Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Methods of making the break through...part 1

Sorry I missed last week….work exploded in intensity for a while and I ended up getting sick so I lost a day or so…to make up for it, I’m going to try and put a coupla articles out this week…looking at the various methods of actually getting into the industry…

A classic route into the industry is to start off in QA with the intention of moving into other areas once you’re inside as it were…

This is a common method but has mixed results. You’d think that getting industry experience, being able to demonstrate an understanding as to how games are put together and what can go wrong would be enough to make you an auto-choice when it comes to hiring for junior positions. Sadly, in my experience at least, this happens rarely…

There is an inherent difficulty with internal hiring that causes this…basically human beings like to label and order things/people/places/stuff etc…this means that if you join as a QA tester then you’ll be labelled a ‘QA tester’ and shifting that category is hard work. In order for this route to succeed you need to demonstrate your aptitude for other areas within development. See my previous posts about being able to talk about games and building levels in a recognised editor…you need to do this to start making people think of you as other than a ‘QA tester’.


The advantage to this approach is that you have plenty of time to build the right relationships and work them over to you way of thinking…for example, if you wanna get into design then get to know the senior and lead designers. Build a relationship and over time you will have plenty of chances to show what you can do...downside is it might take a coupla years and you’ll need to be laser-focussed on timing your run in to coincide with the ramp down of a recently shipped title with the ramp up of the next project…

Timing is hard to advise on, it is very situational…but I can talk about building the relationship in the right way…a common mistake is to hope that the sheer brilliance of your ideas will get you noticed and they’ll take real notice…this is highly unlikely! Don’t even think that providing excellent critique and suggestions as to improvement and tweaks to the game in development will get you where you want to be…it’ll get you noticed but not the kind of relationship you want to foster…one of ‘jeez, not that guy and his ideas about how I can do my job better again’ is to be avoided…

Don’t forget, what we want is for people to believe in your potential in the role you want…

So here’s the Mat Hart secret method, in my experience there’s no better way to do this than to go to them for advice about a personal project you’re working on….ask them to share their experience and knowledge and then act on it….then, and this is the good bit, you have a reasonable reason to go back to them and say ‘I tried that, can you take a look and let me know what you think?’ and then get more feedback and, most importantly, you are then acting the role of a designer in their team albeit on a personal project…this way they will stop thinking about you as a ‘QA tester’ and start thinking about you as an enthusiastic designer…

Also, speak with HR…make sure they know about what you want to achieve

This works for all disciplines…everyone loves to be asked advice….it makes them feel special and respected and who doesn’t respond well to those feelings….here’s another tip for you, try it on your Dad if you’re a bloke or your Mum if you’re a girl, its solid gold, trust me! Basically as you get older and more independent then the less you need your Mum or your Dad on a day to day basis, so flip this over, go and ask them for their help on something (it doesn’t have to be a big deal) and watch as their hearts melt…trust me, I’m a dad as well as a son…

So this is a great method overall if you a) are patient b) able to time your approach c) can tailor your approach to the individuals and most importantly, d) are willing to put the effort in to have a personal project and work on it…but then this last part is easy ‘cos you love this shit already right? Good luck… J


Neil said...

Hello there,

Great blog again.

I have an upcoming phone interview and would like to know if you have experienced these and what advice you could pass on?



carper said...

phone interview? no worries...

what position is it for? think about what you would want you to say in order to secure a face to face interview if you were the other guy...

the main purpose for a phone interview is a quick way to sort through a long list of CV's to find the people worth investing time in interviewing...they should be super-quick and pretty straightforward to get through...

remember that 70-80% of communication is non-verbal so on the face of it phone interviews are brutal! but don't be worried, knowing is half the battle...the rest is proper preparation...

during the call, make sure you speak clearly and confidently...make sure you're prepped with solid answers for 'standard' interview questions (i'll do an article on it soon but in the meantime just google-fu it) this'll give you confidence...

also make sure you have done your homework on the company...and have a couple of questions that you can ask lined up...

write all your prep down and use it to crib from during the call...

make sure you have your cv in front of you because i'll bet £50 that the first question will be something like: "so tell me a bit about yourself" or "why don't you run through your CV for me?"

lastly, and most weirdly, the best tip i can give you is to smile throughout...even though they can't see your face it will come through in your me...

let me know how it goes...

Mike_Reverb (Michael Olavarria) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike_Reverb (Michael Olavarria) said...

Another great post, Mat. :)

I was hoping you had a bit of advice for someone who is considering switching industries altogether.

I commented on one of your last posts that I have no formal programming experience, but I've been working hard to learn and use the Unreal SDK and even learn some C++/Java.

My industry is ecommerce, but my passion has and always will be video games. They're not mutually exclusive, but I want to get into design and/or programming.

What advice would you give someone who wants to break into the video game industry but is a bit iffy on how to sell himself to begin with (since his skills lie in another industry altogether)?

--Michael O

Neil said...

Hello there, thought Id update as time has flown since I last posted.

Unfortunately I did not get the role from the phone interview. I gave a good account of how I could fulfil the role but unfortunately there was a candidate with more experience.

Since then, I have completed applications for another company with no success and I currently have an application out for a temporary 4 month QA position.

The strive for my career continues.

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