Growing up, Gabby Llanillo was always drawn to video games despite not seeing herself represented in the games she played. Now, as a QA Supervisor at Riot Games, she is bringing diversity and inclusivity into her role to ensure representation is done right. To celebrate Pride in STEM, this member of the #WomenWhoMaster series joined us to share her STEM journey and how companies can create a more inclusive, supportive LGBTQIA+ environment.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM, and specifically gaming?
What inspired me was getting to play games that had a lot of story and real life connections. Being so touched by something like that was the reason I wanted to get into the industry.
I wanted to be a part of making experiences like that for other people, specifically getting more women, minority or LGBTQIA+ representation and getting their story out through a medium I really enjoy – video games.
Now that I’m in the industry, seeing how players connect to the products I work on keeps me inspired. Also sharing a goal and vision with the people I work with to make strides in the industry and pave the way for others. That continues to be my north star.
Q: Is there any specific character you have helped create or provide feedback on that has been well received by the community?
I didn’t get to give feedback specifically on Ellie from The Last of Us, but getting to be part of the sequel of a game that very much touched me was special. It made a lot of people realize that someone like her had a place in video games. That visibility makes them believe ‘oh, I can actually get into games, too.’ That was the biggest impact.
Neon, one of our latest agents in the game Valorant, is Filipino. We consulted the Filipinos at Riot employee resource group to give feedback in terms of making sure Neon’s portrayal is very authentic. As someone who is Filipino and doesn’t see a lot of Filipinos in games, having her as one of our newest Valorant agents and seeing the effort put into making this character authentic is a huge deal for me.
Q: How does diversity, equity & inclusion play a role in your position as a QA Supervisor?
Typically, when I say I’m here to test a game, the usual thing people think about is whether a game is broken or not working, all the basic technical aspects of testing. But I’ve started to realize there are other ways to define quality and what good looks like. D&I is one of those things that I want to start infusing into my work and consulting with groups for feedback.
Also, it’s important that people enjoy and feel good about the characters they are playing. If a player is the same origin as that character, do they feel represented and seen authentically? Or do they think it’s a dramatic characterization based on stereotypes?
I want characters to be done correctly, I would rather have representation done right than just to click a box.
Q: How do you think LGBTQIA+ representation has evolved in gaming over time?
It’s definitely become more visible and it might not have always been well received, but it’s gotten better. Before I played The Last of Us, I didn’t even know gay people could be in games. There was The Sims where you could be any gender and be with any gender, which was a great option to include. Now, I’m noticing more role playing games with options to romance anybody, regardless of gender. I also see characters like Ellie from The Last of Us that are explicitly lesbian. That’s great too because it’s very representative of that specific sexuality and feels intentional. The key difference is there are more LGBTQIA+ creators in games that are pushing for those things.
Q: Based on your personal experiences, how can tech companies create a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQIA+ STEM professionals?
I think fostering a very accepting environment is key, whether that’s through management training or the use of inclusive language. Even having employees list their pronouns so that others don’t have to request them. Fostering that open, healthy environment without bigotry is the best way. Knowing the company continues to put forth policies to create a safe space, and making that known to the world as part of their mission statement is a great way to be open and accepting.
Q: What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self about pursuing a career in STEM?
Don’t let your professors put you down just because you’re being compared to male peers who are looking for jobs at big tech companies. I was already looked down upon for going into games, and even more for choosing QA, because it isn’t as popular as software engineering. So I would say keep following your path and don’t let others get you down because they are going to be the very same people resharing your promotion posts.
Also, don’t be afraid to take up space. I’m glad that nobody made me feel this way, but I think it’s always good to give that advice. Imposter syndrome is always hitting me, so saying you belong here and you can take up space and you’re actually skilled is what I wish I would have told myself.
Q: What is your hope for the next generation of young tech professionals who identify as LGBTQIA+?
I hope they keep pushing for stories they want to see and infusing their experiences into their work. I hope they feel included and comfortable enough that they don’t feel the need to hide who they are at work.
I just want it to be more normal, but I also want it to be a win when you do have really good representation. We’ve always been here and we’re just slowly getting better representation across different mediums of art.
Q: Why do you think queer representation in STEM is important?
It brings diversity and different perspectives to experiences or apps that make people feel more accepted and included. It sends the overall message that this product we’re making should be for everyone. Whether it’s an LGBTQIA+ person, a woman or a person of color in STEM, they can share feedback on what they’d like to see in the product to enrich the overall experience and make it inclusive for everyone.
At Logitech, equality is a fundamental value, and being open and ourselves is a central feature of the inclusive culture we are building. We strive for a world of inclusive workplaces where LGBTQIA+ people can truly be themselves, are valued, and through their contributions, help to lead the way for others. Our commitment to our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, customers, partners and community extends beyond just the month of June, we believe that driving equality and human rights needs to be remembered every day.