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Kyra Wills-Umdenstock, 23 – FUNDED

Kyra Wills-Umdenstock, a JBL Quantum Grant winner, manages her own nonprofit organization called the EGD Collective that’s dedicated to removing barriers in gaming communities and making the industry a more accessible academic and career opportunity for all. The organization does this by powering public-facing student-led organizations on state college and university campuses along with offering free events, educational programming, and support systems for students. You can follow along with what they’re doing via @edgcollective on Twitch and get connected with Kyra on Twitter as @xenjade!

What is your dream in gaming and/or esports? 

I want to be able to use my skills and influence to make the gaming industry a better place — in whatever way I can. That could be working in the industry as a professional and mentoring the younger generation or directly working on projects that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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

This award will allow me to be able to dedicate more hours to my nonprofit’s work and help more students.

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

It has given me validation. It shows me that people support what I do and believe in my ability to make it happen.

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

We need spaces for education and support — free of judgment — to address the intersectional issues that people face. In addition, retention is just as important as recruitment and we need to ensure that, once someone lands their first job, they feel safe and supported in the workplace.

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

I’ve had some interesting job interview experiences and I’ve struggled being in leadership positions in male-dominated spaces. There’s that feeling that most women understand — of having to prove yourself over and over again to gain respect or always being extremely careful because a man in charge is “assertive,” but a woman is a “b****”.

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

Just do it. Sometimes the most radical thing you can do in a place that doesn’t seem to want you is just exist. The gaming industry is not an easy path for anyone, and it’s harder for women and people of color. So, rely on your support system — whether that’s professors, your family and friends, or people you meet through networking — because while the negative people are loud, there are many, many people in the industry who will support you and your goals.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals? 

I make sure to attend industry events. They have so much good energy and give me inspiration whenever I feel like I’m losing motivation.