November 6, 2023

Margaret Bieniek (Administrative)

Margaret Bieniek’s official title at Straight4 is “administrator”. But for everyone at the studio, Maggie is part-time counsellor, part-time accountant, part-time HR … and all superhuman.

Tell us a little about yourself…

MB: I’ve lived in south London for the past 20 years when I moved to the UK from Poland. I joined Slightly Mad Studios (Ian’s other famous enterprise) back in 2015 as an administrator, and I’ve been following the team ever since. In January of this year, I was having a nice walk when I saw Ian’s number pop up and I received his offer to join Straight4 Studios. It took me about a minute to say, “yes, thanks.” The prospect of working with the old crew was something I couldn’t pass up.

A year later, and it feels like I never left, with all the old faces coming back to the studio through the year and the usual crazy stuff happening online! People never change, and we may no longer be called “slightly mad” but believe me, working with this group is always crazy. But in a good way! (Okay, most of the time!)

Looking out of the office where the famous Shard resides with evening lights on

Straight4, like SMS, is a remote working studio. What are the positives and what are the negatives with remote working?

In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to test both and, you know, I also worked both remotely and in “real life” for the old studio when I was based at the London office. To be honest, I loved working in the office at the time and having face to face interactions with colleagues—both the staff that were there every day and those who visited occasionally for company meetings and presentations and whatnot.

However, the pandemic has pushed most of us into working remotely, and I’ve come to appreciate that working from home offers a lot of advantages: time saved on travel, less stress, more time with family, balanced work/life, and overall, more flexibility in daily routines.

And since we are truly a multicultural, international and intercontinental mix here at Straight4, this is the only rational solution for the company to function. But hopefully this won’t stop us from meeting occasionally in real life, as we used to back in SMS because, admittedly I miss meeting people in the real, three-dimensional world.

At the same time, though, it’s always nice to “speak” to the team over Teams or Slack since I know them all and most of them are like family to me by now.

Photo of Margaret Bieniek

How do you deal with issues that come up with remote working?

Issues do crop up when remote working that are peculiar to this style of work. I could spend a day lecturing on that, but the one thing that I think is a common theme is the all-too-frequent misunderstandings that come about because most of our comms are text-based.

You know, when you’re dealing with someone from a different culture, and perhaps English isn’t even their first language, and you’ve never even met them in real life, it’s sometime easy to “read” things into their comms that really doesn’t reflect the other person’s intent at all.

One of the challenges for me is to ensure that these kinds of miscommunications aren’t allowed to fester or build, etc. Remote working has a lot of positives, and for us as a studio, bringing the best talent to our games from around the world is essential, but sometimes it does create its own unique sets of issues.

The one thing that I would always advise is, remember that there is a human being on the other side of the text message—be that on Slack or Teams or even email. I know, it’s obvious, but sometimes—and this happens even on social media and whatnot—you forget that you’re “talking” with another person, and what you say, and as importantly, how you say it, is vital when working remotely.

Maggie with co-workers dressed in Halloween outfits

What’s the most demanding part of your job?

This has made me think of what I actually do at Straight4. Without going into too much detail, my role is to help. With invoicing, with payments, with travel arrangements, with introducing new team members, with policies and procedures, tracking holiday/time off/sickness, with equipment orders, and many other tasks. And not to sound banal, I love the variety, the opportunity to develop and learn.

What’s the best part of your job?

It’s always to communicate with people individually, to offer help or solutions if possible. This is when I am at my element and feel like my contribution really does mean something.

Maggie in the woods holding two pizza basses smiling

Do you play the games the devs make?!

Does Sudoku or Bubbles online count?

I have to confess I am not a sim racer. However, I do love driving, and I drive fast in real life. Does that count?

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