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Celebrating Women in VR: Q&A with Jenny Huang

As we continue to celebrate Women's History Month, I’d like to highlight another industry leader who makes it a priority to ensure that diverse characters, diverse players, and their play styles are thoroughly and accurately represented in VR.

Meet Jenny Huang, Head of Production at Sanzaru Games. In collaboration with Oculus Studios Executive Producer Mike Doran, Jenny has been pivotal to the success behind four unique VR titles including VR Sports Challenge, which provided players one of the best immersive sporting experiences with football, basketball, and hockey; Ripcoil, our first multiplayer disc-throwing duel game utilizing a unique form of player movement; Marvel Powers United VR, which featured one of the largest ‘epic’ roster of characters you can choose to play as; and Asgard’s Wrath, where you play a fledgling demi-god and inhabit other characters in order to play at human scale to encounter the most satisfying combat experience you can have in VR.

Jenny and her team at Sanzaru have been excellent partners over the years, but don’t just take it from us.

How did you get your start in the tech industry?

Jenny Huang: Growing up, I’ve always been interested in the creative arts, especially with music and art. I also have a strong passion for sports, which led to most of my childhood being surrounded by boys and competing against them. I enjoyed problem solving and discovering the root of a problem to address the issue. However, figuring out how to put all that together into a college major that led to a career was challenging. It did not feel unusual that the majority of my classmates were male since I was already accustomed to being in the minority when competing against the boys in sports while growing up. It provided the problem-solving challenges I enjoy, but I was still missing the visual arts. When I discovered video game development as a career, I realized it was the perfect combination of tech and art that I was looking for.

Tell us about your current role.

I transitioned into production where I was exposed to the needs of every department, not just engineering. The problem-solving challenges are equally present in production, but just take the form of other humans rather than a machine. Having the background in programming and the experience of building systems gave me the ability to quickly understand the interdependency between the departments. I now coordinate the communication within the team to ensure everybody is working toward the same milestone goals. I develop workflows for each department to ensure everyone is tasked sufficiently and that work gets passed through the pipeline. Lastly, I work with publishers to ensure expectations about our deliverables are met.

Who’s your favorite figure from women’s history?

JH: There have been so many inspirational women and women’s groups who have graced us with their passion and talents It’s hard to pick just one as I believe it’s a collaborative effort of everyone to make the women’s movement a reality. They strive for equality in human rights, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, and women’s rights. I also want to recognize organizations that have empowered women and given us a community to relate to each other. Such organizations include everything from well-known associations like the WNBA, which is front-and-center fighting for women equality, to small unknown businesses like Surf With Amigas, which is providing positivity and making a difference, one woman at a time.

How do you see yourself making history?

JH: By participating in Women’s History Month and speaking with both men and women about the struggles women face, I hope to do my small part in contributing to Women’s History. We all contribute in our own ways, even as a supporter for someone else’s struggle. By offering my time to listen to other people’s stories and participating in events that empower and inspire women, I hope to always walk along the path with other female giants who have paved the way for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young girl considering a career in tech or the arts, what would it be and why?

Pursue what your heart desires and don’t let the world limit you with boundaries you might not feel or agree with. Recognize the nagging inner voice that might cause you doubt in your decisions and then challenge it. Trust that you are your best advocate and that you know what brings a smile to your face every day. Be bold and daring, knowing that it won’t be easy, but also knowing that you won’t be alone. And rest assured that you are not locked into any choice you make today or tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to make a decision today for fear of changing it tomorrow.

How do you see women pushing the state of the art forward in the fields of augmented and virtual reality?

JH: We’ve been seeing growth in the AR/VR market, and a large part of that is due to the gaming industry. We need to find ways to close the gender gap when it comes to video game development. However, when it comes to game development, women only account for less than 25% of that work force. When you look deeper into the gender distribution amongst the roles within a development team, you’ll find an even heavier skew toward the male population for roles specific to content creation. Female developers still struggle to find their voice and sense of belonging amongst their male-dominant coworkers.

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Mar 24, 2020 at 02:12

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