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GDC Speaker Q&A: King's Sabrina Carmona wants more women in game dev leadership

The game industry has long had a problem with diversity and inclusion.

Year after year, research shows men dominate the industry, especially in leadership roles; many are working hard to change that, including game maker Sabrina Carmona.

Carmona has built herself an intriguing career that winds from Brazil to Mexico to Chile to Germany to Sweden and now to London, where she serves as a senior producer at King.

Along the way she learned a great deal about the value of having inclusive teams led by diverse leadership, and now she's coming to GDC 2020 next month to share her learnings in a Production & Team Management track talk on "Diversify Your Kingdom: A Toolkit for More Women in Leadership."

It's a promising talk, one Carmona is well-equipped to deliver. Here, she opens up about how she's followed her passion for games around the world, and what she's learned about the ways in which "diverse" hires are expected to fit in with the culture of their employer, rather than capitalizing on their unique strengths to bring new value to their team.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your path into game development!

I am originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil and I started my life in the game industry by being one of the first people studying games to graduate at my university. From there, I wanted to deepen my knowledge in game development so I started my Master’s degree and eventually joined a start-up and began working as a producer.

Eventually, I opened up my own studio, where we focused on advergames and ventured into our own IPs for casual endless runners. It was one of the most interesting experiences in my career because I went from painting walls and making coffee to making deals with Blackberry, producing our titles, hiring and managing the studio – lucky for me I had some of the best people by my side and we managed to learn and accomplish loads together.

However, I was still very hungry for knowledge and new experiences, so I decided to leave Brazil and join Square Enix in one of their emerging offices in Mexico City, Mexico. I was one of their associate producers in publishing (yes, from CEO & co-founder to AP) and I learned loads about F2P and the mobile market. I was responsible for working with developers in Brazil and had three projects I was managing at the same time. It was super interesting to see Latin American developers building great games and growing in the international market.

One and a half years later I fulfilled one of my other dreams, which was working with console games. I moved to Santiago, Chile, and joined a company called Behaviour Interactive. We released two games, a SpongeBob title and a Snoopy title, and it was a great journey to work with IP holders and external publishers. I was on the other side of the table, being the producer running the development team, and we were able to not only release games but also port Unity to Nintendo 3DS and release in that platform. It was quite a ride and I am very thankful to be part of that as well.

Behaviour Interactive's SpongeBob HeroPants
From there, I finished my Latin American chapter and ventured to Europe, helped open one of the seven studios in Goodgame Studios in Hamburg, Germany and then eventually joined King, initially in Stockholm, Sweden and now finally in London, UK. My entire journey at King has been focused on new games; I started with midcore titles, moved to casual core and now I am part of the amazing Farm Heroes Saga family, which is one of our biggest titles at King and our second biggest franchise.

King's Farm Heroes Saga
I went from a small student to being one of the senior producers in the London office and I am very proud of my journey, since I was able to live and work with so many people from so many countries and cultures, with so many different goals and challenges. I can’t wait for what the future holds.

Nice! So what inspired you to pitch this talk for GDC 2020?

Well, honestly being a woman in leadership puts you in a very lonely position. We all know the importance of having a diverse team, however we need to keep pushing for diverse leadership.

As a gay Latin woman, I feel like we need to continue to push to make female leaders less lonely, less isolated and continue to be very vocal about the benefits of not only having women in leadership roles, but diversity in general. It has never been an easy journey to get where I am, and it takes a lot of resilience, willpower and courage to overcome all the obstacles and negativity around being different.

What do you think game makers could do to remove these kinds of obstacles and negativity in the workplace?

In my opinion, it has to do with initially understanding differences, or diversity for that matter.

We always hear companies say that they are looking for a culture fit where in my opinion they should be looking for a “cultural add”. If we keep looking to hire “diverse” people that “fit” into the norm of the workspace, then we are not really looking to diversify and add to the business, right?

Once that step is understood, retaining diverse employees is just as retaining any other employee: you connect to their motivations, you show them that there is a career path to be followed, you challenge them and you let them thrive because of their differences.

The key thing to understand is that being accepted for who you are is not something to look forward to anymore. That is the bare minimum. Everyone should look forward to succeed because of who they are. Game makers and everyone, really, need to make space and accept that people are different and they have different needs and motivations. And that’s okay – you can be different and still achieve great results. All we need to do is have some patience, learn from one another and also support one another.

What are you hoping your peers will get from your talk?

I hope to achieve two things: to get more diverse people to push for growing in their careers, and to go for leadership roles and to feel inspired to be themselves.

In addition, I hope that leaders in the industry understand the importance of having a diverse leadership team and strive to invest more in their employees’ growth and retention.

GDC 2020 runs from Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 20th. This will be the 34th edition of GDC, and if you're not already registered to attend organizers encourage you to take a look at the ever-expanding session schedule and your GDC pass options -- register early to lock in the best price!

For more details on GDC 2020 visit the show's official website, or subscribe to regular updates via FacebookTwitter, or RSS.


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