How an American YouTuber became one of Sweden’s most powerful women
She's the American who has been chosen as one of Sweden's most powerful business women. In 2010, Lydia Winters started making YouTube videos as MinecraftChick. This is the fascinating story of how she ended up moving to Stockholm to work for the company behind the best-selling video game.
Lydia Winters is the American teacher who became known as MinecraftChick on YouTube, posting videos of herself playing the game. She eventually got a job at Mojang in Stockholm, and has now been working at the company for almost five years. Being a role model and an inspiration to young girls aspiring to become developers in a male-dominated industry, she has been celebrated for her work by several Swedish news outlets. Smashdig contacted Winters in order to find out more about her fascinating journey.
How did you first become interested in Minecraft?
Back in 2010, I had shaved my head to raise money for breast cancer research and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I loved making videos and wanted to create a channel focused on one topic, but wasn’t sure what to pick. I talked to my friends and they suggested Minecraft. As someone who didn’t game at all and had played almost no games, I decided to jump in and try something new. My first episode on my YouTube channel is the first time I opened Minecraft and I didn’t even know how to walk in the game. Turns out I had a great time playing and loved being part of the community.
How did you get the job at Mojang?
I didn’t plan to get a job at Mojang. In the summer of 2011, I heard the Mojang team would be in the US for E3, which rarely happened at the time. I decided to go out to LA—from Florida—with the sole purpose of interviewing Carl [Manneh]—our former CEO—and Notch [Marcus Persson] for my channel. A few weeks before the event, I sent an email to Carl and said if they needed any help with things while they were there, I’d be more than happy to help. He wrote back and said I could host the Sony Ericsson booth where Minecraft was being demoed. After the first day at the booth, I made a joke about moving to Sweden—truly a joke—and Carl said: “We need someone to work with the community, let’s talk about it later today.” It was surreal and I thought he was kidding. At the time, I remember looking up where exactly Sweden was in Europe. After E3 was over and I was back in Florida, I submitted my CV along with a video and almost five years later, I’m still living in Sweden and working with Minecraft.
What is Mojang like as an employer and workplace?
Mojang is a great place to work. We’ve undergone many changes over the past five years, growing, moving offices, changing ownership, but what’s remained throughout is eclectic and passionate people working together. It’s a place where we are trusted for the work we are doing. For me, it’s been an incredible opportunity and supported place where I’ve been able to grow from someone wondering what she should do with her life into directing one of the most unique and popular brands today.
What kind of projects are you usually working on as Brand Director of Mojang?
As Brand Director, I have my hands in many different projects. Giving opinions, helping create and shape plans, and making sure that what we do remains true to our core belief as a studio and about Minecraft. Our Art Director and I work on our entire merchandise line, for me it’s on both the business and creative side. It’s meeting and vetting potential partnerships across Minecraft to see how well they fit with our brand and will our involvement with them benefit our community. I speak and host many of our events around the world, which is one of the reasons I was originally hired as a loud, talkative American who likes being the center of attention. It’s a mashup of many things which makes each day exciting and challenging.
Recently you were included on Veckans affärer’s list of Sweden’s most powerful business women and Di Digital’s list of women what shape the future of Sweden’s tech sector. What was your immediate reaction to the news? And why do you think you made it onto these lists?
My immediate reaction was “Woohoo!” It’s an incredible and humbling honor. It’s meaningful to be recognized, but meaningless if you aren’t using that recognition to make a difference. Being on Veckans affärer led to being a keynote speaker at a Women in Tech event, that’s where those lists lead to bigger things. Then I’m able to have a real impact, because people read the lists, see your name, and decide to invite you to do more things, like this interview. I made it on those lists because I’m helping shape the future of an incredibly powerful game, one that is already innovating and creating change across the world. The best part of being on them is it made me re-evaluate my influence in Sweden’s tech sector and made me want to be a more active part of it.
What are the major things you want to achieve in your career?
In my career, I want to remain passionate about the work I am doing and have fun doing it. I also want to accomplish finding a level of balance that allows me to be fully in when I am working, but pull myself out of it when I am home, this can be especially difficult since my live-in partner—Vu Bui [Mojang’s current COO]—and I work together. And I want to use my personal story, my work experience, and anything I am doing to make the world around me better. I can’t change the whole world, but I have more influence than I realize—seeing yourself on big lists is a good reminder—and need to use it make an impact. I want to continue pushing for gender equality and combating stereotypical gender roles in whatever I am doing.
Where are you five years from now, career-wise?
Five years from now, I am retired. Oh wait, I will only be 34. Five years from now, I could still be working at Mojang directing Minecraft or maybe I could be a renegade creative consultant working with top companies to create interesting and innovative ideas for their products and businesses. But five years ago, I never would have known I’d be working at Mojang, living in Stockholm, and having a prominent position in an industry outside of anything I had previously done—my degree is in education and I was a teacher. So mainly, in five years, I am still keeping myself open to new and interesting opportunities, taking risks, and being happy with whatever I’m working on.
This interview was conducted via email. It has been slightly edited for clarity and length.Di DigitalVeckans AffärerMinecraftMojangLydia WintersMarcus “Notch” PerssonCarl MannehVui Bui