By Helana Santos, games programmer and developer for Modern Dream.
This article is part of our series Women in Software, in which we hear perspectives on a range of issues related to women who study and work with computers and software.
How does it feel to be a woman in the games industry, you ask? Great, I say! I love working in an industry filled with people passionate about what they do. It is always wonderful to meet game developers making innovative, creative and fun experiences, to meet people who give wings to those creations and make them known around the world, and to engage with those who play the games, provide feedback and build communities around them.
This is not to say that there aren't challenges that come with it. Some may even add "especially if you are a woman." I chose to study Computer Systems at university because I wanted to challenge myself and prove I could do something completely new. There weren't many women in my course but that never made me doubt I could do it. You can say I have always been determined.
The real challenge came when I joined the games industry over six years ago. Finding my first programmer position fresh from graduation was quite a daunting process. I still remember the feeling of stepping into a studio for the first time, sitting at my new desk and feeling both scared and excited all at once. I was suddenly surrounded by extremely talented people making games! Real games!
I have always been lucky enough to have met different people during my career who were truly inspiring mentors. I am sure I will still be constantly learning from those I work and meet with too. However, I can't emphasise enough the importance of those mentors during the early stages of my career. Feeling confident, being assertive and having the best knowledge and practices aren't things that come naturally to everyone. They aren't things that we will necessarily develop straight away either. However they are important, and most of the time, expected.
So how challenging is it to work in a male-dominated industry? Very! Any environment where you have to deal with various people is always a challenge, whether they are men or women! Yes, women too. After all, we are all people and people have their own ways, their own personalities and their own fears, not to mention their own ambitions and dreams.
We all want to succeed at what we do. Just because our job titles include the word "game" in them, that doesn't mean we are not in a competitive industry. In a world where being able to make games or have your own channel to talk about them is more accessible than ever before, we all have to work harder to get a big enough audience so we can run a sustainable business and have equally sustainable careers.
If I could go back in time would I join the games industry? Absolutely yes! I would only tell my younger self to believe more in herself, not to be so afraid, and the most important one - to be more confident! I keep repeating the word confidence because it is a big one. It ends up being an important part of how we present ourselves and it is powerful enough to change how people react to us. I have been to several industry events and it is definitely what I have come to learn over time.
Put simply, how we feel and how we are perceived starts with each one of us.