/SWCA 2022: The Women of ILMxLAB Discuss Their Career Journeys

SWCA 2022: The Women of ILMxLAB Discuss Their Career Journeys

In an engaging conversation, panelists discussed their backgrounds, working at ILMxLAB, and much more.

From Vader Immortal to Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, ILMxLAB has made it a mission to push the boundaries of immersive entertainment with their award-winning experiences. At Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2022, Lucasfilm celebrated some of the women striving to realize the innovative stories from ILMxLAB with a special panel discussion.

Just like Rey’s rocky path from scavenger to Jedi, most adventures are never a straight walk. Emily Burch, development operations engineer, worked in health insurance before finding her way at ILMxLAB. Similarly, Rachel Radeztsky, associate gameplay engineer, shifted career paths while in the middle of grad school. “It wasn’t an easy road,” said Radeztsky.

Marissa Martinez-Hoadley

Marissa Martinez-Hoadley

For Marissa Martinez-Hoadley, school wasn’t something that was at the top of her list. “I’m kind of from that last generation where you could be like, ‘Computers? I’m not going into computers. I’m going to play guitar in a metal band!’” Martinez-Hoadley recalled. (It is worth noting that she is currently a front person for a metal band while also working in a heavily computer-based role at ILMxLAB.)

Now, as manager of quality assurance at ILMxLAB, Martinez-Hoadley makes sure that each project that comes from the studio functions at a high level and provides a genuine Star Wars experience to the fans. It’s a long process of planning what programs to test, from gameplay to coding.

“I’m very passionate about making sure our stuff works,” laughed Martinez-Hoadley. “I’m essentially paid to complain and point out everything that’s wrong.”

Karessa Bowens (left), Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (right)

Karessa Bowens (left), Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (right).

So, what happens when you want to make that shift towards working in your dream industry? Karessa Bowens, associate experience designer, says networking and having a strong work ethic are key. “If you are showing up in your other job and people are getting the idea that this is somebody who wants to learn,” said Bowens, “sometimes that can really work in your favor by showing your work ethic.” Another piece of advice from Bowens: take up space. Go to any event the industry is hosting and visit every talk and networking event. You never know who you will run into.

Jenny Ely

Jenny Ely

Even if it takes multiple applications, don’t give up. Jenny Ely, production manager, says keep applying to jobs that interest you, even if you don’t think you check all the boxes in the job description. “There’s a lot of statistics out there, particularly about women and how they won’t apply for a job if they don’t feel like they don’t hit all 10 things in a job description,” Ely said. “But men will apply if they hit like four of them.”

Skills across all backgrounds are easily transferable and you never know what the hiring manager is looking for. “Apply anyway,” suggested Radeztsky. “If your skills match up even a little bit, just apply anyway. What’s the worst they can say? No? Take a chance and it might be you.”

From left to right: Jenny Ely, Rachel Radeztsky, Karessa Bowens, Emily Burch, and Marissa Martinez-Hoadley

From left to right: Jenny Ely, Rachel Radeztsky, Karessa Bowens, Emily Burch, and Marissa Martinez-Hoadley.

Lucasfilm has a program called Get in the Door, which showcases many of the people who work for the company and their stories, as well as types of career tracks within ILMxLAB. For more information and specific opportunities, check out the Get in the Door website as well as available jobs at ILMxLAB.

Photos by Kristen Bates.

Kristen Bates is flying by the seat of her pants and doing the best she can. Slow walker. Spends too much time on the internet. Season ticket holder for the Boonta Eve Classic. Aspiring smuggler. Find her on the interwebs @kristenkbates.

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