As a Senior Director of Analytics with a passion for a collaborative culture and neurodiversity, Kerrie Neale has been able to leave a mark on NaturalMotion by injecting 18 years of her commercial experience in Business Intelligence & Analytics into the success of our games. She’s not only a seasoned leader with expertise in using the power of analytics to approach problems with both creative and strategic solutions, but also an advocate for an environment that nurtures, mentors and supports the diversity within her team and beyond. Apart from being an avid fan of strategic games and a master of card games, she recognises that the key to a victorious workplace may well be hidden inside the unique superpowers of its people.
Read on to learn more about Kerrie’s journey and her perspective on how to best unleash your potential.
How did you come to work at NM?
I’m the Senior Director of Analytics at NaturalMotion and have been at the company for the past three years. The reason why I joined NaturalMotion was because they make amazing games for players and have an incredible culture alongside BossAlien and the wider Zynga teams, all of whom I work with in my role. During the course of my career, I’ve increasingly recognised the importance of culture, and as a leader, I would say the culture has to fit in with my principles and beliefs. I was really proud to join a company that valued and cared about people, and where I could focus on being both a results-focused leader and a nurturing mentor in the right balance.
Tell us a little bit more about the process of you joining NM.
I was really lucky to have worked previously with David Byrne, who was heading NaturalMotion at the time. David has been a good mentor to me and we remain in touch. In fact, when I was recently promoted, he was one of the people I reached out to and thanked, because he’s been a part of my journey. Interviewing with Alex Tremblay, Vice President in Data and Analytics, was also really inspiring. It’s been a great journey to grow analytics for NaturalMotion and to be part of the accomplished senior team under Jeff Hickman . In parallel I continue to enjoy closely partnering with Zynga global analytics led by Alex.
Are there any other mentors or leaders that have helped or inspired you throughout your career?
There are too many to mention by name, but in any role evolving and growing have been core principles for me. If you’re curious and can look through different optics via the people you work with, then there’s always something inspiring to discover whether in small increments or larger ‘light bulb’ moments. I really am an advocate for neurodiversity. I spend a lot of time with the Senior Leadership at NaturalMotion, cross discipline teams across our studios and Zynga’s Central Analytics. Each team or individual can offer something different, which fills me with energy and allows me to keep evolving. I find working in a place that appreciates neurodiversity and how it can bring to light the super strengths within teams really motivating and rewarding.
What do you do to unwind after work and how does it help your role?
I walk a lot, as I love being in nature and find it very relaxing and mindful. I live close to the coast, so coastal walking is something I enjoy doing. I also like kayaking. Overall, you will find me dabbling with anything that’s creative. From sketching outside to photography and printmaking, I’ve always delved into anything creative ever since I was young. I also enjoy creative writing, though for me it’s more about the process than the end result. I value my left brain, but I know my right brain skills are enhanced by my hobbies and contribute to my well-rounded professional skills. I approach analytics and problem-solving with both creativity and logic, so I consider myself to be a mix of art and science. That also explains why I love gaming; it brings together art and science, and is probably the reason why I’m very passionate about working in the industry.
How would you describe your journey at NM?
NaturalMotion has provided me with an opportunity to deliver value and growth whilst also investing in my career. We spend so much time in our everyday life with the people we work with. They really do feel like a work family to me especially in the collaborative culture we have. I have great gratitude and appreciation for being heard, acknowledged and given the opportunity to add value. I have been focused on growing a great team of analytics talent, contributing to the business not only within my discipline but as part of the leadership initiatives, and mentoring other people who come to me and ask for advice.
How would you describe the people within NM?
You hear many businesses use the words ‘uber-talented’ and ‘smart,’ and it may feel like a cliche to use the same terms as other enterprises, but it’s true. There are creative, academically and emotionally smart people surrounding me. When something naturally clicks, it’s hard to put the finger on the exact recipe that makes everything work well together. But, I can give the credit for that to our neurodiverse culture that’s foundational to cohesion, creativity and the success we all enjoy together.
How does the mission affect the company culture?
We believe in our players and always aim to let our players feel what our mission statement talks about, which is enriching lives through play. I am proud to be part of the Diversity and Inclusion project which we continue to invest in and give the ongoing focus it deserves. What I’m also really proud of is our Mental Health Champions team, where I volunteered. For a company to believe that mental health is as important as physical health and ensure that we have people in place that others can go and talk to in a safe space is a prime example of the way NaturalMotion cares about its people. It’s not simply the intention, but the commitment to action that makes it genuine.
What is a common misconception your discipline faces and what is the reality?
Analytics people are often seen as introverted and mathematically-oriented thinkers, but there’s more diversity in the talent pool than that. We have different people working in analytics, and whilst it may be skewed to certain working styles, we still get a lot of diversity. Each person has different ratios of technical, analytical and commercial strengths, which creates a solid mix of extroverted and introverted thinkers. Analytics can sometimes be seen as quite purist, but the right people and the vast amount of neurodiversity among them create a balance between the pragmatists and the purists in our team, which helps achieve the right velocity of innovation and timely results. Even now, we resemble a collective of “Analytics Avengers,” where everyone has distinctive superpowers. We’re stronger when we come together, and it can make for some great debates, idea sharing and results.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into the industry?
Play games and understand the market and the players. Especially in analytics, you will be a better analyst/data scientist if you understand the product and how different players engage. Also, don’t feel limited in your choices. Always think about your passions when picking a career. The games industry is sometimes seen as being development-focused and while it is one of the core areas, there are many other contributing disciplines that you could find yourself in. Simply follow us on LinkedIn to see how diverse the roles can be. Think about what you really enjoy, what you’re good at and where you might be excited to be stretched beyond your comfort zone. When you’re feeling a little uncomfortable, it may be a sign to stay curious, open yourself up to different journeys and let your full potential blossom.