How an aspiring pop star found a home in gaming
Gudrun Eden started over at 22 when her singing dreams met harsh reality. Here's how she found a new direction in an unexpected world.
Growing up, all Gudrun Eden wanted to do was sing. This was more than a childhood predilection; this was serious. She was going to make a career in music and that was that.
Then life happened—but not in the way you might expect. Gudrun came closer than most to realizing her dream, but when one bad decision caused it to curdle, she was forced to look for a fresh start.
One lucky temp gig later, Gudrun soon found herself on a whole new (candy-colored) path. Today, she manages internal communications at King, the Candy Crush maker, where she says she’s found the same sense of purpose, pride, and fulfillment that singing once offered.
We spoke to her.
When did you get hooked on the idea of being a singer?
I spent my whole childhood singing. In school, I started working with other musicians and eventually started writing songs on my little MIDI keyboard and my iMac in my bedroom. Music was my life.
Then I went to college and studied Popular Music Performance—which, yes, is a real course. I had so much fun and it just solidified that this is what I wanted to do.
Most people’s pop star dreams end when they put down the hairbrush and close out Spotify. How did you keep the dream alive?
It’s what I and everyone around me felt I was meant to do. I believed that singing was my destiny and that there really was no other option.
Around this time, I released a single with a friend of mine and that ended up going to radio. I remember once we were on our way to open for Hot Chip at Brixton Jamm and it came on while me and my friend were getting ready. We were screaming the house down! And it came on again in the car on the way to the gig. After that, other singing opportunities started popping up and it felt like my dreams were beginning to come true.
I decided to look into finding management and getting more support. I needed help to build this career that had started happening before I knew what I was doing. Sadly, it was probably one of the biggest mistakes that I ever made. To cut a very long story short, the relationship with the manager I chose to trust ended very, very badly—it left me with such a sour taste in my mouth and sucked all the passion out of me. That experience compounded with other, more serious implications of that relationship meant that I couldn’t carry on in the music industry after that.
So there I was at 21 or 22 years old, left with what felt like nothing. This massive dream of mine that I’d sacrificed everything for was gone. I mean, I’d had other opportunities at school, I was in the “bright and gifted” programs, I did well academically—but I’d focused all of my energy on singing. Once my lifelong dream had been ripped away from me, I really had to find something else to do with my life.
Where does one even begin to restart at that point?
I figured I could use my experience to work in the other side of the music industry and found myself a job at one of the big record labels. Whilst waiting to start there my recruitment agency sent me this role at a place called King. They said, “We know you have a role secured already, but we really think you should try this other place. There’s rarely any open vacancies at entry level so this is a great opportunity. It’s super colorful, and playful and the people that we send there, they don’t leave. They love it. And we think you’d love it there too.” I had no idea what King was but I decided to go along to check it out.
I walked into reception and couldn’t believe what I found. There was the music I love booming from the reception speakers, they had tables covered in LEGO where people were laughing and having these interesting and intellectual conversations about topics I didn't understand. There was a buzz of activity and everyone looked so happy. I was like, what is this place?
As I sat there waiting for my interview, I just watched all these people, all this life going on. Everyone being so friendly to each other. I interviewed with six different people, each of them were so warm and welcoming, but also smart and interesting. And I just thought: I love this place. I have to work here!
What did you do to make sure a temp gig turned into an actual job?
I worked reception for about a year on a temporary contract and I loved every second. As my contract was coming to an end, I wanted to do everything in my power to stay here. So I put my hand up for every opportunity. I shadowed people on different teams, helping with small projects—just showing I could be useful in other ways. Like, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone!” And eventually they did offer me a permanent role.
As I grew into and out of my next role, more opportunities came, and over the years I was lucky to work with some of the best teams, managers and leaders. I continued to learn and to put my hand up and eventually it became clear that my skills were in brand, culture, and communications. When I made the move into the comms team, I felt a new sense of pride in my work, and in what I was doing with my life, which I hadn’t really felt since I was singing.
What else do you think has helped you find your place within a gaming company?
Taking responsibility and ownership of my own career and my future, continuously asking myself what I want to be doing, where do I want to go, and what more I could be doing to improve in that area, to grow the skills I need to get me there.
I push myself to keep learning. My ADHD means I struggle to focus on any one thing for very long, training days or long courses are the enemy. So for me that means micro consumption; listening to a podcast about career development whilst cleaning my flat or exercising; reading a few pages from a book on communications in the bath or before bed; learning new skills on the fly—if I get stuck on something, I always try to figure it out myself before asking for help which means I tend to pick up random skills along the way. Fun fact: the first conversation that happened around my move into comms was sparked by my random PowerPoint skills—which I learnt from watching YouTube videos when I was determined to make my team’s quarterly reports cleaner and easier to digest.
I’m curious and proactive, saying yes, taking opportunities, challenging myself and learning that it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. It’s a balance though, I’m still learning the art of saying no which is also important.
How do you feel you’ve changed during your time in this role?
Working at King has inspired me to go after what I want, and to never compromise on who I am, to be my full self, always.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with some amazing leaders, and what inspires me the most, is that honesty, trust, respect, compassion and empathy aren’t things you have to sacrifice, they are in fact superpowers when it comes to leadership. I hope that as my career develops and I take on more leadership responsibilities that I continue to keep these values front and center, demonstrating that same style for the next generation.
A friend has recently experienced a significant setback in their career. What advice would you have?
If things aren’t going to plan, you need to question the plan. Use this moment as an opportunity to reflect on your trajectory so far, and to assess and reaffirm your direction. Give yourself the recognition you deserve for your achievements and be honest with yourself about where you could do better. Take ownership and accountability of the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t. Failure truly is one of the best opportunities for learning so don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. You’ve got this!
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Well written and Go Gudrun!