The job-hunt: Can you get game??

SIGGRAPH is amazing. San Diego is amazing. The thousands of thronging masses, computer geek, and computer sheik, technology 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 Sear, 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 him later.

Diana Sear is a polished, outgoing and cheerful graduate of SCAD.Diana Sear 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.

Otavio GoodI 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…

Duly noted.

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 Public Relations
department before I could get it 'authorized', so for now, it remains on
the shelf... Patrick KennyAll 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 games
really IS your dream - and involve yourself in as many opportunities as
possible to land yourself within the industry... check out online forums,
do your research - volunteer at SIGGRAPH!

3. This one is probably the most important... Don't be a jerk!!







Related Articles


This site is maintained by ACM SIGGRAPH Reports.
Last updated 7/31/03.

The ACM SIGGRAPH Reporter program is sponsored by ACM SIGGRAPH.
Photos courtesy of Cybershot digital cameras generously loaned by SONY.