New XDS Advisory Committee Member Nikki Roth: On Improving External Development <br> through Diversity and Inclusion

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10Jul

New XDS Advisory Committee Member Nikki Roth: On Improving External Development
through Diversity and Inclusion

The XDS Advisory Committee is made up of industry leaders who play a key role in supporting the advancement of external development within the games industry. One of our newest members, Nikki Roth, shares some of her industry experience, and her take on the importance of diversity and inclusion in external development.

First fascinated by the 2005 remake of King Kong and its visuals, this inspired Nikki to take up movie magic. After making her first 3D animation and writing her first line of code during her sophomore year in college, Nikki eventually earned an internship at EA Sports, then landed her big screen opportunity at Lucasfilms. Intrigued by the idea of using her skill set for practical research and applications, she was able to jump into the tech industry through her network. Now, she is working for Google as a Technical Artist bringing tech and art together in a way that is useful for Augmented Reality (AR). 

Nikki’s diverse experience in the games, film and tech industry has exposed her to the importance of diversity and inclusion, and its strong influence on the improvement of external development. Throughout her classes in computer science and the early stages of her career in games, being the only woman on the team or the only woman in the group was a common occurrence for her.

I’ve been undermined, underestimated, and disrespected. I knew what unconscious bias and impostor syndrome meant before I knew their names. I’ve been pushed down by those who felt they had to in order to push themselves up,” Nikki explains.

But I have also seen the power of empowerment. There is nothing more rewarding than to see how a little support can spark a new-found courage, or one opportunity can unlock career-changing potential. Diversity and inclusion gives a face to an issue that can be turned into a positive impact. External development is a human industry that relies on global collaboration, and diversity and inclusion are key to maintaining that human element. It is an important aspect to improving our partnerships, our culture, and in turn, our products. By creating awareness and expanding our perspective, we can identify better use cases, set better expectations and many more. But the important thread here is we can be better.

Over the years, Nikki has become a strong voice and influencer who advocates for diversity and inclusion for women in tech and students in STEM/STEAM. She has participated in women in tech panels at several events and conferences, given talks at women in tech meetups, and a micro talk on confidence at GDC. She is also a co-chair of their women@Daydream steering committee, and they have hosted panels, summits and events. On top of these, Nikki continues to be a mentor to other women, ranging from students to coworkers, in addition to introducing students who are interested in technology to tech, art and animation.

What are some encouragements Nikki has for women and students who are trying to get into tech?

For better or for worse, there are a ton of different opportunities in the gaming and tech industries. I would encourage women to lean on their interests and passions to narrow down the search – there is a good chance you will find an overlap. More importantly, when looking at job postings, if you find something but only meet some of the requirements, still apply. Companies are looking for a package, and they factor in requirements, perspective and potential.

A great way to show your potential is through your confidence, but confidence is a skill that takes practice. In fact, practice creates confidence. What I’ve learned is that confidence creates confidence; in other words, when you believe in yourself, others will believe in you. One thing you better believe is that impostor syndrome is real. I’ve learned that I am not alone, and it’s a mind game that everyone plays. Sometimes it just helps to prepare for your turn. I’ve learned to step outside of my comfort zone, sit at the table, and speak up. I am not comfortable with public speaking, but I have challenged myself to find speaking opportunities. I am also not comfortable with confrontation, but I have challenged myself to focus on the art of conversation. If anything, I am confident that I have many more important lessons to learn.