November 22, 2023
From Aspiration to Application: Early Career Insights from a Software Developer
An Interview with one of Hyper Hippo's Software Developers, Leyan Feng
In today’s tech landscape, the journey from entry-level to senior leadership is not always straightforward, particularly for women. The industry has long grappled with a lack of diversity across all levels that has been exacerbated by barriers such as lack of representation, disparities in educational access and resources, and persisting biases–to name a few.
Recently, a term has emerged to encapsulate part of this larger issue: the “broken rung”. For every 100 men that ascend the corporate ladder, only 72 women are given the same opportunity. This early inequality trickles up, affecting the number of women available for senior roles and making it virtually impossible for women to catch up, even as more of them break through the glass ceiling into senior leadership.
While the broken rung represents just one facet of a much broader diversity and inclusion challenge, it underscores an important piece of the puzzle: that improving diversity at all levels of the tech industry starts at the beginning–at the entry-level. Fixing the broken rung at the bottom of the corporate ladder can set off a positive chain reaction across the talent pipeline, making it crucial for companies to invest in the development of diverse female talent right from the start.
As we delve into these challenges and potential solutions, we’re excited to bring you an interview with one of Hyper Hippo’s Software Developers, Leyan Feng. Through our conversation, we discuss impactful learning opportunities for new developers and the hurdles facing women in the tech industry, and reflect on her experiences joining the Hyper Hippo pod. Stay tuned as we explore the nuances of being a female software developer in a world that’s waking up to the importance of fixing the broken rung.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what initially sparked your interest in pursuing a career in tech?
Hello! My name is Leyan, you can also call me Leanne. I am a junior game developer who has been in the industry for two years. Initially, I pursued a Math major but made the switch to Computer Science when I realized math didn’t fully captivate my interest. Delving into Computer Science helped me discover a true passion for technology and its creative possibilities. This sparked my desire to pursue a career in tech, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and I’m enthusiastic about continuing to explore and contribute to the world of game development.
How did you come to work at Hyper Hippo? Did you always aspire to work in the games industry?
I started my career as a web developer, but wasn’t as passionate about it as I had hoped. I had worked on game projects previously in a personal capacity, and found it to be incredibly engaging and fulfilling. After completing a web development contract, I decided to explore other opportunities in tech.
When I got my first opportunity to work in the games industry, I immediately felt a strong connection with the work. I was genuinely passionate about creating games, and time flew by when I was working. The industry felt like the perfect fit, and I’ve been pursuing my career in game development ever since. I feel fortunate to be part of the Hyper Hippo team now, where numerous exciting opportunities await.
Do you consider yourself to be a gamer? Do you have any favorite games you like to play?
Yes! Gaming has been a source of entertainment and inspiration for me, and has provided opportunities to foster new friendships with diverse individuals.
I enjoy crafting games, Raft is one of my favorites. I’ve also been an avid League of Legends player for several years. It’s a rewarding pastime that not only demands skill and strategy but offers the chance to engage in lively conversations and collaborate effectively as a team.
Working at Hyper Hippo
What were your initial expectations about working as a developer in the games industry? Did this align with your actual experiences during your first few months?
My expectations centered on enjoying my work while transitioning my hobby into a career. I anticipated that continuous learning and adaptation would be required due to the dynamic nature of the industry. Overall, my experience has matched these expectations. I’ve gained valuable knowledge through diving into our codebase, picking up various tools such as UniRx, Injection, delving into data analytics and so on. I relish the challenge of fixing bugs and the fun of testing games to see the outcome of my work.
Since joining Hyper Hippo, what projects have you worked on that particularly excite you or have allowed you to grow your skills?
I’ve worked on all the AdVenture games, but mainly AdVenture Capitalist. It’s a fun game to work on – I’ve explored UIs, PlayFab, rewarded and interstitial ads, the shop, data analytics tools, localizations, and a myriad of other tools that have helped me acquire new techniques and skills. It has been fun to test and refine my fixes, and deal with intriguing edge cases exploits.
As a new developer, what challenges have you encountered in your role? What has helped you overcome them?
My limited practical experience and lack of familiarity with the codebase can be challenging. It can be frustrating to realize I spent more time than necessary on a task, or to see others swiftly identify the root cause of a bug.
Making notes to document what I’ve learned has helped me draw insights from mine and my team’s experiences. For example, observing how others resolve bugs efficiently has bolstered my own bug-solving skills, and ultimately helped me become more adept at recognizing and addressing issues.
Your Career Journey
As a woman in the tech and gaming industry, what unique challenges or barriers have you encountered? How have you navigated and overcome them?
Previously, I’ve been the only woman in the workplace, which left me feeling rather shy and occasionally isolated. I believe that diverse perspectives lead to stronger teams and better outcomes, and so I encouraged myself to be courageous in expressing my thoughts and ideas to overcome this discomfort. Over time, I’ve learned not to fear making an incorrect statement because ultimately, all contributions contribute to my team’s shared goal–to enhance the quality of our games. My colleagues have also been incredibly friendly and welcoming, which eventually helped me feel at ease in the work environment.
As someone starting their tech career, what opportunities for growth and learning have been most impactful for you?
Creating personal projects is one of the most valuable learning experiences. This allowed me to become acquainted with tools like Unity and delve into coding practice. Seeking out entry-level positions at game development studios has also been highly beneficial. Working on real-world projects enabled me to learn new skills quickly, and gain practical insights into the game development process.
What projects or accomplishments from your career so far are you particularly proud of?
I take pride in my initial Unity project, which served as a fantastic introduction to game development. Through identifying and resolving various bottlenecks, I completed it successfully, motivating me to continue learning and take on more projects to enhance my portfolio. Ultimately, my goal is to secure a game developer position as I gain experience to enrich my profile in the field.
I also had the opportunity to work on a project from its conception stage for a professional studio. Collaborating closely with the game designer and artist gave me practical insights into the early stages of the development process, and the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the coding work was an invaluable learning experience.
What keeps you motivated and excited about your work as a software developer in the gaming sector?
As a gamer, I am motivated by the opportunity to create experiences that bring joy and entertainment to players. I’m passionate about working on game projects, and the enjoyment, continuous learning, and opportunities for creative problem-solving keep me inspired in my work.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to pursue careers in technology and gaming, based on your own experiences and successes?
My advice to young women aspiring towards careers in technology and gaming is to believe in themselves. Don’t doubt your abilities; you are just as capable as anyone else in the field. Technology is ever-evolving, so keep seeking out opportunities to practice and grow your skill set. Continuous learning will help you stay competitive.
In your opinion, how can companies create an environment that supports the growth and success of emerging developers like yourself?
As much as possible, provide opportunities for new developers to learn and develop their skills. At Hyper Hippo, I’ve found excellent mentors who have helped me settle into the position and continuously taught me new things. Much appreciation to Florin and Mathew for your guidance! I’ve been entrusted with increasingly challenging tasks over my time with Hyper Hippo, allowing me to gain valuable first-hand experience. Looking ahead, gaining access to recommended courses and external resources to further facilitate my skill development would be appreciated.