Females-In-Tech Spotlight: Kelly Vero
Kelly Vero is refreshingly original. Not just in the, “wears-cool-glasses-and-dyes-her-hair” kind of way, because she is in that way too. But in her ability to balance intelligence, warmth, innovation, energy, strength, fearlessness and coolness alongside conscious morality. Her experience spans MTV presenting, metaverse developments, gamification expert, Author, Speaker, Investor, Podcaster, and Mentor - many times over. But it’s Kelly’s unapologetic story-telling that reveals what a female leader in tech really is made of. Here’s a glimpse into what has made her such an authentic person and pioneer in a world that is finally catching up.
When asked what made Kelly want to build a life in gaming (her first tech-industry love), her straightforward vulnerability immediately shows; “I grew up in poverty. It was escapism.” She frankly responds. Growing up she visualized going to more exciting places, escaping her dull, financially-stricken surroundings. She wanted to be included in a community she could make, but also feel equal. Technology is traditionally a way to escape - to free yourself from the real world and immerse yourself in a more inclusive atmosphere. Kelly needed a departure from her reality, and was drawn to the gaming world naturally.
I couldn’t help but imagine a younger Kelly, forging ahead confidently into an industry that allows escapism, but still a real world atmosphere very different from herself. When prompted to name early-on mentors, Kelly describes how there weren’t any role-models for her. She had looked for them. She couldn’t find women that not only had tech experience (which were far and few-between 20+ years ago), but also, in her words, “could drive the narrative forward”. She looked for women who were IT savvy academically, but also had kickass attitudes - bringing strong voices to the space. There wasn’t anyone. So Kelly decided to become the example herself. cShe was going to become the role model she, herself wanted.
The first position Kelly filled out of school was as an MTV - Europe Journalist & Presenter. Yep. Every teenager’s dream job. From the get-go, she did it all - wrote, spoke, and edited. After years in TV media, she formally transitioned into video game development. Kelly became an authority on building the story-lines and characters in games. Such an authority, the European Commission looked to her advice for their own investments in media. In a fraction of her career, Kelly had already forged a path in media and gaming - unlike any other woman.
There is zero chance that Captaining a ship like the one she is on would come easy. Building a unique path, though awe-inspiring, is often lonely. And with that, many many hard lessons are learned. I asked Kelly what one of those lessons is. Exemplifying her own advice, she assuredly coached; “If you feel like something is wrong, say it. Don’t sit on it for a week - that’s too late. Assert yourself and have confidence doing it.” I asked for more - no doubt that there’s a defying story behind this. Kelly infact lived this lesson first-hand on a country-wide scale.
She had led a small team building a video game. In the first year there was a good deal of success, but it wasn’t fast enough for management. They threw 300 people at the project, to quicken it to-market. Per her intuition, Kelly saw the future and spoke up; “if you keep throwing people at this project, we’re never going to get this out into the public space.” She warned. But more people kept being added to the team. Kelly knew the project’s success wasn’t about adding more people. She notes an old wise-tale; “A woman is going to give up 9 months before she gives birth, no matter how many midwives there are.” The game would make it to-market, when it was going to get to market. She had spoken up, wasn’t heard, and then had the guts to leave. Ultimately adding the crowd of support had the reverse effect on a successful launch. The project cost about $200m and never made it to market. It in fact caused an entire stock imbalance. Kelly now recollects how speaking up, when your gut tells you to, is important. Kelly doesn’t have any regrets. She knew she was right, and adding people wasn’t going to increase ROI. But staying true to her gut and speaking up ultimately ratified her judgment.
While still creating her own role-model, Kelly seems to have had a fundamental understanding of what was “next”. Her career path builds in-parallel with the it media of the day. She worked for MTV in her twenties, designed the Transformers Universe in her thirties, and led a team building 1000s of NFTs in her forties. As most of us are just hearing of metaverses, Kelly has been a conoussier for years. She knows what’s next, and has the experience behind her, to lead us into this next digitally-created-world.
In fact, it was her experience with NFTs that really made me initially interested in learning more of her story. Her gaming career naturally formed into the creation of digital forms of real life 3D objects. While surrounded by NFT producers and engulfed in the hot cross-walk of creation and investments, Kelly realized how people were purchasing $1m paintings in metaverses without much formative understanding. The risks were huge. She saw how people were setting themselves up to get scammed. As a woman and entrepreneur, she knew women consume much more than men. And she didn’t want bad information “out there” for consumers. She wrote, “Gone Viral” to protect people.
Kelly’s career led her from TV media, to gaming expert, to cutting-edge-tech-Author. As Lee London’s newest Yoga on the matter, she sums up NFTs; “If you’ve ever played candy crush…” Sometimes you pay in the game outside money, and sometimes you play with gems in the game. That’s what NFTs are. On one side you play with traditional currency in yin, pounds, USD, etc. On the other side we can use gems or NFTs - trade or spend inside the game. Metaverses are a pure game economy - only using gems. And just like there are always people that try to beat traditional currency, there are scammers trying to beat the system with NFTs too.
Her expertise in this creative and investment space is almost priceless. I asked for direct advice. Kelly again unabashedly, lists lessons she’s learned; “Be humble. Be Brave. Trust your Gut - all the time.” We then talk about how everyone seems to want instant success today. And how it takes a lot to keep working, hustling, accepting that you have failed, own it, and learn from it. She reminds, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” I agree, mentioning how the longer it takes to achieve success, it seems you’re more grateful for it in the end. And perhaps, younger generations (mine included), are not so good at being patient. Kelly warmly counters, “The ability to pivot is really strong in millennials.” She doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that everyone has their strengths.
Kelly has made it. She is now not only her own role model, but one for many behind her. “I spend about 80% of my time mentoring, helping, supporting, educating…There are many people around me being innovative.” She sees her mentorship coupled with the innovation around her as a strong combination for technology development. “So, what’s next?” I smile and ask. She articulates what a lot of us women in technology are thinking, “We are in a very strong position with FemTech and EdTech to make significant changes, to propel us in five years and much further into the future.”
Once again, Kelly is right. We have momentum in FemTech and EdTech. Now is the time to speak up, to fail fast, but see the long-game. Be humble. Be brave. Be yourself. Kelly’s cool purple hair, leopard print turtleneck, and expressive glasses evoke nothing less. She has fearlessly forged her own path in technology. Today, there are thousands of young women in STEM career paths creating our future. And now she is driving the narrative forward. As her wise, bold, insightful self, Kelly encourages, “I’ll definitely try to help wherever I can.”