Pathfinding: Using business skills to find great games
Gricelda Hernandez explains how her love of helping small businesses grow eventually led to a role in ID@Xbox.
For some, the journey into the games industry takes years of persistence and career building in another field before networking and passion lands them that job in gaming. This month, we're featuring the stories of Xbox employees that started their careers in Retail and explore how they transitioned into their current roles in Xbox. Previously, we met Albert Dankwa III, a Content Program Manager for Xbox Support and Chris Douglas, a Business Program Manager for Xbox Game Studios (XGS) Game Camp. Today, we're happy to share the journey of Gricelda Hernandez, a Business Manager for ID@Xbox.
Gricelda grew up with strong women in her family and says her Aunt Paula was her role model for what it means to work your heart out. Gricelda's first job was cleaning houses alongside her aunt, and she developed a strong work ethic at a young age. From there, she had a series of retail jobs and reflects "it took me a long time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do." Gricelda did take some classes after high school in nursing for pediatric oncology and radiation therapy, but she quickly realized her heart could not take working in that field. With that in mind, she switched her focus to business, but soon did not have the money to continue her post-secondary education.
Gricelda continued working in retail and eventually applied at a Microsoft retail store in 2015. "I didn't really think about it. I didn't know anything about Microsoft except that I love Xbox," she remembers. "I had that one job at GameStop that I feel like all game lovers in retail had, but that was only a few hours a week. When they asked me what I loved about Microsoft my response was 'I love Xbox, I love gaming – it has brought me some of my closest friends.' But when they asked me what I thought about Surface I didn't even know what they were talking about. They still gave me the job."
Starting off at the Microsoft retail store in Las Vegas as a part-time Product Advisor, Gricelda found that it gave her the opportunity to be curious and explore other products and services that weren't as familiar to her. She gravitated towards community projects and hosted events, workshops, and other initiatives, including a 24-hour livestream in which everyone brought games to play for an Extra Life charity event.
Seeing her potential, the Business Sales Specialist, David Schmall, brought her into the SMB (Small and Medium Business) area as a Business Captain. "What I loved about working in business was the unique opportunity to take a small company and give them the necessary tools, resources, hardware, and software to become the become the company they aspire to be," Gricelda says. "It was super inspiring and from there I really got into business."
Soon, Gricelda transferred to Philadelphia and became a Business Expert, a new role that acted as business supervisor ensuring the store was driving SMB and EDU (education) sales. From there, she was offered a career experience in which she worked at the Microsoft Corporate offices in Redmond on a three-month project creating learning courses for a new Dynamics 365 solution. "I had to take a solution that was new, that no one could explain except for the engineers, and simplify it so everyone in the retail stores could learn it," she explains. "I built out the learning timeline, when we could start selling the product, and when we should expect to see revenue." Just before the career experience ended, Gricelda was offered a Business Sales Specialist role in Atlanta, where she relocated for almost two years. She revamped their book of business, taught the team how to have business conversations with confidence, and led the store to be one of the top cloud sales performers.
From there, she made the transition to a corporate role in Worldwide Learning as a Program Manager for role-based compliance. She moved to Seattle, and within a week all the offices closed because of Covid. Despite the sudden change to working from home, Gricelda says she "got to learn about the differences between retail and corporate, while also creating initiatives and looking at what it really means to be diverse and inclusive across cultures, ethnicities, and abilities. Coming from a retail background allowed me to bring a new perspective and helped improve the courses we created."
During Gricelda's time in Atlanta, she had applied for a job at ID@Xbox. Though she didn't get the role because of her gap in knowledge on independent game developers, she stayed in touch with members of the team and found mentors that could help her better understand how the team looks at games and works with developers. She also learned as much as she could on her own as an Xbox consumer. When another ID@Xbox job was posted, Gricelda was still nervous about her limited game dev experience, but she talked with her mentors about the new role and applied a second time. She remembers being surprised she got the job "because I still did not have experience working with independent game developers, or really any developers. I had a very intense business background but working in Xbox was my dream since that first Microsoft interview in 2015."
What a Business Manager does
As the Business Manager for the Content Curation and Partner Program team, Gricelda manages the deal and title process and budgets, and leads a new CRM initiative. One of her job functions is to find new, great games for Xbox. Gricelda, along with many others, brings candidates to a weekly team meeting where they review game trailers, pitches from studios, and share impressions. Both Xbox and non-Xbox employees are included so that the team can get a wide variety of perspectives. From this meeting, Gricelda manages the initial deal process before games are handed over to partner teams, including Game Pass. Another one of her responsibilities is to have a deep understanding of the various initiatives and developer programs across Xbox, like Game Pass, so she can represent them in team discussions and help match games to the right opportunity.
Gricelda also leads a process improvement project to move most of the ID@Xbox processes to Dynamics CRM. Gricelda says, "CRM will be a new perspective for ID@Xbox. It will help us gain new insights and create a process that allows our teams to work together outside of email to increase productivity."
Quotes from Gricelda
On finding new games for Xbox:
"I approach finding new, great games for Xbox in several ways. I recently attended the BIG (Best International Games) Festival in Brazil where I spoke with different independent developers to find potential games for Xbox. I scroll around on social media and review videos and game demos on Steam and Facebook groups for underrepresented people. I'm always looking for unique games across studios of all sizes."
On moving across the country:
"Moving around was definitely a big factor in growing my experience and advancing my career. It also gave me the opportunity to understand different sides of culture. I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I'm Afro Latina – my mother's side is from El Salvador and my father's side is from Mississippi, but I only knew about growing up in Vegas. Moving to other states gave me the ability to understand more about other cultures and even my own culture. I learned about the various store cultures and how to work with all types of people. Then moving to corporate I got to experience working on different Microsoft teams and large-scale projects."
On college degrees:
"Getting this far in corporate without a degree really speaks volumes. I still mentor people in retail and they always say seeing someone who does not have a degree get as far as I have at Microsoft means a lot to them. I often feel intimidated being in groups where everyone has a college degree, but I'm the type of person that will message someone to ask them how they did something or find a mentor to help me learn new skills. I'm always curious and reading or watching YouTube. I continue to be inspired by my grandmother and Aunt Paula, where no matter what life gave them, they figured out what they needed to do, and they pushed for it. I followed that drive and ambition by learning everything I could, even without college.
Now that I've been working in corporate for a couple years, I felt it was the right time to use Microsoft's tuition reimbursement program and return to school. I don't feel like this is something I had to do, but I want to show myself, my sisters Yuli and Jena, and my younger cousins that the life we were dealt is not the life we have to live – we can aspire to do more. I'm the first generation that had an opportunity to go to school, so I want to learn as much as I can, and for me right now that includes earning an online degree."
Gricelda remembers sitting in the living room at the age of 8 with her cousin Anthony, playing Crash Bandicoot on his PlayStation One and getting so competitive and loud playing Mario games on Super Nintendo. She says hanging out with cousins and playing video games was the best escape from a sometimes difficult childhood. Gricelda loved traveling to different worlds, acting as other characters, and forgetting what was going on in her life. As she got older, gaming brought her incredible friends, many of whom she still talks to daily. She's even godmother to the daughter of one of the friends she met on Twitch.
Gricelda plays almost any horror game that comes out, even though she says, "I am an absolute chicken and I set myself up to be scared. I play horror games at night with red lights and when my cat meows at the wall for no reason it makes it worse." Some of her favorite recent horror games are Frightence and Madison. Madison scared her so much that Gricelda says, "my sisters and I were playing it from the kitchen because the living room felt too close to the TV."
Gricelda's all-time favorite games series are Bioshock and Ori. Her family loves Bioshock so much that she and her sisters got splicer mask tattoos together. Gricelda also has Ori and Naru tattoos.