Moonlighting with Insomniac – June 2016 Edition

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Hi Everyone,

As many of you already know, Moonlighting with Insomniac is focusing on diversity and women in the game development industry this year.  That theme continues this month with our guest speaker, Emily Saliba from Girls Who Code.

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Emily Saliba, Girls Who Code

Emily is recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago and was the first woman to receive a BS in Game Programming.  She started working with New York based non-profit, Girls Who Code, to ensure the gender gap in tech closes.  Girls Who Code runs a summer program for seven weeks, and hundreds of clubs, that teaches high school girls the fundamentals of computer science. Emily taught at the General Electric site in Chicago and is now the site lead for the Los Angeles Summer Immersion Programs.  Emily is an aspiring technical artist and current student at Rigging Dojo and aims to inspire women to enter the video game industry.

If you’d like to learn more about Girls Who Code, please join our discussion by posting comments or questions below.  You can also visit their website http://girlswhocode.com/.

The comments section is now open for this edition.  We’ll be answering questions and joining you live on Wednesday, June 1st from 1:30 – 2:30 PM Pacific / 4:30 – 5:50 PM Eastern.

Please remember, we want to encourage open communication and informative discussions but we also need to be respectful around the subject. What subject are we being respectful of?  Not sure that this is needed – but maybe I’m missing something.

Looking forward to talking with you soon!

-Kerri & Angela

  • Noah Thomas Buick

    How do you feel girls who code prepares girls to go out and pursue jobs in the game industry? And as a follow up, How do you feel working for them has prepared you to pursue your own career as an aspiring Technical artist? Thank you for your time!

    • Emily Saliba

      Thank you for your question Noah! Girls Who Code does an amazing job of preparing girls to enter any Computer Science field (although I might encourage them to enter the game industry 🙂 ) The Summer Immersion Program gives our students a strong foundation in a wide array of topics. There is also a heavy emphasis on soft skill development and confidence building. That aspect of Girls Who Code benefited me greatly. I distinctly remember being at the job training and learning about imposter syndrome and how to help the students with it, but I hadn’t heard of it either! Just knowing that exists helped me overcome a lot of personal blocks. Also there are a lot of lovely people working at Girls Who Code that I have learned from. It was really eye opening to see my students grow so quickly over the summer and it inspired me to learn new things too, like technical art!

  • erty

    Have you had an overall positive experience as a woman in the tech/game industry? What would you tell your students who are anxious about pursuing these careers because of stereotypes and possible discrimination?

    • Emily Saliba

      Hello! That’s a good question. My experience has been positive so far. I’ve noticed that people in the game industry are incredibly helpful and will often go out their way to help others. I have also emailed several women in the industry that I never met in person and not a single one ignored me. Pretty Amazing!! I have heard it hasn’t always been this friendly, and this is just my personal experience.

      Of course I can’t guarantee that they won’t face discrimination in any field as a woman or minority, so it’s tough to ease anxiety about it. We did focus on building a safe community in the classroom to talk about these subjects, build confidence, and raise awareness. Many of my students went on to pursue tech, join clubs they felt they didn’t ‘belong’ in, and start their own clubs. It can be hard at times, but all the obstacles they face make it that much better for women entering tech after them.

  • Emily, as a girl entering the games industry, your story is very inspiring for me! What got you interested in coding and what have been some of the hurdles you’ve faced thus far? Also, what made you decide to go back to school to learn tech art?

    • Emily Saliba

      Hi Lauren! Thank you for your question. I was actually attending Columbia College as a film student, but I always found math enjoyable. I took a programming class and knew I wanted to change my major right away. Some of the biggest hurdles were ones I didn’t realize until later. I was often afraid to ask questions. There’s this odd assumption that if you are a female programmer you must be amazing at all times. You can find a lot of articles about this. It’s part of learning process to fail frequently and to be terrible at a new skill. I didn’t allow myself to do that as much as I should have. That is one of the reasons I am learning technical art, it’s something I’ve always been interested in, but I never had the confidence to start.

  • June Alpaca

    Hi Emily,
    What is taught in girls that code? What language is taught? What type of programs. Do they apply to gaming or technology to prevent viruses from coming through? How long does it typically take to teach these types oh subjects?

    -Sarah

    • Emily Saliba

      Hello Sarah!
      The Summer Immersion Program covers topics like robotics, computer science concepts (algorithms, object oriented programming..etc), making art with code, storytelling, robotics, video games, web sites, and apps. There are multiple languages used throughout the summer, but the ones we used the most were Python, JavaScript, and web dev languages. We did have a unit on cybersecurity last summer and we talked about how viruses are created and transferred. It was really interesting! The summer program is seven weeks, but there is still a lot more to learn after that. I hope that answers your questions!

  • Quintin Alexander Puebla

    What’s the best advice that you give your students after they finish with Girls Who Code? Also, what are some of the ways that you think tech companies can achieve greater gender equality in the workplace?

    • Angela

      HI Quintin –
      I’m not Emily – and I hope that she will tackle this question as well – but I’ll hit the second part of your question – about building more diversity in tech companies. I think that it starts in grammar school. Teachers and parents should be encouraging students and children from all backgrounds that math, science, computers etc are COOL, and that they can be an amazing career for everyone. This is a exciting field that is constantly growing and changing, and new faces and ideas are always welcome. We in the current community also need to be willing and open to non-traditional skill sets and paths. We have to be looking outside the box, under it, around it, on top of it, and maybe a few boxes over to find the next generation of great programmers, designers, artists, etc.

      • Quintin Alexander Puebla

        Thank you Angela!

    • Emily Saliba

      Hi Quintin. Thank you for your questions. A lot of the advice a gave my students is a bit of an echo from my other answers. I would hope that after the program my students had confidence and motivation to do whatever they want their skills. I encouraged them to keep in touch with guest speakers they met in class, keep creating and enjoying their projects, and if there is anything they want to accomplish, to just do it. Computer science can be combined with any other discipline, so even if they don’t study CS, it will still help them. They were really a wonderful group of girls and I’m certain they will go amazing places.

      Your second question is a big one! I think Angela did an amazing job with it. It’s a tough problem, because it presents itself at many different times. Are there less women because of what they study in college? discrimination? a lack or interest? stereotypes pushing them away? all of the above and more? Probably. Girls Who Code aims to correct the first issue, as we see that many girls are interested in STEM and then there is a steep drop off in interest as they grow up, leading to only 4% of freshman girls interested. Girls Who Code is already changing this statistic. After that, it’s up to awesome companies like Insomniac to hire these women 🙂

      • Quintin Alexander Puebla

        Thanks Emily! Great answers!

  • Angela

    HI Everyone –
    It’s just about time to start- so we’ll kick it off with a welcome to Emily, and say how thrilled we are to have her joining us this month. Lots of great questions to answer – so let’s get going!
    Thanks -Angela

    • Emily Saliba

      Hello! Thank you so much for having me!

      • Kerri Zinkievich

        Thanks for joining us Emily!

  • Denise Winestock

    Hi Emily,
    I worked in software development in aerospace for my career (now retired) I have two teen (14 & 15) girls who love technology. Things are so different now, the software career choices so diverse, what advise Would you have to prepare them for the software industry today?
    Thanks

    • Kerri Zinkievich

      HI Denise, I know you’re asking Emily and I’m sure she’ll be happy to answer as well but I thought I’d throw some of my thoughts into the ring as well. First, it’s awesome that your girls are interested in the Tech field! So being a champion for them and providing that support and encouragement is a big deal. I think first, they should think about what it is about Tech that interests them. There are so many paths you can go down, Graphics, Programming/Engineering, Security, Design, Administration, Art/animation; Analysts and Web Developers, the list goes on and on. The industry seems to be more focusing on specialist now, so being a master of a field is definitely a good thing. There are some generalist roles still out there but more and more you see specialty roles popping up. So a good place to start is figuring out what it is they’d like to do. The next step is learning it. Whether that be through self teaching; going to college or simply getting a bunch of certifications under their belt, they obviously need to build their skill sets. After they’ve gained some skills, getting involved in and practicing their craft is key to showing off the work they are able to do. Weather that is doing projects in school, volunteering in the field with others or writing programs their own and building some type of portfolio/reel/demo/webpage that they can show off to potential employers is always helpful. Also, attending industry conferences/job fairs/networking opportunities are great to get to meet others in the field, ask questions and learn more about what interests them. Those are just some of the things that come to mind and I hope it helps to answer your question.

    • Emily Saliba

      Hi Denise!
      Well, one thing that will really help them get them into tech is that they have you as a role model and example of a woman and tech! That’s awesome!

      I would definitely agree with what Kerri is saying. That is one of the major reasons I am furthering my education and learning some technical art skills. You’d think that a Game Programming BSc is pretty specific, but it can be narrowed down even further! Crazy.

      Of course, they are at the age that Girls Who Code opens their Summer Immersion Program applications to. Since GWC covers so many topics, this is a great place for them to think about where they’d like to go next. Maybe they want to go into medicine and work on robotics, maybe they love art and want to combine that with code 🙂

      And most of all, the more people they meet and talk to in fields they are curious about, the better off they will be in the future. There are probably clubs in your area they can join and find events and professionals that way. Hope this helps!

  • Angela

    It’s getting very close to the end of our time with Emily today, but I’m hoping that she will answer one more question- from me! Hoping that she can share a bit about who (if anyone) encouraged her to pursue a career in tech and how that helped?

    • Emily Saliba

      Hi Angela, I’d be happy to answer this!

      There have been many people over the years that have given my nudges and encouragement that led me here. I have a mom and other relatives in tech, and I have an aunt that has always worked for non-profit organizations. I was always interested in art the most growing up, and I never thought I would end up studying programming! I took a programming class with an amazing teacher and changed my major. Lately, I have had the amazing experience of finding women in the game industry that provide me with advice, encouragement, critiques, and more connections.

      So really what this means is it took a lot of different people at different times in my life. I’m incredibly grateful for those who did that for me and it’s why I also want to do it for others.

  • Kerri Zinkievich

    Thanks Emily for taking some time to answer questions and thank you to everyone who joined us, we hope you enjoyed the conversations! Until next month 🙂

    • Emily Saliba

      Hi Kerri! Thanks so much!

  • Emily Saliba

    Thank you everyone for your awesome questions! I hope I was able to answer them for you. If anyone has any further questions, feel free to contact me 🙂

  • Aaron Frawley

    Are you guys making a new spyro game?