Laila Shabir

Founder & CEO at GirlsMakeGames & Learn District

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON June 06, 2016

Discussion

Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
Hi, I'm Laila Shabir, founder and CEO LearnDistrict + Girls Make Games. I spend my days designing educational experiences for kids and young adults - video games, summer camps etc, and my evenings raging on League of Legends. Ask me anything!
Andy Delso@thedelso · QA Analyst
In your game informer article you mention that when together, girls and boys segregated themselves. Girls Make Games is a great idea! However, how do we overcome that gap? It translates so heavily into the workplace and I believe that we need to start young somehow. Women have so many great ideas in all facets of engineering and departments of the game creation process. They should be an equal part of it because gaming is so much more than a niche thing in today's society. Its a large industry and so many great stories exist on it's products.
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@thedelso Andy this is a great question and we're starting to think about it more and more as our girls grow up and request advanced classes (we graduate our girls at 18). The segregation is most effective during formative years, particularly 11-15 and there's plenty of research backing how boys and girls differ in their perception in that phase. Our goal at GMG is to empower girls and help instill confidence during those early years when you're not quite sure about who you are and possibly looking for external validation (family, friends, pop culture). For many this means questioning whether gaming should be a part of their lives as they grow older. If we can help them keep playing, and stay unabashedly passionate about their interests, they'll carry this confidence with them beyond teenage years into their careers.'
Andy Delso@thedelso · QA Analyst
@laila_shabir Thank you for the reply Laila! I do agree there are obvious differences developmentally. As stated below though, the parents have a huge effect on this. Looking forward to showing my kids more about programming in the future. My almost 5yr old daughter can recite ABC++ in its entirety now, and those are some obscure languages! Best of luck with GMG and looking forward to hearing more from you in the future via twitter, etc.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
If the US Department of Education were to put you in charge of integrating GameDesign, Game Art and Programming into the public school K-12 curriculum, how would you go about doing so? What would be some core elements of your proposal? Where would you start? What milestones would you like the students to achieve?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@tomstocklein I would start with fundamentals of logic (programming) and design at a young age. Game Design (and general design thinking) is crucial for all the engineers we're training today. And the best part is that kids are fairly intuitive about design (they make up games all the time in their heads). I'm almost out of time but this is a terrific question and I'd like to answer this question in depth, perhaps on a blog post in the near future.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
What should men actively be doing to help with the gender gap in tech?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@andrewett Support the women in your life. I'm so grateful for how my father empowered me, despite pushback from his own family, friends and colleagues. Sending your daughter to college in the US was a completely foreign and shocking concept in my world and he placed his trust in me and my love for education. So many years later now, my husband, empowers me through his undying support. Start with the women in your life. Your wife, your daughter, your sister, your niece, your colleagues and friends. It sounds silly but even a positive affirmation goes a long way in building confidence. Stand up for them when they're being treated unfairly, share resources with them and if you're in a position of power, try to understand the real stressors behind why women don't enter or leave tech by talking to them.
Andy Delso@thedelso · QA Analyst
@laila_shabir @andrewett This! I know in Chicago there are Ally Workshops and gender gap specific talks regularly. Check one out!
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are some of your favorite educational (iOS) games for 2-10 year-olds right now?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@tomstocklein Ahh so many. Stack the States (recommended for all ages!), all of DragonBox and TinyBop games. They're putting some amazing content out there. I also love introducing our girls to story based games, and DoubleFine's titles do really well (eg Broken Age).
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What are three things every new founder should focus on above all else?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@jawhster @ems_hodge I'm a big advocate for revenue first, fundraise later. We've bootstrapped for the last 2-3 years and it was painstakingly hard, but it forced us to 1) Keep the customers so happy they come back year after year, and bring friends, 2) Make mistakes on our own terms, and 3) Learn to lead. I'm a complete introvert (and anyone who has met me will reject this idea) so engaging and investing in my team didn't come naturally to me. I just expected everyone to sort of get on with the program and work hard. My co-founder Ish, on the other hand, is a natural born leader and invests sincerely in the people in his life. Watching him (and reading some good books) has helped me break out of my shell and appreciate the strength in diverse voices and working styles. So in a way making the decision to bootstrap led to hundred other important lessons. I think if we had raised too early our focus would have shifted outward (yoy $ growth, press etc) instead of inward, and we'd pay for that later as the company grew.
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
Hey Laila, I have a couple of questions: Q. What was your single most effective growth hack for LearnDistrict? Q. Did you ever feel that your ethnicity and/or your gender was weighing you down in the world of silicon valley? Thanks!
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@sarim_haq Q1. talking to my happiest and unhappiest customers. Your happy customers inspire and excite you. The unhappiest humble you, test your limits and help you grow. We use these conversations as soundboards for our products. Q2. Ethnicity not so much, though I am fasting today and I know I'll be braindead in a few hours and unable to schedule calls / meetings, so that's real. I haven't yet encountered gender bias personally, but I fully acknowledge its existence. I'm v fortunate to have a supportive network and an incredibly thick skin. Ethnicity would have mattered if I hadn't acclimated to American culture (specifically pop culture). I married an all-American guy (who introduced me to things like newgrounds.com), more or less weaned me off Pakistani food and I think all of this has made a huge difference in being able to relate to people here.
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
@laila_shabir Hey Laila, thanks for your reply. Yeah, first day of ramadan is always like that. Weaned you off Pakistani food? Thats a big feat. Respect for your husband. I guess the art is figuring out what feedback to change your product against and which ones to shelve for future use.
Aaron P. B. Morin@apbm91 · Support, BrowseLab Inc.
Hi Laila! Do you think demographic inequalities in the technology industry are the result its portrayal on television or film? Bonus: Who is your favorite TV/Movie nerd?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@apbm91 I'm a big proponent for TV/entertainment role models (heck I feel inspired every time I watch Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec and Mindy Kaling in, well, anything!) So yes, the content we put out there on tv, games, movies does affect our youth directly and at subconscious levels. I'm a big goof so all my TV favs end up being smart comedians - Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Stephen Colbert to name a few.
Aaron P. B. Morin@apbm91 · Support, BrowseLab Inc.
@laila_shabir thanks for the reply! The 'nerd' character has seemed so innocuous, but I believe it's portrayal as the socially awkard white male has helped reinforce the rejection of anyone who isn't a white male (especially women) in technology industries.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What's the best way for kids to prepare at home with free online resources prior to attending one of your camps? Can you recommend any tools or sites that kids should get familiar with first so that they can get the most out of the camp experience?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@tomstocklein Yes absolutely! Highly recommend code.org, stencyl.com, and Unity's free resources. We always start with the very basics at camp, so you don't really need to have any prior work done.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Laila Thanks for joining us today. How did you first get into the world of gaming? What's your initial story to founding Girls Make Games?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@ems_hodge When I met my husband he played Halo semi professionally, and it really irked me that an intelligent man (Math major, Putnam ranking etc) would spend his days doing something so dumb (!). Clearly he was much more persuasive than me and so within a few months I had resigned from Brookings and was designing educational games with him. We share a passion for making education accessible through entertainment, and games are a natural first stop.
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@ems_hodge GMG was born out of a personal need at LearnDistrict. We had no women. We couldn't find the women. 95% of our job applicants were 20-25 year old men. And when I asked these men why no girls were interested in applying, the responses would range from "girls don't like games" to "girls aren't interested in programming". GMG launched as a social experiment to see if girls really didn't like games.
Duane Morin@shakespearegeek
When you make a game, you ultimately want your friends to play it. What's the best platform (be it anything from low-tech DIY board and card games up through massive multiplayer online stuff) for a younger kids, say under 13, to make a game that they have the best chance of sharing with a wide audience? The smaller that feedback loop, the quicker they see a reward for their efforts, I think would reinforce the desire to make more and even better games.
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@shakespearegeek This is why I love Stencyl. You can easily port to mobile and publish (esp Google Play). Give it a go!
Justin Wilson@jawhster
How do you feel about students taking a gap year between high school and college? I ask because I feel many students select a college major before knowing if that is what they really want to do. Thank you!
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@jawhster I recommend it. Applying to college is a stressful process, and you can only grow so much while filling out the CommApp. You're only 18 once! You can work for the rest of your life.
Grant Hosford@codesparkceo · CEO, codeSpark
Hi Laila - our game The Foos is a girl-friendly app that teaches young kids about computer science. We've learned that characters and game mechanics matter for attracting girls. What are some of the recurring themes you see in the games your girls are creating?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@codesparkceo unicorns, characters with empathy, and horror/blood/gore. I kid you not the entries for Felicia Day and AJ Brooks' scholarship contests so far are 75% psychological thrillers or blood+gore. I'm a bit scared.
Grant Hosford@codesparkceo · CEO, codeSpark
@laila_shabir Love this stereotype busting response!
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What's one piece of advice you constantly find yourself giving?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@jacqvon Don't take yourself too seriously.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What are the first tabs you open on your computer/phone every morning?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@jacqvon Gmail, Hulu from the night before (I fall asleep watching Seinfeld reruns..) Reddit r/funny, r/games
Grant Hosford@codesparkceo · CEO, codeSpark
Do you find there is an optimal team size for game development projects? And do you use assigned roles or let the girls figure out who's doing what on their own?
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@codesparkceo 4 per team ideally. No assigned roles, they figure it out. This year we're mixing it up, and all team members have to wear each hat (programmer, artist, designer, producer) for a portion of camp.
Thunayan Em@thunayan · Skies
Hi Laila ... I have an interesting question... What is the age at which kids should be allowed to play video games (either educational or not). Especially since kids are loosing the sense of having fun with their surrounding/environment, and learning from that experience. Thank you :)
Laila Shabir@laila_shabir · CEO at Girls Make Games, LearnDistrict
@thunayan If you want to cap screen time you can have them design and play physical games! We do it at camp and it's quite successful. Ultimately comes down to parenting, I don't know if I can recommend the best age for unleashing video games. Just be prepared for the addiction lol.
Thunayan Em@thunayan · Skies
@laila_shabir addiction is what scares me :p Thanks