Q&A with Heather Joung

Heather Joung

Lead Game Designer, AGS

How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position? 

After graduating from university with a degree in math, I because a math teacher, but quickly got burned out and realized that teaching just wasn’t my passion. I then went to work for the State of Colorado as a data scientist but found myself wanting to do something more creative. A friend of mine told me about a role at IGT that required a math degree, so I interviewed and was hired as a junior game designer there. After leaving IGT, I moved to Australia and worked in the online space for a company called Virtual Gaming Worlds, before coming across the opportunity at AGS. I love my role at AGS; being able too use math AND be creative are the best of both worlds; I’m creating the story with the numbers. And I love the fact that me and my team are creating an actual product that people can go and enjoy; it is so meaningful.

What excites you most about working in the gaming and/or hospitality industry?

I love everything about this industry. The fact that I am creating games that entertain and delight players excites me the most. I love knowing that I’m delivering an experience. It is very rewarding to be able to utilize my math skills creatively to bring a story to life and seeing that story make it onto casino floors to entertain and engage people.

What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome?

The most significant barrier is getting more women into the industry in R&D roles like game development, quality assurance, engineering, graphic design, computer science, game design, etc. To do that, we as an industry need to support, encourage, and elevate women in STEAM education and those in STEAM jobs. As more and more women get into the industry, those barriers can be overcome.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always been a hero and inspiration to me. She exemplifies how to be strong and smart. She is someone who knew how to communicate effectively and push through those barriers. She was so elegant and eloquent, with her quiet intellectual confidence. And along with her amazing career and lasting impact on history, she was a beloved wife and mother. My husband Sek Joung, the Sydney Studio Director for AGS, has helped me a lot in my journey. And Meredith McEvoy, our Vice President of Game Development, has been such a huge support, helping me navigate AGS and providing advice on my communication style so that I can be a more effective leader and colleague.

What are some assumptions you’ve witnessed about women working in the gaming and/or hospitality industry?

Especially as a game designer, you must be straightforward, direct, and sometimes blunt. My male colleagues don’t have to think about how that sounds; but as a female, I do. Feedback that is acceptable coming from a man isn’t always acceptable coming from a woman. I’ve had to develop more confidence in my abilities and be more assertive about my ideas and opinions, and in doing so, learn how to communicate effectively and directly without coming across negatively.