Wearing two hats

AT the time, Japanese video game developer, Square Enix was looking for graduate students in a specific area of study to join them as interns, and that was the perfect opportunity for Michelle Yong who was pursuing her MSc in Research Methodology of Psychology in the UK.

She wrote a letter to the company's Human Resource department, showed what she could do during the internship, and got hired permanently as a data analyst specialist.

"The opportunity came along while I was writing my research paper, and my course was focused on statistics and research so the transition was really smooth (from a psychology background).

"I was offered a PhD of a different area of psychology, but turned it down and decided to take the chance of working in the video games industry. It was a huge risk, but it felt like a dream I couldn't turn down. Who would turn down the chance of working with the company who made your childhood games?

"I've been playing video games since I was a kid, and my earliest memory was playing Earthworm Jim on MS-DOS. I am currently playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but my favourite all-time games are The Sims and Pokemon," she said.

Her recent projects with Square Enix were Just Cause 3 and Life is Strange (which has an amazing storyline). She has also worked with other franchises such as Hitman, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Sleeping Dogs.

However, she has since moved on to King, which she said is a company that heavily emphasises on being data driven. It also has an impressive team of over 100 people working in data analytics, setting the perfect environment for her to develop and grow her skills further.

"I am currently working on Farm Heroes Saga, Shuffle Cats, and other games which I cannot currently reveal," she said.

Besides being a data specialist, she is also a Culinary Genius, winning the cooking show that is created and produced by Gordon Ramsay.

"I feel so honoured to have my cooking acknowledged by Phil Vickery, a celebrity Michelin-star chef in the UK. The competition was tough against other talented cooks in a fast-paced and stressful environment, but I had so much fun on the day. To receive the title of Culinary Genius is such an amazing feeling!"

What do think made you win the competition?

By putting my heart and soul into cooking, and taking the least obvious and risky route.

What drew you to cooking?

Moving away from Malaysia and living by myself for the first time was the catalyst; no more cheap, tasty and convenient food everywhere. I knew I couldn't survive on instant noodles all the time, so I forced myself to learn and found that I actually enjoy the challenge of cooking and learning new recipes.

Where do you draw inspiration for your dishes and what are some of your best?

From my childhood memories with my grandmother's delicious meals, and trying new dishes when travelling the world. My best dishes are sweet sour crab inspired by my grandmother's recipe, bah kut teh, asam pedas, tandoori chicken, cheesecakes and roast lamb.

How do you include your style into your dishes?

Food styling is something I'm still learning. Although I think most Asian cooking is visually stunning by itself, I prefer making large, hearty and strong seasoned food.

Currently based in London, what do you enjoy most about the city?

Most of my friends in London would think I am mad for saying this, but I absolutely love their infamous weather. After spending most of my life in sweltering heat, I feel like I am living with air-conditioning all the time.

How are Square Enix and King different as well as similar?

Square Enix was mostly an AAA (pronounced "triple A") games company, while King focuses more on casual games with a broad appeal. Therefore, business strategies are different which dictate where resources go.

The people who you work with usually share the same interests, so they have become second family to me.

As with most video games or technology companies, there is sadly still a disproportionately low number of women employees compared to other industries. However, this has improved slightly over the last few years.

What are some important skills and knowledge needed in the video games industry?

Being updated with ongoings in the video games and technology industry, and equipping yourself with a few languages helps (such as Java, C++, SQL and Python). Most importantly, in my opinion, is to be passionate about video games and technology.

What is your advice for those interested to join the video games industry?

Persevere and push yourself! You don't have to come from a technology or science background. There are many disciplines available such as art, marketing, PR, law and HR. Find your fit and show your passion for video games.

What are your personal goals?

To always better myself in the things I'm passionate about – learning never stops!