Rachel ClancyRachel 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.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always wanted a creative job. I knew I wanted to go to the art college in Limerick, and I guessed that studying graphic design was a good bet for being able to find a job afterwards. After I graduated I found myself in art direction after I moved to Boston in 2014. I think the company gave me the job because coming from Europe made me sound fancy and sophisticated. I grew up with video games but I never considered making them, I was pretty bad with maths and thought programming might be out of reach for me. Thankfully, moving to London and getting involved with Code Liberation opened up those possibilities for me.

Designing games is an amazing intersection of so many different creative practices. I’m able to draw on what I’ve learned in my creative career and still keep learning new disciplines.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

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 has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being awarded the Sky Women In Tech scholarship was a huge achievement that I share with Aida. This is a project that is hugely meaningful to us both, we are passionate mental health advocates and being able to make a game on this subject together is our dream collaboration. To be chosen by Sky was such a wonderful endorsement of our work, I am so grateful they’ve given us this chance.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

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.

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.

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.

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