Software Engineering STL

“Magic” Moments: How Jennifer Long Uses Gaming to Sharpen Her Developer Skills

Jennifer Long

Orchid began adventuring just over a year ago. She never knew her parents; when she was little, she fell off a wagon between St. Louis and the Ozarks, and her parents never stopped to retrieve her. Growing up, she had to learn to fend for herself, and became an excellent markswoman with a bow.

Recently, she was captured by a devil and taken to the Underworld while adventuring in the brutal land of Illinois, a wasteland of orcs and goblins.

Now her team has paired up with an eighth-level cleric to rescue her.

This is the narrative playing out in Jennifer Long’s latest Dungeons & Dragons campaign, a home-built world based on local geography.

She recently joined Team Daugherty through Daugherty University as a software engineer.

Her Dungeons & Dragons characters are always first based on what she wants to do mechanically, she said, “but there’s always some hidden part of me that comes out.”

Gaming plays an important role in Jennifer’s journey; not only has she played Dungeons & Dragons for nearly a decade, she built a fulltime 2 ½-year career streaming and running PR for professional Magic: The Gathering teams.

She traveled as far as Dallas and Seattle for tournaments. She’d enter a conference area — a big hall with rows and rows of tables, many of them numbered for main events. Between the tables would be people walking, almost all of them wearing heavy backpacks, and you could almost see the 30 lbs. of Magic cards in the strain in their steps.

Magic: The Gathering is like a mix between poker and chess. It’s like poker, because the deck contains hidden information, and you have to calculate odds to outplay your opponent. But it’s like chess because you have creatures and spells that you have to use strategically once they are in play. A single game can take between five and 30 minutes, just like chess.

Although playing and running PR for a trading-card game may sound like a dream job, she eventually began to burn out on the game.

Plus, being a woman on the Internet came with a fair amount of hate mail. Magic: The Gathering is largely a male-dominated field. In some ways, the online negativity has helped her, though. She’s become more confident taking control of situations and drawing lines.

Daugherty has been the change she was looking for. Her primary interests are front-end development and User Experience (UX), two skills that have been strengthened by her gaming experience.

Like gaming, front-end development and UX are creative endeavors that follow a ruleset. Programming interfaces abide by the desires of a client and what’s possible with HTML and CSS, but everything within those constraints is fair game.

With UX, the technology needs to be so simple and intuitive that people don’t even realize they’re using it. The experience needs to be seamless. As a frequent dungeon master, Jennifer has had to build a world, then articulate it clearly, giving the players freedom to choose how the story unfolds.

What Jennifer most appreciates about Daugherty is how everyone wants to help each other learn.

“I’m finding a community where I feel like I fit in and people I connect with,” she said.

She’s started playing Magic: The Gathering with a group of Daugherty teammates at lunch.

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