Thriving As A Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry: Yea Ji Oh of Streamline Studios On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Have the mindset that the pie is not limited. That we don’t have to compete for scraps. We have the power to create opportunities. Don’t feel threatened by your peers. Instead, celebrate their wins. Only some people will be bought into that idea, but the dynamic at work will change when enough do buy in. You will have a support network that can pull each other up.
In the United States in 2022, fields such as Aircraft piloting, Agriculture, Architecture, Construction, Finance, and Information technology, are still male-dominated industries. For a woman who is working in a male-dominated environment, what exactly does it take to thrive and succeed? In this interview series, we are talking to successful women who work in a Male-Dominated Industry who can share their stories and experiences about navigating work and life as strong women in a male-dominated industry. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Yea-Ji Oh, Division Director for Streamline Studios.
Oh oversees the company’s global strategic initiatives for growth and expansion. In her seven years at Streamline Studios, Oh has progressed from a Project Manager across game dev disciplines to the General Manager of an 80+ team of 3D Artists, Localization, and QA (Quality Assurance) Developers, She now uses use this knowledge and expertise in game dev management, building professional teams, and executive leadership to oversee production process and talent acquisition.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born in Korea and raised in Malaysia. Twenty years ago, I moved my family to a new country because I wanted to live in a foreign country and learn languages other than my mother tongue. Languages and cultures were always a huge interest of mine, and as a kid, I wanted to see the world and be part of a movement that changes the world. To a 9-year-old, the dream of changing the world meant leveraging my linguistic skills as a translator/interpreter at the United Nations. Kudos to my parents for not brushing off my childhood ambition. Their sacrifice and upbringing are what make me who I am today.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
The story comes full circle because being a Korean translator got me into the games industry. As for the childhood dream of changing the world, as the Division Director at Streamline Media Group, I’m creating social economic impact in emerging markets by connecting global talent with investment and projects in video games and beyond gaming.
Returning to how I got into games, I studied biomedical sciences, and a year before graduating, I realized that the career path in research just wasn’t going to bring the fulfilment I needed. So, I decided to take a gap year and came across Streamline’s job vacancy for a Korean translator. As cliché it sounds, the interview with Streamline was the pivotal moment that changed my life and eventually led me to discover that I enjoy working with people to help them find value and meaning in their careers.
Once in the company, I learned the production pipeline and management skills as a project manager. Being in the company during its period of rapid growth came with non-stop learning opportunities. I had years of real-life experience in brand and business management, so when there was an opportunity to lead a new brand under the Streamline umbrella as a General Manager, I had to take it.
As General Manager, I led two brands; an 80+ person team of 3D Artists, Localization and Quality Assurance (QA) Developers, and worked on huge game projects with global companies such as Capcom, Warner Bros., and Epic Games.
More recently, a new challenge presented itself as I was invited to work with the CEO’s Office as the company’s Division Director. In this new role, I oversee and guide special initiatives, including supporting the growth of Streamline’s latest production studio in Bogota, Colombia. Again, I credit my career and personal growth to being at the right place at the right time and with the right people at Streamline who weren’t afraid to take a chance on me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My most interesting, embarrassing, and special memory in my career was when my father interviewed my manager when I first joined Streamline. I was a Junior Project Manager and had decided not to return to school to study biomedical sciences.
Quitting school to work in video games was not an acceptable career path in the eyes of the parents who invested and sacrificed a significant part of their life to afford education for their child. My father wanted to set the office building on fire. That’s how mad he was!
My manager back then, thankfully, invited him into the office to sit down with him and help him understand the industry’s growth potential and my possible career options. Essentially, my dad interviewed the company and the manager to check that I wasn’t making a huge mistake. To this day, I’m so thankful that my manager accommodated this ridiculous arrangement, which speaks to the kind of company Streamline is. They understood that different cultures meant different family values and were willing to go the extra mile for their employees.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
One, I’m an optimist and a realist. I was raised to look at what I have realistically (both the problems and opportunities) and figure out how to make the most of them. This skill has proved to be extremely critical. There’s never a perfect scenario when running projects or businesses, so success often comes down to the ability to creatively problem-solve with limitations. The underlying optimism and faith in self (the glass-half-full approach) also helped me navigate difficult moments.
Two, being result-driven. While completionism comes with its own challenges, it kept me going and helped me be resilient.
Lastly, ability to turn ambiguous concepts or requests, into tangible next steps. Having this skill as a generalist made all the difference and really helped me work on cross-departmental projects and with teams that are super technical.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Can you help articulate a few of the biggest obstacles or challenges you’ve had to overcome while working in a male-dominated industry?
The biggest obstacle came from me. First, breaking out of my own perception of my limitations, and trusting in my capabilities to say yes to opportunities. There is a set image of what ‘leadership’ looks and sounds like, especially in a male-dominated workplace. I had to stop comparing myself to that and had to accept that leadership can look and sound different for everyone. That it didn’t matter whether you behaved like a stereotypical image of a leader with charisma and a booming voice. That it didn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. What it came down to was being authentic, and comfortable in your own skin. To understanding people’s desires and maximising their strengths to achieve organization’s goals while linking it back to their personal growths to help them achieve their own goals.
Can you share a few of the things you have done to gain acceptance among your male peers and the general work community? What did your female co-workers do? Can you share some stories or examples?
I focused on delivering work and creating the most impact to support my colleagues, the company, and the network. Acceptance (both male and female) followed naturally. My co-workers do the same. At Streamline, we emphasize the importance of creating a diverse environment for ourselves and the newer generation entering the industry. We’re lucky to work with open-minded Founders who embrace diversity, and we work to ensure we can keep the same open opportunities and environment for those who are willing to put in the work and grow.
What do you think male-oriented organizations can do to enhance their recruiting efforts to attract more women?
I often meet people involved in recruitment who say they don’t look at gender, just skills. While it’d be an excellent approach in an ideal world, that’s not the reality. Attracting more women and diverse minds into your organization requires conscious, deliberate, and continued effort. Here’s some practical advice on how to improve diversity and allyship efforts in your organization:
(1) Get an objective assessment of the current situation in the work environment. Several employees are women and/or from diverse backgrounds. Your perception of diversity may be biased or skewed depending on where you are in the organization.
(2) Review the interview process for unconscious bias. Talk to your hires from diverse backgrounds to get feedback on what discouraged them during the application process. Sometimes things like requirements in the job opening and where the ads are shown affect your diversity pool from the start.
(3) Create a culture where everyone pulls each other up. An environment with psychological safety and a culture of sharing helps those from non-traditional backgrounds enter the industry and create internal networks that support each other. After all, retaining diverse talents is equally as important as recruiting them.
Ok thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
(1) Have the mindset that the pie is not limited. That we don’t have to compete for scraps. We have the power to create opportunities. Don’t feel threatened by your peers. Instead, celebrate their wins. Only some people will be bought into that idea, but the dynamic at work will change when enough do buy in. You will have a support network that can pull each other up.
(2) Don’t fall to cynicism. Creating change is a continuous and arduous process that can wear you down. Having a realistic outlook and wearing a black hat of pessimism purposefully to problem-solve is needed, but cynicism is unproductive and makes you fall into a victim mindset. Choosing realistic optimism helps you get up every day and pick yourself up when you fall (and you will). At the end, getting up matters more.
(3) Confrontation is necessary. It is not our job to be liked or impress others. Speak up for what you stand for. Be respectful, but do not compromise yourself or your values.
(4) Leverage your emotional intelligence. Emotions are not a weakness but a strength you can use to create genuine connections. Building a trust bank this way will help you in so many ways, including when trying to make a network, close deals, manage teams, and especially when managing confrontations and conflicts which are a necessary part of your work.
(5) Embrace the imposter syndrome as your superpower. Feeling of not being enough often comes from the ability to introspect and understand one’s limitations. It’s what keeps us grounded, realistic and constantly improving. If you’re able to master and own this feeling, and leverage it as strength to improve, you will have the perfect balance of humility and confidence which will make you a great leader.
If you had a close woman friend who came to you with a choice of entering a field that is male-dominated or female-dominated, what would you advise her? Would you advise a woman friend to start a career in a field or industry that’s traditionally been mostly men? Can you explain what you mean?
Whether the male-dominated or female-dominated field should not be the primary driver of choice. Evaluate your purpose in life and how your career fits that purpose and goals. If the male-dominated field gives you meaning in life, and you’re honest and aware of the challenges you will inevitably face, then pursue it. We need more representation, so it should not be a deterrent if that’s where your passion lies.
Have you seen things change for women working in male-dominated industries over the past ten years? How do you anticipate that it might improve in the future? Can you please explain what you mean?
On the consumer level, there are improvements. According to a report by Accenture, the industry added 500 million new and more diverse gamers over the past three years. And the profiles of these new joiners have also changed: 60% are women.
Representation at the consumer level is important for creating awareness and interest in the industry, which helps tackle the issue from the grassroots level. I’m happy that the industry is recruiting more women, but we need to do better at retaining them. There is still much work to be done regarding representation at higher-level management and C-suites.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Phil Douglas Jackson — his leadership and way of helping individuals to achieve their best daily inspire me.
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.
Thriving As A Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry: Yea Ji Oh of Streamline Studios On The Five… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.