For securing remote work and fighting for diversity of thought
Cassie Richardson is comfortable being uncomfortable. A film student who earned her MBA before stumbling into an IT project management internship, she simply rolled with the serendipitous swerve. “I quickly realized that project management was what I loved about filmmaking: taking an idea, putting it down on paper and bringing it to life,” she says.
Now at videogame giant Electronic Arts (EA), Richardson finds herself working at the intersection of two male-dominated fields: gaming and IT security. Yet even when she’s the lone female in a meeting, she forges ahead, managing an array of projects, including helping EA securely transition to remote work amid pandemic lockdowns.
Richardson also shepherded the company’s 2020 Juneteeth project. As a leader of the employee resource group Black EA Team (BEAT!), Richardson worked with a small team to develop and execute 12 hours of programming.
“We had tough, emotional conversations about race in the U.S. and around the globe, how allies can play an active role in fighting injustice and why diversity of thought is so important to any project,” she says. “To be able to lend my project management skills to such an important event was the highlight of my career thus far.”
Q&A: Cassie Richardson on special effects, the environmental impact of megaprojects and why she wants to work with Neil deGrasse Tyson
What project most influenced you personally?
I’ve always had a fascination with films, but Jurassic Park was the movie that solidified my desire to work in entertainment. I watched countless specials around the making of the animatronics, the special effects and how engineers created the sounds of each dinosaur. Great movies have a way of transporting you directly into the story.
What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
Honestly, earning my Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification changed the trajectory of my career and gave me the tools I needed to be successful in any field.
How has the pandemic changed how you manage projects?
Before the lockdowns, we had a couple dozen offices around the globe. Very quickly, we had to shift to about 10,000 home offices. We had to figure out how to make EA just as secure as it was when everybody was working on-site.
What’s the biggest challenge facing young project leaders right now?
Do not try to boil the ocean. Trying to do everything at once rarely succeeds, so instead prioritize making the greatest impact possible and put a plan in place for fast delivery.
What’s one way managing projects will change over the next decade?
A project’s environmental impact will be a key scope element in the future. Minimizing or even eliminating waste will be a [key performance indicator]. Due to technology advancements, megaprojects will be more common and inevitably will impact the environment at a greater level.
What famous person would you want on your project team?
Neil deGrasse Tyson would be the ultimate technical lead of a project. He possesses the key ability to take something extremely technical and translate it to the masses. Also, if I was on a project with him, it’s likely to be something groundbreaking and cool.
What’s the first thing you check every morning?
I first reach for my phone to check for messages from my family. Then I check my calendar to confirm my first meeting. After that, it’s dragging myself to the gym to get a workout in before the workday starts. I don’t drink tea or coffee, so I need that boost from exercise to get going each morning.