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Meet 100 of the most influential women working in the UK games industry - S - Z

Sally Blake

Senior Producer, Hammerhead

Having dreamed of working in the video games industry since childhood, Sally started her career as a QA tester for Ubisoft.

As she progressed, she became drawn to the varied work of games production. At Ubisoft for six years, she shipped titles from the Just Dance series, Watch Dogs, and Tom Clancy's The Division.

Her current work with studio Northern Hammerhead focuses on VR games and experiences.

Sally also has a huge passion for diversity, and has set up a number of initiatives within the industry including workshops, panels, and partnerships with mentorship schemes.

"Last year I started a local Women Making Games group in the Northeast which has grown to 60 members over the last few months, and being able to establish that has been very rewarding," says Sally regarding her latest project.

"It's been fantastic to regularly connect with other women working in games in the region and I hope others have found it beneficial as well!"

She advises women looking to join the industry to find a mentor, learn from mistakes and to try things outside of their comfort zone.

Sara Grover

Head of marketing, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment UK

After a recruiter sent Sara's resume to Activision, she joined as marketing services manager in 1996.

"Those were the days when publishers were just expanding," Sara says of working at Activision during this period. "One whereby you were promoted quite quickly within the company, as new roles and responsibilities emerged."

She moved on to a start-up company called EON Entertainment, and from there joined Ubisoft as group marketing manager for CORE games. After starting a family, she spotted a niche in the market for covering maternity leave contracts, and completed work with Eidos, SEGA, Atari, and Warner Bros.

Sara cites her time launching LEGO Dimensions and running Activision's Activate event -- which caters to press, buyers, and distributors -- as among her best games industry experiences.

"This is such a diverse industry to be in, one that has various different paths to follow. Explore them and engage with them," Sara advises women looking to join the games industry.

"Work hard, play hard, and be yourself. Don't try to be somebody you're not, you are fine as you are. The destiny is yours, create your own narrative, and be proud of it."

Sarah Wellock

EMEA PR Manager, Sega/Atlus

Sarah Wellock came from an online design and marketing background but was determined to find a role in games, applying for every relevant role she saw. 11 years ago, she finally got her big break at Sega.

As social media became more prevalent, she smartly moved into community management, securing roles at Rocksteady, Xdev Studios and Bethesda before returning to Sega last year as European PR manager for Atlus.

"I have loved the change in pace and the new challenges it has presented," she says.

Sarah recently organised a trip to Japan to film and record feature interviews with Sega's Chief Creative Officer Toshihiro Nagoshi, who has worked on some of the publisher's most iconic games.

"A combination of securing top coverage with key Western media such as Edge and Gematsu and getting the opportunity to learn from him and his incredible experience meant the trip fast became of my career highlights," she says.

Her advice to women looking for roles in the games industry is to reach out to those already established.

"There is an incredibly awesome and supportive network of women across all disciplines who would love to help and support you," she says.

Shahneila Saeed

Head of Education, UKIE and Director, Digital Schoolhouse

After a career in teaching and being a vocal advocate for changing the national curriculum to include more robust computer education, Shahneila Saeed joined Ukie in 2014 to both set up and lead the UK video games trade body's Digital Schoolhouse initiative to help reduce the digital skills gap.

"It's been such a fantastic experience and an incredible journey," she says.

"I've learnt so much from the creative minds that we work with. Having experience in both education and industry has enabled me to see connections that otherwise may not have been possible, giving me the chance to innovate and consider new approaches to engaging young students."

The Digital Schoolhouse initiative has been broad in scope but Saeed says that the esports tournaments that are part of this programme are what she is most proud of, as they have brought video games to a far wider audience than they might have done otherwise.

"The tournament started as an experiment of mine when I knew no more than your average non-industry layperson, and then even less than that," she explains.

"Making the tournament come to life really was never going to be possible without the amazing support from industry colleagues and some forward-thinking teachers. Since then, it's grown year-on-year, and it's fantastic to see the industry really come together and rally round in their support of the work taking place."

Siobhan Reddy

Studio Director, Media Molecule

Siobhan leads Media Molecule, the band of creative minds behind the LittleBigPlanet franchise, as well as the award-winning Tearaway for the PS Vita and Tearaway Unfolded for the PlayStation 4. The studio is currently working on the anticipated PS4 title Dreams, the next evolution of Play, Create, Share.

Siobhan cut her teeth at Criterion, working on titles such as Burnout 3 and Burnout 4. She also sits on the Game Developers Conference advisory board.

Happiest in the space between chaos and calm, Siobhan's role at Media Molecule brings together her two passions: creating innovative, genre-bending entertainment, and bringing together creative collaborators. Fellow co-founders Mark Healey, Kareem Ettouney, Alex Evans, and Dave Smith started the studio to meld their extensive games experience, shared passions for the arts, and unwavering commitment to quality, and to bring something a little different to the industry.

A strong advocate for diversity, Siobhan believes that the games industry should be a place for all, as it's the quintessential medium of our time. Media Molecule projects strive to encourage players to get in touch with their creativity and have their mind and soul tickled in the process.

She has been honoured to receive numerous awards and accolades including the Production Award at Microsoft Women in Gaming Awards in 2009 and then the Innovator Award at the same awards in 2014. She was also named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by the BBC's Woman's Hour, the Australian Woman of the Year in the UK by Qantas, installed in the UK Women in Game Hall of Fame, and named one of Fortune Magazine's 10 Powerful Women in Gaming.

Sitara Shefta

Head of Studio, No Brakes Games

Starting out her career in 2011 as a graduate producer with Criterion, Sitara launched her meteoric rise through the industry via Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

From there she netted a job at Sumo Digital as an associate producer before being promoted to a full producer role.

In 2017, she moved to Dream Reality Interactive to work on VR and AR experiences including Arca's Path and Hold The World featuring Sir David Attenborough. Not long after, she was promoted from senior producer to head of production.

Since joining the industry eight years ago, Sitara has always wanted to run a studio and manage a team. With that aspiration in mind, she joined No Brake Games as head of studio earlier this year.

"The industry is still male-dominated but it's changing and we need other women to join us to help define that change," she says.

"Don't be intimidated, and advocate for yourself – embrace your talents and make them known to others as they will support you. Having more women in the industry means that we will create more meaningful impact and more diverse games which will reach a wider audience.

"I've had plenty of men in the games industry over the years telling me that I won't make it, but I chose to ignore them in favour of the support from the many other wonderful individuals in the industry."

Tamsin O'Luanaigh

Company Secretary and Talent Director, nDreams

After 10 years at IBM in various customer service and resourcing roles, Tamsin co-founded nDreams in 2006 and took on the many operational roles that keep the studio running more than a decade later. Now, she continues to expand the studio as talent director, while also reflecting on the growth of the company thus far.

"I am really proud to have worked on the foundations for what have now become embedded in our company culture," she says. "I strongly believe that, in order to encourage team collaboration and empowered staff, you have to have a balanced framework of policies and working practices to enable this."

She regularly gets involved in initiatives that help promote the industry as a valid career path for as broad a spectrum of people as possible, and is particularly keen to encourage young people to consider it as a profession.

"Every time I go and talk at schools, I love when there is a visible turnaround in attitudes in children who had no idea this could be an industry for them," she says. "Being a role model for young people, especially girls, is hugely important to me."

Tamsin continues: "There are a lot of wonderful people in this industry -- lots of supportive women and male advocates for change. There have been, and still are, issues of gender imbalance, but join us to help us change it."

Tara Saunders

Head of Studio Operations, PlayStation London Studio

After completing a masters of art in computer animation, Tara Saunders applied for a number of roles, eventually landing an artist job at PlayStation Europe.

"I was drawn to how collaborative the work environment is, the level of creativity and teamwork involved and knew it would be a place where I could roll up my sleeves and get stuck in," she comments. "I loved seeing how all the different areas of game development came together and felt a strong sense of camaraderie which I wanted to be a part of."

Tara moved up the ranks to art director over the years, a role which inspired her to pitch for her current job -- which didn't exist prior to her proposal. She adds: "The phrase, ‘if you don't ask, you don't get' rings truer than ever!"

She concludes: "Be yourself! We're an industry built on imaginative ideas, and women bring a unique perspective to our medium. If we want to continue inspiring teams to make new games with fresh concepts, then we need people from all backgrounds to bring their experiences to the table."

Timea Tabori

Engine Programmer, Rockstar

Timea Tabori is not just a highly talented Engine Programmer at one of the biggest game developers on the planet, Rockstar North (and working on some of the world's biggest video games).

She's also the Chair of IGDA Scotland, an organisation serving the game development community across the country. Tabori is the Lead Ambassador and National Coordinator for Women in Games in Scotland, too, and collected numerous awards through her still young career.

Originally from Hungary and an Abertay University alumna, Tabori is passionate about bringing diversity and new voices to the games industry and building a supportive community. This is her second GI 100 win, having been named one of the 100 rising stars of the UK games industry on last year's list.

Tracey McGarrigan

CEO Ansible PR, and Co-Founder Games4EU

Following time spent writing with GirlGamers UK and working in games PR, Tracey found herself as games and technology editor at Sci-Fi London Film Festival in 2010.

Entries included numerous promotional video games as well as films. Tracey suggested playing and reviewing some games for the website as a means to promote the festival to a new audience.

By 2013, the festival enjoyed regular sponsorship for games publishers, and was nominated in the mainstream category at the Games Media Awards.

Following that, Tracey moved over to Head of Global PR and Communications at Green Man Gaming. Over the next few years the company explored Bitcoin, launched a publishing arm, and refreshed the brand.

In 2016, following a stint as chief marketing officer at Bossa studios, Tracey founded Ansible PR and Communications. In addition, she co-founded Games4EU last year, a pro-European Union grassroots movement which believes remaining is the best outcome both economically and culturally for the UK video games industry.

Tracey advises budding female developers: "Take time to work out and feel comfortable with your own value and skills -- what can you offer?

"Never give up trying things out, honing your skills, growing your network, and being confident in what you can do -- someone in our industry somewhere needs you!"

Veronique Lallier

Global VP Marketing / General Manager Europe & VP European Publishing, Hi-Rez Studios

Veronique Lallier is a gamer with a deep personal and professional interest in competitive and online gaming.

Her career in the industry began at Ubisoft France in 1999. Since then, she has grown and developed as the industry has. She is at the forefront of digital business and has always been in the industry for the long game.

Over the years, Veronique has lent her insider knowledge as a player, her marketing expertise, and her commercial acumen to some of gaming's biggest names, including Rockstar Games, NCsoft, Warner Bros and most recently Hi-Rez Studios. At Hi-Rez, Veronique currently holds the position of General Manager EMEA in addition to a broader, global responsibility for marketing.

Veronique is regularly consulted by industry bodies as an authority on the digital future of the gaming business. She has a long-standing role on the Ukie board and the BAFTA committee, and she's picked up numerous awards, too. Veronique was one of the original GI 100 back in 2017 for the most influential people in the British games industry. She's also picked up the MCV Women In Games award for her activity in the esports space, and last year won Best Boss during GamesIndustry.biz's Best Places To Work Awards.

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