World of Work - Creative Director & Gamification Specialist
As part of our new ‘World of Work’ series, our in-house writer Holly Pigache interviews members of the Picaro World and EdTech Lobby community to find out about different professional pathways. Here, she interviews our Creative Director and Gamification Specialist, Emma Henry.
How did you get into your current role at EdTech Lobby and Picaro World?
I initially worked in the video game industry, testing AAA games. When I worked for Xbox/Microsoft I was assigned to work on their interactive Sesame Street game, which was my first introduction to Educational Games. I took this experience with me to Kaplan, who originally commissioned the Picaro Product. Initially, I was testing their applications and then designing the Picaro games but it became clear they needed help with the gamification of the content. So, I then became Kaplan’s Games Designer & QA Engineer, where I met Danijela and we moved on from Kaplan to establish Picaro in its own right.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I would say the most interesting part is working with clients worldwide, and the fact I am always learning something new. Being part of a start-up, you have to wear many hats and you have to do jobs that you wouldn’t normally do, it can be a little stressful trying to perform a task that’s out of your comfort zone but in a way, it’s the best way to learn! Especially with the power of Google helping us!
What is something that surprises you about your work?
I still have lots of things to learn and need to keep up with new technologies and innovations. If anyone says to you that they’ve seen, heard, done everything, they are either lying or don’t want to learn anything new. Watch out for these people because they will not be open to change and be stuck in their old ways.
Have there been any key turning points in determining your career progression?
Working on the interactive Sesame Street game, I was introduced to gamification but my love for gamification goes further back. Where I don’t learn in a conventional way (I find it hard to get through books, for example due to my dyslexia), I liked the idea of using interactive game media as a way to get information across. At university, I had to write an essay on Gestalt Theory and I didn’t understand a word of it – even with one-to-one tutor sessions. The night before it was due in, I gave myself a break and watched some TV. The episode of Red Dwarf I put on touched on Gestalt Theory! One of the creatures on the show was made of all the different people to form one individual – this made the Theory just click! And from that, I liked the whole idea of teaching in a more interactive and story-driven way.
Describe your career journey in three words.
An unexpected surprise, stressful and pleasurable.
Do you have an ultimate career goal? If so, what is it?
Before I started university, I had a clear idea in mind of what I wanted my career to be and where I wanted to take it. I knew I had to achieve certain milestones to work my way to that goal - it was very much a case of this particular way or not at all! However, now I’m a bit older and wiser these goals and achievements have changed over time as I have. I didn’t even consider a career working in education; my heart was set on working for a company like Media Molecule or SuperMassive Games. Now even though, if given the opportunity to work for those companies, I would love to be involved but my focus has changed and I’m sure it will change again in another 10 years. I think it’s great to have a goal but you should also be willing to adapt and change that goal. If anything, I’ve already achieved one of my main goals: having a job that makes me want to jump out of bed every morning excited to get to work! For me, rule number one when deciding on a career is to make sure it’s something you’re passionate about!
Would you do anything differently if you could start your career again?
I would have spent the time learning (at the very least) the basics of coding and programming, even though what I do is design-based, I believe it’s important that everyone should have a basic understanding of programming languages and how that works. Where everything is becoming digitised, and technology is moving at such a fast pace, it’s good to have that knowledge so you are not working blind.
If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
There were many different jobs that I wanted when I was younger, I would have loved to have gone into the sciences as I love physics and astronomy but as an adult, I would have loved to have been a doctor or a vet; I find medicine fascinating, not to mention I love animals!
What’s the main piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to get into a career in Game Design and Digital Design?
Try and not place yourself in a box and therefore restrict yourself, one thing that I cannot understand is how or why you are expected to choose the career that you are going to work at ’til you’re 60 plus when you’re just 16-18 years old. We all grow and change and the same goes for our career choices. I’m not saying that you should aspire to be a ‘Jack of all trades’ but you need to keep ahead of the game in terms of new technologies and techniques in order to keep learning. Adaptability is also key!