Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Lena Alter, our COO at Booster Space and Project Lead for Womenize!. Read more about Lena in this interview:
Hi Lena! You’re COO at Booster Space and project lead of well-known games industry events, such as gamesweekberlin, the VR NOW Awards and of course our very own Womenize! How did you develop your project management and leadership skills?

Hi Jessi, thanks for asking me and having me at the WWW. 🙂 I guess it’s a combination of learning by doing, experiences, some kind of intuition and demands I put on myself to develop myself in this way. 

When it comes to project management, you are in a role where you have to handle various timings, milestones and people. Of course it’s challenging, but over time you more and more get a feeling for it and know how to treat people in a way in which they can handle their deadlines and milestones. It is important to keep an overview here, to know how to improvise if needed and calm down if something does not run as planned.

As a leader I don’t believe in control, I believe in the potential of people. I guess the most challenging role of a leader is to find the right people for the right positions. For me, leaders can create a common ground between themselves and the people who they are guiding by asking themselves “How would I like to be treated by a leader?” and then acting accordingly. Of course everybody should ask themselves this question in any interpersonal relationship, that would make things a lot more easier, I think. This sounds like an easy thing, and I believe it is, but very few people do this when they are in a leading position and are responsible for people.

You’ve been organising events in the games industry for many years now. Which changes in regards to the general diversity of the industry have you noticed during that time?

Yes, for 7 years so far. I would love to see more changes and I’m tired of hearing “But a lot has changed in the last years” –  yes, maybe, but for sure not enough. Of course good things happened, like companies making sure to create diverse teams, because it’s been proved that diverse teams are more successful. The use of stereotypical characters in video games is getting more and more discussed and criticised, cases of assault and discrimination are discussed more openly and those affected dare to draw more attention to it, event organizers progressively make sure not to have just white males on stages, etc. I could add more positives things here, but I want to make clear that there is still a lot of discrimination taking place because of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation and so on – and every single case of that is one too much. We still got a lot to do here.

It is certainly not always easy to act without prejudice and everyone has to look at their own actions here so it is all the more important that you become aware of this and actively counteract those issues and act accordingly. No more backscratching and favouritism. No more “Thomas, Peter, etc.” principles anymore. ?

As COO, you are also responsible for building and developing the company’s team. What can people in leading positions do to improve diversity in their own team or company?

Be open minded and truly believe in the success of a more diverse team. Ask yourself why you want to choose the person for an open position – the answer “she or he reminds me of myself” is maybe not the best reason for your decision. Of course, leading a diverse team can be a more ambitious and more stressful task, the potential for conflicts can be higher, but for sure it’s worth it. It’s also a great chance for leaders to grow.

Make sure that the company profile is attractive for all kinds of people. Make sure that your job postings attract more than just one special group of people: yes, people have different views on that. Make sure that all people in your company feel comfortable at their workplaces. Some aspects of that can be to make sure that if they’ve got a problem, they feel free to let you know; encourage people if they need it, ask people how they feel and make sure that they know that you are always willing to listen to them.

Last but not least speak up! Speak up if you feel uncomfortable in a situation, speak up if you observe situations or people who treat other unfairly, speak up if you think a comment from a colleague is inappropriate or hurts you and if you, for different reasons, are not able to speak up, look for someone who can do this for you. And don’t listen to comments like “In our times, you no longer even know what is okay to say to a woman and what isn’t okay anymore.” or “Don’t be so sensitive/bitchy.”

There is still a noticeable lack of women in leading positions in our industry. Which advice would you give to someone who might feel discouraged to pursue a higher position in their career, maybe due to negative experiences in the past or internalised self-doubt?

Believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Why shouldn’t you? 

You should not doubt yourself and your abilities so much. Know your strengths and know how to use them and be aware of your weaknesses. It doesn’t always have to be 100% right from the start – the classic case is that women tend to apply only to job advertisements where they score all the points. There will always be situations that will not work out as planned or hoped, but there is always more than one person to be accounted for – it will never be due to you alone. There may be circumstances or persons who challenge you, who may force you to take a different path or even to take a few steps backwards, but you should not question yourself as a person and your abilities. Surely it needs a good self-reflection and a healthy self-assessment, but you should choose the opinions carefully you take into account and take yourself to heart. You should also listen to your inner voice, which may sometimes know the way or direction that is good for you before you do it.

Thank you for your time, Lena!

Lena’s Links: Lena’s LinkedIn | Booster Space Website | gamesweekberlin Website

WWW Feature by Jessica Hackenbroch