Name: Jen Helms
Company: Playmation Studios
Industry: Gaming and Education
Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?
Jen: There has been a large divide between entertainment games and educational games however over the next 10 years there will be more and more games that are both entertaining and deeply educational. One problem has been that many educational games have focused on digitizing textbook style learning rather than taking full advantage of the medium of video games. There are developers that are starting to figure this out and as more and more people realize the power of the medium, to allow for deep exploration in a subject matter with continuous feedback, I think we are really going to see a shift.
Q: What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?
Jen: Being an entrepreneur is constantly challenging. As soon as I learn to be an expert in something, it is time to start figuring out how to be an expert at something else. While it’s a challenge, it certainly keeps things interesting. It is also incredibly difficult to create something out of nothing and break through all the noise, particularly in my industry. At the end of the day though, I have never done anything so rewarding.
Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?
Jen: Tech and gaming are heavily male dominated industries and while there are barriers that are very real, often the person that holds us back the most is ourselves. Have confidence. Trust in yourself and continuously remind yourself that you know more than you think. You don’t need anyone else to approve your bold thoughts. You don’t need anyone to agree with you. That woman you want to be? You are ready to be her now. There is no need to wait and take action.
Q: What does leadership mean to you?
Jen: Leadership is inspiring others to act in support of your vision. Leading means having a confident, strong voice but also the humility to know that you do not have all of the answers. You want to lead in way that encourages others to push you and your cause to be the best.
Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?
Jen: At a couple of points in my career I have had long lengths of time in which I neglected my physical health because I have been so focused on work. I now hit the gym 4-5 days a week with a long hike on Sundays. My energy levels have skyrocketed and I am far more productive with less hours. It can be hard to prioritize self-care but the key is establishing routines. Also, it is essential to have people in your life that hold you accountable instead of hold you back.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
Jen: I lived in Yosemite National Park for five years. I started out my career as an environmental educator and then went on to become the Director of Operations for our programs serving 14,000 participants each year. As an educator it was my job to hike groups of students around Yosemite National Park while teaching them about ecology and geology. It was a pretty spectacular classroom and a wonderful place to call home. One of my most prominent memories is waking up to the thud of a black bear sitting on our roof. The bear would often climb up to reach an apple tree in our backyard.