Today is International Women's Day and to mark the occasion we'll be highlighting some of the incredible women working in the games industry across both PocketGamer.biz and PCGamesInsider.biz. You can catch all the profiles on PocketGamer.biz here.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Ella Romanos: Everything I do as a consultant is about helping people to make games. Making a game involves a number of parties coming together and essentially I can work with everyone involved to help bring the key components together.
To put this into context this means that I can work with a client on the design of a game, put together a team, and work out how to make it fit with the budget.
I work with investors to assess the potential of a game and the developer, providing feedback to the developer to help them raise finance. And then, I also run workshops for brand owners to help them identify what game they want to make and identify teams that are the best placed to deliver that type of game.
I like to make sure I give back to the industry too, so as well as speaking at conferences giving talks on funding and financing, I love mentoring students about how to start a game studio.
What did you study (if anything) that helped you get into games? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals interested in your areas of expertise?
My degree was in ‘digital art and technology’ where we covered everything from website development and digital installations to games.
I focused on programming and on games, but the real benefit of the course was that it had people with different skills within it, and therefore we could form teams where we learned how to build products and services, and work with different disciplines. The result of this was that a lot of those teams started up their own businesses.
My advice would be that if you want to start your own business within games, learn how to make games first – specialise in whatever area you’re passionate about. The knowledge I have of game development, has been invaluable for the work I do now.
When looking at courses, make sure that it’s focused on team work, allows you to make games and helps you to learn about the industry. Also make sure you look at what jobs graduates have gone on to.
Where did you get your start in games and how did you progress into what you're doing now? Is this something you ever imagined yourself doing?
I got my start in games by setting up a game development studio with some fellow graduates, straight from university. We ran that as a work-for-hire studio for seven years, before moving on to focus on making our own games and providing consultancy to other businesses within the industry.
The experience I gained through running that game studio, and the network I built within the industry, enabled me to progress to what I’m doing now.Ella Romanos
As it turned out, I really love the consultancy work and it has grown over the last five years, but I also love making games, and I am lucky enough to be able to make my own games as well as the consultancy work that I do.
When I was at university, I assumed that I would get a job and would learn how to make games and gain knowledge about the industry that way.
Although I was vaguely interested in management and business (mainly I just liked the idea of being my own boss!), at the time I was much more interested in programming games, so I originally thought that would be something for later in my career.
That all changed when I went on my placement year to a production company in London, whose founders had started their company as graduates of my course several years earlier.
This really inspired me and influenced my thinking. At this early stage in my career I had a lot of support, not just from the founders of the my placement year company, but from other industry people and one lecturer in particular. This all gave me the confidence that we could start our own company.
From there, we had a lot of ups and downs, in particular I found the transition from programming to running the business challenging.
At first, I didn’t want to be the one who handled the business side of things and didn’t believe I could, but I persevered and ended up loving it, even though it took a long time for me to not want to dive back into programming whenever I had the chance!
The experience I gained through running that game studio, and the network I built within the industry, enabled me to progress to what I’m doing now.
What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?
I really love solving problems, I really enjoy helping other people, and I find it motivating to work in an industry where people are so passionate and talented.
I love being challenged and not knowing what I’ll be working on next year. I’m terrible at routine and getting up in the morning, so working from home on projects that I’m passionate about, being able to work to my own pace and my own schedule (whilst making sure I always get the work done!) is really the most fulfilling thing about my role.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
I think it’s often not clear what a consultant does. Particularly as, along with two other consultants that I work with on most projects, we cover such a broad range of activities.
You need to find a balance that is sustainable, healthy and makes you happy.Ella Romanos
However, fundamentally, we help people to make better games, and because of the broad range of activities we offer, we can generally help solve most problems that developers, brand owners, and investors come up against.
Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?
There is so much I wish I had known! However if I had to choose one thing I wish I had known when I first joined the industry, I would say that knowing how much work can take over your life, particularly when it’s a job and an industry that you love so much, means you need to find a balance that is sustainable, healthy and makes you happy.
What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
Two things: make games and get to know the industry.
Whether it’s making a game at a game jam, or whilst at university, or just from your bedroom, make games and get them out there for people to play.
In my experience, people in games are really helpful and supportive of those looking to get into the industry. Go to events, read trade press, get to know people and what they do. If you want a career, this is the best way to build one.
Is there anyone in the games industry (or anyone else in general) who inspires you?
I’m really inspired by people who forge their own paths through the industry and who help others. A lot of those people are women, too many to name, but those who work out what they want and do it, and are constantly challenging the norms, are the ones who I am constantly amazed by.
You can read more profiles of some of the incredible women working in the games industry right here.