SAE London students get career advice from experts at Grads in Games, Boss Alien and Splash Damage

08 Nov 2019

On Friday 1 November, SAE London welcomed Grads in Games and guest speakers from the studios Boss Alien and Splash Damage to their campus to deliver career talks to Animation, VFX and Games Programming students. 

Programme Coordinator for Games Programming and Web Development, Karsten Vermeulen, said: “I found the talk very informative and engaging as usual. It is always great to see a different mix of game industry veterans take the stage and enlighten all our students with what studio life is like in the big wide world of game development. They were great speakers who were ready to answer any questions the students had. We really appreciate them taking some time out of their busy schedules to come and speak to us.” 

The session began with the experts at Grads in Games running through the findings of their Developer Survey, to give tailored advice to students depending on which games industry position they are hoping to land. 

There were plenty of opportunities for students to ask questions, and four lucky individuals even got their hands on some merch! 

After the talk from Andy and Dan from the Grads in Games team, students had a chance to hear from three industry figures about the paths they have taken to land their dream jobs. Betty Le Bon, and Ciro Duran from Boss Alien talked about their routes into their current roles at the Brighton based games studio.

Betty studied 2D Animation, and worked for an advertising agency before landing her first games job in Canada. She has had numerous roles, working her way up from 2D Animator, to her current role as Associate Art Director. Her day-to-day responsibilities include reviewing art, managing outside art teams, creating art bibles, liaising with other game disciplines and keeping up team morale as everyone’s a lot more productive when they are happy and valued. 

Ciro came to the UK from Venezuela, and he did an internship where he worked on a Warhammer title. He’s now Senior Programmer at Boss Alien, and he does a lot of backend, infrastructure and server work. He reassured one student who had concerns about getting a job after their study VISA expires, and Betty stressed that companies are usually keen to speak to strong candidates via Skype, or will even fly them in for an interview. 

Chris Harper, a Senior Technical Artist at Splash Damage, was originally interested in being a character artist. After a period of frustration struggling to get a job, he applied for the technical role, and luckily realised it was a lot more down his street as he has always been good at coming up with technical solutions, solving issues with scripts and helping others with technical development problems. He’s benefitted professionally from being at Splash Damage by undertaking a Leadership Training course. 

When it comes to your first professional steps, Chris advocated trying to avoid getting a junior role in London if you can, because the cost of living can be high, and the potential to earn more is better if you come to London with a few years of experience already under your belt. Chris also talked about some of the strategies he has developed to counteract crunch culture, which includes not having his work email or Slack on his phone, and leaving when it’s the end of the day rather than feeling pressured to work overtime. 

Throughout their respective talks, the speakers highlighted that the games industry is highly competitive, and that graduates may need to be flexible on location when it comes to finding their first job in the industry. 

Also, just completing the course at SAE is not enough - students need to be proactively building a portfolio and establishing a professional network. Grads in Games recommend using LinkedIn and Twitter for a dedicated amount of time each week to grow your contacts. And of course, attending SAE Extra events and speaking to guest speakers like Andy, Dan, Betty, Ciro and Chris afterwards is a good way of forging those all-important connections. 

Enter the Search for a Star and Rising Star challenges for a chance to land your dream job

One way that you can ensure your CV stands out from the rest is by entering the Grads in GamesSearch for a Star’ (final year of study) and ‘Rising Star’ game dev challenges that provide students with a chance to both hone and demonstrate their skills to industry written briefs. 

Programming, 3D Art, Animation and VFX students are invited to show their skills & build their portfolio, creating technical game projects and polished game-ready assets - exactly what studios want to see examples of from graduate applicants.

Students can receive feedback on their development projects from games professionals, with high achievers invited to take part in an interview with industry leaders at the annual Finals Day & student conference in April.

SAE London Games Programming, Game Art Animation and VFX Animation students were keen to enter the competition, and said that the Grads in Games talk was interesting and informative. 

Students can register to take part in either the Search for the Star or Rising Star challenges here.