Building a Sustainable Future
At other tech companies, women may suffer in the company of men. Elsewhere, crash diets of caffeine and sleepless nights may substitute for a smart business plan. Such is not the case at Human Code. Seven years of experience may not sound like much, but in this industry, it is enough to make this software development company seem like real grown-ups -- albeit grown-ups with a playful sense of humor and a devilish creative streak. Compared to the high-octane work environments of other tech companies, Human Code is all soothing matte colors and smiling, attractive worker bees, an appearance that likely obscures the sheer number of panic attacks its employees have notched in their belts.
A good number of those employees are women, a fact which doubtless sculpts the yin and yang of the work space. The company was co-founded by a woman, Liz Walker, and a part of her legacy has been strong, capable females in leadership positions who command respect. Recently promoted to Vice President of Consumer Entertainment (that's computer games to you and me), Seonaidh Davenport has no complaints about her place of employment. "It's superb," she says. "It's a very collaborative environment, a phenomenally creative environment." Davenport (whose intimidating first name is pronounced "Shonna") owes much of this positive energy to her female cohorts, who, by nature or nurture, tend to play well with others. "Women tend to be more prone to listen to their environment, to smell the wind, to listen to what's underneath what other people are saying, to analyze things 50 different ways from 50 different angles," she states. But generalizations aside, what Davenport is really invested in is simply making life in the tech world more, well, liveable.
"One of the dangers of this industry is the sustainability of it," she explains. "For so long, it's been Young Turks in the Wild West, staying up all night -- this real romantic image. Well, people can't do that for their entire lives, and why should they?"
For Davenport, that meant the first thing she did after being promoted to VP was drop the staff's hours. "Nobody's going to work a normal 40-hour work week," she admits, "but no one's working 90 hours either. With some spiking, we're down around 60 or 50." Playing the role of the stressed-out workaholic is losing precedence to maintaining high work standards and quality of life -- which for her, includes a daily walk around Town Lake, unwinding in clubs, and the occasional mountain biking. A vastly superior alternative to Silicon Valley, which she calls "the most hideous place with zero culture."
It means she's ready to settle in here, after a string of careers that have included freelance writing in New York City, working at an Internet start-up, and architecture school -- a skill she has found invaluable in her work in computer games. Architecture and game development are "the same application of art and craft and real live production. A product is made that doesn't just delicately hang on the wall. That thing has to function." And so at Human Code, what Davenport is building, among a slew of other things, is a promising future -- not only for the company, but for herself. One more bonus of a co-ed working environment: She met her fiance there.