Wednesday, October 22, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #1: Hiring in Gaming

(GGC Logo)

Do you want to work for a computer gaming company?  

The first panel discussion I attended at GeekGirlCon, Hiring in Gaming, touched on the best ways to approach a studio for a job.

The panel was hosted by the following young ladies:

Regina Buenaorba
Susan Elizabeth Thayer
Ylan Salsbury
Amy Liu

All of them worked for ArenaNet, in various capacities (that I forgot to write down).  

(Panelists from left to right:  Regina, Susan, Ylan and Amy)
Gaming studios are looking for folks with the followings skills:  Graphic art, computer programming and program manager.  This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's the "usual suspects" of potential employees.

In order to have a shot at being selected, here are several steps to improve your chances of getting hired.

First:  Have a Solid Game Plan

List the Top Ten studios you want to work for.
Conduct research on these studios.
Start networking with studio employees.
Ask for mentorship.
Focus on being an expert on one thing.  (You can work on being a generalist when you're hired). 
Don't let the job description discourage you, or any lack of formal formal education for that matter.

As Susan Thayer pointed out:  After all, it's entertainment that we're making.

Second:  Write a Cover Letter

Must be only one page long.
Don't cross the line into "Fanboy/Fangirl Territory."  (That is, don't gush on how much you love the studio's games, etc.).

Note:  The cover letter is actually the second item employers read.  The first is--the resume.

Speaking of which...

Third:  Write a Resume

Can be more than one page long, but no more than three to four pages.
Tweak the resume for the position you're applying to.
Make it clean and not too busy.
Have friends and colleagues review your resume five times.
Don't shotgun your resume to every position in the studio.

Most important of all:  DO. NOT. LIE.

Fourth:  Conduct Networking

Make use of social media:  Linked In and Facebook, etc.
Get to know folks in the real world:  Attend game conventions, meet with gaming groups, etc.
Ask for help.  (It's in people's nature to assist others).
Don't be a fanboy/fangirl!
Bring your business cards to events--but not your full resume.

Fifth:  Establish and Maintain a Portfolio

This can be samples of your programming code samples an/or artwork.
Make sure it's your best work.
Ask if your material relates to the studio.  
Be sure the portfolio highlights your best work.

Note:  Do not break any non-disclosure agreements from your old employer.

Sixth:  Remember the Interview Basics

Prior to the interview--

Practice with friends.
Come prepared.
Know the people you who are conducting the interview.
Arrive at the studio parking lot 30 minutes early and enter the studio 15 minutes prior to your interview. 
Bring copies of your resume and something to write with and write on.
Come with the right mindset.
Have questions ready.
Ask about the dress code.  While every day is Casual Friday at game companies, don't overdo, or under-do the dress code.

During the Interview--

Take time answering questions.
If you don't understand the question, let your interviewers know.  
Show some enthusiasm/passion, but keep it below fanboy/fangirl level.
Use this time to determine if this team is right for you.
Ask the interviewers about their backgrouds.
Write down the names of the interviewers--they could change at the last minute.

Keep in mind the studio is looking for someone who will make the place better.
Red flag items, usually in the form of odd behavior, will most likely torpedo your chances of getting hired.

Seventh:  Remember to Follow Up/Post Interview Procedure

Write a thank you e-mail.
Be specific about your experience.
Connect with the interviewers via Linked In.
If you haven't been notified of your status right away, give the studio recruiter(s) 48 hours before you contact them.
It's okay to turn down the job if it doesn't feel right, or pays below the cost of living.
It's even okay to ask:  Can I think about it?
Be sure to have a financial safety net while job hunting.

My Personal Thoughts and Observations

I'm not planning on leaving my current job with Washington State Emergency Management any time soon.  However, one never knows what curve ball volleys Life will fire at you.  Plus I was interested to see how working for a gaming studio differs from a "normal" company. I found this panel discussion interesting and informative. 

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