In the latest Faces of Unity, get to know Unity Program Manager for Inclusive Economic Opportunity and ComUnidad ERG Co-Chair in San Francisco James Turnage-Lannan. Read on to learn more about James’ career journey, his advice for imposter syndrome, and why he loves living in the Bay Area.
What do you do at Unity?
As a senior program manager for inclusive economic opportunity on the Real-time Learning team, I help develop initiatives that give people from underrepresented backgrounds their start in the real-time 3D industry. I’m working on multiple projects right now that will provide career pathways into full-time, contract, and freelancing roles.
Tell us about your role with the ComUnidad Employee Resource Group (ERG). What inspires you to be a leader?
As a way to connect more with my Nicaraguan half, I joined our ComUnidad ERG (previously Latinx ERG) as a lead back when ERGs were first established. I decided to take my involvement a step further at the start of 2022 and became a co-chair of ComUnidad. It feels good being part of a community at work that you can relate to on a personal level. If you aren’t already part of an ERG at Unity, I highly recommend you join as a member or ally!
It wasn’t until fairly recently that I’ve felt more confident in being a leader. I’ve never wanted to be in the spotlight, but I've learned that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean that. If anything, as a leader, my main goal is to elevate everyone around me by giving them the resources, confidence, and motivation to be successful. I’m inspired by the people I work with every day and seeing them grow alongside me as we pursue our career goals together.
Did you have any interesting jobs before working as a program manager that led you to where you are today?
Previously, I worked at Unity in three different roles over the course of almost five years (holy cow!). I started out as an Asset Store curator in 2017, then moved to a content producer role for Learn Premium (RIP) in 2019. After that, I transitioned to being the content producer for Live Learning in 2020. In one way or another, all these roles helped prepare me for becoming a program manager in 2021, and I’m very thankful for the journey that got me to this point.
What are your favorite things about Unity?
The people I work alongside. I’ve never worked for a company with so many talented and friendly people. Over this past year as a program manager, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful contributors and leaders that I would never have met otherwise. I appreciate all of the relationships I’ve made since 2017, and look forward to making more. Because of this, my favorite Unity value is In It Together. We all truly have the capacity to make a positive difference in the world together.
Can you share a piece of career advice for others in the industry?
It’s easy to doubt your own ability to perform a task or specific role. I suffered from this a lot growing up, and still do on occasion. However, if you want to succeed in your career, you have to let go of that self-doubt. If you can’t believe in yourself, then how will you convince anyone else to believe in you? It’s common to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, especially when presented with a new task or opportunity. As long as you make an honest effort and learn from your mistakes, you’ll eventually gain the confidence you need to reach your goals.
Can you share a few fun facts about yourself?
I was born and raised in Oakland, California. As much as I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, I can’t imagine living outside of the Bay Area. There’s so much diversity, culture, and amazing food here. Why would I ever want to leave?
I’m also currently in the process of writing my own fantasy novel. I’ve been worldbuilding for the past year and only started writing a draft a few months ago. It’s a new creative journey for me that I’m really excited about. I’m not sure how long it will take to complete, but I know that I’m motivated to see this project through!