The job-hunt: Can you get game??
31 July 2003
SIGGRAPH is amazing. San Diego is amazing.
The thousands of thronging masses, computer geek, and computer
abounds and the show’s gone on without a hitch, thanks to
employees of all sorts, as well as the red-vested SIGGRAPH student
volunteer. You can spot them opening doors, checking tickets, and
helping to make exhibitors and presenters alike have an enjoyable
experience. But riddle me this dear reader: why, why oh why would
someone travel – often times at their own expense – sometimes
thousands of miles to volunteer? To meet people, to gain resume
experience, to show you are passionate about what you are interested
in and in one of my personal points of need – finding a job.
How you might ask? Well, I’m still not
wholly sure about that one, but I did travel the floor in search
of what makes a
new recruit, whether they’re fresh out of school or simply
searching for a job in CG, a good recruit. I talked to Diana
a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), who just
2 weeks after graduating landed an outrageously awesome job at
a premiere effects house – Digital Domain. I talked with
Otavio Good – Senior Programmer and one
of the 3 founding members of Secret Level, and I also met up with Patrick
Kenney, a Senior Staffing Manager for Electronic
Arts… more about
Diana Sear is a polished, outgoing and
cheerful graduate of SCAD. At school, she focused her efforts
in organic modeling, and simply
put, her work is fantastic.She had just recently graduated and
was driving across the country from east to west when she got the
call. Digital Domain had dropped her a line (so casually put, if
I were on the receiving end I’d say “bring me my brown
pants”), and completed a phone interview halfway through
her trip. Coincidentally enough, she was headed for Los Angeles
in search of a job, and when I asked her if this is where she wanted
to be after just finishing school she said, “This is exactly
where I want to be right now.” Must be nice. Now, before
you say “Hey, Digital Domain doesn’t make computer
games!!”, let me acknowledge and bow to your cries. Yeah,
I know, but they’re huge, and anyone that lands a job as
a modeler for them could probably land a job as a modeler in the
computer game industry as well and the kinds of questions they’ll
ask are similar in function to any computer game house would be.
Diana also put together one of the most beautiful
portfolio booklets I've ever seen. Measuring in at around 12" x
18", its glossy pages and clean stylings reflected the high
polish of her work. "They weren't cheap..." said Diana,
but judging by the end result of putting them together (i.e. getting
a fantastic job), you shouldn't worry about that too much.
I tried to find out what kind of questions
she was posed during the interview and they ranged from things
like ‘what reference
material she used for the models’, to personal wishes for
job placement i.e. if she’d really like to get more into
organic or structural modeling, and what inspired her in the first
place to do her work. It was nice to hear that dreams can come
true. But she was really really really good, and I wanted to know
if there was room in CG for people who hadn’t narrowed their
talents down to a specific type of work… I know it’s
a stretch, but here’s a little more of what I found.
I met Otavio at SIGGRAPH’s “Emerging Technology’s” exhibit.
He’s a happy kid with a long blondish ponytail and a big
smile. Not only did he help start Secret Level along with his
friends Jeremy Gordon and Josh Adams in the year of our Lord
2000, but he’s also a helluva nice guy.
At first there were 3 - but now Secret
Level employs somewhere around 45 people, and any programmer
that tries to get in the door
has to get past Otavio first. One of the most important criteria
to him at this stage in the companies development, is that the
new hires must be… nice. He says “its easy to have
strife between employees…”, and that when their numbers
were few, it wasn’t a concern, but that’s something
he’s now trying hard to avoid.
That is not to say of course, that being
a good person’s
all it takes in his biz. When I asked what was more important to
him when hiring programmers in the end, ‘heart and soul’ or ‘skill
and knowledge’, his answer came fairly quickly. For the more
technically minded side of gaming, at least in his eyes, Otavio
said “Technical skill and knowledge… yeah,”,
but finished with a smile, “…but they can’t be
jerks”. And this is a good lesson for us all. Don’t
get wrapped up in yourself fresh out of school. You may have been
the baddest most l33t haXor on the block before, but this is your
first real attempt in the extremely competitive world of computer
graphics and computer games. Take it easy…
After seeing how a smaller company handled
their courtiers, I decided it would be good to get a different
perspective on how
companies fulfill all their staffing needs, and was lucky enough
to sit down (literally) with Patrick Kenny outside the exhibition
floor for a brief interview and much appreciated respite for the
both of us. Unfortunately the article has to be run through EA's
department before I could get it 'authorized', so for now, it remains
the shelf... All I can say is I'm sorry about that one, but check back in a week.
So, to reiterate above themes:
1. If you're good, like, really really good - make your demo reel
portfolio look as good as your work. If you've got it, FLAUNT it!
2. Don't be afraid to follow your dream - if getting a job in
really IS your dream - and involve yourself in as many opportunities
possible to land yourself within the industry... check out online
do your research - volunteer at SIGGRAPH!
3. This one is probably the most important... Don't be a jerk!!