@annieisnotokayy, 20 – FUNDED

“Throughout the years, there have been so many inspiring people along the way, but hardly any who were like me,” says @annieisnotokayy, a JBL Quantum Grant winner. “I want to set an example for young women and non-men in the gaming and tech industry. I want to be able to excite people, to make them laugh, cheer, and give insight along the way.”

What is your dream in gaming and/or esports? 

I aspire to inspire in any way that I can. I have always had big dreams in gaming and they seem to be morphing more and more as I gain more experience. I want to commentate or host events within esports and gaming — and I have a personal dream of designing characters for video games.

How will this award from the 1,000 Dreams Fund help you reach your goals? 

This award means being able to make necessary upgrades for my PC. But it also positively impacts my overall motivation and drive to do what I want to do: inspire. This is an incredible opportunity — and I cannot wait to see what it brings.

What does being a 1,000 Dreams Fund – JBL Quantum Grant recipient mean to you? 

This is an amazing opportunity that inspires so many young, bright, talented people to keep doing what they love and reach their dreams. I will take this with me until I am on that stage, declaring victory to some of the greatest esports teams of all time. I will take this with me when I am creating designs for a game that I’m ecstatic about launching. Most importantly, I will take this with me when I am told I don’t belong and made to feel like I don’t deserve my space within this industry.

Women are underrepresented in gaming and esports. What can we do to change this? 

Inspiration and mentorship are such important roles as a young person navigates through adolescence and into adulthood.

One of the most memorable field trips I had in school was an engineering field trip where they invited young women to learn from professional women in the STEM field. This was one of the most powerful, moving moments in my education. On that field trip, I saw that my dreams were possible and I learned that I could do the things I really wanted to do in life — no matter what I was told from the men in my life who did not believe in me.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way? 

When you grow up liking math over writing, robotics over reading, and computer games over socializing, the groups that surround you tend to always be dominated by men. I’ve had some wonderful teachers along the way — as well as amazing friends to share my interests with. However, there have been many moments where I’ve been let down… teachers who treat you differently, peers who refuse to show you an ounce of respect.

Sexism runs rampant and harassment feels like part of the job description. It is important to me that I try my best to fight the stigma and prove those who don’t believe in me wrong.

What advice do you have for women who want to work in the gaming or esports industry? 

Take up space. You have earned it through the same, if not more difficult, path as your male cohorts. Your place in the industry is so valuable, memorable, and inspirational. It helps people like me and you, and the young women watching us, make our next move. Take your space and be loud.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals? 

Sometimes baby steps are all that you can take, but you are one baby step closer than you were before. It’s also important to remember that a baby may take a few steps, then tumble or fall, but they will always get back up and try again. It might not be today, but eventually that baby will grow and be able to run. If every day you take just one step towards growing into the best version of yourself, you’re heading in the right direction. Set your goals and take baby steps when you need to.