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PA PROFILE: Women in Games’ Gemma Elnaugh tells her story

This month we sat down with Gemma Elnaugh, EA to the CEO at Women in Games, to talk about working at a not-for-profit organisation, the challenges and rewards of organising virtual events, and the importance of community…

Tell us about your journey to become Executive Assistant at Women in Games.

I started working as a PA part time for a recruitment company and my manager also happened to be the Founder of Women in Games. I was introduced to a few of the team as my responsibilities involved diary communication and was so impressed by the work they were doing. My first involvement with Women in Games was assisting with the 2020 Global Conference, a virtual event held over two days.

I have worked in events and project management for over six years, which has involved organising anything from site visits for property developments to large-scale education events for 1000+ GCSE students. 

After getting to know the CEO, Marie-Claire Isaaman, the need for an Executive Assistant was discussed and I put myself forward. I work two days a week with Women in Games and it’s an incredible job.

What does your role entail on a day-to-day/week-to-week basis?

I have a weekly catch up with the CEO to discuss any projects I’m working on and my priorities for the week. I also work closely with our PR & Comms and Partnerships Director as a lot of our projects overlap. We’re a small team with a big mission – to build a fair, equal and safe environment empowering girls and women in the games industry worldwide. 

I see my role as supporting the CEO and wider team to enable them to make these changes in the industry. I try to make my approach proactive rather than reactive, which means that it gives me a chance to see what is coming up and ensure that everything is in place for it. My job involves a lot of planning, organisation and multitasking which means that no two days are ever the same! 

Women in Games hosts a series of events throughout the year – what is your involvement in these?

Having started off with Women in Games as part of the events team I’m still heavily involved in events – both at inception stage and post-event. During the pandemic our events have been virtual, but this has meant we can get a lot more of our global community involved. We use a great platform called Hopin for our virtual events. I set up the events on the platform, manage the Expo area, create artwork for the events and also help to run things on the day. The events are so much fun to be involved in, and as a bonus I get to meet and work with so many incredible people in the industry. It’s a real privilege.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

Working remotely has its benefits, but it is challenging at times. Women in Games is a not-for-profit organisation with no full-time staff, so team members are often working at different times to fit to their own schedules. As someone who was used to working full time in an office environment, I do miss the daily in-person interactions that come with that, but it’s something I’ve adapted to and we are a really close knit team, so we meet up as often as possible. 

Working on the events involves being a liaison to the community. This means I regularly get to listen to the challenges people are facing in the industry. It’s exciting to see projects our community are working on, but it’s also difficult seeing and hearing about the toxicity and harassment many women go through. There’s a lot of work still to do, but through activism, advocacy and mentorship we’ll continue to support those that need it most.

And the most rewarding?

Speaking to so many incredibly talented people at Women in Games events and on our social channels has been so rewarding and inspiring. I’ve learned so much from their experiences and insights. It’s great to hear from the wider community about what they think could be done to improve representation of women in the games industry. Being a gamer myself, I see games as a way for people to express themselves, connect with others and experience different emotions that they may not necessarily feel in their day-to-day lives. That’s why it appeals to such a diverse group of people worldwide – because it touches us all in different ways, yet brings us together as one community.

Describe a typical day for you.

It definitely starts with a big cup of coffee! I’m freelance and Women in Games takes up about half of my week. Alongside being an EA, I work for a Marketing and Partnerships company, also in the games industry, as an Account Manager. When I’m not doing either of those roles, I run my own business, making and selling handmade jewellery and accessories. 

With Women in Games, my role as Executive Assistant means that I cover a lot of different areas: minute taking, diary management, sending out communications to the team and our community, creating procedures and analysing engagement to name a few. It is hugely varied, but that is what I love about it. We are such a small team that each day is different and I am constantly learning new things, which I believe is essential for personal development. 

How does your relationship with your CEO work?

Working with Marie-Claire is incredibly rewarding, having the ability to get people immediately engaged is a skill not many people have. Having a manager that is so supportive and who really values my input is very special. The whole team is brilliant, it’s really great to work with people who are passionate about what they do and who wholeheartedly want to make a difference. It makes it so much easier when you feel like everyone is working towards the same goal. 

We check in with each other remotely throughout the week to keep updated on projects and upcoming events. There are so many aspects involved in helping Women in Games grow, especially as we’ve expanded globally over the past few years. So supporting the CEO in getting procedures right and implementing them across the team has been really important in meeting our goals.

How did the pandemic and restrictions impact Women in Games as an organisation – and how did it affect you in your professional life?

Personally, I was in a lucky position where the pandemic didn’t have much impact in my professional life. In fact, it pushed me towards being a freelancer full time and opened up opportunities I wouldn’t have usually had. As an organisation, Women in Games has always been remote, with everyone working from home. So day-to-day life didn’t change too dramatically. Our events however had to adapt to being virtual, and although that involved a lot of work initially, our reach has expanded even further globally than we could have hoped.

I think changing from in person to virtual events also meant our attendees were more willing to share their experiences. People generally felt more vulnerable during lockdown and that seemed to make them more open to talking about themselves professionally as well as personally. We channelled the importance of building relationships and support networks at our events and out across our social channels. During which, I personally made friendships that are extremely important to me.

The organisation you work for is all about empowering and supporting women and girls in their careers. What are the key things you’ve learnt that have helped you – and that you can share with PA Life readers who maybe feel they lack confidence in taking their career forward?

Women in Games has such a powerful and diverse community. I used to suffer from imposter syndrome constantly, making excuses for not putting myself forward for opportunities or allowing self-doubt to creep in when I had an idea. Seeing the amazing work being done by many across the sector is so inspiring that since joining the Women in Games team my confidence has improved dramatically. So I recommend seeking out a community that makes you see your self-worth, where you feel valued and supported. 

I’m sure many people reading this will understand the fear of taking on new challenges or feeling like they don’t deserve them, but if you are truly passionate about something then I encourage you to just go for it – what’s the worst that can happen? You learn something new and important about yourself.

The other thing that really helps me is setting myself small goals. I’ll write out ‘to do’ lists as long as my arm, but I make sure to recognise the achievement of ticking something off, no matter how small the task. 

If you weren’t an Executive Assistant, what would you be doing now?

I have so many different answers for this! I’d most likely be running events, it’s something I enjoy and have lots of experience in, but dream-job wise, I studied Design and Pattern Cutting at London College of Fashion, so I am always itching to get back to that in some capacity. Otherwise, I love animals, so volunteering somewhere working with dogs or cats would be amazing.

How do you relax after a busy day?

I love playing video games, both alone and with my boyfriend. We’re both big gamers and have a lot of consoles between us. Our favourite game to play together is probably Rocket League but we both enjoyed playing Cuphead and Overcooked, even if it did cause a few arguments…

To top it all off, nothing beats having a cup of tea and cuddling up with one of our cats. We have three so there’s nearly always one within arms reach! I’m also a super proud aunt to my niece and three nephews, so hanging out with them always takes my mind off a stressful day.