On our individual journeys through life, no experience is wasted. Though it may not seem obvious in the moment, everything we learn becomes useful at some point. Maria Diaz, the Global Operations Manager for 1518 Studios (our Art and Game Development studio), has applied this to all aspects of her career and while it’s assisted her rise to her current position, who knows how far she’ll go? Let’s get to know her a bit better.
Maria graduated in 2012 with a degree in Business and Marketing in Spain, followed by a Master’s in Web Development and Graphic Design. “Back in the day I worked for three years in an in-house online marketing role at Cash Converters Spain & Portugal, where I managed all the social media accounts for both territories,” she says. “My idea was to someday become a creative in an ad agency in Spain, but soon after I realized my true passion was Visual Development Art.”
After a month’s mentorship with Michel Breton—Art Director for Laika Studios, which created the movie Coraline among others—Maria devoted herself to her passion and pursued another Master's Degree in Advanced Illustration and VisDev Art, with the goal to pursue an art career in a feature animation studio. “I participated in four short movies as a VisDev artist apprentice. One of them, Madrid 2120, won ‘Best Feature Animation’ in the 2020 Los Goyas awards.”
Maria’s true interest has always been art and animation, but as a curious individual, she’s always looking for new experiences. “I try to keep a good balance between work and my personal life,” she explains. “I am part of a ukulele orchestra, a local choir, and several groups of language exchanges and hiking. I love water sports and my favorite is recreational diving, which allows me to travel and meet new, interesting people.”
Maria began working for PTW in September 2019 as a Spanish Localization QA Tester just after finishing her second Master’s degree. “I was fortunate enough to test some big AAA games within our PTW Glasgow studio and meet the awesome people that worked there,” she relates.
While Maria considered this role to be temporary until she could join an Art Production studio as a 2D artist, Will Vasquez, now Global Manager of Learning and Development, informed her of our new department, 1518 Studios. She followed up for a while, in the hope that she could send her application in at some point. “I had been working for almost two years in LQA, and a friend who had been working in Recruitment recommended me for a position in their team as they had a new opening. This seemed a perfect opportunity to learn more about the recruitment process and get an inside view of how a big company manages talent acquisition within different departments.”
Maria was offered the role of Recruitment Operations Administrator, in which she remained until March 2022, when she was promoted to Creative Recruiter at 1518 Studios. “The business needed to create a Global Art team, and in Recruitment I had the background and know-how to understand what was requested from the different art disciplines,” she explains. “Our Global Art team was born, and because we were small, all of us had to wear many hats to drive success.”
Then in July 2022, Maria was offered the opportunity to join the studio’s Operations team as Global Operations Coordinator and was just recently promoted to Manager. “I am responsible for streamlining studio processes and recruiting talent adequate to the needs of our clients. This is my current role.”
Maria discusses the different turns in her career path. “I have always been a curious individual, thriving to try new things and push my career as much as I could. In the beginning I felt LQA would give me an insight into the different life cycles of a video game. Part of my education focused on the preliminary stages where an idea is conceived and the subsequent art materials used, but I had no idea what came afterwards.”
After two years in LQA Maria decided it was time for her to try something else. “I missed the more cooperative aspects of it all, wishing to be part of the core team that fed talent into different areas,” she remembers. “Artist or not, we are all part of a very competitive professional world, and I wanted to learn more about the criteria for progression in the recruitment process, to ensure I had enough knowledge to make better decisions and navigate the international market in which we move nowadays.”
After two years of the pandemic, Maria also missed the human contact that comes from talking to people, as she had to work remotely for part of her time in LQA. She felt that joining the recruitment team would give her the unique opportunity of being in touch with talented individuals and giving them exciting new opportunities.
“After that, it all came quite organically,” she relates. “My supervisors knew of my background in art and offered me the chance to apply my knowledge of recruitment in the field that I love the most: Art Production.
“Once I joined 1518 Studios, my manager at the time saw in me the potential to inhabit a more complex role, where I'd need to apply both my knowledge about the company and everything I knew about art. They increased my responsibilities and ultimately asked me to join the team.”
Maria reveals the comparisons between her roles at PTW and 1518 Studios. “I'd say the strongest similarity I can find among these roles is the need for efficient time management, curiosity, and proactivity. No one knows it all. There will be times where you encounter blockers, so to find answers you should try new things when there's no clear way, and ultimately own your own decisions.”
The differences are related to people and their various responsibilities. “Everyone I've worked with has a different system, a different way they like things done,” Maria explains. “I'd say the main difference between my roles is the pace at which we work and the idiosyncrasies that affect the criteria we follow to achieve this.
“My role now is more technical, and I must deal with a larger number of both internal and external stakeholders. I feel that my previous roles prepared me for what I’m doing, where there's been growth in visibility on internal processes and decisions that will ultimately affect the day-to-day of the studio.”
“Be ready to make mistakes and learn from them,” Maria says. “It is important to manage expectations with those around you and yourself. Be honest and try your absolute best to get things done. Be open to change, listen, and be willing to adapt.”