Gaming for Change

Senior Direct Sales Associate and HOLA member Lilia Fratini blends her love of gaming and technology with her commitment to community through building more access to STEM learning opportunities for kids.

As a child growing up in Venezuela, the middle child in a family of five, roles felt predefined. You either grew up to become an oil engineer or a doctor—great professions, but ones I had no interest in whatsoever. My dad is a mechanical engineer. He was very into computers, so thankfully I was introduced to computer games, mostly educational games, at an early age. Eventually, I graduated to Sega Genesis, and then Nintendo 64.

Even with my love of tech, pursuing a job in tech was not something I envisioned for myself. I’m a Buddhist, so in 2018 when I was looking for a new job, I started chanting for clarity. I wanted to make sure I chose a career that I love and has an impact on the community. I had read about how the culture at Microsoft was shifting and that its mission was inclusive of community. That aligns directly with who I am as a person, so I gave Microsoft a shot, despite getting shut down for other new opportunities at the time.

Working at Microsoft, first as an Operations Manager for a retail location in South Florida, has helped me overcome many of my fears. I’ve been dying my hair pink since I was around 25. I’m also a bit of an awkward person. In the past, there were career opportunities that were snatched away likely because I didn’t fit what they were looking for appearance-wise or because of my accent. At Microsoft, I have met some of the most accepting people I know, which fosters the environment to bring in my full self to work every day.

I also get to be vocal about the projects I care about. In the past year, I partnered with Xbox, HOLA, and other groups to create STEM workshops with Minecraft Education and Make Code Arcade. Through this, we inspired not only students, but also parents and teachers. It’s about giving kids the tools they need to thrive in the classroom, and showing them the possibility of being in the field in the future. What really makes the program successful is seeing the kids’ reactions and their parents’ reactions – and them asking “How do we get more of this?”

Being a Hispanic woman growing up in Latin America, I often felt like the culture put limitations on what I could and could not do. That inspired me to want to see change in the world and be a part of that change. To me, inclusion is all about accepting and respecting people for who they are. It’s respecting differences. Extending beyond video games, these elements are crucial to the work we do every day. More diversity and inclusion will lead to more representation among the users of our tools and products. Ultimately, inclusion enhances each of our lives, making them easier and better.

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