At Work With.. Karen LeBlanc, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at SciPlay
The ‘At Work With…’ Interview Series is our way of bringing you behind-the-scenes with the names and businesses included in our Texas Production Directory (TPD). We want to showcase the creatives that cover all levels of production experience, backgrounds, and geographies around the state.
This week’s spotlight is on Karen LeBlanc, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner in People Operations at SciPlay based in Austin and a native Texan (34 years & 2 months, Yeehaw!)
Your claim to fame: What special skill or fun fact differentiates you from others?
I have always really enjoyed baking and have found it an incredible form of stress relief. I regularly brought treats into the office to justify baking more often than the relatively short time it takes me to eat a dozen cupcakes by myself. One of my proudest moments was when a petition was circulated around SciPlay demanding (politely) that I bring in sweets every Tuesday moving forward. Who am I to say no to my SciPlay family? I have really missed baking for them over the last year while we’ve been working from home and it’s something I’m looking forward to resuming in the future. There’s something quite magical about gathering with your SciPlay family sharing a sugary treat and a cappuccino in our huge kitchen and common space that we appropriately call Yeehaw!
What’s the most memorable experience on a project or production that you’ve had and what made it so special?
Our founder who is now officially known as our Chief Gamer at SciPlay, Aaron Shurman, starts every All Staff Meeting with a gigantic YEEEEEE-HAWWWW across our Austin, Iowa, and Tel Aviv offices. It’s meant to energize the studio and remind us all how privileged we are to get to work in this industry and how much fun we get to have along the way! The first time it happened, I was definitely surprised by it but knew immediately I was in the right place. Home Sweet SciPlay!
In my last job, when I worked for Six Foot in Houston, we put on an international Esports tournament for our real-time strategy game, Grey Goo. I was an office manager at the time, but they were holding auditions to be a volunteer cohost with our studio’s community manager. I was the only one who auditioned and still was surprised when they said they picked me! It was a really cool experience. While I can definitely say that recruiting comes more naturally to me, it is a special memory of hosting the final matches at PAX South in San Antonio and getting to meet the players and fans in person set in one of my favorite cities in the world! Yeehaw Texas Game Development!
Have you had an industry mentor or colleague that has made an impact on you or helped you along your career path? If so who, and how did they impact you?
My current boss, Micayla Federspiel. There is so much to be learned from someone who has an entirely different style and background than you. Micayla is incredibly focused on the big picture, while I often get bogged down in the details. She is ambitious with her strategy and isn’t afraid to push back and I really admire that about her. The saying goes that you take an opportunity due to a company, but whether you stay or leave is determined by your boss and I believe that 100%. We need more strong females in the gaming industry like her. At SciPlay, there’s no room for ego and the biggest voice in the room is not the only one heard here. It’s wonderful to work for a company where I feel heard, challenged, and championed.
In your industry, collaboration is the key to success. How do you best foster collaboration with your colleagues from project to project?
I’m very lucky to work on a dynamic team with individuals who are subject matter experts in their realm of people operations. Whether it’s onboarding and human resources, information technology, or talent acquisition, we all respect the knowledge and experience that each other brings to the table and are able to set our egos aside and brainstorm the best solutions possible for our teams that we support.
How have Covid-19 safety protocols affected the way that you work?
COVID-19 has changed everything. Despite having a background in both in-house as well as remote agency recruiting, this is my first foray into being a recruiter who is working from home but for a company in a non-agency setting. Building and maintaining remote relationships with hiring managers is new as well. We recruit a lot of people outside of the Austin area, out of state, and even out of country, and not being able to host candidates in our amazing city and to tour our shiny office has naturally affected how we approach our hiring process. We have been very innovative and come up with alternative solutions to give an impression of our amazing studio culture and office space— including creating virtual tours and moving our interview process to a fully virtual, engaging process. Since COVID-19 started, we have added 65 new members to our Austin SciPlay Family. We are growing every day, despite the challenges we’ve faced with COVID-19. We are still hiring for multiple roles across our organization. You can find them all at www.sciplay.com/careers.
What’s the best part about working in Texas?
I’ve been lucky enough to work both in Houston and Austin in this amazing industry and the best part about making video games in Texas is the incredible life and people that accompany it. I meet a lot of candidates who are looking for a little more space to roam and a little more kindness and compassion in their work environments and they find it here. And the food, my goodness… the food!
Why do you choose the Lone Star State as a place to live and work?
I am a native Texan and I choose Texas to continue to be my home today. I am proud to be a Texas Game Developer and I think we have an admirable work-life balance mixed with cutting-edge technology and incomparable people. Plus, my parents, my sister, and my sister’s family live in Austin! I grew up in the Sugar Land area of Houston, attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and I have lived in Austin for almost 2 years now - I can’t picture myself living anywhere else!
Interview has been edited for brevity.
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