Blizzard Entertainment is sure keeping things busy this summer with some major events. Not only are they hosting the Overwatch Summer Games that is sure to heat up the battlefield from now until August 10th, but Blizzard has partnered with Girls Who Code, a program that is “on track to close the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030.”
Girls Who Code is a Summer Immersion program aimed at high school girls to set them up with the skills training and mentorship to head into the world of game design. Blizzard will be sharing their programming and 1:1 Mentors with students, ending the summer with a final game project.
As a mom—and a gamer— I am very excited about the project. I got the chance to sit down with a Senior Software Engineer on Overwatch, Julie Anne Brame, who has worked art Blizzard for six years. She gave me some great insight on the program and on what It’s like to be a woman working in the game design industry.
If you want to support Girls Who Code, you can do so here. Below is their mission statement, noting that they don’t just aim to support women in general, but all who are underrepresented in computer science fields. This includes low-income backgrounds, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ youth.
CGMagazine: First of all, tell us a little about who you are, and what the Girls Who Code program is.
Julie Anne Brame: I am a senior software engineer for Overwatch. I’ve been on the team for 3 years and prior to that was a senior software engineer for our in-game cinematics team. Before I came to Blizzard, I was a software engineer and VFX artist in feature animation for 15 years and graduated from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a degree in Computer Science and quickly pursued a career in the entertainment industry.
Girls Who Code is a program to reach out to younger generations and introduce them to different ways a wide variety of people are working in technology. We hope to inspire these girls to pursue a career in computer science and raise awareness on all the different avenues a computer science degree can lead you.
CGMagazine: As a mother and a gamer, I can see plenty of reasons that Girls Who Code is an extremely important program. What does it mean to you as a female software engineer?
Julie Anne Brame: This program is very important to me because I am also a mother and want my daughters to have every opportunity to pursue any career that inspires them. Frequently, in the jobs I’ve had over my career, I am the only woman on the team. This is sometimes an advantage and other times not. I would love for my girls to not have to even think about their gender when choosing majors or careers. Every girl should feel empowered to pursue a career in any field that inspires them and feel confident they have the same ability as everyone else to excel.
CGMagazine: How did you get involved in the Girls Who Code Program?
Julie Anne Brame: Blizzard has been a supporter of Girls Who Code for years and I happily have volunteered every year since the partnership started. If I can help any of these girls realize the amount of diversity that is in computer science, as well as the wide variety of ways to use a computer science degree (hello! Movies and games!), then I will feel successful. Giving these girls insight into the industry at an early age is an advantage I would have loved at their age, and I hope we can provide them that.
CGMagazine: What is the main goal from Blizzard in creating the program?
Julie Anne Brame: Blizzard is a huge supporter of diversity in the workplace. We believe that it’s critically important to represent the millions of players worldwide in our games, characters, and stories. Part of achieving that goal is to encourage diversity in our company to encourage growth, innovation, and inclusion. Girls Who Code is one of several initiatives Blizzard supports to help the many different dimensions of diversity within Blizzard and the industry.
CGMagazine: Have you personally faced any challenges being a female in the industry? Do you think that experience will help you when mentoring?
Julie Anne Brame: Unfortunately, I have faced a few challenges being a female in a technical role. I do not think it is industry-based as much as in the past women have been a rarity in computer science. I’d like to believe each woman programmer unravels that perception and proves why diversity in a workplace only makes it stronger.
CGMagazine: Were there any programs like this when you were in school?
Julie Anne Brame: When I was in high school I participated in a small program to help encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM, but nothing specifically for computer science was available. My pursuit of computer science was grit and determination to have a career in film and games.
CGMagazine: What do you hope the young women participating take away from the program?
Julie Anne Brame: I hope the girls take away that there are many different types of people in computer science, and all of these people have a wide variety of jobs. An interest in computers can open doors to a wide variety of careers.
CGMagazine: Out of anything, what is the most important thing you want people to know about Blizzard and Girls Who Code?
Julie Anne Brame: I am proud to work for Blizzard as it is an inclusive workplace and actively pursues supporting diversity initiatives. Focusing on encouraging everyone to speak up and contribute makes our games better as well as attracts talented employees and ends up making it a great place to work. I love that I have opportunities and am encouraged to participate in these initiatives.
CGMagazine: Any advice for young women looking to get into the industry?
Julie Anne Brame: My advice for young women looking to get in the industry is don’t give up, have faith in yourself, and hearing ‘no’ just means work harder and keep trying.