San Francisco, CA, June 16, 2016 — On October 21, Toptal launched Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women, a program designed to empower and support the next generation of female computer scientists, software engineers, and developers through a combination of financial support and mentorship.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the seventh winner of the scholarship, Hsiao Wei Chen, a Taiwanese game developer who aspires to start her own incubator for game developers in the Philippines, where she was raised, and in Taiwan. She plans to put the scholarship winnings towards a Master’s Degree in Video Game Enterprise and Production at Birmingham City University in the UK, which in turn will help Hsiao develop the business knowledge she needs to start her gaming incubator.
Ultimately, Hsiao wants to understand every part of the game development process, “from programming, to completion, to distribution, and marketing,” so she can empower other game developers in her home country to independently develop their own games and bring them to market.
“Hsiao has a big dream, and she’s very driven to achieve it,” said Anna Chiara-Bellini, Toptal’s Director of Engineering, who leads the scholarship’s committee of judges. “Gaming is a very tight niche so she has a hard task at hand. Plus, her dream of starting an incubator in the Philippines is a really difficult challenge. We were nervous the project was too big for one person to take on.”
“However, when Hsiao explained how much she knows, how much she loves the gaming industry, and all the ideas she has to help her thrive in such a difficult market, we knew if anyone was up for the challenge, she was. We’re committed to helping her pursue her Master’s Degree and matching her with the right mentor to help make her gaming incubator dream a reality.”
As a scholarship winner, Hsiao will receive $5,000 to further her educational and professional development goals, as well as a year of weekly one-on-one dedicated mentorship from a senior software engineer from the Toptal network.
Hsiao’s Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women application
Hsiao first learned about the scholarship while looking for opportunities to help her pay for her Video Game Enterprise and Production Master’s Program. She was immediately drawn to Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women because the application required that she contribute to GitHub. A major contributor to open source, Hsiao keeps a blog where she posts tutorials on how to develop games and use plugins for Android and iOS.
Collaboration and teaching are integral to Hsiao’s learning process. She explains, “Whenever I learn something myself, I post about it on my blog and answer other developers’ questions.” Contributing on open source as part of the application was a clear way for her to continue her existing habit of honing her skills while giving back to the developer community.
The one-on-one mentorship will provide her critical guidance in developing her skills as an engineer and an entrepreneur. “I still have lots of skills that I need to develop,” Hsiao said. “Having a mentor who I can go to with all of my questions is going to be really awesome and critical to my success.”
Hsiao developed a love for programming in high school and earned her degree in Computer Science in college. “I was always a member of my school’s computer clubs and multimedia clubs,” Hsiao reflected. After graduating, she moved from the Philippines to Taiwan and looked to build the same support systems she had found in those clubs. She learned about Global Game Jam, a hackathon in which a multitude of game developers in Taiwan get together and code for 48 hours straight to build new games.
By getting to know the small but vibrant “indie game developer community” in Taiwan, Hsiao developed her dream of making independent game development a more feasible career path for aspiring developers – and especially aspiring female developers – back in the Philippines.
“Because we’re still a so-called third-world country, it’s really hard for developers to go out on their own and pursue great ideas for new games,” Hsiao said. “There’s little to no financial incentive to go after these ideas, no matter how good they are, and I know many very talented developers who would create amazing games if only they had the financial capabilities. That’s why I want to create an incubator – to give them that support.”
Hsiao’s own game development process is a family affair – both of her sisters and her roommate are artists, so whenever she creates a new game concept, she has three artists at her disposal to help her visualize and build out the product.
Currently, she is working on an IoT pedometer for kids called Nabi Compete, which lets users earn coins for steps. They can turn those coins into play games and buy food for their virtual pets. “The idea is to get kids more active, inspire some healthy competition, and make exercise really fun.” With each iteration of her apps, she bounces ideas off of her siblings, who are both extremely well versed in both 2D and 3D design.
Ultimately, Hsiao hopes to create an equally collaborative work environment for game developers and artists in order to turn game development from a super niche, tiny industry in the Philippines to a booming community of empowered independent developers.
Please join us in congratulating game developer Hsiao Wei Chen on becoming the seventh winner of the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women program!
About Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women
Toptal STEM Scholarships for women are a series of 12 scholarships for women that are awarded monthly over a year, with Hsiao being the seventh scholarship winner. Women from across the world of any education level are eligible to apply to win $5,000 and a year of weekly one-on-one technical training and mentorship from a Toptal senior technologist to help them pursue their goals as future professional software engineers.
The prior scholarship winners are Rojina Bajracharya from Nepal, Ana Sustic from Slovenia, Gabriela Mancini from Argentina, Tondi Butler from America, Rachell Calhoun, also from America, and Yasett Acurana from Bolivia.
To apply to Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers and for more information about the program, visit https://www.toptal.com/scholarships.
Founded in 2010, Toptal is one the fastest-growing and most innovative companies to emerge from Silicon Valley. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley’s famed venture capital firm, Adam D’Angelo, founder of Quora, Ryan Rockefeller, and other investors, Toptal today connects thousands of elite freelance software engineers and designers from around the world to over 2,000 blue chips such as J.P. Morgan and Pfizer, tech companies such as Airbnb and Zendesk, and numerous startups to provide world-class solutions that meet the most complex and challenging requirements. Toptal’s rapid growth is testimony to exploding client demand and the unmatched quality and reliability of the company’s services.
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