Meet with Companies

Engineering Horizons @ Xbox

This event has ended. You can watch the recording here.
Virtual
Engineering Horizons @ Xbox
1 hours 49 minutes
Watch Now

Hosted by:

Watch our networking event with Xbox Game Studios.

Tune in to meet a diverse gathering of Xbox software engineering and technical program managing experts, including Xbox Game Studios leaders Shannon Loftis, Studio Head for World’s Edge, and Kate Rayner, Head of Engineering for The Coalition, as they share their experience finding their first role in games and eventually landing their jobs on Xbox teams.

In the 2-hour program, Shannon gives a keynote on the state of diversity in the industry, while Kate provides a high-level overview of Xbox technological evolution and what comes next.

Then, during a panel session, representatives from Xbox Game Studios and Xbox services provide their candid career stories.

Agenda:
  • 4:00 PM ET / 1:00 PM PT - PowerToFly Kickoff
  • 4:05 PM ET / 1:05 PM PT - Eating the Elephant: The State of Diversity in Games – Keynote Address by Shannon Loftis, Vice President, World’s Edge Studio
  • 4:30 PM ET / 1:30 PM PT - Xbox Generations and Innovation in Gaming: A Brief Tour – Tech Talk Presented by Kate Rayner, Partner, Technical Director
  • 5:10 PM ET / 2:10 PM PT - My Engineering Career: Xbox Stories – Panel Session Moderated by Fiona Cherbak, Talent Acquisition Lead, Featuring:
  • 5:55 PM ET / 2:55 PM PT - Closing Remarks from PowerToFly
  • 6:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT - Event Concludes

About Xbox: At Xbox, our mission is to reach every gamer on the planet to play, watch, communicate, and create together. Our 16 game development studios focus on delivering great games for everyone, wherever they play—on console, PC, or mobile devices. We are responsible for developing and publishing some of the biggest game franchises in history: Age of Empires, Forza, Gears of War, Halo, Minecraft, Microsoft Solitaire, Microsoft Flight Simulator, State of Decay, and many more. In 2018-2019, we added nine new studios to bring a steady stream of new, exclusive games to our fans. We believe that play is the thing that unites everyone. When everyone plays, we all win.

About PowerToFly: PowerToFly is a women-run startup that works with companies to identify skilled professionals they’d like to network with. Over the past few years, we’ve produced 1,000+ events across the world with brands like American Express, Microsoft, Deloitte, and Slack, which have resulted in countless hires.

About PowerToFly’s Events: All RSVP’d attendees are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age. If you require assistance to fully participate in this event, please email hi@powertofly.com, and we will contact you to discuss your specific needs.

Meet The Speakers

Shannon Loftis
Shannon Loftis
Vice President, World’s Edge Studio

Shannon Loftis is the studio head for World’s Edge, Microsoft’s studio focused on all things Age of Empires. Shannon has been with Microsoft since 1993, making games for the vast majority of that time. Shannon studied computer science and mathematics at Duke University. She joined Microsoft in 1993 and quickly migrated to the Entertainment Product Unit. Her earliest work focused on the creation of online card-playing games, utilizing the emerging consumer potential of the internet and social game design. Shannon has been responsible for multiplayer games across all of Microsoft’s gaming platforms (console, PC and Hololens), including the Madness series (Motocross Madness, Monster Truck Madness, and Midtown Madness), Project Gotham Racing, the Fable series, the Viva Pinata series, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and many others. In total, Shannon has contributed to more than 50 games. Shannon has created and led many global teams in the US and UK, including games publishing teams, interactive television teams, and internal game development studios (most notably Good Science, the team responsible for greenlighting and shipping the Kinect with full-motion games and core in 2010). Prior to World’s Edge, Shannon built and ran the Microsoft Studios 1st Party Global Publishing team focused on such AAA franchises as Crackdown, State of Decay, and the Microsoft Casual Suite.

Kate Rayner
Kate Rayner
Partner, Technical Director

Kate’s storied career in game development and technology leadership has spanned more than 20 years, from heading development teams on venerated AAA franchises including SSX, Skate, and Need For Speed, to co-directing the Frostbite Engine at EA, to joining Microsoft and driving game technology forward throughout the company in her role as Partner, Technical Director at The Coalition. Today, Kate’s leadership and technical work continues, pushing the Gears franchise to stay on the edge of world class technical excellence. Kate is an executive sponsor for Women In Gaming and The Rainbow Coalition, an LGBTQIA+ employee advocacy group at Microsoft’s The Coalition, part of Xbox Game Studio.

Poojitha Ponakala
Poojitha Ponakala
Software Engineer, Gaming Developer Experiences
As an avid gamer and game developer, Poojitha is passionate about empowering game creators to realize their dreams. She builds gameplay services that help game developers delight players with compelling in-game experiences. Before working at Microsoft, she developed Augmented Reality mobile games at Niantic.
Bensu Sicim
Bensu Sicim
Software Engineer, Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud)

Bensu has been with Xbox Cloud Gaming for two years where she works on automation that keeps the Xbox cloud console capacity across the world healthy and functioning. She is originally from Izmir, Turkey and moved to the States in 2015 to pursue her Computer Science undergraduate degree at Princeton University. Prior to becoming a full time Software Engineer at Xbox, she did three summer internships at Microsoft. She grew up playing video games, and she is excited to work on a project that can make gaming more accessible for everyone.

Fiona Cherbak
Fiona Cherbak
Talent Acquisition Lead

As part of the Talent Acquisition team for Xbox Game Studios, Fiona supports hiring initiatives across all 1st-party studios. Fiona was previously Talent Acquisition Lead, Worldwide Studios for Sony Interactive Entertainment. Fiona is former chairperson of IGDA Women in Games SIG, co-founder of Women in Games International (11 chapters globally), co-creator of GameMentorOnline, partnership advisor for the European Women in Games Conference and Women in Games Jobs U.K. Fiona speaks regularly at college campuses and industry events, including USC Games, MIT, SCAD, PAX, GDC, GDC Europe and GDC’s Game Career Seminar series, plus has served as advisory board member and speaker for SXSW Interactive, AIGA and SIGGRAPH. As a member of the indie games community, Fiona is co-founder and prior executive producer of the Boston Festival of Indie Games, now in its 10th year, and prior advisor to national indie game events IndieCade and Fantastic Arcade. Fiona was part of a women in games initiative developed under Obama’s U.S. White House in 2015. She was previously a U.S. advisor on behalf of BAFTA Games in 2018-2019, supporting diversity and inclusivity campaigns.

Jesse Hiestand
Jesse Hiestand
Senior Software Engineer, Xbox Game Studios Publishing

Jesse studied Computer Science & Biochemistry at Smith College. While in school, she provided educational technology services on campus and information technology services over the summer to the City of Bloomington. Upon graduation, Jesse began an eight year stint in automated air booking software at Cornerstone Information Systems & RightRez. After starting a wine blog with a few friends in Los Angeles as a plot to get free wine and consequently, spending a couple of years traveling the world making it, a second stage of her career began in Portland. She began developing winery websites before joining the staff at Kinfolk magazine as web administrator. Jesse then moved onto mobile app development with Survant James. Following a few years leading web development teams at Decoder Digital & Nice Touch, she moved to Seattle where TekSystems recruited her to build community and announce websites for video games for Xbox Game Studios Publishing. Six months later, she converted to a full-time role with Microsoft where she has been working for the last two years & has recently received a promotion.

Pepsy Wirth
Pepsy Wirth
Gaming Readiness Lead/Service Engineer, Xbox

Hi my name is Pepsy (yea like the drink) and I am a Gaming Readiness Lead for Xbox. I have been in Gaming for 9years mainly in operations and I love every minute of it. I like to think I was born to do this work . There is something about the chaos and order of it that gets me up in the morning. I was born and raised in Los Angeles (Lakers till I die!), and I moved to Seattle when I was 17. I have 4 sons, who love gaming and are the lights of my life. I love all things Sci-Fi, have an unnatural knowledge of Comics (lets talk about DC and Marvel but make sure you got some hours), and I still play WoW, love Animal Crossing, Pokemon Go, Tumblestone, and dancing my butt off to any Just Dance titles. I have always been an athlete, both competitively and for fun, but recently found a love for indoor and outdoor cycling. So any give day you can find me doing any of the gaming above, on my bikes, or just chilling with the hubs and our 7 kids.