International Women’s Day Interview with Ashley Washington

Mar 6, 2023

Ashley has worked in gaming and esports for over half a decade, studied Game Design at New York University, and has a background in journalism, data science, and product management.

We asked Ashley some questions on her first experiences with gaming and esports, Game Changers itself, and her advice to women looking to work in the esports industry:

Q: What was your first gaming experience, and your first esports experience?

Ashley: My FIRST, first gaming experience was playing the OG Gameboy my dad had sitting next to the toilet when I was like 5 or 6. But I would say, “canonically” speaking, the experience that confirmed my gamer calling was playing horror games on my Gamecube when I was 10. I really thought (and still think) horror games were so cool. I didn’t touch esports until I started working in the industry, and the first thing I played was a MOBA, because the product I was working on was a MOBA coaching tool. As you can see, I never did become a pro off the back of that.

Q: How did you decide to start working in esports, and how did you achieve this?

Ashley: I didn’t really gain awareness of esports until about two years into working in the gaming industry, when I got a job as a QA analyst for a MOBA coaching app. Before that I worked as a games journalist and as a QA manager for a mobile app. I decided to switch to esports because Berlin, where I live, is sort of an esports hub, and the community is really passionate. Before working in gaming, I really had to take a step back, look at the skills I had gained and sort of figure out how I fit into esports. I’m an organized communicator and dreamer that doesn’t mind taking the lead. Turns out that those qualities can make a great product manager, so here I am!

Q: As Head of Game Changers EMEA what are your main responsibilities?

Ashley: A year for me involves taking a look at the past year’s feedback and outcomes to figure out how we can do better for the next year. That is essentially me developing a strategy for the product in our region. After I have a strategy, I work with all of the parts of the team to figure out what that looks like in execution. So I talk to broadcast, competitive operations, marketing, etc. Then we find a partner that will help us do a great job, and I spend the rest of the year working with them to run the circuit. I keep all parts of the team updated and connected. It touches a lot of areas and involves a lot of chatting with everyone to see how they feel about things both inside the company and outside of it – especially players!

Q: The theme for International Women’s Day this year focuses on #EmbracingEquity and giving women a sense of belonging, how does Game Changers best achieve this?

Ashley: The tournament itself provides that togetherness on the competitive front, but we look towards experiences outside of the game within the community as well. Game Changers becomes a shared experience for everyone involved – the problems we face come to light, and then we work together to use our strengths to make the space better for us, and for those who will enter it. The resulting presence, and persistence of that presence, is what will “change the game” and create a diverse (and equitable) VALORANT ecosystem.

Q: What do you hope to see this year and beyond for women in esports, and in Game Changers specifically?

Ashley: This is our third year, so I think we will see a much stronger group of teams rise to the top, and I think some new underdog stories will come up too. I expect Game Changers to be very much full of surprises this year. Except for one though… EMEA is definitely taking the win at the Game Changers Championship again. As far as women in esports go, I am very confident that we will continue to see growth, and that we will not only see more women playing (in and out of Game Changers) but leading teams, events and organizations as well.

Q: What advice would you give to women looking to work in the esports industry?

Ashley: When it comes to job opportunities, know your strengths and seek out listings that match them. Even if it’s not 100%, if it’s like 80%, apply anyway. Don’t focus too hard on titles. Make genuine connections with others in the industry, even if it’s just an occasional duo. Don’t be afraid to take a detour – I didn’t know where I was going to end up with QA, but I stumbled my way into something eventually. I worked in games for 6 years before this job! If you truly want to work in esports, you absolutely can. If you ever find yourself struggling to believe that, come find me! Because you absolutely should believe it and I won’t let you forget it.