Vicky Clark, software engineer at Unity Technologies, talks about how she broke into games, the challenges of working in lockdown and the importance of getting more women in technical roles
How did you break into games?
I was just finishing studying Physics at University, and I felt a bit lost. I knew that I wanted a career that would challenge me and where I could make an impact. I loved video games, but I’d never considered it was an industry I could actually get into. When a recruiter from Unity reached out to me, the role sounded too good to be true, so I took the leap and I’m so thankful I did.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
I’m proudest of how much I’ve learnt and grown in the last two years. I didn’t have the typical computer science or game degree background, but now I’m writing and optimizing complex systems to save disk space and download times for our customers.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
It’s horribly cliché now, but I’d have to say working from home during COVID-19. I miss the office and especially my team. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been well supported the whole way, but Zoom coffee breaks don’t really compare to chatting in person. On the other hand, it’s been a great learning opportunity. I’ve gotten better at working independently and communicating succinctly now that I don’t have my team all in the same room, and I’ve taken on new engineering challenges along the way. It’s pushed me outside of my comfort zone, even within the confines of my own home, and I think I’m a better engineer because of it.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
So many things… I’m lucky to work alongside extremely capable and experienced engineers who are always willing to help, guide, or just listen to me. It’s also incredibly rewarding to work on tech that is used in a huge variety of projects, and face the challenge of making sure that systems can both scale to all types of games and be performant on all of the platforms Unity supports. I also love to travel, and the conferences and events that my company puts on are a brilliant excuse to get out of the office and meet colleagues and customers!
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
I’d love to see a 50 per cent representation of women in technical roles. Last year, at a conference, I was told “You don’t look like a developer.” No matter how it’s intended, it hurts. What’s even worse is that it’s probably true to their experience. Hopefully, by taking part in Women in Games events and participating in diversity initiatives, I can expand the representation of technical women in this industry and beyond. If I can help to inspire someone like me in the future, I’d count that as a success.
What advice would you give to an aspiring software engineer?
You don’t necessarily need the ‘right degree’ to start out as an engineer. Coding skills can often be developed on the job, but the passion for solving problems and the analytical mindset have to come from you. And if, like me, you don’t have a traditional coding background, it’s never too late to pick up an online course such as Harvard’s CS50. Lastly, just remember – there’s no harm in applying, even if you don’t meet 100 per cent of the job description.