International Women’s Day is March 8 – a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about discrimination, and take action to drive gender parity. This week, we’re putting a spotlight on just a few of the women inside Ubisoft Winnipeg and the work they do.
Generalist Programmer Srija Srivastava talks to us about why tool builders are part of a game team, and why math puts the biggest smile ever on her face.
So tell me what you do!
I work as a generalist programmer in the tools team of an unannounced project. So I work within a game team, mainly on the tools that the technical artists use to make game assets. Then the game assets are used by the developers to make games!
What makes tools programmer an essential part of game team?
To make our daily work as developers easier! You try to take tasks that are taking one or two hours and try to reduce that, make their work easier and more systematic, to add customization that they need or request so they can do their best work on the game.
So how closely do you work with those technical artists on a on a regular basis?
There’s a lot of collaboration! Whenever I pick up any task, I contact them to understand their needs and exactly what they want, and if what I have understood is correct before I start working. So I collaborate with them very frequently.
I think a lot of people think of tools as something that’s totally separate from production. But you’re part of a game project, building and changing things alongside the game, is that right?
Yes, the development goes hand in hand! Suppose there was a feature they wanted in a tool, something they wanted it to be able to do that wasn’t available. I would go in, add it, and maybe in a day or two it’s available for the technical artist, they can regenerate the data and then use it in game, work on it! So it does go in parallel – it’s continuous interaction.
Only a day or two!?[Laughs] So it depends upon the complexity, it might take a bit more time, yeah. It could be much longer depending on what they want! But it’s really like a back and forth, ‘this has to be done, they need this.’ ‘OK, we can do this.’ These things get changed and developed and modified to help them as they go.
What got you into programming?
I love mathematics! Since I was a kid, math and computer science. When I was in 9th grade I was introduced to Java and programming came and I really loved it.
OK, you just lit up when you talked about math. What makes it so much fun for you?
Everything! Math in general. I can do math all day, all night. I used to be that obsessed with mathematics. And when I studied computer science and got introduced to programming I thought “Oh my God, I can use mathematics and computer science combined!” I was fascinated.
There used to be a stereotype that computer science and math was more of a guys’ area. Have you come across that in your career or your school?
No, I used to beat them all. [laughs] Nobody could question me on mathematics. When I was in school I was like, come on. I can challenge you. Even at home, I used to tell my brothers that. So nobody would point fingers or say ‘No, she can’t do it.’ I was so enthusiastic and I was so committed to it and it showed.
Any advice for women who do encounter that kind of thing?
Work hard and challenge them. Whenever anybody doubts, just challenge them. And beat them.
I know you’re a gamer, but now I think you might love math even more? What’s it like be able to do both?
I’m like kind of living my dream right now. When people ask me “How’s the work?” I just say “You guys don’t know.” This is one of the best part of my day. I’m still amazed by how much effort is put into making a game. It’s amazing to see, even for me. When I join meetings with the whole team, seeing all the people making one single game, from different geographical areas, all coming together and collaborating with each other, it’s still fascinating to me.