We’re back with another series of incredible guests who join Unlimint to share their professional journey so far. Touching on numerous industries from retail and ecommerce to tech and gaming – we’ll be uncovering it all, to provide viewers with insight into the evolving world and potential career pathways. There’s no real definition for success, and we understand that for every company, person, and team it is defined differently. By bringing together people from various industries across the world, Unlimint is striving to shed light on the subjective definition of success, and how a sense of fulfilment can be found in numerous ways.
For our first volume of the series, we’re joined by Margherita Donnici, a Software Developer at Massive Entertainment – A Ubisoft Studio. She shares her journey from as early as her education years and how she switched career path and how she battled with her own confidence.
Could you talk us through your journey so far?
I’m originally from Italy and right now I’m working as a software developer for massive Ubisoft studio in Sweden. I studied in Bologna at the University of Bologna. And that’s where I got my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in computer science. And when I graduated, I got recruited by French company, a consulting company in the south of France called Altin. I eventually moved to Nice and became a C++ developer where I was lucky enough to join at the start of the project, so I got to see it through the full lifecycle of a project and its eventual release. Then I also became the scrum master of my team, which is kind of like a facilitator for the team. It was tough juggling those two roles, but it was an amazing experience. I really liked having this other dimension of my job that involved more interactions with people and seeing what goes on behind the project scenes. So, during COVID decided to look for something else and I started sending my CV around and I got an answer back from Massive and the interview with them, and they made an offer. And again, I was like, I had never been to Sweden before, never set foot in Sweden, but I was excited to work for massive and I thought it was like an excellent opportunity and now here I am.
At what age did you discover your interest in computer science, and what was it that drew you in?
It’s a weird story because I have two older brothers and that are very into tech and computers. So it was always a part of my life because I was the little sister that always wanted to tag along and do what they were doing. I remember when I was 11, and I was obsessed with Johnny Depp, and I wanted to build a website about him, and my brothers bought me a demo book which I used to write down the code on paper because we didn’t have a laptop at the time. So, it was really something that I’ve liked since I was a kid, and I didn’t see it as like a job or future career. And when I graduated from high school, I wanted to go into medicine to become a psychiatrist. Life events took over and I couldn’t go to medical school, but I found a path to retraining in computer science. I thought that it would be interesting, and I could always get back into medicine, but I loved it so much that I never considered leaving the field and I just stuck to it. Now I could not imagine myself doing anything else and it feels like it’s part of me.
What have some of the key learnings you’ve discovered about being in a STEM field, that you feel would be beneficial to our viewers?
So, one thing is that even if we take out the gaming industry aspect, and just look at the coding part, it has a bit of a reputation of being something very cold and mechanical. I think a lot of people don’t see it as a creative role, but it’s actually a very creative. It’s all about problem solving and even when I was doing it on the side of my old job, I felt like I was doing something creative and challenging with my brain. So that’s one misconception about coding that I think a lot of people have.
think like one thing that I learned a lot, especially in the past year, is that because I volunteer for an association that’s called Pink Programming and they do workshops for women to learn coding. And there’s a lot of women who talk about their experience. From listening to these women, I learned that having imposter syndrome is more common than we think. I find myself having these moments of self-doubt and asking ‘should I even be here?’. I used to feel like I was the only one feeling that way, but then I realised everybody feels like that in their own way. And I find it useful to remind myself that those comments are not reality.
I think that people skills are important. They’re just as important as tech skills. My dad once told me that the hard thing about the hardest thing about working is not doing the job itself, but actually working with other people. And at the time I didn’t understand, but it’s true because you can be the best developer ever, but if you don’t know how to deal with people, you’ll lose your sanity and be less productive. So, it’s always good to have work on your people skills.
What are your passions and how do you feel that they connect with your career today, and your dream professional status?
Well, of course, I have passion for what I do and I love coding, so it influences my work every day. But what I love about coding and being in computer science is that it can be applicable to any industry. I was surrounding myself with people that were passionate about it too. Even when I wasn’t working in the field, I think that being around likeminded people really helped to feel connected and inspire me.
I also like video games and now I’m in the gaming industry. I love to read, so who knows? Maybe in the future I will work for a publishing company or make an app for books or something of the sort. You can always feel like you’re contributing to something that you care about and surround yourself with people that kind of care about it as well, even if you’re not in your dream role yet.
What’s your favourite game, and why?
I really like games that are very story driven. For example, I really like Life is Strange and I also like games that have a bit of a creepy factor in it. I played Hellblade recently, which I really liked. It’s a really good game but very creepy. I had to play one hour and then stop because otherwise it was too much. And now I’m playing the BioShock series, which are a bit old, but again, it’s like a really nice story and it has a bit of that creepy factor, and you have to piece together parts of the story.
The game that I always go back to is Don’t Starve. It’s a survival game and I really love the visuals. They have very particular art, and it’s kind of a frustrating game because you have to survive in the wilderness, so you have to find resources and everything. And when you die, you have to start from scratch. And it always feels amazing when you get through the seasons and everything. So it gives you like sort of a sense of accomplishment.
What keeps you motivated? Especially on the days where you feel deflated.
Outside of work, I really like running, so it’s one thing that I do on the side that makes me feel amazing and I always hated it before, to the point where even now while doing it, I’m like ‘why do I do this to myself?’. But afterwards it always feels amazing and I’m ready to take on the next thing that comes at work. But at work itself, when I’m demotivated, I really try to think of how far I’ve come and remember the times that I’ve had in my career where I felt like I’m not going to get through a task – but I did! Just trying to focus on that and reminding myself that I can deal with whatever life hands me is the way that I reassure myself and motivate myself.
And another thing that keeps me motivated is a feeling that I belong to a team. So that’s very important for me to know I have a good relationship with my team where we can support each other and bounce ideas off of each other. It also improves the work culture a lot, and that’s also something that I love about working at Massive.
What’s your biggest career highlight, so far?
As I said working on projects when I first started was great because they’d just kicked off and I got to see them through to completion. There’s something about watching it go live and seeing people using them that gives me a huge sense of accomplishment, and team comradery. In general, I’m really proud of every time I stepped out of my comfort zone and actually managed to achieve things, which goes beyond work but also in my personal life. For example, when I moved to Sweden, I moved to a country where I didn’t know one single person in the middle of a pandemic. And the fact that I managed to move here, build a life for myself, make friends, and even do well at my job. It really makes me feel like I should be proud of what I’ve done.
What advice would you give to other young coders, developers and gamers who want to enter the field?
I think networking is very important. So, starting to immerse yourself into the industry in some way. That could be going to conferences or, for the gaming industry, there’s game jams, but there’s also hackathons. At these events, you meet other people who work in it or are studying or are sort of related to the industry. You get to meet others, build a network and expand on your learnings. Also, I know it’s cliche but be persistent. Everybody gets rejected at some point and it never feels good, but as the saying says, “the road to success is paved with failures”. You just have to keep on going, even if it means you send your CV when you don’t have all the requirements for the job, because it doesn’t matter and you never know what can happen. Try and try again.