Suki Lee is a trailblazer woman video game developer, software engineer, and successful project manager.
“Someone recognized my work after all these years – I never thought about it, but now, being recognized as a pioneer, one of just a few women programmer at Atari in the early days, simply blows my mind.”
She graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in General Engineering with a Computer Science option. During her senior year, she interviewed with Atari on campus and was offered a position as a game programmer to start right out of college in August 1981. Suki was hired to create educational games, and being a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong, she was raised to get a good job, and with the hype on home video games at the time, Atari seemed like a good choice. At Atari, Suki’s first game was the Math Gran Prix (1982), an educational game where the player is in a race course and needs to answer math questions correctly in order to advance. She continued her game developing career focusing on licenced games – e.g. the rare Donald Duck Speedboat (1983), which has only been released in Brazil, and the Obelix (1983) game. In order to develop these games, she designed, and programmed the game play; she also worked with the animation team on the story, the graphics, and the characters. This work allowed her to visit Disney studios and work with the animators as well as visit the Astrix & Obelix studio in Paris, France. Here, she had the opportunity to meet Albert Uderzo.
Suki left Atari in 1984, and went to work for Cadtrak Corporation, developing CAD software user interfaces for petroleum processing plant layout, and here she advanced from assembly programming to Pascal. In 1986, she went to work for Apple, continued on in 1997 to WebTV, eCircles, and then Palm. After a 6 year absence, she returned to Apple. At Apple, she continues her work as an acknowledged and successful project manager, who got to be proficient at working with engineers and other project managers. Recently, Jim Turner, Apple engineer and avid Atari fan, discovered Suki’s background and shared on social media: “Bought a bunch of Atari games today and while I was reading up on them, I found this one was written by my team’s current EPM. It’s like I’ve been working next to royalty without even knowing it!” (Jim Turner, 2016). While Suki Lee was raised to go to college and get a good job – and thinking less about pursuing what you love – her professional path is admirable and impressive and it turned out well.