Skillz Employee Spotlight: Miriam Aguirre, VP of Engineering
If Miriam Aguirre could have any superpower, she would choose telekinesis.
“You wouldn’t have to get up to do anything, so you could get a lot done. I’m into that for sure.”
There isn’t much else that describes our VP of Engineering more perfectly. I mean, her self-proclaimed life philosophy is “more doing, less talking.” Famous around the office for this limitless drive and get-it-done attitude, Miriam has led all technical development efforts at Skillz for almost four years. She heads the departments responsible for building our innovative competitive multiplayer platform.
But surprisingly enough, she didn’t always want to be a computer engineer. Originally from Mexico and south-central Los Angeles, Miriam attended MIT for her undergraduate studies to major in none other than aerospace engineering.
“I was really interested in building jets and engines,” said Miriam. “But around that time, there was a lot of talk that the aerospace industry might stagger a bit, and we were encouraged to try computer science. It worked out well for me.”
Many would argue that Miriam choosing computers over planes and spacecrafts actually worked out well for all of us in the tech industry. She is an active supporter and champion of diversity in tech. Through a multitude of speaking events, mentorships, and volunteer opportunities, Miriam constantly works to increase career advancement opportunities for underrepresented groups, especially women, in the traditionally male-dominated industry.
One particular event stands out in her mind – a recent junior pitch competition in which teams of young women in middle school and high school had to develop a mobile app to address a problem in their community. The teams then had to pitch their app to a live audience and panel of distinguished judges from all over Silicon Valley, including Miriam. Throughout the competition, Miriam found that a lot of the girls chose to build games as their proposed mobile apps. As a representative of Skillz, the worldwide leader in mobile eSports, and an avid gamer herself, Miriam was excited and impressed that these bright young women recognized the potential of mobile games to transform the way people can connect with each other.
In fact, this connective power of games is Miriam’s favorite thing about working at Skillz.
“I love that playing games is a part of the Skillz day-to-day experience. I love that all Skillzians, whether they have a significant background in gaming or not, come together to participate in our goofy in-office video game tournaments and share with one another tips and tricks in their favorite games. Just having that culture here, and an environment in which something so fun can be a large part of all of our jobs… it’s unbeatable.”
Miriam’s favorite Skillz-powered game? PlayMotive’s Smash 100. She describes the game as “soothing and casual, yet challenging and nerve-wracking.”
“It’s such a fun game to play just half-paying attention. Then you actually start doing well and the stakes get higher. So, once you reach that coveted score of 100, your adrenaline really starts pumping. It’s quite the rollercoaster of emotions.”
When she isn’t winning big in Smash 100 or executing on Skillz technical initiatives, Miriam likes to go sailing, spend time with her wife and daughter, and play with her foster dogs.
“Oh – and I also like to play video games.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that addition – as if all of us didn’t already know that she liked gaming! But according to Miriam, it’s an important reminder to everyone who’s witnessing Skillz transform the eSports industry.
“I’m always stressing that gaming is a hobby of mine and a hobby of almost everyone here, because it’s interesting to note that Skillzians, just like the rest of the 2.6 billion mobile gamers, are all consumers of the gaming industry. That’s why we’re so serious about its future. Bringing eSports to mobile is going to make games better for everyone – and as players ourselves, we have a personal investment in making sure that happens.”