Stephanie is an interactive producer, soon to be starting a new role in the rapidly expanding world of VR.
Her role as a producer means she is responsible for making sure her team of designers and developers has what they need to be successful. As a dual major in Business and English, she was able to carve out a role in the creative and interactive industry. Today, we chat about some of the tools of the trade, taking on side projects, and the unique positioning of VR in Los Angeles.
What do you do?
I’m an Interactive Producer, or Digital Producer.
I’m currently between ending one job and starting another at a VR studio. My role in tech has always been working with designers and developers on products. In a typical day, there’ll be checking in with designers and developers from a schedule perspective, and understanding what their challenges are.
I support project management aspects of it - there might be, let’s say JIRA tasks, to be moved around. But on certain issues, if there’s a blockage, my role [is] going in and understanding what challenges my team is going through that I can help solve in a non-technical way. What are the bigger contextual challenges? Resources, budget, something that they need a new tool for? In some cases, we dive in deeper to say “this tool we’re using is not doing the right thing,” and we make the evaluations. So I’m that support team.
What led you to your current role?
My first job out of college was in a creative development group at Disney Interactive. I got that job because my hiring manager looked at my two majors - Business and English - and she’s like “okay, she’s got the business/marketing background, and she’s got English, so she can write.” [I did] research and pitches.
I’ve always been on the creative side, but that was my first foray into a creative technical world. I really, really enjoyed that universe. Plus, it was gaming; I grew up playing games, grew up in front of a computer. So I always leaned toward interactivity and the creative aspect of that.
I spent a couple of years there, then went to creative agencies. They were all interactive and digital, so I drove projects there. At the last agency I was recruited over by a previous manager from a different company. I still did the same thing there; essentially, my role has always been the same, but in a lot of different aspects of interactive experiences.
What is your first memory of being intrigued by technology?
I definitely remember playing the original NES Nintendo, and playing Mario Brothers. Actually, the most consistent memory I have is being at home at our home computer. Windows 95, and AOL Instant Messenger, doing homework. Even before that, I think in fifth grade, I remember typing class. I loved sitting there and clicking away, feeling like things were happening at the speed that I was thinking. I really enjoyed that part.
What are your favorite or most-used tools?
Being a producer, and also being at different companies, I’ve had to adapt to a lot of different ones. Typically they’re project management tools, from JIRA to Confluence to Basecamp. There’s another called Active Collab. I worked with one called Workamajig.
The tools that I usually use aren’t consistent, but they always revolve around project management.
I’ve actually leaned toward Basecamp to a certain degree for lighter projects. I have two other side projects that I’ve been supporting, and I’ve been encouraging Basecamp to be that tool, but there are a lot more online tools that are designed and priced for smaller organizations.
Being in production project management, there’s an unending debate about what is the best tool. Every single group I go to, it’s always the first question. You can’t really answer that question right away without really understanding how an organization [and] a team works. Some people can actually get a lot more done [with] Slack, and maybe just a scheduling tool. Other groups might really need that nitty gritty detail. You just have to see what your team works with.
What do you want to learn next?
My next job is going into a VR studio. What’s interesting right now in the industry is the film and TV aspect of CG, 3D, creating content there. They have a lot of resources to bring to the table in terms of their pipeline and their asset building. VR is an interactive experience, and the film and TV industry knows that they don’t necessarily have that strength, so they look to game designers and interactive developers to bring that. I’m interested in learning more about how to think about those kinds of problems; taking a very traditional but very successful enterprise and integrating it into something new.
What hobbies do you have that are unrelated to your current field?
I’m trying to run my first marathon in March. I was honestly inspired by Angela when I first worked with her. She had all of these medals, and she talked about the experience of it, and I hadn’t exercised really or done anything healthy in a long time. So I picked that up. It was cheap, and it was also something I didn’t have to go take lessons for. Fast forward three years later, I went from not being able to run a mile and now I’m trying to do a marathon.
Aside from that, I don’t normally have hobbies that are not my work. My husband is totally different; he’s an art director, and he’s a drummer in a band and he likes to tinker and do a lot of different things. For myself, my passion is helping people and working with teams. So I mentioned earlier, I’m working with two other projects. One is leveraging my producing skills to help a nonprofit launch a podcast. The other is working with a friend of mine to put out a political protest book.
What motivates you?
Ambition. I want to do well. If it’s not just an internal sense of ambition, it’s also because I like to please people, especially working in teams and working in an environment where everybody has to collaborate in order to have success. Those are my drivers - I want to make sure that people always have a good experience.
What advice do you have?
The biggest piece of advice that I have is to be inclusive; understand that you didn’t know something at some point.
I do have this tension in my head all the time about “being in tech,” but not being technical, and from that perspective I try to encourage other people like me that, “no, you are in tech.”
If I come across somebody who is a young woman coming into the field, my encouragement is always to go for it. You want it, you know what you want, and don’t be deterred. There’s empowerment in wanting something. Lean into it.