“I either wanted to be Prime Minister, a pop star, or work in video games.”
For Amanda Farr, Xbox Category Director for EMEA, the future was always set to be an interesting one. She’s been skilled at hitting gaming high scores since playing Pac-Man during her childhood – it’s no wonder that she’s proud to be working in an industry that her younger self aspired to.
As this year’s International Women’s Day lands, Amanda shares her thoughts on her career, the importance of following your passion and how a role in the technology industry can provide exciting opportunities for all – regardless of gender.
The journey to Microsoft
Prior to joining Microsoft, Amanda had spent most of her time in the video game industry – a period which saw her run her own research company which specialised in analysing in-game data while researching player view and behaviours.
Xbox was a brand that had caught her attention, and one that she was keen to work for, based on her experiences at publishers working with Xbox teams.
Three years ago, Amanda joined the UK Xbox Team heading up Content and Services – both Games and Xbox Live. After a fantastic two years, she joined the EMEA team to lead the Xbox Category across all lines of business – console, accessories, games and Live, working with all the talented teams across the region.
An evolving industry
When Amanda first joined the video game industry, there were far fewer women working in it than there are today, but that didn’t deter her from embracing every aspect of it.
“I relished the challenge of showing that I knew just as much about the industry as my male colleagues, not least due to a life-long passion, but I did still feel that I had to prove my credentials.”
“Looking around me today both in the industry and at Microsoft, there are many more women at all levels and whilst I will always want to show impact, today, it is much more because of who I am as opposed to my gender.”
The fast-paced nature and evolution of the technology sector is also a characteristic that Amanda fully embraces, and one that allows her to remain excited when she comes into work every day.
Currently enthused by Game Pass – a monthly subscription service that allows users to download and play over 100 games on Xbox One, Amanda’s enthusiasm and passion for the Xbox category is infectious.
Advice to girls and young women
Microsoft’s STEM research study has shown that young girls across Europe tend to lose interest in STEM subjects by the age of 15, due to various factors such as the lack of role models and insufficient examples of real-world applications.
When asked about what advice she would give to girls and young women considering a career in technology today, Amanda believes that as the mother of two teenage daughters herself, she has already dispensed her fair share of advice:
“Most important is to pursue something you feel passionate about. STEM subjects provide a huge number of career opportunities both within the technology sector and working in technology within other sectors.
“It gives you the chance to shape the future and there has never been a better time for women in this field. I would advise trying to get work experience, reach out to family and friends to try to spend as much time as possible in real world situations so you can see just how broad the scope of opportunity is and you might be surprised at what really excites you.”
The importance of role models is also not lost on Amanda, who believes that they are incredibly important for showing the younger generation that their passions – no matter what they are – are achievable.
Amanda credits her mother instilling within her a work ethic and belief that she could achieve anything she ever wanted, and recalls a powerful moment of inspiration from her childhood, which perfectly encapsulates the importance and influence of role models:
“A defining moment for me was being seven years old at a school assembly when we were told the first ever woman Prime Minister in the UK had been voted in. I believe that this moment, coupled with my mother’s positive influence – had a huge impact in my confidence about my future opportunities.”
Amanda’s career continues on its exciting trajectory and more women are joining the tech sector than when she first started – but there’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to more girls and young women pursuing careers in the tech world.
The ideas that different people bring to teams and projects cannot be understated, and as someone that works in a team that represents more than 20 countries and languages – Amanda has a very clear grasp of just how crucial diversity can be for any modern business.
Amanda believes that “It is important that the people in the team are able to understand and represent the customers that we are looking to deliver fantastic experiences to. We learn so much from each other due to the different experiences that we have had, and I believe that is critical to our success and future growth.”
“It’s still very important to continue to encourage women to join technology sectors as it’s fair to say that there are still more men in this field than women, but I can confidently say that this is an industry that embraces and empowers both men and women and I feel confident about the direction we are heading in.”