MIGHTY 25: Iasia Brown is taking over the tech space
Being a Senior Producer for Xbox at Microsoft is a dream come true for Iasia Brown which she credits to her military service. She’s on a mission to bring veterans with her.
Growing up in Queens was an experience Brown credits with building her into who she is today. In between watching soccer and eating really good food, she was hanging out on military bases as a child, learning to shoot and everything that came with soldier life, thanks to her uncle.
When she graduated high school at 17 years old in 2000, she knew what she wanted to do.
“No one would sign the consent for me to go into the Marine Corps. I begged my uncle to talk to my grandmother and he finally got her to agree to let me enlist in the Air Force,” she laughed. “When I went on my first deployment, I was with the Marines the whole time and knew I’d switch over as soon as my enlistment was up.”
As an airman, she was attached to the Third Marine Aircraft General and took part in the initial invasion.
“I was essentially his bone collector because I was a mortuary specialist. Unbeknownst to me, he would play a really key role in my upcoming career,” Brown explained. “I would always tell him one day I was going to be a Marine and he was like, alright, well, if you ever decide to do that, you let me know and he gave me his card and his coin. I didn’t really have any idea who he really was as a young airman.”
When she walked into a recruiter's office years later with a neck tattoo trying to join, they told her she couldn’t. Brown presented the card and explained that they needed to call this man because he promised he’d get her in with a waiver. The general’s name? Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael W. Hagee.
“Since I was a mortician in the Air Force, when they asked me what job I wanted it was easy, I told them I wanted any job where the people would talk back,” she said.
During her time in Communications for the Marine Corps, Brown earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in between deployments. After 16 years total service, she made the decision to hang up her uniform to pursue a position with Microsoft.
“I served pre and post Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. One of the things that was really important to me was finding a job where I could show up completely as myself,” Brown shared. “If I could take anything back from my time in service, that would be it. When I left I was ready; I knew my purpose was bigger than where I was.”
Serving in the age of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a dark season for her.
“I remember during one deployment, I lost someone I really loved and I couldn’t tell anyone because I would lose my job as a Marine. There were no safe spaces and I couldn’t grieve. There was almost a lack of humanity in it,” Brown said.
Video games became her outlet and a way to communicate.
“I couldn’t be on a deployment and Skype my girlfriend because everyone would see. Video games were the safest way to communicate. It’s just avatars and you have a headset on,” she explained. “For me, gaming has always been like that safe space where I can just go have conversations, reconnect and live my life under the radar.”
Brown worked her way up to Senior Program Manager and Xbox Senior Producer. Since starting with the company in 2019, she’s brought 1000 veterans with her. And she’s not done yet.
“There are over 100,000 veterans who lost their benefits under Don't Ask, Don't Tell who still haven't had them restored. So if I can provide the opportunity for them to go to school, I'm going to do that,” she said. “I created an endowment fund at the School of Cinematic Arts, specifically for women who want to study gaming and interactive design.”
Not only is she leading game-building, recruitment of veterans and giving back, Brown is a proud parent.
“She’s been around Marines most of her life and in a recruiting station with me since she was two,” she laughed. “I made it a priority to always be present even when I had to commute long hours, I was always home at night for her.”
In between designing games you can also find Brown loving the San Diego weather, designing her own tattoos, filmmaking and oh yeah, finishing her PhD. Her multifaceted personality is something she encouraged other veterans to embrace.
“Nobody gets to define who you are besides you,” Brown said. “Take time to figure out who you are, what you love. Never stop learning or growing.”
You can learn more about this bad-ass Airman/Marine veteran, Microsoft leader and Xbox video game designer here.