Womenize – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Renee Gittins, Executive Director at IGDA and CEO & Creative Director of Stumbling Cats. Read more about Renee in this interview:
Hi Renee, we’re happy to have you! The International Game Developers Association is the world’s largest nonprofit organization that strives to support and connect game creators from all over the world. Could you tell us a bit more about how the IGDA does that? And as its Executive Director, what is your mission?

The IGDA’s mission is to support and empower game developers around the world in achieving fulfilling and sustainable careers. We pursue that mission through knowledge, community, and advocacy. We are a source of knowledge for game developers to improve their skills and their understanding of our industry, hosting webinars, and producing white papers, research, and industry standards. Our community consists of over 100 local chapters across the globe and 35 Special Interest Groups that represent disciplines and affinity groups, from Game Writers and Game Designers to Women in Games, Blacks in Gaming and LGBTQ+. Finally, we act as a voice for developers and ensure our industry is putting its best foot forward in discussions that affect us. 

As the Executive Director, I help guide the organization to fulfill its mission and work with our Board, staff, and volunteers to tackle any challenges that stand in the way. Over the last year, we’ve rolled out many programs and events to support developers through these challenges times, including our COVID-19 Resources, Game Development Crisis Conference and Global Mentorship Program.

You’re also Creative Director and CEO of Stumbling Cat, a Seattle-based indie game studio. How did you end up working in games? Has it always been your dream profession?

I first fell in love with video games at the age of 4, but I did not realize I could be a game developer until I was 21 and graduating with my Engineering degree. I started my career in biotech while teaching myself programming on the side. Eventually, I was able to program simple games within the biotech field to perform cognitive ability tests on children and I worked on the side at an indie studio. From there I was able to grow my career by starting Stumbling Cat and beginning development of our game, “Potions: A Curious Tale“. 

“Potions” is an adventure-crafting game where  you play as a young witch named Luna who has recently discovered her ability to brew magical potions. She can use these potions as spells to battle monsters, solve puzzles, and overcome obstacles on her quest to become a Potions’ master. It is my hope that “Potions: A Curious Tale” and Luna can inspire future generations of women to pursue their dreams.

As a woman with lots of experience in being a leader, which advice would you give to other people in leadership positions on how to successfully improve diversity in their own team or company?

Diversity is so important. A team that is diverse and inclusive will tackle problems more effectively and create content that will be enjoyed by a wider audience. Diversity among employees takes an active strategy to counteract innate biases and help employees overcome barriers, and it takes empathy. 

You must consider what a candidate will experience in their path to becoming an employee and beyond – the job posting, a review of your company’s public image, the interview panel, the onboarding process, and the support they receive while working in the position. Each of these points has a potential for unconscious bias to work against candidates and requires active consideration to counter. 

Retention of talent, especially diverse talent, is just as important as recruitment of that talent. Developing support channels is a great way to help retain talent. Most employees are looking to grow their skills and knowledge. For example, a mentoring program that pairs all employees with mentors and regularly scheduled mentorship sessions will both improve an employee’s growth and their desire to stay with the company.    

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Renee!

Renee’s Links: TwitterIGDA“Potions” on Steam

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Jessica Hackenbroch