Immersive technology design is having a moment: as the metaverse reveals more of its future potential, the demand for XR designers will continue to grow. So we were excited to chat with #LEAP23 speaker Ioana Matei (Head of Emerging/Immersive Technologies – Metaverse/Web3) about what she’s up to right now – and how aspiring designers and developers can find their way in the metaverse space.
Creating stories, going deep into computer science, and elevating women in the XR space are just a few of the things Matei does in her eclectic working life.
And one point that really stood out to us is that no one is an expert in immersive tech: it’s all about learning, collaborating, and experimenting to build something new.
Could you give a brief overview of your own career journey so far?
“I am originally from Romania, was born and spent my first 7 years during Communism. Once Romania opened up to the world, I discovered the internet and computer science in general. It was fascinating to me, the capability to communicate online with someone on the other side of the world.
“This is when my passion for computer science started and I enrolled in a computer science high school. I then graduated from University with two degrees – Economics and Computer Science. I was always fascinated by how to combine business with IT. I followed a Master Degree in Finland and then I got hired by P&G, started in a Plant IT function and then transitioned to analytics.
“I spent the last six years of my career in the Metaverse/Web3 space and combined that with a more business IT role as I am currently both the Metaverse/Web3 IT Leader for the company and also the CIO for France, Belgium, Netherlands.
“In parallel, as I am looking to develop my creative side, I have been writing/producing films (short and feature) and producing Virtual Reality content. I am also leading the Virtual Reality section of the Fine Arts Film Festival. I get to see a lot of content and experience the evolution of storytelling in this new immersive space. As I am passionate about creating an inclusive environment and supporting women in their career, I have co-founded Women in Immersive Technologies, an NGO looking at women empowerment in the XR industry.”
What are the most exciting projects you’re working on right now?
“On my film/production side, I am working on new storytelling content that combines 360 views with user-controlled content and branching narratives. And of course a good story. It’s a new concept and I am trying to push the technology potential to the maximum. It is exciting to see how this has progressed and unleashed new creative avenues.
“With Women in Immersive Technologies, we are preparing for a second round of our WIIT Meta Creative Fund, a collaboration with Meta. We will be running a second round of our Young Bad A*s Lab – one that is dear to my heart as it brings 16 young women together for eight weeks of training, creation and collaboration. We want to unleash the potential of the new generation into the metaverse/web3 space and get them ready for this new world.
“The attendees will have the opportunity to meet women professionals in the XR space and will receive an Oculus Quest that they will use to follow the training (immersive – avatar mode) and create their 3D world. At the end of the Lab, they’ll present in front of a professional audience. This is also an opportunity for them to create a network within Women in Immersive Technologies and find mentors that can guide them to a future career, hopefully in the XR space. This year is even more exciting as we are looking at a collaboration between Europe and Africa, focusing on underserved communities and amplifying the opportunities.”
Why is it important that the industry makes space for women and gender-diverse creators to direct and shape the future of immersive tech?
“Oh, there are so many reasons. It has been proven that companies with diverse workforces and leadership perform better over non-diverse ones. The immersive technologies space (metaverse/web3) is putting its communities and creators at the centre. It is a creator-based economy. And when we talk content, only diverse teams and content creators are able to pull off an amazing story that touches everyone, no matter the background, gender, or race.
“We have seen, over and over again, that when diverse teams are working on hardware, content, business models – they are much more successful. This is why with Women in Immersive Technologies we are looking to encourage, train, support and connect women in this space and we have dedicated our efforts to train the new generations. We are co-funding projects led by women, to mentor female startup founders, to train creatives and to bring visibility to their work.”
What advice would you give to women creators who want to work in immersive technology design?
“Believe in yourself – no one is an expert in this space. You can always learn. Get connected with like-minded people. Use your network to learn, create opportunities and ask for help. Do ask for help, you will be surprised at the support you will receive. And if you are a woman in a power-position, make it your mission to create opportunities for other women like you.”
Thanks to Ioana Matei at P&G and Women In Immersive Technologies. Discover LEAP 2023 to learn more.