My story starts way back when I was in university. It was on my placement year at Jagex during university when I first got exposed to the games industry. This was when Jagex was cool and still very much in start-up mode. Constant, Andrew and Paul ran the show and the majority of the company were supplemented by placement students. Before Jagex, I never knew that the path of game development was something that was an option for me. So, after my placement year, I was fully commited to working hard and learning modules in the field of web or games development. I kept my options open as I hadn’t quite figured out which I enjoyed more at the time.
After passing my degree, I was on the hunt for a job. I had just recently moved to Cambridge and had made the decision to go into the games industry. Unforunately, none of the games companies in Cambridge were hiring at that point and it was the start of the recession. So, I found a job at a small company called Curve Studios in London as a Production Assistant which I loved. I helped out the producer of the company and also helped test their latest game, Buzz Brain Bender. Unfortunately, I had to leave after 6 weeks because the cost of commuting was draining my savings. So, I got a job as a software developer in Cambridge.
After spending a lot of time wishing I was back in games, I finally got my chance and landed a Senior Tester role at Frontier Developments. Unlike Curve, Frontier was well established. Unfortunately some of the realities of the games industry were coming to light, like long, long hours, little pay and working as a contractor. At Frontier I worked on the unreleased title, The Outsider, one of the Kinect launch titles, Kinectimals, and Kinect: Disneyland Adventures.
Back to Jagex
Due to having to grow up and buy a house with my fiance, I left Frontier for a permanent QA Tester role at Jagex (yeah, I went back!).
When I left previously they were just drawing concepts on their newest game, MechScape. And when I re-joined…they were still working on MechScape, but the name had changed Stellar Dawn. Overall, it didn’t have bad gameplay but it was way off from being completed. Unfortunately, that game was also cancelled and I got moved onto RuneScape.
With a lot less pressure on my time (as the overtime wasn’t half as bad at Jagex) and a better salary, I tried to focus on getting back into developing games instead of just testing them.
I began concepting a small word puzzle game for mobile. I wasn’t sure of the tech out there or whether I could afford anything, so I started looking at Yoyo Games free cross platform tool, (previously called) Game Maker.
The Beginning of Dreams
I decided to leave Jagex as dreams of building my own apps and games were in my thoughts a lot. Plus, didn’t feel like I was being paid my worth. Games just wasn’t providing me with the same amount of enjoyment to compensate for the low salary and long hours anymore. So I left to increase and broaden my skills within a software testing role…in London.
Commuting took a lot of time up of my day. At the best times, I would be commuting for 4 hours of the day. But as a seasoned commuter, I used this time to read, play or design games, or write on my blog. This ensured that when I got home I could spend more time with my family.
During this time, I decided to learn how to publish on Amazon Kindle. So I wrote a short eBook on Kindle called the Cambridge Commuter based on my journey commuting between Cambridge and London from 2012 – 2016.
Unity and my First App
Unity was being talked about more and more in the games industry news and I instantly downloaded the iOS and Android plugins when they went free for a short while in 2013. That became my first step into app development.
This new role as a software tester also allowed me to purchase a Mac and begin iOS development. So the world of mobile was now my oyster. I first developed Werdz Movies on Android. And later on, I brought out a version on iOS.
In 2014 I discovered Matthew Bowden‘s income reports. This opened my eyes up to the reality of being able to start a business within mobile development and be a solopreneur. After more research I discovered books like 7 Day Start Up by Dan Norris, websites and podcasts like the Smart Passive Income podcast, Entrepreneur On Fire, the App Business Podcast, Mum To Millionaire, Zero to Scale and more recently Startup (to name a few). These podcasts helped me learn more about running a business, kept me up-to-date with mobile development news and ways to diversify my income streams to ensure I build a solid business.
I released my second app Renew Me on iOS in 2016. This was designed while I was on maternity leave and I outsourced the development to an app company because having a new born baby kept me a little busy during my time at home and the night.
I have my first podcast interview later that year describing how someone could take their app idea from idea to a fully developed product. Then in 2017, I had my first talk about my experience being an app developer and a mum having a full-time career.
Where I Am Now
I’m now working as a QA and Release Manager for a VR company in London. We moved to London in 2016 so my commute is a lot better and I get to see my daughter before and after work.
Balancing my app projects day-to-day is challenging because my spare time has been reduced more and more. I just keep taking on more things! But I do enjoy all of these, so long term, it’s about finding a balance.
Thankfully my husband is supportive. I do a lot of my development when we watch some TV series together in the evening. Or, if I need to concentrate, he’s happy to spend the night apart while I work and he plays games 🙂
I tried to balance everything to make sure that I didn’t neglect anyone, but that didn’t last long. I wasn’t taking care of myself. So I stopped that.
In an ideal world I’ll work on my app projects improving my development skills a little everyday. This hasn’t happened consistently yet but I still try. I try to develop at lunchtimes or on my commute so that I can spend most of my evenings with my family, unless I have a crazy deadline looming.
There’s no one I know doing what I’m doing so that can be a bit isolating at times. So I go to as many networking events as possible to make sure I mix with business people and particularly female developers regularly. Going to these types of meet ups definitely helps me focus and motivates me to carry on. Sometimes you just need a little external push now and again.
Where I’m Going
I am on a mission to make substantial progress in my business. Every year I try and define my goals to help me work towards targets. My daughter is a visual reminder of why I want to be financially independent. She also reminds me the importance of not wasting time. And that I want to become a role model for her and my niece to show them that they can do anything they want. I don’t want any mental barriers in their minds at all.
My company Junction 5 Studios was officially formed in 2017 so I’m continuing to work on building a portfolio of apps for clients and my own IP.