"Breaking Into the Industry" is a weekly interview series that speaks with video game professionals from all across EA. We hope that by sharing how some of the industry's biggest (and smallest) players got their start, you too can learn how to get your foot in the door. Join us today as we speak with Ginger Graham about diversity in the workplace, her passion for HR, and her hectic life as a business undergrad.
What's your name and job title?
My name is Ginger Graham, and I am the Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager.
That sounds like an odd, yet interesting title. What does a Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager do?
I oversee our Inclusion efforts on a global scale, which includes Talent Acquisition and retention efforts, as well as external employment branding to ensure we are attracting and retaining a multi-dimensional workforce.
So what does that translate to day-to-day? What's an average day for you like?
My efforts are mainly concentrated in Recruitment, so I partner with targeted organizations such as WIGI (Women in Gaming International) and SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) to share job opportunities through their networks, attend and sponsor events to build relationships, and educate the business on how to better attract this talent.
As far as retention efforts go, what have you done in the past or what are you doing currently to attract and keep talent?
There is definitely a war for talent within our industry, despite the economic downturn.
I believe that EA offers so much in regards to meaningful employment experience, and that what we are bringing to the table is attractive. For retention purposes, Inclusion means that our employees should all feel a sense of belonging, like they are welcomed and respected. It's important that our current workforce is engaged and bringing those unique perspectives to the table so that they are translated into our products and services.
I truly believe that if you feel valued at your company, you have a built in sense of loyalty, and will want to remain as a part of the team. So, to bring that feeling to light on campus, we are reviewing exit survey data, partnering closely with our HR business partners, and listening to our employees through advisory groups such as Women@play and Gaymers.
We are reviving a speaker series, called Portraits of Inspiration, where we will host celebrity guests that have powerful stories of inclusion. Our employees should walk away from those events learning something new about the celebrity and maybe relating to it in some way.
Do you do other things to highlight hard-working employees?
We do! We are in the middle of shooting an amazing video that highlights some really interesting females on campus. We've asked each of them to speak a bit about Inclusion and what it means to them here at EA. I'm so grateful for the creative and quirky personalities available in this industry.
We will also be reaching out to add some great women from the UK and Canada as well, which is important as part of a Global company. Employees want to feel involved at all levels, no matter the location.
We are also revising our internet/intranet capabilities to highlight such successes in the world of Diversity such as our three nominated females for Women in Games at GDC in San Francisco this year!
There are a lot of different cultures represented here at the Redwood Shores campus. Do you have goals that you set for yourself on the representation of certain cultures? For example, do you say, "This year we need to work to hire more females"?
While it may be easy to categorize individuals according to how the government perceives the workforce, we feel that traditional Diversity categories no longer make sense in the world today. For example, I can be female, and I can be of Asian descent, but there are other things that make me unique, such as being from a new generation, or coming from an underprivileged area, or having bilingual capabilities. There is just so much that makes up one person and how they see the world, I feel that it’s not fair to put people in boxes and resource them according to what we believe is attractive.
Our goal at EA is to attract fresh new perspectives from all walks of life, in all areas. This is the only way we can remain innovative, competitive, and, most importantly, mirror our consumers.
We strategize based on opportunities within our current environment, but we always hire the best cog for our wheel.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to one day work in a role like yours?
Follow your dreams! I started out as an HR generalist, which I believe played a big part in my total understanding of recruitment strategy. I never thought I'd be interested in the Recruitment side of the house, but when you have a true passion for the company you work for, Recruiting comes naturally.
Being involved with Diversity is taking that passion for recruitment to the next level. It marries my excitement in making an employment offer with opening doors for those who may have felt locked out.
I'm a lifelong gamer, and this position at this very company is a complete dream come true!
You just answered my next question: "Are you a gamer?" I was surprised to find out when I joined EA how few and far between true gamers are outside of the game development teams. From your perspective, is it important to be a gamer?
I was surprised too! I mention that all the time: “Why aren't we all gamers?” Although when I explain what it means to be a gamer to those who believe they are not, they usually realize they play much more than they think.
I think it’s critical to be a gamer when you are on the front lines of the company, especially in recruitment. You are going to find the most passionate employees are former or current consumers in any industry. If you are having fun with the product or service, you are going to naturally exhibit that excitement in your external conversations.
Also, in line with our importance around customers coming first, what better way to understand their needs than to become one? I personally think it should be a requirement. [Laughter]
You mentioned that previously you were an HR Generalist. Can you talk a little about your career from college until now? Start with where you went to school and what you studied.
I have an interesting background that includes being raised by a very strong single mother. Unfortunately, due to conflicting responsibilities, I was limited to attending school as quickly as I could and getting to work as quickly as I could. So while I didn't attend a well-known university, I did complete my degree in Business through night school and online classes, while holding down a few full-time jobs in the meantime.
I've had the luxury of studying under some amazing heads of Human Resources throughout my career, who literally took me under their wing and prepared me for what has been an amazing career in the field. I like that you get to take so many different avenues within HR, and as the importance of talent evolves, more unique roles like mine are becoming available.
If I had to start over, I would still select HR as my career of choice.
Did you always want to work in the game industry and at EA? Or did you just happen to see a job opening and go for it?
As I progressed through my career, I was often asked, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" My answer was always the same: "Working for a gaming company, doing what I love to do." Then I would typically laugh a little and give them the answer they wanted to hear: “In some sort of leadership position working with this fabulous company that I'm in right now!"
It was always in the back of my mind that this would be my ultimate goal. I would be willing to work at any gaming company, but if I could get into EA, that would be the best of the best.
I'm a LinkedIn success story. I reached out when I began to see a transformation within Recruiting and basically said I would “mop the floors” if they would let me be a part of the change. I landed my interview and the rest is history.
I always smile when I hear about people who had a goal to work in this industry and then achieved it. Changing topics though, I met you through our Foodies email group at EA. Are you a big food lover or an amateur chef perhaps?
I love, love, love food, probably too much! I'm more of a consumer than a chef, but I usually have a detailed opinion about restaurants and unique dishes. I'm very adventurous when it comes to eating! The email group has been great, lots of really unique things to learn. I also watch the Food channel as much as possible – it’s pretty much an addiction.
So, my last question: Is your name really Ginger Graham? It seems too convenient for a food lover to have a name like that.
[Laughter] It is my real name! Growing up was not fun for me as a child though, nicknames like "Gingerbread," "Gingerale," etc. – devastating to a five year old. Growing up was no picnic either, as it always made me seem like a waitress or a dancer or something.
[Laughter] Well, I think it's a cool name. What's your middle name?
Not as fun.
Agreed. And I will be losing the “Graham” part soon, too! I’m getting married in December!
I know! Awful.
What's the new last name?
Ah, come on!
[Laughter] It can be a Latin dish?
Okay, I'll buy that. Well, Ginger Graham, it was great talking with you. Thanks for taking the time to do this.
Same to you, it was fun!