To celebrate and acknowledge Women’s History Month, we’re throwing the spotlight on some of the brilliant women at Testronic. Below you’ll find a series of one-on-one interviews we did throughout the month of March. We’ll be adding more, so check back often.
Vilena Velikić, Operations Manager, Serbia
Tell us about your career to date. Not counting various volunteering work I did from elementary school and onwards, the first job I ever landed was in the Customer Support field, working as a Call Operator for the regional company that provides a Loyalty program for its users.
Being a passionate gamer since my early childhood, it goes without saying that I was already on the lookout for a job to enter the games industry.
I still remember how excited I was back in 2018, when a friend told me about a company looking for video game testers. That was it! That was my chance. A quick rework of my CV and I was ready for the Game Testing journey – if only the interviewer would recognize my eagerness to join the Whyttest family [Whyttest was acquired by Testronic in 2020]. And they did, opening the door for where I am now.
My journey started with testing games and over time it evolved through leadership and management positions, thanks to many people at Whyttest and Testronic who recognized and encouraged my personal development. This ultimately led to my current position of Operations Manager within Belgrade’s structure.
I consider myself lucky to be a part of an environment that gave me the opportunity to test not only games but also my skills, and develop them and grow. The road I took and that I continue on is not without its challenges, for sure, as we are a part of a highly dynamic industry, but I choose to see the great possibilities it has to offer.
Explain your role within Testronic. As Operations Manager in Belgrade, I am working on establishing, maintaining and aligning on many local and cross-site processes we have so that the services we provide are to the standard we want them to be.
To expand on this, one of my main focuses is making sure we are utilising local resources in a most optimal way. Solving the puzzle of active work and upcoming opportunities, evaluating if we are ready to recruit or open internal job promotions in order to have the necessary experience ready to tackle work that is coming our way – this is probably the biggest part of what I’ve been doing for some time.
I am also working with many colleagues from other Testronic locations in order to align on best practices and use them in Belgrade. The Belgrade site was one of the previous Whyttest offices. Our structure, a lot smaller than that of Testronic’s Warsaw office, grew as the site developed. With the growth of Belgrade’s testing teams, the natural thing to do was to grow the support structure that will help the site stabilise and continue growing even more. My role developed from the goal to grow Belgrade site and make it ready to welcome more projects and more services.
What does Testronic do to support women within the business? Testronic does not discriminate. During the recruitment processes or internal job openings and promotions, if you are a woman with ambition, willpower, and required skills, you will be given a chance. It may not sound like much, but ultimately being given the same opportunities regardless of your gender is what women are trying to achieve – and to have that here at Testronic speaks a lot about its culture and values.
I’ve been a witness to many internal promotions myself and, after hearing about so many external examples of how women that search for job opportunities are being mistreated and disregarded, I am happy to say that gender is not a criteria when evaluating someone’s skills to develop and grow within Testronic’s multi-site structures.
Your skills and achievements will be evaluated if you wish to grow, not your gender. This may not sound sensational, but for sure is encouraging.
The games industry is not a hugely gender diverse sector. What can it do more of to attract – and retain – women in the industry, in your opinion? Use us, existing women who are already a part of the industry as role models and ambassadors. It is already happening, this interview being a part of the motion. But what needs to remain is the will to continue and not give up on the idea of spreading the word that there is plenty of room for women in the games industry if only they are willing to join it.
What should be clearly communicated is that you are welcome to be a tester, developer, manager or any other preferred part of the industry that makes games for everyone’s entertainment, regardless of your gender. If you have the necessary skills, consider yourself welcome. Being a girl gamer is not weird, it is fun and there is room for you to turn your passion into something else, like I did and like many others did – that would be the message to relay to other women who hope to build their careers within the games industry.
We are on the right path; it is a matter of remaining on this path and providing reassurance that what you dream of as a girl is as valued as what you dream of as a boy playing your favourite video game.
If you had one wish for women and girls around the world during Women’s History Month, what would it be?Nourish your passions – as many as you have. Accept that life is not without challenges and, though you may encounter many obstacles while tackling life itself, take a break, reevaluate your desired goals and take the next step ahead. We all stumble. What I hope is that you find strength in yourself and those around you to stumble and regain the balance needed to take the next step, and the next one, and the next one.
Emma Hurstell, Development Project Lead, US
Tell us about your career to date. My first job in the QA industry was as a part-time FQA tester at Electronic Arts Baton Rouge. I graduated from Louisiana State University with a BFA in Studio Art and did a brief 3D modeling internship with one of the local game design studios before returning to EA as a full-time contract tester.
From there, I was promoted to a contract test lead. Specifically, I was a database manager – though I’m not really sure how, there are folks on my team now that could query circles around me in JIRA!
After about a year of being a database manager, I wanted to try my hand at a leadership position. I had some very minor experience with leading folks as both a database manager and as a tester while at EA, so when I saw that there was an opening for an associate project lead position at Testronic, I decided to go for it! I was lucky enough to get the position, and about half a year into working as an associate project lead, I was promoted up to the project lead role.
Explain your role with Testronic. As a project lead, it’s my job to ensure that my FQA team is equipped with everything they need to test our clients’ titles to the best of our abilities. Whether it’s information, technology, or general coaching, I need to identify what our team is missing so that I can ensure it gets provided to them, or so that we can develop a clever work-around. I’m also working closely with my associate project lead and our client’s QA director in order to ensure that we are providing the necessary testing coverage in a timely manner.
What does Testronic do to support women within the business? First and foremost, Testronic simply hires a lot of women for a wide variety of positions within the company. Secondly, we’re constantly refining our promotion and assessment processes to ensure that we are evaluating everyone based on their contributions to the team, regardless of person’s sex or gender identity.
The games industry is not a hugely gender diverse sector. What can it do more of to attract – and retain – women in the industry, in your opinion? I think one of the biggest things preventing the gaming industry from becoming more gender-diverse is the gatekeeping that goes on with their higher-level positions. A lot of senior dev positions require an individual to have shipped a certain amount of AAA titles before even being considered, so if folks weren’t already working with larger studios beforehand, it would be impossible for them to meet the necessary requirements.
If you had one wish for women and girls around the world during Women’s History Month, what would it be? I think I’d want women to know that we’re allowed to be complex people with multiple interests. That sounds pretty obvious, but I think society tries put everyone, women especially, into these little boxes.
As a child who had an interest in video games, I was convinced I had to reject traditionally feminine forms of self-expression in order to be perceived as a ‘real’ fan of video games. Conversely, I had to downplay my interest in video games if I wanted to be perceived as more ‘feminine’. But the two shouldn’t have to cancel each other out.
I think more women would be more comfortable expressing themselves if they were reminded that their hobbies and interests, regardless of what those are, don’t contradict their identities as women.
Natalia Nguyen Van, Localisation QA Project Lead, Portugal
Tell us about your career to date. I started working at Testronic in 2017 after my studies ended. Originally, I joined in a temporary role, but as you can tell, I ended up staying much longer! I began working within the FQA department while waiting for LQA projects to pop up and finally landed a permanent contract as an LQA Technician. I knew this is what I am good at, and it was what I wanted to do, so I continued to learn more and ended up where I am today – as an LQA Project Lead.
Explain your role within Testronic. As a Localisation QA Project Lead, I manage projects and oversee the LQA technicians who are testing the games. I am the bridge between the client and testers and ensure everything is done correctly and on time. Last year I relocated to our new office in Lisbon and as the only Project Lead here, I’ve been helping out with setting things up as well.
What does Testronic do to support women within the business? When I joined the LQA department, I was very pleasantly surprised at how many women worked there. I have always been surrounded and supported by both men and women in the industry, and I think Testronic is doing the best thing by not differentiating between any genders when it comes to career development. This is great, because everyone gets the same opportunities based on their skills and ability to do the job correctly.
The games industry is not a hugely gender diverse sector. What can it do more of to attract – and retain – women in the industry, in your opinion? Gaming is still mainly associated with males, or even boys, as the older generation still considers it something for kids. But I feel like it’s slowly going in the right direction. I believe more women should speak out about their experience working in the games industry, so that others can see how fun it is – and not only for men!
If you had one wish for women and girls around the world during Women’s History Month, what would it be? I would wish for them to do whatever they want and love, because women can do anything just as well, if not better, as men! The games industry is filling up with more of us and I hope this continues!
Kate Mitchell, Director of Business Development, US
Tell us about your career to date. My first job in gaming was in 2007 as a tester at EA, working on titles like Crysis, Command & Conquer 3, Mercenaries 2, Army of Two, Boom Blox, and some other Wii titles. From 2010 – 2012, I competed in multiple MLG tournaments for World of Warcraft (WoW), and wrote a humorous blog about the WoW tournament scene that amassed quite a following. I spent some time working for an emergency medevac software company, and a few years later I found myself back at EA, working on Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1. I was working in LA and enjoyed collaborating with EA’s Romanian office. Following my time at EA, I worked for a fast-paced mobile company called MZ, which is now an Applovin company, and again, I was having a great time working with QA teams across the ocean in the EU. I ended up joining Testronic and getting to be a part of the fantastic teams over in the EU, as well as help launch our NOLA office and work with many of our great partners. After being a program manager for a few years at Testronic, I accepted an offer to join our Business Development team and help manage Testronic Accounts.
Explain your role within Testronic. As a Director of Business Development, I help new partners establish their relationship with Testronic. I then manage their account from beginning to end, collaborating with them to support their development plans with QA, CQA, Compat, Loc, LQA, Player Support, and other needs.
What does Testronic do to support women within the business (mentoring, career development, etc, etc)? I’ve had personal experience being supported by Testronic, as well as had the opportunity to drive the business to support other women. Testronic has policies in place such as maternity leave, flexible working arrangements, harassment and discrimination policies, and opportunities for advancement – all that greatly support women. We also are involved in Women in Gaming groups and mentorship opportunities.
The games industry is not a hugely gender diverse sector. What can it do more of to attract – and retain – women in the industry, in your opinion? I find Testronic to be very diverse in gender, especially compared to the rest of the gaming industry. I think creating diverse and inclusive workplaces is achieved by starting with the basics – offering flexible work arrangements, have a strong harassment and discrimination policy, and provide mentorship opportunities. From there, collaborating with women’s groups and organizations – and create games that appeal to women! Not necessarily in a stereotypical way, but with the idea that women can be the focus audience.
If you had one wish for women and girls around the world during Women’s History Month, what would it be? It would be for them to have the freedom and support to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential. This includes the opportunity to receive an education, access healthcare, employment, and leadership positions, and the freedom to express themselves and live without fear of discrimination or oppression.
I believe that when women are empowered to achieve their goals and aspirations, they can make a significant positive impact on their families, communities, and the world. By breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for women and girls, we can create a more equitable and just society for all.
Lily Gavin-Allen, Senior Director of Business Development, UK
Tell us about your career to date. I got a degree in media and then went to Turkey for a holiday. Because I really wanted to stay, I hustled and found a job there in sales – and discovered I was naturally good at it. From there I ended up in car sales, which is a very male-dominated environment, so I had to learn quickly and navigate the sexism within the business. I had to learn how to be strong and how to fight back straight away.
After that I moved to Thailand and got a job in sales for a translation company. I focused on games clients because I’m a gamer, and ultimately I was headhunted by Testronic. And that’s basically it! My experience is in car sales and a bit of media sales, then translation sales and then Testronic, which is game sales, QA and localisation.
What is the environment like at Testronic in terms of making it an inclusive culture for women? Ann Hurley is my manager and is very supportive. Before that, I reported to our CEO Mike Betti and I always knew that I could talk to him if I had any problems or concerns. But nothing ever came up. It’s an environment where I’m not treated differently because I’m female; I’m respected for my experience.
I got diagnosed with Dyslexia late in life, just before I started at Testronic, and I was diagnosed with ADHD very recently. The support I’ve had from everyone has been amazing. I’ve had coaching for the Dyslexia and I’ve just applied for help with my ADHD. Testronic has been incredibly supportive, which I’m grateful for, because women are often diagnosed late in life.
What sort of support network do you have within Testronic? The sales team is all female now. There’s no arguing, there’s no competitiveness. We’re all supporting each other, and we all celebrate the wins. And I think that’s just our nature. We talk more openly than men perhaps would about mental health and things, and there’s just that general feeling of talking when one of us is struggling, and one of us needs support.
That’s particularly important, given that we’re all working remotely. I think it can get lonely. And just having those open conversations about things like having an inferiority complex, worrying about things and overthinking, is so useful. And if one of the team is stressing about it, and the other one is stressing about it too, it’s relief that we’re not alone. We are all very supportive of each other.
In terms of the games industry in general, what do you think it can do to attract more women and keep them in the sector? There has been much work done over the last few years where companies are taking responsibility for things like sexual harassment and toxicity towards women. That sort of thing happening across the industry makes a statement that the sector is trying to make it a safe place. As a woman, that would reassure me that the industry is making an effort by getting rid of some of those bad eggs. Although there are still a lot of those around…
But the other thing I’ve noticed is that increasingly I’m dealing with women who are now heads of departments. And they are hiring and mentoring more women, and there are more of us around in senior positions. And that means the dinosaurs in the industry can’t take us to strip clubs, or for a day playing golf. Things are having to change – and for the better.
I also find that, outside of Testronic, I’ve got a support network of other women in similar positions. We talk about work, about personal stuff, but there’s a kind of mentorship going on at the same time. We check in on each other about mental health, we ask each other why emails are being answered at 11pm, that sort of thing. We’re still a relatively small pool within the industry, but us women have learnt to support each other, and that is being passed on to others.
If you had one wish for Women’s History Month, what would it be? For women to be less hard on themselves – because men don’t do that to themselves. Never doubt yourself; just go for it. That’s what I learnt to do from a young age working in male-dominated environments. Go for it and don’t worry. I’ve applied for jobs way above my pay grade, because it’s good experience, and good to push yourself!
Elzbieta Pustul, Business Development Account Director, Poland
Tell us about your career journey to date. I’ve been in the industry a long time. My first gig was as a localisation tester and I worked on Gothic II, which was released 21 years ago. So that’s how it started. I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. I got my first console when I was 16. Since then, I’ve played games and my entire work career has been around games.
I’ve written reviews for some Polish gaming sties and I worked for Electronic Arts in customer support. After that I went to Metropolis Software where I worked in QA for one of their first games, Infernal. I moved on to the CD Projekt Localisation Centre and then was hired as QA Lead. My first project there was Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. I then worked on multiple projects because, as well as testing the games that the company was publishing, CD Projekt Localisation Centre was also a vendor for functionality testing, so, for example, I was responsible for a significant part of the functionality and localistation QA on The Witcher.
And from CD Projekt Localisation Centre I moved to Testronic 12 years ago. I joined as QA Lead, but I have had several promotions since then and now work in the Business Development department.
It sounds like Testronic has been very supportive of your career development. Well, the company doesn’t treat anyone any differently, whether they are men or women. Testronic is a really good place to work when you are a female. We have girls in the technical departments – all of the departments basically.
In your role in Business Development, do you think that having worked on the ‘shop floor’ in QA and localisation, that helps with what you do now? Yes, it helps a lot. I understand the whole process and most of the people I talk with don’t always have a QA background, but a production background. So, it’s very convenient for them to talk with someone who knows the whole process. They like to be sure that someone understands not only the process but also the vocabulary they are using while talking about games.
What do you think the games industry can do to encourage more women to consider a career in games and then support them? Well, for a start, I believe that we shouldn’t give girls the impression that they need to be the same as men – because that’s just not true. We are different and this is what matters. And games are not only played by guys. So just stop trying to make a female just a better-looking guy, just try to get our perspective. Which is not better, it’s just different.
It’s the same as hiring people from different backgrounds, different financial backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds, religious backgrounds. It’s all the same. It’s about diversity, it’s about positioning your product to be better, broader.
If you had one wish for women on International Women’s Day, in games, outside of games, whatever, what would it be? I would really like for women and girls to start thinking of – not what they are supposed to do; what everyone else wants them to be – and just to do what they like, love to do, just to be themselves. Seriously. That’s the most important thing in my opinion. Because what I see, even with my close friends, there is always in the back of their head this need of pleasing someone, instead of themselves.
Cristina Iacob, Senior Director of Business Development, Romania
Tell us about your career to date. In short, from the very beginning, my career has been focused on sales. I started at a customer service agency here in Bucharest, and slowly made my way up in the company up until I worked on a project directed by Microsoft.
And while I was at Microsoft, there was some shift in my personal life that spurred me on to volunteer for the Romanian Game Developers Association, or RGDA. I was a volunteer for around six months, just writing articles for the association and putting things together on a voluntary basis. After six months, I became a full-time project manager inside the association, and I gave up my position at Microsoft. And two years later, I was contacted by the founder of Whyttest, a QA company here in Bucharest.
That’s how I made it to the testing part of the industry. It was a very interesting shift because while I was a project manager at the RGDA, I had a chance to talk to all of the studios that make games here in Romania. I was really fascinated by the profile of the game developer. They are very passionate people who take pride in their work. Their passion is contagious! The love they show for their projects and the countless hours spent on working on something they truly love, is always inspiring. So, they inspired me to want to do something more for them and the industry in general.
When I was contacted by the founder of Whyttest to become part of the company, I saw an opportunity to become even more involved in the industry and make an impact on a larger scale. A couple of years after that, Whyttest was acquired by Testronic and right now I am part of the sales and account management team at Testronic.
Have things changed at all since Testronic acquired Whyttest? I was the only Business Development Manager at Whyttest. Now within Testronic, I am part of a team – a team that is awesome. I do believe that out of all of the big names in the QA part of the industry, Testronic was the perfect fit for Whyttest from multiple points of view: the culture, which is very similar; the hard working nature of the people and the team spirit – we fight for the same goals and we treat our partners not as clients, but truly as partners. I am very happy to be part of such a company.
And from a woman’s perspective, what’s the culture like at Testronic? We are a full women’s team in business development. We support each other as much as we can and, up until last year, we were a mixed gender team. And I can definitely say that there was no negative side; everyone was treated the same way. It’s a very cool atmosphere and both Mike [Betti, CEO] and Ann [Hurley, SVP Sales & Marketing] make us feel very good in our roles.
I’ve had all of the support that I needed, from coaching to help with something I’ve found complicated. And when it comes to my team members, my colleagues in the same position as I am, we talk a lot and we encourage each other. Because of the way we are, we want things to be perfect, and when things don’t go our way, that’s actually when we need the most support. We talk every single day, even just to share a joke we heard or a good experience, either personal or professional.
And in Romania itself, what’s the gender diversity like in games? I think that a couple of years ago, when I first joined Whyttest, there was a perception that testing was more interesting to guys. But I believe that things have changed a lot. And right now, even in Romania, some of our best project leads, are girls.
Do you think that a career in games is becoming more attractive to women then? I do believe that in general, when it comes to the QA industry, people are becoming much more open minded. When I first joined Whyttest, I still heard people saying that all we do is sit around and play games all day, and that is not a career choice. But I’ve noticed in the past couple of years that things have shifted considerably.
And I believe that we contributed a lot when it comes to shifting that perception because we had a couple of very well-placed initiatives in high schools and colleges, in order to change the mindsets and make QA more appealing and interesting – actually explaining what a QA company does. I believe that this approach also opened the eyes and the perspective of girls to come join our company and the industry in general.
And if you had one wish for women and girls around the world during Women’s History Month, what would it be? For them to do whatever they feel very passionate about. Because passion, along with hard work, is like a dream come true. This is a very cool industry; there’s never a dull moment. It can be stressful and hard at times, but in the end, the results justify everything.