Aline Krebs featured

Inspirational Woman: Aline Krebs | Game Artist, Voodoo

Aline KrebsAline is a 2D/3D Game Artist for Voodoo Berlin, where she creates concept art and both in-game and production assets.

With a passion for 3D environments and all things colourful, Aline has produced artwork for mobile games such as City of Love: Paris and Partouche Casino Games, alongside working as the solo artist for Steam and Switch game BAFL - Brakes Are For Losers. After being introduced to video games by her parents at a young age, Aline made the decision to enter the games industry as a teenager, teaching herself the skills she needed before securing a diploma in graphic design and attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media.

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

I’ve been working in the video games industry for about four years now, and I love it. I'm currently a 2D/3D Game Artist for hyper casual mobile games developer Voodoo, working on their current and upcoming mobile games. My role is pretty diverse; I create 2D art to help the team conceptualise an idea, alongside developing 3D art that will be included in the final game.

Before joining Voodoo I created and ran my own business, Homecoming Studio, with my partner, where I worked as an outsourcer on multiple projects from video games to classic graphic design work.

It was my parents, my father in particular, who encouraged me to follow my dreams and find a career that I loved. He wanted me to have the choice of career that he didn’t have, and he’s been incredibly supportive of my decision to enter the video game industry.

I’ve always had a passion for video games, drawing and DIY in general, and I'm happiest when I’m creating something. That can either be something I’ve made on my computer or on paper

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew I wanted to work in the video games industry as an artist. I remember being 14 and having an appointment with a guidance counselor when I was in middle school. She helped me decide what I wanted to do during high school, and that set me on the path I’m on now.

When I got to high school, my teachers unfortunately didn’t really know enough about video games to be able to help me too much, but I didn’t let that stop me. I knew I wanted to work with video games so I worked towards a diploma in graphic design and taught myself some additional skills, before attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media. 

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

I faced my biggest challenges while running Homecoming Studio. I was mostly unknown to the industry, so it was a constant challenge finding clients to work with. The journey to making Homecoming Studio successful was a long one, and sometimes I had no projects on the table and therefore no money coming in.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I wanted to give up on several occasions because I lacked the confidence in my own skills and abilities. But in one final bid to find success, I set myself the challenge of learning a new skill, and not long after this, I secured my current role with Voodoo.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Definitely joining Voodoo about a year ago. The studio lead, Sophie Vo, had seen my profile and portfolio on the Women in Games France website, and contacted me directly on LinkedIn asking me to join a new team they were building in Berlin. It was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t turn down, but at the same time it was quite scary.

I was born and raised in the south of France, and the role with Voodoo was in Berlin. I didn’t know anything about the city or the German culture, and I’d never worked in an international environment, so it was a big challenge.

The difference in language and culture was something I also needed to overcome, and with the pandemic I had to get to know my colleagues online, which was a new experience for everyone. In an office environment you get social cues from body language and can talk more directly to people, but all those things are removed in a virtual environment so you need to communicate differently and, as an introvert, it can be even more challenging to be vocal.

One of the things that helped us get to know each other better was setting up a Discord server. We used this to talk to each other throughout the working day, as well as using it for things like cheese tastings and, of course, gaming sessions. This really helped with the language barrier too, as having regular conversations on Discord helped with picking up slang and other intricacies of the language so I could communicate better with my colleagues.

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

I’ve been really resilient and never gave up, even when things were really hard and quitting felt like the only option.

Facing adversity, it can be tough to face reality and move forward. There was a long period where I didn't have a paid job, but during those times I always worked on improving my skills and remaining optimistic.

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

Always follow your dreams. If you think you have something to offer the industry, do whatever you can to be a part of it. It can be exhausting and challenging, but follow your heart and you will make it.

Don't pay attention to those who say you are not good enough either, because it's simply not true. Understanding your value as a person is incredibly powerful, and will give you the much needed resilience in what can be an incredibly tough industry.

Also, make sure you’re constantly networking. Connect with people in the industry, champion your work and share your tips. Be a part of events and meet new people.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There has been progress, but there’s always room for improvement.

The first thing I want to see more of is female role models in the industry. There are plenty of success stories from men, but similar profiles of women are much less prominent. One of my role models is definitely Audrey Leprince. She runs her own company, The Game Bakers, and she created the Women in Games France branch with Julie Chalmette. Jessica Rossier, founder of WARDENLIGHT Studio, is also an inspiration to me, particularly when I was running my own company.

It's also really important to educate people. It may be a male dominated industry, but there’s plenty of room for women too. Just because women are a minority right now, that doesn’t mean our ideas are less valuable. In fact, bringing more diverse ideas into the industry will lead to more diverse technology and products, reaching a much wider audience. You need to make games for the audience, not just for yourself, and that includes women.

There’s also a mentality that’s still ingrained in society that just because you’re a woman, you deserve less. That’s simply not true, and we need to keep fighting to make sure our voices are heard.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

It’s simple; trust women. It's really important to encourage women when they take initiative, and also let them speak. I still see a lot of women, myself included, who stay quiet during meetings because it can be difficult to share ideas in a masculine environment. It's so important to encourage them to take the rightful place they deserve.

There is currently only 17 per cent 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?

Introduce more role models. By showing off the stories of successful women in the tech industry, younger women will realise that the industry is open to them and they will be more inclined to work in it. When you have relatable role models, you stop seeing that invisible barrier to entry and you see the diversity the industry has to offer.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Try to attend as many networking events related to your area of expertise as possible. Many of these events will be online right now, but a good place to start from a broader industry perspective would be somewhere like the Game Developers Conference or the Women in Games conference. For those looking to go down a more artistic route, like myself, make sure you’re meeting people who do something similar. Share ideas and get inspiration from the work of those already working in the industry.

I also strongly recommend reading Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play, a book about awesome women who work in the video game industry. The No Clip YouTube channel is also a great source of documentaries all about the video games industry.


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Rachel Grigg featured

Inspirational Woman: Rachel Grigg | Co-Founder & Managing Director, Voodoo Park

 

Rachel Grigg is Co-Founder and Managing Director of digital agency Voodoo Park.

She works closely with the CEO and CTO to direct the company’s creative vision, strategy and growth.

Rachel Grigg

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

When it comes to tech I’m entirely self-taught, having initially started out in the arts. Although it didn’t take me long to realise that tech was my thing. My first job in the sector was at a small company analysing text messaging. Over the years I worked my way up the ranks, via a series of roles – account manager, marketing manager, innovation manager. I was at Vodafone, initially in the (at the time entirely new) internet services team, where we worked on the first ever iPhone launch.

That was awhile ago! There were lots of firsts, I helped create the first ever data bundles and launched netbooks and mobile broadband dongles into the consumer market . I’ve been working in digital for 15 years now, so I got to experience the digital revolution from the inside, particularly in relation to mobile. Voodoo Park is my second MD role. I’m working on our expansion, strategy and innovation. It’s all about understanding our brand, looking at who we are in the market, and ensuring we expand in a grown-up and sustainable way for both ourselves and our partners.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, never! I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist, that was my first specialism. But when it came down to it I was always most interested in the tech aspects of it, for example the newest camera or latest imaging equipment. Archaeology involved some great technology, but stuff like that was slow to develop in that sector, which I found frustrating. So, I drifted into my first tech role, the SMS job, and immediately found it fun and exciting. But truthfully, I fell into that, there was no plan. I just knew I liked tech. That’s how it often is with genuine passions, it always pays to follow your instincts.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, lots and lots! I think working in tech and digital companies constantly challenges in multiple ways every day. I became an expert in technical delivery. That involves one challenge after another because new digital things will inevitably go wrong when they first launch. You’re working for high profile customers that want everything yesterday, and you have to make sure your crew stay motivated, enough to get them through the long hours that project delivery involves. In those situations, team morale is so important.

Staying directly involved in all aspects of a project is the best way to overcome those types of challenges. Of course, being a woman in the sector brings its own challenges, starting with often being the only woman in the room. I am finding my challenges are becoming fewer in terms of customer delivery, and are now morphing into business challenges. At Voodoo park we are passionate about ensuring we have as diverse a culture as we can in order to challenge our way of thinking and challenge the way the world has been run in business for as long as anyone can remember.

Do you have a typical workday? How does your start your day and how does it end?

The only real constant is getting up and getting my two boys off to nursery! After that I’ll probably come home, have a cup of tea and write out my to do list, cross-checking it against the day before. I love a good list! Then a daily call with the team, at Voodoo Park we’ve really embraced remote working. This means constantly exploring new ways to stay in touch with each other. Then I’ll work my way through my list, I seem to be making lots of calls at the moment. I am working a lot on strategy, so a chunk of my day consists of doing quite a bit of good old fashioned thinking.

I also make sure I take my YooDoo Time, this is for all our guys to take two hours a week in work time to do something to improve their mental health or physical well being. I close off my day speaking to the team, getting the boys and then chilling out with them before bath time. I go into London for meetings a few times a week, but mainly I’m based at home, which massively suits my lifestyle. I think giving people that kind of flexibility empowers them, which in turn leaves them motivated to work. At Voodoo Park we really encourage it, and find it works really well for us as a business.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I’m a big fan of it. It’s a really positive thing to help people to develop and when done right both sides get so much out of it. I do think it’s important that the people are well matched though, otherwise it’s not mutually beneficial. I’ve had a couple of mentors over the years, one of whom was a very senior guy at Vodafone, and personality wise we matched perfectly. It was quite early on in my career and he was absolutely brilliant. However, sometimes it can be more about them than you, and that can be difficult. I have unofficially mentored others in the past, and we’re in the process of kicking off a mentoring scheme ourselves with the STEMettes organisation.

How do you think we can encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

It’s such a difficult problem to solve. There is a lot of work on this going on right now, it’s a big discussion point, which is obviously great to see. We need to focus on making girls know it’s accessible to them, and requires a perception shift. It’s not something that is going to change overnight, regardless of how much effort we all put in. Women and girls need to be given the confidence to give it a go and not worry about initial failures, the very nature of the sector is all about testing hypotheses. For that to happen we need to change how we teach in schools, and sometimes even how we’re raising our girls. Encouragement, access, and raising awareness all have a vital role to play, but real change is going to take time. At Vodafone all the buildings are named after inspirational tech figures, and just recently they changed some to be named after women for the first time. That’s a massive sign of change and it was great to see.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

From a personal point of view (and I do of course understand this doesn’t apply to everyone), but for women that have chosen to have a family and go back full time, flexible working really is the most important thing. Many women really want to continue their careers but a lack of flexible options hold them back. We need to create environments that help them to feel free to return to the workplace, in a way that works for them. This applies to men as well, it’s an issue for families in general. Help with childcare would of course also have a big impact.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My current role. I’ve worked on some amazing product launches and deals in the past, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter before anyone had heard of them, but my current role has enabled me to realise what I’m capable of helping a business to achieve. I have definitely been pigeon-holed in the past and as a result been frustrated and made mistakes. But I have learnt from them and I am now able to now push Voodoo Park forward, helping us all to achieve our goals, utilising all my experience and referring to all the challenges I’ve overcome, it’s a really rewarding experience. I feel like it’s an achievement to have got where I am. The way Voodoo Park genuinely embraces women in tech, and give me so much genuine autonomy, rather than paying lip service to it, are more things to be proud of.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’d like to help more businesses to reach their potential. And more women. Personally, I genuinely feel like I’m reaching my own potential now, and I’d love to encourage others to do the same. My dream would be to move into an advisory role, for companies specifically and women more generally. I still learn new things every day, and looking at ways to harness the knowledge you accumulate to help others is always rewarding. For now, I’m focused on making Voodoo Park a big success story. Then I can convey how we did it to others. Failing all that I’d settle for running a B&B in the French countryside, cooking up a storm with my own wine cellar!