Born and raised in the Philippines in the 1970s, Marla De Castro Rausch wanted to introduce the vast creative talent of artists from her home country to the 3D animation and motion capture industry. She established a production center in Manila, Philippines, with an Animation Vertigo team that is comprised of well-trained, seasoned trackers and animators, who surpass quality standards, deliver on-time results and produce compelling and realistic results.
Prior to establishing Animation Vertigo, Marla worked freelance in Spectrum Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment America as a motion capture tracker. It was there that Marla learned the ins and outs, and gained knowledge and experience of the animation and motion capture industry. During the '90s, Marla worked as a Visa Officer for the Canadian and Australian Embassies in the Philippines, where she strengthened her ability to work with various nationalities - a strength she still practices every day as CEO of a Filipino-American based business. Marla also worked as a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial and American Express Financial Advisors, which taught her how to manage her business's finances. She also holds a bachelor's degree in mass communications from the University of the Philippines. Since 2004, Marla has been utilizing the skills from her past jobs and education while running Animation Vertigo. She created a business model that has worked for a decade and still continues to grow strong.
Today, Marla is a member of the Motion Capture Society and the International Game Developers Association. She resides in Irvine, Calif. with her husband and two children.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I feel fortunate to have met mentors in various stages of my life - when I wanted to be a lawyer, a diplomat, a financial advisor - and each one of them never really focused on the job or position but rather what you learn and gain from it. That's what I try to pass on to those I work with. The journey is important like how you get there and who you meet as you go. My mentors made the time to spend with me and for that, I do my best to offer the same thing to my team. Some of my mentors were tough, others were nurturing but they all focused on how you can bring out your best. There was no one true way to get it done, but it can be done.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Animation Vertigo?
I'd like to think that it is as much the failures combined with successes that made me who I am today. Each obstacle or challenge either meant I continued my path or that I needed to alter it. My career path led me to different places and I now appreciate that my journey wasn't as straight as initially planned.
Thanks to my experience in the financial advisory field, I learned that there are various meanings of listening. It depends on my intent as much as the other person to gain the right information. Due to my experiences with my work with multiple embassies in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to encounter various people in various roles, which has given me a huge advantage in the position I do now. Each step in my career has helped me become a better person with new skills. Realizing that this is all a journey allows me to take things in a more positive manner. Use the good and learn from the bad.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Animation Vertigo?
Definitely one of the highlights of my tenure at AV would be the amazing clients we've had the opportunity to work with. Each one brings with them immense talent, skill and amazing products that we have the privilege of working on. I am always excited to see what we can offer them and where we can bring the technology and skillset on our end. It's like walking a new path in the same forest that brings more learning and amazing experience. We have partnered with some of the largest and most talented companies in the world and we're proud that our relationships with them continue to grow.
There have been various challenges since Animation Vertigo's start. Some were due to being a newbie in the business world and others were lessons in what NOT to do, which I've come to view as necessary. One of my larger challenges was when we dealt with a group of people who decided a contract didn't need to be followed. I really had to learn what business means - not everyone would have your interests at heart. I learned to put aside negativity and focus on what would make Animation Vertigo succeed. I had to determine what was worth the time, effort and money to spend on - fighting a battle that didn't need to be fought, or proving that we were a better company. In the end, our continued success after 10 years proved that very thing.
How are you marking 10 years of business?
We're doing several things this year to celebrate our 10 years. We started off the year of celebrations with the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco where we invited clients, colleagues and friends of Animation Vertigo to a great dinner at one of San Francisco's landmark restaurants to start the convention week off with a bang. We will be putting a celebration together at the end of the year in the Philippines to celebrate with the team that made this success possible.
This is also a great time to give back so I'm beginning to partner with universities and organizations that focus on girls and women in the field. I'm hoping to work with them to encourage and advise those who are interested in the fields of science, technology and animation because we definitely need more women to be a part of this amazing industry.
What advice can you offer women who want to start their own business?
Do it. Just write down the plan, put in the effort and do it. So many times I've heard women say, "I'd love to...", "I wish I could..." and they really can! They are so passionate about their ideas but when it's time to pull the trigger, there are a million excuses why they can't. It's intimidating, uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying, but it's also fulfilling, enriching and inspiring. Find someone you trust and knowledgeable to help you start, write down your plans, figure out what it takes then jump. We only fail if we don't try.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I've been fortunate to have a great partner in life, my husband. He is just as busy and crazy plus he also runs his own company but we share the same goals, ideals and beliefs. We understand each other's professional priorities but thankfully our biggest priority is our family. Calendars and schedules are our best friends - since I travel a lot for work, I have to make sure I have all the kids' important dates in my calendar, I need to be flexible and most importantly, know and accept that I need to prioritize and choose which area will receive most of my attention.
It was a challenge to convince myself to not work on the weekends, especially when it's your own company, but I have been successful at doing this and my kids really appreciate that. I am present on days that are important to them. Sometimes we play hooky and spend the day together. We've all learned it's not the quantity, but the quality of time we spend with each other. We miss each other when I travel so being together is such a pleasure.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are a lot of discussions and arguments to be made on women's issues in the workplace like equal pay, gender discrimination, etc. I agree that they need to be discussed and solutions need to be found.
An issue that I observe with women in the workplace is the perception that comes with being strong, opinionated and decisive. Sometimes trying to find that "happy medium" where we don't turn people off or come off as being too wishy-washy is frustrating, especially when we know that men don't face these problems in negotiations. Finding that sweet spot, if you will, where we are respected without being treated with kid gloves, we are heard without being judged for being too pushy or where we can reason without being dismissed or listened to out of fear of being accused of discrimination are great goals. It's not the men's fault, it's not the women's fault - it's a remnant of previous generations and we are just finding that place. If we are aware of it, work at it and make it important in our professional environments, we can make a change.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having mentors is a necessity in the business world - finding that person or persons you can speak openly to, trust and be inspired by is so crucial. You want to aspire to be like them and for them to be proud of you. To have that happen, you have to make right choices and focus on the direction you want your life to go. All of which are the essence of being successful in many aspects of life. I am grateful for my mentors because they helped me focus on where I wanted to go without telling me what to do. They encouraged, argued, discussed but all the while left me to make the decisions about what to do with my life.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many amazing, courageous women in the world who are admirable for various reasons - it's great to have those women as inspiration. My aunt and mentor, Bernarditas de Castro Muller would be a female leader I look up to and admire for her ambition and confidence. She was a career diplomat for the Philippines and a strong negotiator for the environment and climate change. She is tough, respected and stands up for what she believes in. She is often referred to as the "dragon woman" because of her fearlessness and tenacity in negotiations. She helped change the perception of Asian women and widened the world's view on the importance of climate change. She continues to work to this day after retiring from the diplomatic corps.
What do you want Animation Vertigo to accomplish in the next five years?
I'd love to see Animation Vertigo get involved in our own projects and get involved in our own IP. We're technical artists slowing growing our skills on the creative side and I'd love to see how we can grow that talent in the future.