Akané joined us in the Work With Indies Discord in January 2024 for a text chat with our community members about her experience switching industries, landing her initial role as an Associate Producer, her promotion to Producer, and how her anthropology background has helped in her role.

🤔 Can you start by telling us a little about yourself? Who you are, what you have been doing previously, and what you are up to now? - Katherine

✂️ Of course! 🙂

I'm Akané D'Orangeville, producer at Cut to Bits (an indie studio in Montreal). We're currently working on our first game "Venture to the Vile". I'm a biracial (French/Japanese) woman who grew up in Montreal (Quebec, Canada) where I still live. I used to be an anthropologist, a translator-interpreter (Japanese, French, English), a university lecturer, a language instructor, a marketing rep, a PR manager, and a Kendo instructor. I'm in my late 30s and I have a 3-year-old toddler.

It all sounds like a lot but I never had a full time role until my current producer position. For many years I had 2-3 jobs in parallel, or wore many, many hats at the same time.

Venture to the Vile (website | wishlist)

🤔 I’d guess you're using some Agile methodologies in everyday work. If so, what would those be and do you use them 'by the book' or do you adapt them to best meet the team's needs? - Bogdan

✂️ I would be a terrible person to answer this question as I don't have any formal training in agile methodologies, but I use scrum. 🙂 We're a small team and we remain in constant communication throughout the day, so we don't necessarily enforce daily scrums, for instance, and I have adapted our reviews to fit our communication style. If that answers your question!

🤔 Do you feel that your many hats experience has helped you in the role that you're in now? If so, how? - Katherine

✂️ YES! Definitely. Being a producer requires soft skills that can only be learned by experience, and [.c-highlight]the more diverse situations you've been in, the better you can find the tools to help your coworkers[.c-highlight]. And that means spending years not being a producer won't make you any less of a good producer when you start your producer career path. 🙂

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: I love this so much! Our community members hear it from me all of the time. The unique knowledge, skills, and perspective that you pick up outside of games end up being your competitive advantage when getting into games.[.c-insight]

🤔 I used to study anthropology too!! Is there anything you took from anthropology specifically that you apply to your current role? - Washed Up Wizard

✂️ Understanding people. Anthropology is the science of people - how they think, how they operate, how they see the world, how they organize themselves. So [.c-highlight]my understanding of the "why" behind people's actions has really helped me[.c-highlight] have empathy, and helped me figure out what they're actually saying behind their words and actions. 

Also, anthropology makes us use our sociological imagination, in which we can only understand people by understanding the system they're in (socially, culturally, etc).

🤔 What helped your cover letter / application stand out as someone transferring from an industry outside of games? - Sarah

✂️ I will be perfectly honest, I struggled until I found my current job. I was previously in a very niche role. I used to work at a Japanese video game company in Montreal as a translator (translate prod documents) and PR manager. Which was cool, but I wanted a producer role and I got rejected so many times, it was heartbreaking. 

Then I decided to reach out and talk to friends in the industry, and turns out one of them (who is my current supervisor ❤️ ) needed help with admin stuff, because I can speak French and they needed paperwork done in French. And then someone to help as an associate producer on the side. 

So, to answer your question: I do not know how to make one's CV or cover letter stand out for a producer role. But I know 2 things: [.c-highlight]1- the path to your dream job is not straightforward; 2- use whatever skills you've got to get the foot in the door[.c-highlight]. Maybe you won't be a producer tomorrow, but down the line you can if you use some niche skills you've developed over the years.

🤔 How do you get big positions in a studio like producer/game designer? Unlike in artistic jobs, there's no portfolio, right? How can you prove soft or supervising skills without having any experience? - Senior

✂️ I think my previous answer covers part of this question, but yes, it is very difficult to prove you have the soft skills it takes. You can always showcase projects you've worked on, regardless of the industry. The cover letter and interview will be the perfect opportunity to sell yourself tangibly on what you have done and accomplished, and explaining your philosophy about interpersonal interactions and management methodologies. 

But also, keep all the doors open. If people come to you with an opportunity, give it a chance. [.c-highlight]Keep opening doors[.c-highlight]. As someone else just mentioned, try to get involved in the industry and the community. And when you network, be genuine about yourself. 🙂

lol these questions are bringing back painful memories of when I was job hunting, this is very cathartic.

🤔 ​​As a producer, how in-the-weeds do you get with your team? Is your role more schedule and organizational, or if someone is struggling do you dive in with them to work out a solution? - Chamomile Mint

✂️ I do both! I organize the overall timeline for our project, keep up with progress, task management, milestones, reviews, etc, but since we're a small team I also wear a very HR/staff support role where I jump in if someone is experiencing any kind of issue. 🙂

🗣️ She´s the best producer! 🤘 🙌 - Manuel

🤔 What makes a good producer? - Chamomile Mint

🗣️ Communicative, empathetic, attentive to people's needs. Despite the workload she has, she doesn't hesitate to create personal tea times, to come and see if we need everything we need to work properly. If we ever have a question about any aspect of the pipeline, she'll find out as much as she can.

If she doesn't have the time, she'll find it anyway, even if it's just to have a quick chat. [.c-highlight]It's reassuring to work with people who are efficient and open to others[.c-highlight].

I don't know what makes a good producer, but we're very happy with the way she's handling this spot in any case! 😄 - Ombraure

[.c-insight]Magz also recommends Richard Lemarchand's A Playful Production Process. And Aden suggested the Building Better Games newsletter, with specific reference to a 3-part series on what makes a "bad" producer. [1] [2] [3][.c-insight]

🤔 I have years of project management experience but in software development rather than game development. In my experience, it seems almost impossible to get into the gaming industry for non-gaming experienced workers unless there is a strong reference. Is this your experience as well? What would you suggest for profiles like mine? - Kunal

✂️ It was hard. My first job in the game industry was in 2020 and I had, again, struggled for months sending resumes and cover letters to any entry level production management roles. I got that job because of some niche skills they needed to have filled, and while it wasn't my most ideal role, I just wanted to get the foot in the door of the industry.

🤔 Can you tell us something about production pipelines in your studio? How did you guys organize this segment in particular? - Bogdan

✂️ This is a tricky one! It was very organic when I joined, as it was a team of 5 people who then suddenly grew into a team of 15. The leads (the original 5) wore so many hats and basically did everything, that we had to figure out over time how to divide and conquer efficiently. Most of us still wear many hats, but with juniors to support we had no choice but to find a solid system. I basically observed how communications were flowing between team members and leads, and where I could intervene to support them in ways that were needed. So again, I apologize, I don't have a clear answer for that one as we're such a small team!

🤔 What was the process of going from Associate Producer to full-fledged Producer like for you? How does it compare in terms of responsibilities and expectations? - Katherine 

✂️ I started out in charge of the audio team, which was the best decision on my boss' part. Audio comes at the very end so in order to organize their tasks and create their timeline I had to go back to each team that came before. While doing so I was filling in missing information and documentation - and then I realized some pieces in the overall timeline were not clear. 

I kind of made my own overall timelines with the missing pieces, showed the leads and told them "for my audio team to be production ready I need these by these dates." And they were like "Actually we'll use that timeline" and put me in charge of the project as a whole. 🙂

So now I oversee all teams and I absolutely love it!!! ❤️

🤔 In a search for a greater understanding of how production works in the games industry specifically, what learning materials would you recommend? Do you find that "general" project management techniques are good enough for games? Or do they require more specialized learning that you can recommend? - Aden

✂️ General project management techniques should do, honestly. Sure, read about the agile methodologies (which, if you have experience in project management, you will find to be very natural). However, in terms of game dev, I'd suggest reading about game jams and a little bit about game design. 🙂 

There are some good books about "how to make a game" for students and people getting into game jams, and those are good starting points to understand the overall process of making a game. Then try to make a game yourself, if you have friends who are programmers or artists!

🤔 What led you to have such diverse roles? How much of it was because you knew you had the skills to apply? How much of it was based on your own interests? (Or any other reason?) 

How do you compare the reasons for those previous roles to this current one? - Sarah

✂️ I'm a typical millennial who graduated university as the 2008 crisis happened, and decided to delay that career path decision making forever and pursue her passions... 😂  

So, I did grad school, then was stuck in the academia hell of "not being paid enough to make a living out of being a lecturer/researcher but also there are no jobs on the market for your field". 

Anthropology was my passion, but all the other jobs were me trying to make a living and using whatever transferrable skills I acquired during my phd and teaching years. I was a hard working person but not career driven, and in my late 20s I was completely lost. It seemed like I would never find a job to make a normal wage, unless I sold my soul. 

What changed my life was working at Cirque du Soleil as an interpreter (contract job, but still) and I realized, 1- I wanted to work in creative industries; 2- I needed to find a job that required me to wear many hats since I've done so many jobs and I knew I'd get bored of one contained role. And over the years I realized that place was video games and the role was producer. 🙂

🤔 What are some struggles you have with your devs? You make a plan, but someone isn't following it, either having nothing to show, or they've worked on something else. How would you diagnose whats wrong and are there any common pitfalls to avoid when dealing with people? - Tryel

✂️ Yeah, those things happen. I always try to approach it with firm empathy: I try to understand the underlying cause (is the task actually blocking them? was there a priority shift that was not communicated to me by accident?) by keeping an open discussion. Turns out, even veterans of the industry can get overwhelmed. Then adapt as much as possible. But I communicate clearly when there are consequences to the changes in the timeline that involve other people/teams. 

Then again, it doesn't always work because people are people, which is the hardest part of this role.

🤔 What was it like onboarding into a new role as a producer? Did you feel there was enough support and time to learn how the team worked and where you fit in as a new producer? - Sarah

✂️ In my case, I was hired when we were about to ship our 2 first demos and we were running out of time, so it was a bit chaotic. The honest answer is there wasn't enough time to train me, but my supervisor understood my skills and trusted me, which immensely helped in me being accepted by the team. It's hard to accept a new voice when that new voice is telling you what to do and when.

🤔 Not strictly relevant to the Producer role, but how beneficial is a university degree when trying to get into the games industry? - Matt

✂️ Not necessary, but you still have to show them something. 🙂 If you've worked on game projects, or if you've acquired tangible skills, or if you have work experience that is relevant - then no. 🙂 I've seen plenty of game devs being hired without an undergraduate degree!

🤔 Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer our questions! To conclude, could you tell us a little more and promote your upcoming title, Venture to the Vile? - Katherine

✂️ Thank you so much for this opportunity to chat with everyone. ❤️

Yes, our upcoming game "Venture to the Vile", is a spooky and cute narrative metroidvania!!!

It takes place in the Victorian era; our protagonist's village is taken over by the "Vile", a substance that transforms animals into monsters... and his best friend Ella is missing. He goes on an adventure to find her, and possibly find solutions to the Vile.

🙏 Thank you so much once again Akané!! - Katherine

✂️ Thank you for all the questions! It was so much fun. 

I was in a dark place years ago when it came to my career and my future. So for all of you who feel like you don't fit the typical path, that you can't find the job you want, I feel you. Please stay strong. It's also okay to change your mind and find another role. It's okay to be persistent. [.c-highlight]There is a place for you[.c-highlight].