As part of Employability Month we asked ourselves, ‘how can we inspire our current students? How can we get them to dream big?’ Our questions took us back to our student days as we asked ‘What motivated US when we were studying?’, and it was stories and examples of how people just like us had gone on to do something really amazing. And so, we thought we’d do the same for you now! We came up with ‘Alumni Thursdays’ – each Thursdays over the next 4 weeks we’ll introduce you to one of our successful alumni, who not so long ago, walked in your shoes, but have now gone on to achieve their dreams.
This week we have Joanna Orland. Joanna is a pop culture addict whose love of computer games and music has led to her winning a top spot with Sony as their Senior Sound Designer. A 2003 graduate of the Audio Production MA, Joanna began her career in EA Criterion and her impressive back-catalogue includes the award-winning Wonderbook: Book of Spells, Diggs Nightcrawler, God of War 3 and demos for Project Morpheus. She has now had her contribution to the gaming world recognised after being named as one of the Top 100 Women in Games by MCV, the international video game industry’s leading magazine.
Here Joanna tells us how passion is at the heart of everything she does, about moonlighting as a pop-culture journalist and what women can bring to the table in the gaming industry.
What inspired your passion for audio, video games and all things media?
‘Being a child of the 80’s and growing up in Canada certainly had a huge impact on my passion for media and pop culture. My parents were very encouraging when they noticed my rapidly developing obsession with all things pop culture.’
‘Music was always being played whether it be in the car, on the stereo or on my Walkman which I owned from a young age. I particularly remember wearing out the tape that featured Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We were also early adopters of video games – I was utterly obsessed, owning dozens of games and many peripherals including the Power Pad and even the Power Glove! I haven’t looked back since.’
Congratulations on being named one of the Top 100 Women in Games by MCV. Is it fair to say that the games industry is male-dominated, and if so, what advice do you have for young women trying to break into such a competitive industry?
‘Thank you. It’s a great honour! Like many industries, the games industry is most certainly male-dominated. The best advice for women wanting to break into the industry is to be themselves and to produce good work. If the work is good and a person is skilled, employers will notice, so don’t be afraid to showcase your talent.’
‘While it’s always difficult to be a minority in any situation, being a woman in games can also be a huge asset in the industry, especially in a more creative discipline. The team will hire you for what you can bring to the project, and if your perspective is different to others on the team, whether it be because of gender or cultural differences, this can only be a positive thing. If you fit within the team dynamic, they will hire you for what you can bring and will not expect you to change to fit in.’
How did your MA in Audio Production at the University of Westminster help you shape your career?
‘When I attended the MA in Audio Production at the University of Westminster, I knew I wanted a career in audio, but I wasn’t quite sure of which field to focus on. I initially thought radio or music production would be the path that I took in audio, but after a specific sound design course assignment, I knew it was sound design rather than engineering that I wanted to focus on. I also thought I wanted to go into film sound design, as I wasn’t aware that game audio was even a possibility for me.’
Why is your work as a STEM Ambassador important?
‘My work as a STEM Ambassador is hugely important, especially as a woman in game audio. If someone had spoken to me when I was younger about a potential career in game audio, I wouldn’t have had to stumble upon it accidentally. It’s important to let young people know, especially young women, that this is a viable career option and to help them discover if it’s the right one for them. I’m trying to lead by example.’
Joanna’s story highlight how it is not always obvious what job you would end up doing, as you may not even realise that job is a possibility right now! If you’ve been inspired by her passion, why not come along to one of the Careers Fairs to find out more about the different kind of jobs that are out there? Or if you are feeling unsure about your own career path, why not book a Quick Query session with one of the Career Consultants by calling 02079115184, and start thinking about your future now.
Keep an eye out for next week’s ‘Alumni Thursday’, especially if you are interested in doing an MBA or interested in a career in business…!