Where are they now?
Autumn Taylor, a 2012 graduate of Breckenridge High School, returned to her Alma mater recently to take in a Buckaroo football game, visit family and friends and teach students about the new and expanding field of Virtual Reality.
Taylor attended the Moody School of Communications, at the University of Texas at Austin and earned a degree in marketing and public relations, but turned her focus to helping design and develop video games and then help market them while a student at UT.
“I made video games for fun. I was part of the game development club at UT and we would just get together and make games – 2D games, 3D games, VR Games and I got my foot into making games that way,” Taylor said.
Taylor turned her hobby into a job with Owlchemy Labs, a video games studio, where she combined her degree in marketing and public relations and her acquired gaming skills by marketing, promoting and setting up demonstrations of games and the new VR technology.
While at BHS, Taylor was active in the band and drama, with major roles in the one act play and UIL competitions. Taylor also was the class of 2012 salutatorian.
“Breckenridge High School gave me some of the perspective that has allowed me to be successful,” Taylor saud. “I was able to try on so many different skills at BHS through extracurricular activities, and explore topics of interest through my studies in honors and AP courses … Coming from a small town and school has also made me especially passionate about accessibility in virtual reality and making the hardware and experiences available for any person to enjoy, regardless of background.”
Taylor to respond to a former BHS teacher’s request to bring her VR materials along the next trip home and demonstrate the VR technology to some students at BHS. That trip was further developed at the Breckenridge American to include a video that is posted on the newspaper’s Youtube page. Taylor demonstrated the VR technology to the classes of BHS Science teacher Barbara Trammal and a Technology teacher Vince Moore. Taylor explained the new technology and guided each participant through what they were experiencing. Moore described Taylor returning to his class and exposing BHS students to such a cutting edge field was heartwarming.
“One of the best experiences as a teacher is seeing former students become successful in whatever way they always dreamed,” Moore said. “I remember Autumn turning in an assignment in our GT Humanities class, where she built a 3D rendering of a renaissance-era Tuscan home as part of a project. I love that 14-year-old Autumn was already building the foundation that adult Autumn is still using … I love seeing former students give back to the school in that way. It’s very heartwarming.”
Moore said he hopes Taylor’s visit inspired other students to pursue careers in technology.
“I hope that my students get several things; First, that they can come from Breckenridge and achieve their goals, no matter how far removed from our little rural town they may be,” Moore said. “Second, maybe it sparked a passion in some kid that will lead them into a new career field that they’ve never considered … I also hope the girls recognize that Autumn is doing some awesome things in a very male-dominated industry. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is just as valid a career path for them as the boys.”
A few students expressed an interest in pursuing studying in the gaming field through coding and VR and Taylor’s demonstration provided a view of the opportunities available to those students who are interested. Taylor was able to reassure students that more and more Texas institutions were developing curriculum to catch up with the latest development in the technology field, but were not prepared to announce their programs at this time. Most students were led to believe that they would have to go to colleges out of state to pursue those studies which was giving their parents apoplexy.
While employed with Owlchemy Labs, Taylor said she has worked as a voice actress, audio editing, script writing and filming. Taylor also works in the Austin community with VR Austin, an organization that encourages minority women to pursue jobs and careers in the growing technology backgrounds and are encouraged to pursue educational opportunities in the growing technology field and in math and science.
“Underrepresented individuals in the industry is the feeling of the impostor syndrome,” Taylor said. “It’s a pretty common topic in creative industries in general, and probably compounded by the fact that VR is so new and we’re all kind of figuring things out as we go along. That feeling doesn’t really go away, but I found it’s important to find your like-minded communities and supportive industry friends to keep you sane.
“Ultimately, we’re all just making cool stuff, and want to support other people making cool stuff. Define your own success, don’t let other define it for you.”