Arisa Scott took an unusual path from academia to industry after she graduated from DigiPen’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program in 2011. While many of her colleagues were seeking work as modelers and animators for video game companies, she was interning as a Producer at an e-commerce start-up.
But that job was only the latest stop on a path that she began two years earlier.
“The fall of my junior year I was the art director on a game team, so I was managing a group of artists,” Scott says. “And I realized that I had a natural inclination to want to deal with organizational things.” Instead of polishing character models in 3ds Max, Scott found herself poring over spreadsheets in Excel and acting as the liason between the team’s programmers and her artists. It wasn’t long before her planning and organizational skills became indispensable to the group. “It was funny seeing this surprise and enjoyment that artists got out of me organizing things,” Scott says. “They were like, ‘That’s magical!’”
The following semester, Scott stepped in as art director on another game team, this team for a group of Master of Science in Computer Science students. “I recruited five artists for them and set up a kind of art asset pipeline for them and did some concept work too,” Scott says. By the end of her junior year, she had worked on two game teams while completing a full course load. But more importantly, she had a new goal: she wanted to be a producer.
“It was sort of a new thought for me,” Scott says. “At DigiPen I had only ever seen producers who were RTIS students. So I asked [Game instructor] Rachel Rutherford, ‘Can an artist be a producer?’” In Scott’s case, the answer was an emphatic “yes.”
During her senior year, Scott did everything she could to build her production experience. “I worked on two different game teams, and I was managing about 10 artists at a time and consulting for a bunch of other teams,” she says. “Working mostly with artists and working with devs and 3D pipelines … it was way too much fun not to keep doing that.”
By the time she finished her senior year, she was creating art assets just to fill in the gaps – most of her time was spent focusing on the other artists, their tools, and how they worked with the rest of the team. “Transitioning from just doing the art to doing the production was freeing, and it felt like these were the things that I’m actually legitimately passionate about,” she says.
When it came time to start applying for jobs, Scott already had a solid portfolio and a clear idea of what she wanted. “When I was looking around for jobs, there were a lot of Associate Producer jobs that were very much like ‘be someone’s assistant,’” she says. Then, through a colleague at her internship, she found out about an opening at Bellevue-based Expedia as a Program Manager. “It was much more ‘take ownership of this and run with this program.’” It was a perfect fit. “I started working for Expedia at the end of October ,” Scott says, “and I love it.”
The way Scott describe what she does today doesn’t sound all that different from the work she did for her DigiPen game teams. “It’s problem solving,” she says. “A lot of it is people problem solving, and some of it is technology problem solving. It’s not games, but it’s untangling different communication issues and making sure different teams know about each other’s issues – it’s all kind of the same.”
It’s not exactly what she expected to be doing with her degree, but she couldn’t be happier. “Coming into DigiPen, I knew I wanted to work on games, and I wanted to do art,” Scott says. “And my sophomore year I was thinking about cinematics, actually, because I really liked the film classes and I really liked modeling. But I haven’t been doing that stuff so much lately.” Instead, she’s doing what she does best: working with people and technology to solve problems.