This interview is part of our Diversity in Tech series in partnership with All Raise, Anitab.org, Blavity, Grid 110, and Latinas in Tech, a coalition effort to champion diverse representation in the tech industry. Read more about this initiative here, and download images from the Diversity in Tech collection here.
Maria Oliveira Tamellini is Co-Founder and COO of GamerSafer, a software company helping online games and esports organizations make online safety and fair play experiences accessible to all players. She has over a decade of entrepreneurship experience in the social impact sector and was awarded by Headstream Innovation for building positive, ethical and healthy technologies for youth. Maria is a proud mom of 3 (two of them gamers) and a true champion for women and child safety in digital spaces.
We caught up with Maria to learn more about her work at GamerSafer, how community can help support more inclusion, and her thoughts on the greatest opportunities to champion diversity in tech.
Hi Maria! Tell us about yourself, how did you get to where you are today?
I have always been driven by purpose and realized at a young age that serving others was a development booster, besides a way of fulfilling my role as a citizen. Since my childhood, while living in Brazil, I have enjoyed following and helping my grandma in her social work with elders and Hansen’s disease patients. At the age of 25, I founded my first company, a social impact consulting business focused on supporting corporations making strategic social investments in underserved communities. For many years, I led this company, joining many others in the most challenging fights: poverty, deforestation, clean water and sanitation, inequality, to mention a few.
After moving to Silicon Valley, I started to work for organizations using technology to impact the world positively. Simultaneously, as a mother of three at this point, I realized how deeply technology had changed my family dynamics and my closer community. Virtual worlds are a significant part of their life and development. My co-founder and husband worked for the gaming industry at the time and started to challenge me to think of pressing problems such as harassment, fraud, scams, and even predators. As a change-maker, a gamer, and a mother of gamers, I heard the call — and I couldn’t run from it. What else should I be doing besides making the online world a better place for them?
This is the beginning of my story at GamerSafer. We help online games to scale safe, positive and fair play experiences for millions of players worldwide. I also keep cultivating my social impact, diversity and inclusion work by serving other organizations such as Latinas in Tech, XRSI Safety, Women in Games.
How is GamerSafer revolutionizing the way we think about safety tools for the gaming industry?
Computer, mobile and console online games bring together dozens of millions of players around the world. The most popular titles surpass hundreds of millions of users. They gather and mix people of all ages (children, adolescents and adults), who are anonymous and can interact and socialize via text, voice and, in some cases, video in real-time. This world of possibilities also comes with risks: harassment, racism, sexism, bullying, hate speech, grooming, identity theft, account hijacking, scams, bots are a few examples.
Big titles are deploying in-game solutions to identify risks and stop them. Still, tracking billions of interactions, in real-time, written and spoken, in multiple languages, it’s a tremendous challenge. Not to mention that, in many cases, interactions can require an interpretation of what is socially acceptable by region, between friends, and other variables. So, we decided to revolutionize this industry by developing a pre-game solution, totally focused on prevention. Our software works for games of all sizes and is embedded into the game login to act as a smart gatekeeper for online games and esports competitions. This gatekeeper takes into consideration verified user data, in-game preferences, play style and other variables to support game platforms create more fair and safe environments. With that, we minimize disruptive behaviors and create better communities and experiences for players. We are bringing the missing piece of this complex puzzle.
What are some of the greatest opportunities you see right now to drive meaningful change when it comes to more equitable representation in the tech and startup worlds?
At Latinas in Tech, where I serve as a board member, we are working hard to play our part in the leaky tech pipeline. We connect Latinas with a supportive community, resources and different opportunities, reducing the obstacles restricting their participation in the tech ecosystem.
Our goal is having more of us starting and growing careers in tech, and founding more startups. As an entrepreneur, I see an opportunity to move initiatives and programs from advice and webinars to validation, access, and tangible opportunities for women, BIPOC, LatinX, LGBTQ+, etc. That’s what can drive meaningful change in the tech world.
What role does community play in supporting a more inclusive tech landscape?
Finding a supportive community is one of the most effective ways to accelerate inclusion. As an entrepreneur and working mom, I can say that having people to count on is one of the most critical things in my life. From last-minute babysitting to business advice and strategic connections, the communities I’m part of facilitates my growth and open doors that I found closed many times. These are people that advocate and encourage me to live the life I’ve chosen. They amplify my voice and accelerate my progress. I’m always happy to do the same for them. Belonging is one of the keys to inclusion, and only communities can provide that sense. Once you belong, it’s easier to commit and support others, creating a virtuous cycle that can transform tech.
At Noun Project, we believe visual language has the power to shape, reinforce and change perceptions. What are your thoughts on why diverse visual representation in tech is so important to helping change the status quo in the industry?
Compared to the other planets in the solar system, planet Earth is unique and abundant in life and possibilities. We are incredibly diverse in shapes, forms, colors, resources, ecosystems, people, and cultures. It’s estimated that Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old and we are still not a uniform, dull, pale celestial body. Instead, we are diversified, beautiful and vibrant.
I see visual language as an essential tool to express this diverse and pulsating energy. In that sense, it should reflect the natural course of our life and existence. Our capability to see ourselves and our beliefs make us feel connected to some companies, products, and services instead of others. A diverse visual language unfastens this matching process, and it’s a source of great inspiration. When powered by technology, it can make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
Looking to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you most excited about right now?
Right now, I’m super excited to see our technology benefiting the Esports competitive scene for female players. I want to see my daughter playing more competitive games without apprehension. In the near future, I want to dedicate more of my time to foster digital citizenship and digital wellbeing initiatives as I believe this can make a huge impact in an increasing interconnected world.
What advice would you give to people currently navigating the path to a future career in tech and entrepreneurship?
Find your crew, help others succeed (your progress is a consequence), and don’t give up.
About Latinas in Tech
Latinas in Tech is a non-profit organization working to rebuild the tech industry so that Latinas are well-represented throughout all levels of the ecosystem. The group is comprised of more than 10,000 women, representing more than 23 countries, working at more than 200 of the top technology companies. The group began in Silicon Valley in 2014 and has since then expanded to ten other cities and states: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, New York City, Sacramento, Seattle, Utah, and Washington DC. Latinas in Tech focuses on 3 key pillars: professional development, recruiting, and mentorship. For more information, visit https://www.latinasintech.org.