Based at the Natural Motion Games’ London studio, Lauren Haigh supports the CSR Racing team as a Licensing and Partnerships Coordinator. As a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion within the workplace, Lauren is also a dedicated member of the Women At Zynga group (WAZ), the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as well as the Social Squad. The circumstances that she found herself in inspired her search for an inclusive and supportive workplace within tech, which led Lauren to her dream role at NaturalMotion Games.
Continue reading to learn more about Lauren’s inspiring journey and the importance of working with a company whose values align with your own.
Why initially drew you to the Technology Industry?
I have always had a huge interest in computers, technology and gaming, but am not very “tech-savvy”. Since I am such a people person, I hadn’t initially considered that I could work in the industry. As a child I fondly remember playing on the 80s and 90s gaming consoles and handheld gaming consoles with my older brother. We were introduced to the Atari and PlaystationOne at my Grandma’s house. She was an RENS (RAF) Radio Engineer at the end of the Second World War and loved technology. She always said that it was important to keep up with IT and at 85 she even bought her first laptop and got connected to the internet. My grandma showed me how to use personal devices such as little flip up digital diaries and taught me how to play games on them long before mobile phones were mainstream. When I was 8 she bought me a desktop computer which my parents connected to dial-up internet. A few years later I started to learn to code but it wasn’t something that stuck. The most I managed was a really cool Bebo page. When I had the opportunity (at 21 years old, fresh out of university) to work for a tech-comms company as their Business and Events Manager, I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t my forever-role and so I veered off into the Hospitality industry in Events and Marketing for a while, but I eventually found my way back. Fortunately, with the rise of companies like Google and Facebook, the company culture had changed immensely. This is my favourite part of NaturalMotion and why I cannot see myself ever wanting to leave!
Tell us how you came to Join NM?
I had a huge health crisis which resulted in me becoming paralysed from the waist down. I had a life (and mobility) saving operation that put me on sick leave for two months. I had a really difficult time at work with my then-employer trying to push me out of the organisation because I needed recovery time. I filed against them and the payout allowed me to take some time out to really evaluate what I wanted and needed, taking on some temp work once I got stronger. When I was ready to return to a permanent role I spent six months looking for a company with values they lived by (rather than to just plaster on their website) and a strong, human-centric organisational culture. I found Zynga first and then NaturalMotion and I’m so pleased I get to work here!
Why is a culture like this so important to you?
We are so well looked after, above and beyond other technology companies I have worked for. Not just in terms of our salary and benefits but also our managers, our processes and our HR team. I feel like I matter and I am cared about. The way we are spoiled with social events and treats sent to our homes during lockdown has been a lovely bonus, but knowing that if I were ever to have another major life happening in the future I would be supported and helped is a relief and provides a great sense of security. On the colleague-to-colleague side, we support each other and raise one another up. We have socials and fun together and I have loved being involved in different groups such as Women at Zynga and having the opportunity to feed into considerations in the workplace for those of us with disabilities. In its practice, NaturalMotion/Zynga is somewhere I feel proud to work. We create awesome stuff but as a company we do the right thing too. We stand up for things that matter, support initiatives and charities that help make a difference to huge and important causes. Just like the way I am treated at work, I feel like we take a human-centred approach to what we make too. We really care about our players and our local communities.
Do you have any mentors or leaders that have helped or inspired you throughout your career?
I have been fortunate to have had some incredible managers since joining the tech industry. Carly Buckingham, now at Facebook, and Mel Mitchell at ThoughtWorks both taught me resilience, how to stand up for what is right but remain professional, being clear about what you need to succeed and that sometimes softly spoken women are overlooked – so not to accept that. Emma Mulqueeny OBE is someone who spearheaded coding in schools in the UK and has spent her career helping women and girls into coding. She taught me a lot about positive company culture, how work-life balance helps you excel at work and the importance of building professional relationships. Now, I am incredibly lucky to be managed by James Hans; he is exceptionally knowledgeable and very patient when imparting some of that to me!
Why do you feel it is important to encourage and support diversity in Gaming?
Gaming is for everyone, so it should represent everyone, be usable by everyone and to achieve this you need input from “everyone”. We, of course, cannot consult literally everyone for every game but if our workforce is inclusive and we have a diverse team, we are more likely to achieve this. It is no secret that traditionally, gaming hasn’t been hugely diverse like most white-collar industries, but it’s awesome seeing steps made in that direction. It starts with having an inclusive and welcoming place to work, as well as supporting education initiatives which will help the next generation of gaming employees who may not have had the opportunity to learn how to make games, or not been encouraged into this kind of role in the past.