Celebrating Mentors and Role Models

by Gautham Appaya on Mar 09, 2021

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, we honor the importance of mentors and role models in shaping professional pathways for women in the workplace. We caught up with some of our trailblazing women designers and artists to hear about the people in their lives who helped them find their calling in gaming. As their testimonies highlight, mentorship is a powerful resource in helping unlock new opportunities. These stories serve as a reminder of our collective responsibility to help each other reach our highest potential through mentorship, support, and respect. 

In this feature, we posed the question: Who is a role model or mentor you’d like to highlight? Why?

Brittany O’Neal Thies, Lead Designer, Infinity Ward, California, USA

Chris Wilson-Clapp, my high school art teacher was my mentor during a period when I didn't know I could get a degree in art, let alone games. I grew up in a small rural town, which didn't get its first stop light until 2005. Games and computer technology weren’t top-of-mind, as much as rodeos and what you would be wearing to a football game. Chris cultivated my art abilities in the classroom and outside. She helped me produce a great portfolio and apply to art colleges, which eventually led me to Savannah College of Art and Design, where I fell in love with animation and level design.

Ana Carolina Luca de Oliveira, Agile Test Lead, King, London, U.K.

My wife is the reason why I joined the games industry in the first place, as she’s been in this space for over a decade. She is really determined, passionate and an amazing public speaker. She overcame several barriers as a gay Latin woman to be where she is today. I am very proud of her, and I also often learn from her experiences and work ethic.

Amor Loomis, Animator, High Moon Studios, California, USA

When I first entered games animation, I was mentored by a very skilled and experienced Senior Animator, Patrick Przybyla. He taught me how to fix all my janky animations, gave me industry advice and showed me how to hang with the “cool kids”. To this day, we're great friends and work together on the same project. He continues to be an inspiration to me, and I still get teary eyed watching his kick ass animations. I told him all those years ago that I hope I grow up to be just like him one day, and that hasn't changed!

Jayne Johnston, Senior VFX Artist, Blizzard Entertainment, California, USA

I've come across several awesome women during my years at Blizzard that have been invaluable role models for me, and I'm sure, for others as well. Esther Liao, Careena Kingdom, Brandy Stiles, Lily Gardner and Julia Humphreys are just a few on that list. They each inspire me for different reasons, but I've noticed they all have certain traits in common - they're strong-willed, empathetic, and unafraid to speak for what they believe in.

Ashlee Hynes, Senior User Interface Artist, Sledgehammer Games, California, USA

I'd love to highlight Sledgehammer's very own Grazyna Domanska. Admitting that you need guidance or assistance on something that you want to own, requires a level of vulnerability and humility that can be uncomfortable. Grazyna presents a genuine sense of compassion and self-accountability, and I don't have that anxiety when I approach her. She is a person that gives and takes her time in both her work and her relationships, acting with attention and accountability. I feel understood and supported by her in a way that does not diminish my own self-confidence. She offers me a perspective that I often lean on, when I find myself facing difficulties in feeling heard.

Megan McDonald, Senior Development Manager, Sledgehammer Games, California, USA

Sledgehammer Game's Art Director Sandy Lin-Chiang was my VFX Lead on Modern Warfare 3 and working alongside her to deliver visually stunning cinematic and top-of-the-line environmental effects was an education. She's the definition of grace under pressure, but at the same time is no shrinking violet when balancing the requirements of a request with her team's skill set and well-being. And her aesthetic eye is keenly developed and unrelenting. I'm so glad to see her rise through the ranks to a position that acknowledges and leverages her excellence!

Sydney Terris, Associate UX Designer, Raven Software, Wisconsin, USA

My mom is an incredible mentor and role model for me. She is an empowered and strong executive leader, but also a loving, empathetic mother. She leads global teams with grace and grit while also finding time to center herself spiritually, creating spaces of contentment and healing. I admire and learn from her each and every day.

Daryl Hanna Tancinco, Senior Artist, Infinity Ward, California, USA

While I never had a tried-and-true role model or mentor during my career, I did admire a few female game developers during my time in college. One being Jade Raymond, best known for founding Ubisoft Toronto. She was a trailblazer for her own career, having achieved so much in her 20 or so years in the industry. I admired her drive and how she spearheaded the projects she was involved in. When I started my career in 2009, there weren’t very many women at the studios I worked for. Seeing someone like Jade Raymond really take control of her career and hold such influence, was rare for me. I’m happy to say that times have changed. Not only do we have many strong and talented women at Infinity Ward, but the game industry itself is much more diversified. It’s fantastic to see!

Kendall Snow, Associate Level Designer, Treyarch, California, USA

I would like to highlight the women at Treyarch I’ve met and worked alongside, who have allowed me to feel more comfortable with being myself. There are times in the past where I have felt, upon entering a company, that I need to present in a specific way in order to be taken seriously. The women here at Treyarch represent a wide range of experiences and backgrounds and have the courage to present themselves in just as wide a spectrum. It has given me the confidence to truly be myself, and present myself as who I am.