Previously on Abylight Team Spotlight:
Our Lead Programmer Ricardo Fernandez switches from electronics to game programming, and meets Abylight's co-founder Alberto Gonzalez. They work together at New Frontier, and later start another company, Bit Managers. It's this team Eva Gaspar joins shortly after. Here she meets her current business partners, and learns that teams are more efficient if people are both colleagues and friends.
Read Alberto's and Ricardo's stories to catch up!
Behind every great company, there’s a wise leader, and you probably know our CEO Eva Gaspar. She often speaks at game business events around the world, co-organizes the European Game Showcase at GDC, and it’s her who won the “Most Prominent Female” award at Casual Connect Amsterdam 2015.
In 2019, exactly at the time of GDC, Eva became a mom, and mastered a new level of multitasking: enjoying the new role and spending time with little Carmen, while successfully leading and expanding our indie dev and publishing team.
We keep bringing games to new platforms and creating our own titles. The latter often starts with “what happens if...” - which gets the whole team even more invested in the project - everybody does their best to see what actually happens. A good example of that is Mindkeeper: The Lurking Fear, initially released exclusively on Apple Watch, and later expanding to iOS and Apple TV.
We’re colleagues at work, but also friends outside of the office: you can often see the Abylight team gaming together, or going out in the after-work hours. So what’s the secret to building an equally efficient and friendly team?
No team - no game
“I don’t think there’s a secret”, - Eva smiles. “More of a strong will to make things work, really caring about the people that end up on the team - and making sure they care for each other”. She points out that we spend one third of our lives at work, which in video games tends to be even more. “So it’s crucial for me that people feel good and comfortable, maybe even more so than with their own families, because teammates share goals and experiences. If you don’t have a good team - no good game is possible”.
It was at Eva’s first games job, where she got this idea of a strong team spirit based on a perfect mix of professionalism and personality. In that company, she met her current business partners. “Working at Bit Managers together, we didn’t restrict ourselves to just being colleagues. We became friends, and it’s been a long, life-lasting experience. So I wanted that for the company that I lead and manage”.
The toughest task in gamedev (any guesses?)
(Read this if you’d like to work with us.)
“Once you get to lead and manage a team - you realize human resources is the toughest aspect to handle”, Eva admits. “There are people who look very good on paper, but then they realize this is a job not a game or simply their goals change or are not aligned with ours”. She remembers having seen some… stuff, over Abylight’s 17 years of going strong.
“During an interview, I look for someone able to share life experiences and goals. There are two sides to a person when it comes to teamwork: professional and personal. It makes more sense to keep someone around if they fit the team, but their performance is not yet perfect. I tend to give as many alternatives, options, and chances to improve as possible. But ideally it is that the person is a good match professionally and personally.”
Women in tech: you’re not an impostor, go build your network!
What NOT to ask a lady in technology? Anything about being a woman in technology! “I didn’t expect this from you!” - Eva laughs.
She’s aware of the “women in tech” challenges and biases, but prefers to get tasks done, pushing the challenges aside by doing her thing. “Being a woman can’t be compared to anything else, I haven’t been a man - so I can’t compare with how things were for me when I was a man, versus how things are now that I’m a woman”, Eva says, admitting ladies still have a long way to go until complete equality is reached, despite more and more success stories popping up. “I guess for a woman getting into leadership the first thing is self-assurance."
"Fight the feeling that you’re an impostor, that you are not good enough, that someone else is better. Then, build a network that will sustain you. And here I’m not limiting it to women in tech, or any other field - I’m talking about not being afraid to ask for help or share experiences.”
Eva herself has been there too, in the beginning of her career: felt like everyone else was ahead of her, and mostly took the position of a listener. Now, if people (of any gender) are sharing experiences, she’s totally comfortable presenting her own: “I realized my experiences are as valid as everyone else’s. Yes, it seems obvious, when I say it - but when you’re living it…we live a lot in our heads. If we share, it is easier for someone else to approach you and tell you that they are going through the same thing.”
Attending events, speaking at conferences and participating in roundtables, helped Eva see that everyone struggle with very similar issues, even the biggest or strongest looking of companies: with development, HR, and other aspects - just as we do. So it wasn’t “just us”. “We’re a group of people that come from being the ugly duckling, the nerds, the weirdos. So, obviously, when we get into business, we still carry those hangups. I don’t know if it’s just a women’s thing, or it’s a leadership thing.”
Support not suppress: when someone has potential
“My feminism strives on thinking that if we are really equal - there’s no need to distinguish some things. But obviously there are few women”, Eva explains. “How do we change that? Empowering women, I guess. We need to support and assign them leading positions. So when we see a potential in someone - we feed it, instead of restraining it”. And this isn’t just about real-life challenges: we fight a lot inside our heads, which makes it a double challenge. “Growing up, I’ve always been told certain things… I mean - if you check out the 80s cartoons - the tune they sing is completely different than the tune that cartoons sing in the 90s or the 2000s. And then we realize - oh shit, these things were told to little children? To girls - that we are not good enough for certain things? That’s something we have in our system. I have it in my system, and I have to fight against that. And against whatever is outside.”
Those addictive games
As we were chatting, Eva’s daughter Carmen was inspecting her purse, checking the surface and height of the table, and her doll’s sound-making skills. Obviously, between mom joys and company management, Eva’s gaming time is very limited - and again she makes the most out of it. One of the learnings from being a working mom!
“My recent favorite video game, that isn’t from us? I love GRIS! And Blasphemous, even though I haven't played it yet: but I love the setting, and the team that has made it, the whole concept of it. Also, Frame 2! Then, of course, I keep busy trying games that we check for publishing…” - Eva checks on her phone to show something that just needs to be seen. “Ohh, and these games from Bart Bonte are awesome! He makes these puzzle games based on colors: black, red, blue yellow. Amazing puzzle games, and a pretty awesome developer.”
Earlier, Eva has played her fair share of classic casual titles like Candy Crush, mostly while doing something else. “I mean, before, while I watched TV, I used to knit and crochet - but now I play.”
New mom, entrepreneur, leader: how-to
Family and work balance: if you haven’t faced this challenge, you’ve surely thought of it, or heard from friends.
Eva confirms the biggest discovery with becoming a mom was how little time she has. “Before I had Carmen, I would be considered what’s called a workaholic: I worked a lot, I love my job, and spent lots of hours working. Now, I really enjoy being with her, but this means not being able to concentrate, not knowing how much time you’ve got to work or do something intellectual. It’s a bit nerve-wracking”.
So now Carmen goes to kindergarten for some hours a day, giving her mom some time to fully focus on work. “I think I evaluate projects and my tasks more efficiently. And having a good team that supports you, is important - I have awesome teams in both companies, Abylight and GDConsult. They help me, make everything work, and I also work every possible hour.”
Another set of challenges and workarounds is something only new moms can fully understand: “If I’m with her - I can not concentrate. But when I’m not with her - I feel like I want to be with her. Which is very tricky from the emotional point of view”.
Eva says she often feels like she’s done enough for the day, and at the same time tempted to work in every spare minute, as she won’t be able to do it afterwards. In the end, she had to learn to control this anxiety and tell herself it’s impossible to handle absolutely everything. “Being efficient - that’s what I learnt. Before, I’d say I’ve maybe researched more, thought about things longer. Now, I think about things when I’m with her.”
Video games: artistic, entrepreneurial, and business
Meanwhile, bored with the conversation about that thing called work, Carmen decided to figure out whether mom’s iPhone tastes like apple. “Yeah, she loves it! But the funny thing is that she pinches it! And she’s learnt to activate the camera”, Eva shares. Like everyone has their first gaming device they remember forever - every games professional has The Job that brought them into the industry.
“I got into video games in 1999, through my first job outside the family business. I was an administrative accountant for a development company in a town near Barcelona - that’s where I met my current partners. And they became friends for life, as I told you. That’s where I learnt how video games are made, everywhere - right next to your house.” Like many gamers, as a kid Eva used to think her favorite games were made somewhere far away - but, at the same time, she didn't have a goal to work in video games, like our other teammates. ”I’m an entrepreneur, and what I always wanted to do was to lead a company, trade, travel for work… just like my dad did. And video games just made a lot of sense: it’s something artistic, creative, entrepreneurial, and business, all I’m into, and also what my family business background is.”
Eva’s family had a pretty renowned art gallery in Barcelona, and has always been into art dealerships, management and sales. “To me it makes perfect sense to dedicate my life to video games: it’s the main art of the 21st century.”
It was also with the influence of her father that she started playing video games: in addition to art dealership, he was heavily into technology and travel, so Eva and her siblings started learning English at an early age and had all possible consoles, some brought from his travel to Japan in 1986.
When it comes to Eva’s first games, her entrepreneurial logic instantly takes the lead: “That I produced? Oh, that I’ve ever played...Oh my! I don’t remember which one was the first! I’d say games I’ve played as a child, we had an Atari, and that car game: just a square with more squares, nothing like the video games we have today, not like the racing games we know today.”