Rachel Clancy Rachel left her job as an advertising art director to develop a game she has made called ‘Get Closer’, where players open dialogue with a forest creature who needs their help.

The game teaches young people how to talk about emotions and support themselves and others through mental health issues.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Rachel Clancy and I am a game designer and mental health advocate. In 2019 I received the Sky Women In Tech Scholarship to set up an independent game design studio with my partner Aida Sancho-Lopez. Tea Creature Studios is an indie game company that publishes educational mobile games tackling themes of mental health and emotional literacy. We are currently developing our first commercial product, an interactive narrative game called A Hero’s Guide To Gardening.

How did you feel when you were chosen for Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship?

After the second round of interviews, I spent the days waiting and hoping to hear good news from Sky. The review process took about a month and by the end I was trying to console myself that it hadn’t happened for us. So when I got the call from Nishy Lall (Head of Young People at Sky) I was just stunned for a few hours after convincing myself I didn’t get it! I’m so proud to have been chosen by Sky, it’s such a powerful endorsement of our work to have their support. They’ve been a household name I grew up with and it’s amazing to be able to tell people I’m working with the leading media and entertainment company in Europe.

What has happened since you won the scholarship? How has the initiative helped?

The funding has been a huge part of it. When I applied for the Scholarship I had to present off a laptop with a cracked screen and no letter H on the keyboard because I couldn’t afford to replace it! We’ve used the £25,000 to purchase hardware (like a replacement laptop for me!), to pay for development software and licenses, and to bring new team mates on board to refine and develop the game. As well as financial support, Sky has provided me with mentors and workshops in things like PR and communication training to equip us to promote and run our businesses. I’ve really benefited from this training – I’m quite a shy person so being able to work on my public speaking and presenting skills has greatly improved my confidence.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

When we look at the stats for young women considering a career in technology, the numbers are pretty disappointing. 20% of 16-18-year-old girls will be advised to consider a career in technology in comparison to 45% of boys. Almost half of girls (48%) aged 16 – 18 have discounted a career in technology compared to only a quarter (26%) of boys the same age. Sky started the Women In Tech scholarship as a way of addressing this gender imbalance, their aim is to create visible female role models in the tech sector so that young women can see themselves reflected in this industry. Another figure from research by Sky is that girls are three times more likely to think the technology sector is sexist than boys. I think the industry needs to take a critical look at itself and its practices to find out why young women feel this way, and use that as the basis for reform.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I’m a fan of the phrase “you make your own luck”. I know I work very hard and that definitely helps, but I also will take a shot at any interesting opportunity that comes my way, even if I feel like I might not be ready for it yet. I’ve been turned down for way more jobs and funding opportunities than I’ve ever received them, but I kept going and tried to learn something from every rejection. I think something that can happen to talented people is that they get knocked back and they take it as an indication of their value – rather than a bit of bad luck on the day. Two more useful sayings – You miss all the shots you don’t take and hard work trumps talent.

Have you faced any personal battles? How did you overcome them?

The biggest ongoing challenge I currently face is balancing my job with developing our game. I think a lot of independent game designers go through this experience where they still need their day job to support the launch of their first project. It’s extremely demanding, I work as an advertising creative during the week and I develop Hero’s Guide with Aida over the weekend. At first we had to learn how to manage our workload and our stress levels, some weeks are more taxing than others. Now we have a better sense of our needs for breaks and taking a rest. We’ve realised we don’t do good work when we’re burnt out and so we will make time for getting out of the house or going on dates to make sure we have energy to keep going.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I think getting connected with different communities in tech was really helpful for me. There is an organisation called Code Liberation and they offer free coding lessons to female identifying/non binary people and they’ve been a great support network ever since. There are networking groups like Ada’s List for female tech executives/professionals who we’ve tapped into while we were looking to hire a developer for Hero’s Guide. There are specific groups for game designers, for women in games, for LGBT technologists, both online and as meetup groups, and I’ve found them really helpful for getting advice and support with our project.