In 2021, consumers spent $44 billion on gaming software and services. While it is true that gamers typically skew male, women and girls are increasingly joining in on the digital form of entertainment. Approximately half of the U.S. population call themselves gamers today, and almost one-quarter of these people identify as female. Furthermore, with an average employment growth rate of 5.31 percent per year, gaming represents an excellent career path.
Since graduating from Gonzaga University in 2015, Sierra Reid has broken barriers to land her dream role at Intel as a product market engineer for eSports. Intel’s Client Computing Groups strive to create the world’s best gaming processors. Reid directly manages two eSports tournaments: the Intel World Open, a global eSports tournament in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Intel Inspires, a U.S.-focused scholastic eSports tournament and industry conference.
Here are Reid’s top four tips for women looking to forge a career in the gaming industry:
1. Tell yourself that you belong here. No matter what games you play, how long you’ve been playing, or the gaming system you have at home, you belong. You are a gamer, and the industry needs you here. Look for roles that fit your skill set at companies you personally follow and are inspired by – and jump in.
2. Find or build a support network. Women and non-binary folks have been in the gaming industry since the beginning. We don’t need to “break in.” But the industry does need to continue creating opportunities and supporting us in this space. It can be hard to feel welcomed with a sense of belonging if you don’t have community. Find your community so you have a support network and folks that can help you navigate challenges.
For example, I have found an incredibly supportive community by attending women in technology events and women in gaming meetups at industry events. Intel has sponsored and partnered with several over the years, including AnitaB.org, Society for Women Engineers, and Tech Up For Women.
3. Be vocal about your aspirations. One of the best pieces of advice that I received from a mentor was, “I don’t know what you are thinking unless you tell me what you are thinking.” It’s obvious, but we often forget that people don’t know what our goals and aspirations are unless we tell them. When you get the opportunity to meet someone in the industry, let them know what you want to accomplish. You never know how they may be able to help.
4. Know your value and know your worth. Confidence comes from within – especially when you are new in a career where it can be difficult to feel confident in your skill set. It took me many years to have confidence in my ability to manage programs. I had to fight the imposter syndrome working in the gaming industry. Once I did, I truly understood the value that I was bringing to my team, my programs, and the industry.
One method I have found helpful is to create a list every year of key accomplishments and recognitions that I have received. I reference the list often to help boost my confidence.
Growing up, Reid always was enamored by technology. For example, she was fascinated by how a projector could turn a blank wall in a planetarium into the night sky, or how an electronic microscope could show the individual cells of a leaf. She started playing PC and console games as a young kid at daycare, including Crash Bandicoot and Putt-Putt Travels Through Time. Her favorite game of all time is still Zoo Tycoon. “I love that you get to complete challenges, run a business, and contribute to animal conversations efforts – all in a computer game,” she says.
At Gonzaga University, Reid studied computer engineering, business, and entrepreneurship. She realized that she didn’t want to code or go into technology development, but rather to focus on what technology can do for people. During a 2014 internship at Intel, she worked in product marketing and discovered the realm of technical marketing. This aspect of marketing ties into what technology can enable someone to do. Today, Reid is focused on eSports and creating programs for the gaming community at all levels of competitive play, from students to professionals.
Event days are Reid’s favorite. She explains, “Imagine being in an arena and watching a tournament that you helped organize and seeing the crowd’s excitement. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling and the atmosphere is electric. We also have the opportunity to interact with gamers at our events to talk about the latest Intel technology and hear directly from our community about how our products and programs are impacting their lives. Gaming is so much more than entertainment; it is social connection, community – and for many students it can now be a path to higher education.”
Intel Inspires provides grants and scholarship money to student gamers in K-12 and collegiate eSports programs. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational principals. The merit-based grants and scholarships go to students from schools with new eSports programs or ones that don’t have access to the same high-end gaming systems as do wealthier students at schools with greater financial resources.
“Because my career aligns with my strengths, values, and passions, I come to work every day focused and driven,” says Reid. “I love work that is challenging and solves problems, gives back to our community, and has a lasting, sustainable impact.”
Reid has, however, faced challenges. “There is still a myth that if you aren’t a hetero white cis man, then you aren’t a ‘real gamer.’ This way of thinking is slowly changing, but there have been times when my authority or ability to do my job is questioned because I don’t play the ‘right’ kind of games. At times like that, I remind myself that if you play games, you are a gamer. I tell myself that I can make the community a more inclusive and welcoming space for everyone.”
“Challenge the status quo,” Reid advises anyone looking to find a job they are passionate about. “A career that connects you to your purpose lies at the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, and what matters to you. Once you identify those three things, there are infinite possibilities.”
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