Pathfinding: Career Advice from Women in Game Marketing
A new blog series called Pathfinding, highlighting a diverse set of people across many disciplines.
I'm Allison Bokone, Director of Creator Research in the Gaming Ecosystems Organization. I spend my days meeting with game creators and industry experts to learn more about their experiences and help to tell the stories behind the games they make. I am constantly amazed by their creativity, their belief in games as a positive force in the world, and their passion that has inspired so many others to find their own unique path into gaming.
I've worked at Xbox for the past decade, but I've been at Microsoft for over 16 years. I've been through multiple company transformations, and whether it's time of success or times of struggle, I have been encouraged by how we have listened and learned from these moments. Though progress sometimes seems slow, I have seen the dedication that so many have put into improving our culture and increasing our diversity – both within Microsoft and in the broader gaming community.
I want to contribute to making games an even better place to work by celebrating the people I meet in a new blog series called: Pathfinding. This series will highlight a diverse set of people, across many disciplines, that contribute to a variety of games. It will feature career advice, industry tips, and personal stories of journeys in gaming, in the hope that you will be inspired to pursue your own dreams and find your path into the games industry.
As we come to the end of Women's History Month in the US, UK, and Australia, I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase and facilitate unique opportunities for women in gaming during the month of March. As part of the Microsoft Women in Gaming employee resource group, I met many new co-workers and learned about their careers during Women's History Month events. This blog features career advice from four women in Marketing: Jenn Panattoni (Senior Product Marketing Manager), Naxla Mina Sayeg (Gaming Marketing Lead), Julie Lowe (Head of Social Impact at Xbox), and Maxi Graeff (Senior Retail Partner Service Executive).
Jenn Panattoni, Head of Social Impact at Xbox, United States
Create your own role
Do what makes you happy, and if your current role isn't the best fit, find elements of it that bring you fulfillment and help you grow. If you don't see a role that matches your goals, and you have identified a gap that you can fill, go after it.
Pitch decks are incredibly important, but the first step is to see a business need. The justification should be more than "other companies are all creating this role" and instead focus on improving your business, backed by data. For example, there are a (specific) large number of customers on social asking us to help them engage right now and we need someone dedicated to meeting that need.
Once you have that data and business need articulated in your pitch deck, talk to leadership and get buy in not just from your team, but from other business leaders and stakeholders. Get their perspective and feedback to gauge the attitude of the business and partner with them to socialize your idea. There's no guarantee someone will say yes and there's no guarantee they will say no. Even if they say no that doesn't mean every door is closed, it just means one door is closed and another door has opened. You must be persistent and stay agile.
When you're creating a new role, you are only one person, but there are so many other people who may have thought about doing something similar. Leverage this broader collective of teams to help support you in doing this work. And remember, your mental health is important, your bandwidth is important. There will always be time to do work tomorrow. If you are not your best self and not taking time for yourself, you won't be able to help others. Keeping this in mind allows me to not only share the joy of gaming with underrepresented communities, but also enable them to make a positive impact on the world.
Naxla Mina Sayeg, Gaming Marketing Lead, LATAM
Change is the only career constant
When I started 20 years ago, there were only three women working on the games industry – two of them were in media and I was the PR for PC gaming with Microsoft Games. No one took my work seriously, and that was difficult. The amazing people at Microsoft changed that. They empowered me to work alongside industry players and every year we had more women doing different jobs, working in the team and in marketing, and the diversity of the industry continued to grow. I have been very lucky being able to work with incredible people at Microsoft that elevated women in the LATAM region.
That cultural shift around how we view women in PR and Marketing was just one of the changes I've experienced. Change has been the only constant I see in the industry, and you have to be ready for it. Change can be hard, and in your mind you might have a plan that says I want to go here, but then opportunities are leading you to something different. Of course, you must have your career plan and a vision of where you want to go, but sometimes you have to take opportunities as they knock on your door and see where they will take you.
At the beginning, I never thought about being a gaming marketing lead, but I started challenging myself with additional responsibilities and focused on developing the talent I had, and that's where I am now. I also learned that to move forward in your career you need to invest in those around you. If you don't help people develop and grow, you are depriving yourself of the chance to learn from them as well. It's very important that in your planning and career growth, you dedicate time to helping others. You'll be surprised how much you grow during that process as well.
I am still learning and changing the way that I work, and now that I am leading a team, I see that teamwork is the key to success. If you are trying to achieve all by yourself, you won't get far, but by supporting and coaching each other through change we can all succeed and grow our careers.
Julie Lowe, Director of Marcom, Xbox Integrated Marketing, Worldwide
Prior to Xbox, I changed jobs every two to three years out of boredom and lack of challenge. For the last 10 years, what keeps me here at Xbox is that it's a place where people can take creative chances. I can reinvent what I am doing every year, working on different games with different studios. I'm able to learn each day and take on a variety of challenges every single year.
Today, I can look back and say that there was never a year when I did the same thing twice, and while not all risks were successful, each one was valuable. My role is like having a new job where I continue to learn and grow, but it's a new job where I already know the players. It's always different and exciting and challenging, and for me that is such a gift. At Xbox, we get to be storytellers. If you love storytelling, I cannot think of a better job than working here. The stories are always changing, and you have this unique ability to keep reimagining your career while retaining the equity that you've built over the years, and that's a really powerful thing.
Know your value and acknowledge yourself. Be bold about it. When you get criticism or feedback, have the humility to learn from it, but don't let teaching moments quash your self-advocacy. Nobody knows your worth as well as you do. Lean into the other women in your career, elevate each other, and raise each other's voices.
Maxi Graeff, Integrated Marketing Lead Xbox for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
You don't have to be a gamer to join the industry
When you start out in the industry apply for the jobs you want even if you think you can only do 30% of the job description. The job descriptions don't always cover the entire set of responsibilities and things may change as the business evolves. You can grow, learn in your role, and do so much – you rarely need to know everything on day one.
If you are a woman in gaming or games journalism and facing public criticism, you can feel you have to do 150%. I felt pressure to know every game – both the gameplay and engineering details – so that no one would ever question my expertise. These expectations made me feel like I had to be perfect to be taken seriously, which further increased my fear of failure.
Over time I learned that this is not true. Bold ideas that sometimes lead to failure are what drives innovation, and I realized it's ok to fail if you learn from the experience. As the culture in gaming began to change, I started meeting more women and becoming more comfortable with my place in gaming, and my fear of failure decreased. This industry is diverse, and we need diverse people to fill a variety of roles. You can enter the industry and you don't have to know every game or even play games daily to add value to your team. You belong here.
Reflecting on my 6.5 years at Microsoft I especially appreciate the allyship culture. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I could see myself in a leadership position, I would probably have said no. I grew up hiding my fears, but I've since learned that sharing my fears with a supportive community can help so much. Especially meeting with other women in gaming and talking through challenges improves my mental health. If you haven't already, find the people you are comfortable talking with, share your highs and lows, and support each other and then: Be Bold without fear of failure!