#MeetIronGalaxy – Jess Graham

Published by
Keenan Moralicz
July 20, 2023
Jess Graham Header Image

Meet a new member of our human resources team. Holding it down at Iron Galaxy Nashville, we have a mother who’s recently joined the video game industry for the very first time. Jess joins us with a passion for taking care of people.

Iron Galaxy: Tell us about who you are and what you do here at Iron Galaxy.

Jess Graham: Hello! I am Jess Graham, and I am IG Nashville’s one and only HR team member. I was hired as Senior HR Manager in January of 2023, so I am still very new here. I’ve been doing a lot of policy writing, onboarding, and general HR awesomeness since then.

IG: Thanks for representing IG Nashville! What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

JG: The most challenging aspect has to be, and I mean this in the best way possible, getting used to the change in atmosphere. Let me explain: I come from a large company with a very corporate environment. We had 25,000+ employees and you were basically just an employee number no matter where you worked or what you did. You often had to clean up the aftermath of projects not working because you (the expert) didn’t have your own voice in your work.

At Iron Galaxy, I am involved on the front end of decisions and get to be a thought partner instead of just a tool to do the work. It took me a while to open up to this concept - to really speak out and voice my opinion openly. It’s such a refreshing change of pace.

IG: Your voice matters and your experience shows it. What is a skill you learned growing up that you use in your role?

JG: Communication. You must be able to express yourself and your thoughts/ideas, but you must also know that a part of effective communication is listening. Speaking your thoughts and opinions in a collaborative way so that others do not feel like you are telling them what to do, or that what they are doing is wrong. Not everyone will have the same way of doing things, and it doesn’t mean one way is better than the other.

IG: What has been your proudest moment as a member of the Iron Galaxy team?

JG: Winning 1st place in Nashville at the IG Bake-Off 2023!!!

Jess and the Iron Galaxy Nashville Bake-Off 2023 1st Place Trophy

IG: Congratulations on the win! What did you bake?

JG: French toast cupcakes with maple brown sugar buttercream with a bacon topping.

French toast cupcakes with maple brown sugar buttercream with a bacon topping.

I brought in these others to share in case anyone wanted them: spice cake with cream cheese and peanut butter cupcake with chocolate frosting and peanut butter cup crumble.

Spice cake with cream cheese and peanut butter cupcake with chocolate frosting and peanut butter cup crumble

IG: We can smell the baked greatness from the screen. What’s a unique about your job, compared to the other roles in our company?

JG: It is one of the jobs in the company that you can do without knowing anything about gaming or digital arts. Which is good, because I don’t play games, nor can I make anything digitally.

IG: You don’t play games? Oh, we’ll see about that. If you could give someone who wanted to follow in your career footsteps one piece of advice, what would it be?

JG: You are responsible for your own career. Don’t sit around and hope someone will help you find your career path – you gotta make it yourself. Figure out what you love, have interest, and take the needed steps to get there. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I graduated with a bachelor’s in business to cover a variety of career moves. It wasn’t until 6 years later that I found my passion for HR and worked my way through the department learning as much as I could along the way.

IG: An all too familiar story of a student ending up in a career unrelated to what they may have studied. What’s the best thing about working at a video game company.

JG: Best THING – right, like I could name just one. Here we go: The environment is amazing. I work with some brilliant and genuinely fantastic people. The leaders seriously care about their employees. The atmosphere is absolutely unique – it’s like just hanging out with friends all day. Oh, and I look pretty cool to my teenage nieces and nephews – they love telling their friends I work for a gaming company.

IG: The question did ask for the one best thing, but we’ll happily accept the five you shared. What’s your favorite perk associated with your job?

JG: The flexibility in work schedules and in office days. I have a 6-year old daughter and want to be with her at school events, afterschool activities, or anything else that happens. I appreciate that IG understands the need for flexibility and that I can shift my schedule up or down to accommodate. The hybrid onsite schedule is fantastic too, I can plan which days I go in the office around which days my daughter does not have activities.

Jess and her daughter

IG: We stay true to asking everyone to work their best 40 hours. How collaborative are you with different teams across Iron Galaxy?

JG: Almost every aspect of HR involves working collaboratively with other teams. I manage onboarding, which includes mainly IT and Operations but also the Department Heads of each department. When I edit or create a policy, it is a policy that normally affects multiple departments. In this department, everything you touch has to do with other parts of the business, so it is important for me to work with the teams and get to know them. I may not know anything about games or development, but I still need a general understanding of how everything works to make sure my contributions to the company are useful and effective

Vanilla Ice and the lyrics, "Stop collaborate and listen"

IG: Who knew Vanilla Ice lyrics could be resourceful to an HR team? What’s the most rewarding aspect of creating things that other people experience?

JG: I create value, stability, and structure for our employees. I strive to create an environment that provides the security needed for our employees to feel comfortable coming to work.

IG: And the creatives at Iron Galaxy thank you for it. What’s the best impact you’ve ever seen a video game have on someone’s life?

JG: Gaming has had a huge impact on my 14yr old nephew Manny’s life. Manny has Septo Optic Dysplasia (SOD) which is very rare and effects about 1 in every 10,000 births. He was diagnosed at 6 months and has 2/300 vision in one eye and 20/350 vision in the other, which makes him legally blind. Although he is legally blind, he can still see up close which allows him to play games. From the outside, we (his family) can see that he loves playing games and we also have seen that it has helped with his confidence and even with making friends. He's had few friends growing up due to being shy and not comfortable approaching others, but after he started gaming, he developed a close friendship with four kids from his school. They talk constantly - sharing their ideas, game strategies, and game news. It has really helped him blossom socially. I spoke with Manny’s mom to make sure she would be okay with me sharing about him (she totally was) and she asked Manny to tell us in his own words how games have helped him.

Manny: “Some games have helped improve my hand/eye coordination. Those are mostly first-person shooter style games like Portal or Doom. Playing games has also helped me improve my reflexes, response times, and reaction times”. It has also helped him find a passion for developing and animating his own games so that he can share with others how much gaming has helped him grow. Queue me immediately telling them about the intern program at IG!

IG: Wow. Thank you so much for introducing us all to Manny. Please thank Manny for sharing the impact games have had on him. Sounds like we have an application we’ll have to poke the recruiting team to look out for! What’s your favorite pro-tip for working from home?

JG: Limit the amount of snacks you buy – if they are in your house, you will eat them. 😉 Seriously though, if possible, have your work set up outside of where you do your living. If you’re working from your living room or bedroom, then you will never feel like you are away from work.

IG: Further to the point of balancing work and life, what’s your favorite hobby?

JG: I don’t really have a favorite hobby, I spread the love out evenly. I love hiking, woodworking, and paranormal investigation. Whenever we travel, I love to find places to go hike around and check out nature – bonus points if it is an abandoned town or local paranormal hotspot. My family has a small woodworking business we run from home, so I am often covered in sawdust on the weekends. My mom, my husband, and I love going to haunted locations and conducting investigations. We have been to Waverly Hills Sanatorium and the Thomas house a few times and got great evidence.

IG: That’s an interesting spread of hobbies! What’s something you have always wanted to create?

JG: Croquembouche! I used to bake a lot, even had my own cake/cupcake business for a few years back in the early 20teens. I have always wanted to make one of these but never had the need or the nerve to try it. Basically, it is a bunch of pastry creamed filled choux puffs stacked around a cone with caramel drizzling. Here’s an example:


IG: Heads-up, Iron Galaxy Nashville readers may have some expectations for next year’s bake-off. What’s your favorite travel destination that you have visited.

JG: Gatlinburg, Tn - we go there several times a year. We rent a cabin outside the city, hit up Dollywood (my daughter’s favorite place), go ziplining, hang out in the hot tub, do some Bigfoot calls, hike around the two abandoned towns, grab some awesome food – it’s just a really cool place to be.

IG: We’re curious… but apprehensive to hear what these Bigfoot calls sound like. We’ll have to hear what they sound like at our next company picnic outing, your daughter of course is invited. What’s one place that you hope to see one day?

JG I love the “As Above, So Below” movie so I must go with The Catacombs of Paris, France. But I think Poveglia Island in Italy would be a super close second.

IG: We bet some paranormal investigation might follow when you visit Paris. Just approach us cautiously the next time you have “vacation photos” to share. What’s the last concert you saw?

JG: I’ve seen a few small local concerts at different festivals around Nashville. However, if we are counting big concerts where you buy a ticket to attend – then the last one was Foo Fighters several years ago. Dave Grohl had a broken leg during the concert, so he was not moving around but still had such an amazing stage presence!

IG: What would be the best, the best, the best, the best song most likely to earn you a speeding ticket?

JG: Unstoppable by Sia. It’s my hype song for weightlifting so I am conditioned to get super pumped up and end up speeding while listening to it.

IG: A motivating song on the road and in the weightlifting room is certainly a powerful one. Name a scene from a movie that makes you cry, every time.

JG: SPOILER: When Egon’s ghost shows up in Ghostbusters Afterlife. I grew up watching the original Ghostbusters, they were and still are movies that I will watch anytime it is on. It hurt my heart when Harold Ramis passed away because it was such a large part of my childhood into adulthood. I was able to pass that on to my daughter who also loves Ghostbusters (original and new). So, when he showed up on the screen – boom, waterworks. Now watching the movie for the dozenth time knowing what is going to happen – boom, still waterworks.

IG: That explains it. The paranormal investigation runs deep. What movie have you seen the most times?

JG: Nightmare Before Christmas – It is my favorite movie and has been since the day it came out. I have artwork, clothing, accessories, bags, and characters from the movie all over the house.

IG: Hot Topic thanks you for your business. What was your favorite movie that bombed?

JG: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder actually bombed, but I think it is a fantastic movie. Gene Wilder was a brilliant actor and as a kid, I may have liked that the bratty kids got what was coming to them.

IG: While it may have bombed, you know exactly why it’s a cult classic. What’s one superpower that you would like to have?

JG: My thoughts on this recently changed. I always thought I would want teleportation or mind reading. Until my husband said, “if you were as fast as the Flash you could pet so many more animals.” LIGHTBULB! My new superpower goal is super speed just so I could pet all the animals – even the ones that you normally wouldn’t pet like bears or tigers. I can do that now, because I am so fast, I can move before they maul me.

IG: You get one, single wish. What do you wish for?

JG: I want to know that the world my daughter is going to grow up in is better than what it is right now and if I could do that with one wish I would. I would wish for everyone in the world to be more open, accepting, and loving to others.

IG: Beautiful wish. Given a time machine, which historical period would you like to experience first-hand?

JG: This is a tough question. There are so many significant events that have happened that would be so life changing to see in person. Hear me out, I am a Bigfoot believer. I think going back to when humans evolved and finding the “missing link” would answer so many questions as to if Bigfoot is a distant relative to humans. Also, it would prove if we evolved from primates or just have similar DNA. Oh, but wait... if I go back to when the pyramids were being built, I could see if they were helped by aliens. DANG IT, I need multiple trips!

IG: Your answer focuses on answering some of life’s biggest questions, so you’re definitely not alone! What fictional universe would you choose over our own and what if there was no coming back?

JG: I think I would choose the “Wreck-It Ralph” universe. To be a video game character and run around in a game all day would be awesome. I would specifically want to be in Sugar Rush because I love racing. I drag raced in my younger years (and maybe still drive a little too fast) so racing all day would be the best. I am not fond of the idea of not being able to come back, because I would totally miss my family. If they come to the arcade a few times a week we could still hang out, not the same as being with them but I guess that could work.

IG: See, we knew you were a gamer at heart, you do play games! Sort of. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you invite?

JG: The Patron Saint of Tennessee, Dolly Parton. She has done so much for children with the “Imagination Library”, for her hometown Sevierville, and provides a voice of acceptance and unity for so many. I would love to sit down with her and just hear her stories and learn from her.

Dolly Parton and the lyrics, "If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one"

While you do work what some may label a “9 To 5,” we can sense your appreciation for how Iron Galaxy approaches work-life balance, Jess. Thank you for keeping our policies up to date, ensuring our employees remain informed, and looking out for our neighbors at each of our studios. Your baked goodies have won over our friends in the Nashville office and your perfectly baked onboarding practices have improved us for the better.

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