Edgewater High School junior Bryanna Pajotte has been studying coding and computer science since middle school; she just didn’t know how she’d use it for her career.
Now, after attending EA Tiburon’s “Get In The Game” workshop, she has a better idea.
“I wondered to myself, ‘Would I ever even be able to develop video games; is this a career choice for me?’” Perjure said. “Seeing that not everybody (at the studio) played video games from when they were young, it was interesting to know that even I could work there.”
Ten female coders coming from Orange and Seminole county high schools were chosen for the video game developer’s first “Get in the Game” weeklong workshop. Pajotte and two other Edgewater students were along for the ride. Those students learned new ways to code and create software from some of the studio’s best and brightest.
Pajotte said she enjoys coding because of its detail-oriented and concrete structure. She already knew how to put together HTML websites and simple apps from her Edgewater High classes. During her time at EA Tiburon, though, she learned to create images, animate them and integrate audio into the final product.
Those new skills came in handy when they created their very own video game — a three-part game with a boss level inspired by the TV comedy “The Office.” The player was tasked with fighting Michael Scott, complete with sound bites from the show.
When the young coders weren’t honing their craft, they had lunch with some of EA’s “mentors,” who doled out context and advice.
“It was like meeting superstars,” Pajotte said. “We met people who had careers you didn’t even know existed, and they’re integral parts in creating the video games. It was really nice to sit down and talk with them. They told us that it’s OK we don’t know what we want to do and that we could end up at (EA) even if we didn’t know what we wanted with our careers.”
Strength In Numbers
One of those mentors was Katherine Winter, a software engineer for EA Tiburon. A Full Sail graduate who has been at Maitland’s EA branch for seven years, Winter works with the Frostbite Engine, which is used by many of the company’s major franchises. Winter, along with other EA gamemakers, helped oversee the student’s progress throughout the week and pointed out ways to improve their code. She also served as a personal mentor for the students, giving them advice about how they should pursue a career in coding. There was one major piece of advice Winter hoped the students would follow — they need to stick together.
EA’s Maitland studio has between 700 and 800 employees but Winter said fewer than 20 of its software engineers are women. A 2014 International Game Developers Assocation survey showed women comprise little over 20 percent of the game industry’s workforce. To that end, she encouraged Pajotte and the other students to stay connected and reach out to one another as they progressed in the industry.
“When you’re going into an industry that isn’t very diverse, you may encounter extreme personalities,” she said. “The value of this camp is so when girls enter this industry, they’ll have this support network. … It’s important to have support and have people you can talk to, and now these girls have that.”
All 10 coders received a golden ticket at the end of the week that guaranteed internship interviews with the studio.
“It was kind of surreal,” she said. “That day was when I realized, ‘Oh wow, I can actually get a job at EA’. When they handed me the ticket … I realized they could be handing me a career.”