecked, a healthcare solutions company that empowers individuals to be their own health advocates.
We sat down with her to learn more about her career, creating patient-focused medical-related content that helps bridge the communication gap between patients and medical professionals. Keep reading to hear her story and her advice to women who are looking to advance in the Biotech space.
Combining Business and Science
Katie started off in pursuit of an art major. “I had all the interest and passion for art, but none of the skill,” she laughs. After this realization, she decided to pursue a completely unrelated degree — Science in University College Dublin. “I loved science because it was logical and results-generated,” she says. “You could pick apart something that seemed incredibly complex into its basic components and pathways and make it easier to understand.” Guided by her love for art and intrigue of the human body, she chose to major in physiology.
“I suppose I chose physiology over the other science branches because you can often see it,” says Katie. “There's a visual cue, a visual representation of what you’re looking at, whether it’s a tissue type or cell structure. I always felt this is what led me to pursue it.”
After completing her degree in physiology, Katie knew that she didn’t want to work in the traditional lab setting. "I loved the idea of theory in science, and we had a lot of brilliant opportunities to work in labs, which [I] enjoyed. But I just couldn't see myself doing it long term,” she elaborates. “I wanted to branch into the business a little more to understand the bigger picture of the market.” So she started a master's degree in Business and Biotechnology. “Coming from a purely science-based course, it was a really interesting perspective as it brought science into the business world, and provided insight into how these global leaders in the biotechnology industry bring their products to the market, how they are developed and regulated, and how they respond to the market impact,” she explains. “It gave you a 360-degree view, from the financial side to marketing of pharmaceuticals and other biotechnology products.”
Her newfound passion for science in business led her to an internship at a 3D medical education platform. That internship turned into a full-time job offer, and eventually, Katie grew her career there, where she was able to work on impactful projects that helped students globally. “The concept was based on the gap in the market where medical students were missing a take-home tool to accurately represent the 3D relationships between the body, like how all the muscles intertwine and where tendons attach and how bones are laid,” Katie shares. “We created a platform for medical students to leverage.” This platform helps students conceptualize the human body beyond textbooks and cadavers.
Production of this tool required Katie to communicate the complexities of the human body in a comprehensive and digestible way to artists with limited scientific backgrounds. “It was about finding a counterpoint in the non-science world to open up that communication channel,” she shares. “For muscles, we would use meat as a reference, because everyone knows what that looks like. For tendons, we would use things like fiber material, and cotton wool. There's such a storytelling aspect to science.”
After nearly three years at that company, Katie began looking for another professional opportunity where she could leverage her storytelling and communication skills in the healthcare field.
“I came to LetsGetChecked three years ago because of the type of impactful innovation that they were putting into play. I was following their story and the route to care they were presenting as a solution to so many who need it was really motivating,” she shares. LetsGetChecked is a healthcare solutions company that allows customers to manage their health from home through direct access to diagnostic testing, virtual care, and medication delivery for a wide range of health and wellness conditions
Katie first joined as a Content Strategist and has moved up to Senior Content Manager, and now Director of Content serving both the marketing and product needs across the business. Her team’s main goal is to create patient-centered content that focuses on the needs of the consumer. “It's about understanding what the patient needs and making sure that they feel confident in taking control of their health,” she elaborates. “We know what the pain points are in the current healthcare landscape globally, so we try to identify what they're motivated by, and help them understand that we have this incredible solution that's accessible and affordable.”
One of Katie’s main focuses is strategically finding ways to get the right message out to the right people, especially those with limited healthcare access. “We hear time and time again that patients are feeling unheard, or they feel that healthcare is out of reach both physically and financially. Introducing a service that is such a new concept to people offers its challenges, especially as there is such a trust-building element. What we find is the patient’s voice is the most powerful tool for us because we’re always trying to improve and enhance the experience. Positive feedback about how our tests are saving lives is really the most powerful motivator.” ,” Katie shares.
Katie has been able to build an incredible team of mostly women who are medical writers, campaign creators, and UX copywriters, all working together towards a patient-focused mission.
“So much of what we're doing is translating a service that has been an interpersonal one, and taking that level of assurance and communication into a platform that you can access from the comfort of your home,” Katie explains. “Our best method is to make sure that we're putting ourselves in the shoes of the patient, figuring out how they can feel the most informed and know exactly what to do next.”
Advice for Women in Science
Being an active voice in the Biotech industry is exciting, but at times it can be challenging and competitive. “It’s such an innovative space. There's a lot of energy in it and I know that people are always striving to improve on what they have,” Katie shares. “It's by no means a stagnant area of the market.” Katie offers the following advice to women pursuing a career in science.
- Shake off your preconceptions. “I can completely appreciate that specific industries are associated with a male-led workforce, and that can be intimidating. I’ve been lucky enough to have strong female leaders in the form of professors and mentors throughout my degrees and career which helped shift that stereotype,” Katie says. “At LetsGetChecked, we have an almost all-female content team and a strong female representation in our wider marketing team. I think that many of the newer companies in the health technology sector in general strongly believe that gender isn’t what drives success, it’s an innovative mind and a strong work ethic. If you find an environment that motivates you to grow, give it your all.”
- Pursue different areas of science. The career options for scientists may seem a bit limited, but Katie encourages women to look beyond traditional medical or lab roles. “Science is an incredible jumping-off point,” Katie says. “I've now worked in two companies that have teams of doctors, nurses, and scientists that wanted to work in a setting that wasn't the most traditional.” Remember, the opportunities are there. “Don't feel pigeonholed into a handful of roles off the back of a science degree, because the areas of health technology and biotechnology are rapidly expanding and diversifying in the types of roles that are available. There are countless roles that literally didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago simply because the technology wasn’t there, but with the expansion of telehealth services there is always a new avenue to pursue.”
Are you ready to combine your passion for science with business and technology? Check out LetsGetChecked’s open roles here!
💎Having curriculum gaps doesn’t necessarily imply a disadvantage in the recruiting process. Watch the video to the end to learn how to walk through them in an interview.
📼Worried about your curriculum gaps? Evan Farren and Ânia Sá, Talent Acquisition Specialists at LetsGetChecked, share advice on how to feel comfortable talking about gaps in education, experience, or employment when applying for a position.
📼 Curriculum gaps can be concerns for potential employers, but they're not necessarily deal breakers. Your recruiter will likely ask you for more information, but even if they don't, you should walk them through any gaps or moves, your reasons for those, and what you were doing during that time. This will help to alleviate any concerns that your recruiter or the hiring manager may have. And remember: be honest throughout the process!
📼If your curriculum has gaps in education, don’t feel discouraged to apply. LetsGetChecked understands that not everyone has been afforded the same opportunities. For this reason, they are working where possible to remove any education or qualification requirements from job descriptions and let your experience do the talking. Just be sure that you have plenty of examples prepared so that your interviewers can see the full benefit of your experience!
Relevant Experience Beats Curriculum Gaps - Get Through The Interview Process
A candidate will get an interview at LetsGetChecked if they are qualified for the position and have relevant experience working in a similar environment and industry. The tech interview process usually has four steps. The first step is a quick call with the recruiter to talk about motivation, experience, salary expectations, and availability to start. The second step is a 45-minute tech screening call with two tech members. The third step is an offline exercise plus a full technical interview and the exercise will be the base of the interview. The fourth and last step is a cultural fit interview with the team lead. Keep in mind that during an interview, it's important not only to show your experience with specific tools, languages, and procedures for a job but also the right motivations!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining LetsGetChecked? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Evan Farren and Ânia Sá
More About LetsGetChecked
LetsGetChecked is a virtual care company that allows customers to manage their health from home, providing direct access to telehealth services, pharmacy, and laboratory tests with at-home sample collection kits for a wide range of health conditions including Sexual Health, Cholesterol, Diabetes, Thyroid, Coronavirus (COVID-19), and more. Founded in 2015, the company empowers people with the care they need to live longer, happier lives. Today, LetsGetChecked is a leader in healthcare innovation with an end-to-end model including manufacturing, logistics, lab analysis, affiliated physician support, and prescription fulfillment, which provides a seamless user experience and a convenient, reliable and secure healthcare experience.