Pro Bodyboarder Joana Schenker portrait at the beach  for the cafe interview

Give yourself the time to feel, then go into action mode.


ANDJELA KUSMUK

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PRO-GAMER, MECHANICAL ENGINEER, SWEDEN


Growing up in war-torn Sarajevo, Andjela first started gaming as a way to escape reality. It brought her peace, freedom and a sense of belonging. With the years she competed and led teams in network games like Counter Strike and World of Warcraft. Gaming develops cognitive and personal skillsets. Andjela is a gaming advocate who especially wants to encourage parents to familiarise their daughters with computer games and technology - see her Ted Talk below

HOW DID YOU START GAMING?

ANDJELA: Gaming for me was a space where I didn’t have to be Andjela – I could be someone completely different and I was free from the stress, anxiety and worries of life. As a young child growing up in an environment where adults suffered PTSD, it was not always easy to grapple with the realities derived from this. Gaming became a passion and for a long time an addiction. It became a way to prove to myself that I was good enough, that I could do anything, and that I could be the best. After some time I learned to balance it. I think that balance is the most important factor in life. 

WHAT DID GAMING BRING INTO YOUR LIFE AND HOW DO YOU USE IT TODAY?

ANDJELA:  It may sound weird, but it brought me peace and grounded me. I mix gaming with yoga and music festivals and it gives me a trinity of things  where I can be creative, be kind, and be at the peak of my own performance. Gaming has also been my profession – and I guess I can say I am very lucky that my love for games turned out to be something other than just a hobby.

In my career, I've had a lot of roles demanding me to assess skillsets of team members and to distribute responsibilities. In a way it’s musical – and kind of like leading a massive team of football players who are all charging at the same goal. I also bring it into recruitment processes. For example, say someone is an entry fragger in CS, jungler in LoL, or a raid leader in WoW this tells me a lot more about that person's personality than any resume could. So I can use this to understand who people are and how I can best fit them into the roles at the organisation. 

HOW IS IT TO BE A WOMAN IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY? BURDEN OR ASSET?

ANDJELA: It is both. Sometimes you get quite bored of having to carry the diversity and inclusion torch just because you are a minority. I can be a minority as a woman and an immigrant, but I can also be an insider having an engineering degree and being extroverted. When the room is full of extroverts, I try to give my voice to an introvert by asking them loudly “What do you think?”. Inclusion can always be in action. 

ARE YOU SUBJECT TO STRESS AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT?

ANDJELA: I get stressed just like everyone else, but I give myself some time to feel through my emotions then I go aggressively into action mode. Most of the pressure I experience from the outside is incomparable to pressure I put on myself. Having failed as many times as I have, I have a child-like comfort in knowing that failing fast is a lot better than running the race in the wrong direction - especially since life is a marathon.

AN ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WILLING TO TAKE A BOLD NEXT STEP IN THEIR LIFE?

ANDJELA: Don’t let anything stop you. Decide what you want to do and why then go after the person you know is the absolute best at it. Trick them into mentoring you (as in buy them lunch a couple of times in exchange for their time and answering some of your questions) and then let them know about your ambition. That way you can work together to make that a reality. Yes, there are glass ceilings and closed doors and all that – but if I, an immigrant and a refuge can do it – I see no reason why you could not.



The Quick Round

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HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE FEMINISM? 


ANDJELA: It is about giving everyone an equal chance depending on what they need in order to succeed. Feminism is not up to women or minorities, it’s up to everyone!



DO YOU HAVE A LIFE MOTTO? 


ANDJELA: "It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" haha.



WHAT DO YOU TO RELAX?


ANDJELAPlay games or solve mathematical puzzles. If I can I would surf, swim or listen to live music. Yoga is also important to me if I need some alone time.


"FOLLOW THE ARROW" IS JENAH ST.'S MOTTO. WHAT IS THE LITTLE ARROW YOU FOLLOW EVERYDAY?


ANDJELA: Always asking myself: Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?


Andjela's Reading List 

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Books: Daring Greatly byBrené Brown; Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright; The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 


SEND ANDJELA YOUR QUESTIONS

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