Women in Games: Cecilia Deng, Software Engineer II
There has recently been a lot of discussion around women in the games industry and the challenges in increasing diversity of the videogame workforce. With so much interest, we decided to start a new series here on The Beat that will regularly feature different women from across EA in a variety of roles. You’ll get to hear about the different types of careers women have here and hear their opinions about diversity in the workplace.
The first Q&A in our Women in Games series comes from an EA software engineer, Cecilia Deng. She’s been with EA in Vancouver for over two years.
Tell us a little about what you do at EA.
I work on a central online team creating backend online services for most of the sports titles. One of the notable recent projects by my team facilitates the ‘Social Sharing’ feature for NHL 13 on Facebook. Another cool project was working on the team that developed the Game Face feature that allows you to create a photorealistic 3D avatar with your own photo so you can really see yourself in the console game. That feature is now included in FIFA, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online and Grand Slam Tennis 2 and they actually used my face as the default female avatar, which is pretty surreal.
How did you end up working in the games industry and what attracted you to it?
I applied at a college career fair! I grew up playing games and I still do quite a bit. I’m attracted to stories and fun. I never really thought this part of my life would integrate into my job but I’m not complaining.
How important is it to have a diverse workforce in the gaming industry?
It kind of depends on what the individual team is trying to accomplish. In engineering terms, I would be hard pressed to associate talent with gender or race, but we are essentially creating a product for diverse clients and it makes sense we should have a diverse workforce to help accomplish this vision.
I mean, it’s important, but shouldn’t be a priority when making decisions. I think stereotyping should essentially be a non-issue and distribution of talent in our society should naturally create a diverse environment. The gaming industry is a relatively modern industry with modern ideals towards things like acceptance; all the diverse people I’ve come across working here seem to reflect this.
What do you think is the most important factor in creating an inclusive workplace?
The most important factor I think is good leadership - people who are aware and sensitive as well as reasonable about inclusivity. From my experience, a manager who you can talk to no matter how different your background is super key in creating a comfortable environment for everyone.
What advice would you give an aspiring female who wants to do what you do?
I think gender actually doesn’t play a role one way or the other in entering this field. I work in the online field which I think has a lot of new and exciting tech emerging all the time with room for experimentation and playing around. Try to think of technology as kind of like playing blocks with which you can build really neat toys. I mean, you do have to sludge through a bunch of boring stuff too, but try to keep yourself excited about what you’re doing and your passion will really shine through, just like for any male.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
I’ve had lots of good advice… perhaps taking ownership has been one of the most important ones. This is one they don’t really teach in school, at least not for my undergraduate degree. “Ownership”, of course, is something you’ll define in your own terms eventually, but it’s something that should build trust in other people and help you drive your own accomplishments.