Unity CIO: ‘The world is demanding more interactive, real-time, 3D content’

28 Oct 2022

Archana Rao. Image: Unity Technologies

Unity’s CIO talks about how the metaverse is already being used, from digital twins of airports to streamline traveller journeys, to building virtual skyscrapers before any concrete is actually poured.

Archana Rao is the senior vice-president and chief information officer at Unity Technologies, which makes a platform for developing video games.

Its technology has been used to build popular mobile games such as Call of Duty: Mobile, Pokémon Go and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. The company has a presence in Ireland as it acquired Irish software start-up Artomatix in 2020.

Rao’s team is responsible for the internal systems and applications that support Unity employees and business functions.

Prior to her role at Unity, Rao held several IT leadership positions across a wide range of companies, including Cisco, Symantec and Veritas. Most recently, she was the chief information officer at collaboration software company Atlassian.

She was also recognised by Forbes as one of 50 top tech leaders in 2022 redefining the role of CIO.

“I firmly believe that the only way you can move forward in this fast-paced industry is by staying open and curious,” she told SiliconRepublic.com.

“By staying at the cutting edge of new ideas, new technologies and new ways of thinking, I can better position Unity at the forefront of IT innovation.”

‘I can’t wait to see how the metaverse unfolds over the next decade and beyond’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

Over the last few years, Unity has seen tremendous growth. Today, roughly 70pc of all mobile games globally are made with Unity.

As you can imagine, our headcount has reflected this growth and we have expanded from around 300 people to around 6,500 in the same amount of time. Managing all of the applications and systems needed for these employees to thrive is by far my biggest IT challenge.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

Technology is always changing – that’s what makes this work so fascinating. It’s undeniable that businesses everywhere are tasked with meeting consumers where they are, which is online.

Retailers, manufacturers, media companies, financial services companies and more are turning to digital platforms to create experiences that are engaging and useful for their audiences. Unity is uniquely positioned to help with this trend.

We see companies across an array of industries turning to real-time 3D to not only create content for consumers but also save money, help the environment and streamline processes. What’s more, we are laser-focused on making our platform easier to use so that anyone from a game developer to an architect can reach their goals using Unity.

How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?

At Unity, we too see this as a key objective for our business. In fact, we are committed to creating a more sustainable world, not just from an IT perspective but across the company and beyond, by empowering employees, creators, partners and peers through our operations, grants, partnerships and products.

We have teams actively working to ensure that we as a company are more sustainable, and ensuring that we’re offering solutions to make our customers and the ecosystem more sustainable as well.

Last year, we set ambitious science-based targets, beginning with offsetting our 2020 emissions calculation, and are committed to doing so every year. But we know that’s not enough, which is why we’re also shrinking our footprint by promoting green practices and purchasing renewable energy for our offices, sourcing energy-efficient IT equipment, recycling used equipment responsibly, and offering employees incentives for clean transportation, sustainability education, volunteering and donating opportunities.

We’re also providing ESG-screened funds for 401K investments, implementing sustainability criteria for vendor evaluation, and supporting our supply chain to adopt their own science-based targets.

My advice? Keeping a close eye on energy-efficient IT equipment and implementing sustainability criteria for vendor evaluation is a step that all CIOs should take immediately.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

I’m excited about the potential of the metaverse. The world is demanding more interactive, real-time, 3D content across industries. We see this trend not just in gaming but across a wide array of industries, where companies are increasingly trying to meet this consumer demand for digital content.

What’s more, initial forecasts of the market opportunity for the metaverse range from $250bn to $400bn in 2025 to more than $5trn in overall impact in 2030, according to BCG’s The Corporate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Metaverse.

Already, retailers are envisioning and walking through new store layouts completely virtually, airports are creating digital twins of themselves to streamline baggage and traveller journeys, and architects are building virtual skyscrapers before any concrete is actually poured.

As someone who is passionate about the inner workings of this technology, I can’t wait to see how the metaverse unfolds over the next decade and beyond.

How can we address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

Any company needs to make security a priority to ensure its employees, customers, and shareholders are protected against the threats we see on a daily basis.

However, for technology companies, this is more of a priority due to our position in the customers’ ecosystem. Ensuring our code is secure and vulnerability free via our application security programme takes a focal point.

In addition to that, the concepts of automation and scalability to ensure near real-time response to any issue across our environment.

Lastly, no one can do this alone. Our participation in industry information-sharing feeds becomes important to not just protect ourselves but also our industry as a whole.

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