Meet esports Queen Michelle Mannering: A Tech And Gaming Specialist

Michelle Mannering, recently started working with GitHub as the community lead for ANZ. Known in the industry as the ‘Hackathon Queen’ and ‘esports queen’, she has been heavily involved in the startup and gaming community for many years. Nominated for Esports Personality of the Year at the 2018 Australian Games Awards and finalist for the 2019 Telstra Business Awards.

Michelle Mannering
Michelle Mannering

We hear that you’re a Hackathon and esports queen — how did your interest in tech and gaming begin?

I’ve always had an interest in technology since I was little. Believe it or not though – I didn’t really game much as a child. My siblings and I played the occasional DOS game like Xargon or Commander Keen but that was it. My parents wanted us to concentrate on school and our education so only allowed a few select games into the house.

I remember finding an Age of Empires CD in a Nutri-Grain packet as a child and convincing my parents it was educational in order to let us play it. Ironically, my cousin who played it with me, went on to be an archaeologist – which was partly the focus of the game, teaching ancient history and the classics.

When I wasn’t gaming, I was pulling apart computers, wiring networks, and playing around with technology. During high school I was called the “Komputer Kid” or “Gadget Girl”, nicknames that carried over to University. I was the person other students called upon as the IT rep when technology broke or didn’t work smoothly. I love a challenge – especially when it comes to technology.

What tips can you give other women that are looking to turn their passion for tech and gaming into a career?

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life! It’s so cliché but it’s true. On a personal level, I do what I enjoy every day whether it is ​working with GitH​ub, speaking at events, hosting esports competitions or streaming on Twitch TV. I feel very lucky to be able to do these things every day as part of my job. It’s awesome!

On a personal level, I do what I enjoy every day whether it is ​working with GitH​ub, speaking at events, hosting eSports competitions or streaming on Twitch TV.

It’s a very exciting time to be in technology as there are so many opportunities around. That’s how I got into technology, through opportunities. As I mentioned, I was into tech as a kid, but when I went to University I took every chance I could. I held leadership positions in the Chemical Engineering Club, the IT group, the Society for Electronic Entertainment and many others.

Volunteering is another great opportunity to meet people, showcase skills, build networks, and bulk out your CV. Before I worked in gaming, I volunteered my time at PAX, showing off games and computers. At University, I volunteered as Open Day host, orientation leader for IT students and more.

When I started my first job, I made sure I took advantage of the events, workshops, and industry engagements on offer, learning as much as I could. Eventually, I was asked to run hackathons and mentor others, sharing the skills I had learned along the way.

I encourage anyone, not just women, with an interest in technology to embrace all opportunities that come your way. If you do that, then you’re well on your way to doing what you’re passionate about.

I encourage anyone, not just women, with an interest in technology to embrace all opportunities that come your way.

Do you have a female role model, or mentor, who has inspired you either professionally or personally? If so, who?

Growing up, it was always my mum. She worked hard, looked after her children, and still found time to do what she loved doing. Whilst Mum worked in the family business as an administrator and overseer of the business workings, she looked after the garden, enrolled in courses, read heaps of books, and encouraged us to do the same. Even now, she’s just started a new venture in the floral industry.

From a professional point of view, I feel I’ve been incredibly lucky in that most of the jobs I’ve had, there have been great women to mentor me and look up to. The first was Jenny Burchill at the University of Melbourne. She was not only my boss and an incredible baker, but also a great mentor – not something that always comes hand-in-hand. She taught me so many things about the working environment. I really looked up to her.

Jacyl Shaw at Carlton Connect has also been a great role model and mentor over the years. She taught me the importance of, and how to manage, people’s expectations.

All these women have families, work hard, have great values, and never let anyone stand in their way. It’s why I look up to them – they’re great role models.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BalanceForBetter. How important is this and what more can be done as an industry to encourage diversity within tech?

I think balance is about encouraging and supporting women with whatever they want to do. Young girls need to understand and know that there are opportunities for them in STEM if they want to take them. If they do, and as these girls grow up, they should be given the same opportunities and support as their male counterparts.

One thing I think we can do better as a society in general is support people. If women want to stay home and be with their children, they should be supported for that. If women want to return to the workplace after maternity leave, they should be supported for that. If they want to ​work in any industry​, then they should be supported in that too. Diversity and balance is about creating and offering everyone the same opportunities, irrespective of gender.

Diversity and balance is about creating and offering everyone the same opportunities, irrespective of gender.

Do you think women’s achievements in the tech industry are celebrated enough?

Definitely not. Celebrating achievement is something we need to get better at in Australia. We don’t shout loud and proud enough about what Aussies have created and invented.

Women are also notoriously bad at championing their own achievements. Encouraging and celebrating women helps show the younger generation that they can achieve and enjoy similar successes. If you were to ask a room full of people to each name a handful of female inventors, I expect some would struggle to name even one, which is why it’s so important.

Role models are important for inspiring not just younger generations, but our colleagues around us. It’s something I’m very passionate about. We need to be doing much more.

Anything else to add?

There are many more opportunities for women and young girls today than we’ve previously had. One’s that I wish were around when I was a child. Events and programmes such as STEM programs, kids in code, Miss Makes, Robogals to name only a a few.

All we need to do now is to champion the achievements of women, and to celebrate the successes of those around us. If we do that, then the young girls going through these programs will continue to have great females to look up to and be inspired by.

I was recently announced as a finalist for a number of industry awards including;

  •   Telstra Business Women’s Awards in the Victoria Emerging Leader category
  •  B2B Young Hero Awards in two categories: Dell Young Hero Entrepreneur, and Social Media Influencer.
Michelle Mannering
Meet esports Queen Michelle Mannering

Last year, I was also named a finalist for Australian esports Person of the Year (Australian Games Awards).

Whilst some of these awards recognise women’s role specifically such as the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, it’s awesome to be able to showcase amazing female talent in the open awards such as the Australian Games Awards, and the B2B Young Heroes Awards.

Women Love Tech
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