Mentors diversity: a generalization

I’m a woman in games. More precisely a new female manager in a big game company. I worked my ass off to get where I am and I believe that I’m doing a pretty decent job at being a production manager. Along the way I’ve met some great mentors and champions who helped me get the knowledge, the confidence and the network I needed to succeed.

The thing about being a woman in game looking for mentors is: most of them will be men. In management, the percentage of women is a bit higher than say in programming but we’re still the minority. And in my studio in upper management the ratio is even worse: women are almost non-existent. I’ve been lucky to have had some strong women managers as bosses (as is the case right now) but for anyone aiming to get to a upper management position in my studio, their mentors and role model will be male. That being said having an all male Mentor Army was never an issue for me until I took my most recent role.

As a new manager of a dev team I need to do like any new manager: build relationships, gain my team’s trust and respect, assert my leadership and basically take my place among the team. All of that while learning a new job. My old mentors are still very helpful, but more and more I find myself looking for additional mentors with a different skill set: managers who know what it feels like to doubt oneself. Managers with a high level of empathy towards whom I can go when I’m freaking out, when I’m feeling overwhelmed or simply when I have a day where my confidence is just… not as high as it should be. Because sometimes, all a girl needs is someone who “gets it”; someone who will not judge or brush aside her concerns but empathize and help put things in perspective.

And this is were having a male-only mentorship was becoming an issue: none of them, could be that person. I’ve tried and it basically made me feel silly for not being that uber confident leader, able to take a stand in meetings or navigate difficult conversations from the get go. Basically, I felt like I needed to man the fuck up. Now, I’m not saying that’s not the right way to go… but it might not be the way I want to go. And I refuse to think it’s the only way to go.

I love my job. I finally at 30-something found what I want to do when I grow up. I know that I belong in both my team and my current position. However, I am full of doubts. About, well, pretty much everything at one time or another. And this is were, in my experience, man and woman as mentors are different: self doubt is a silly and ridiculous trait that needs to be eradicated for the first (yes, I’m exaggerating), while it’s a totally normal, even helpful trait — pushing one to challenge oneself — for the other. And I believe they’re both right. Depending on the day. Or the topic at hand. Or how vulnerable I feel.

I am of course grossly generalizing and I by no mean implies that this represent everyone in the game’s industry or elsewhere. But for me, this dichotomy just proves how important diversity is in mentoring and in the video games industry. Because I for one need both perspectives. Especially now, as I am defining what type of manager I want to be, and how I want to grow into this industry that I love.

I want the chance to learn to manage and lead like a woman. And like a man. And then find my way, mixing a bit of both, and be unquestionably badass at it.