Having come straight from working a boring full-time wear suits and heels kind of office job, I loved the individuality and inclusiveness at AIE. It was a breath of creative fresh air, and let me be me. It turns out this is normal for creative tech, woo!
Nicola Best took the plunge and jumped into the AIE Game programming course in 2015. As one of a handful of female students studying programming, it was obvious from the start that Nicola was going to make the most of every opportunity and she was one of the first of our 2016 programming graduates to secure a full-time job. It wasn’t easy and she is very clear about the time and effort she had to put in to ensure she got known in the “game dev industry”
Nicolas first step towards employment began at the end of her first year.
“I went to every Beer and Pixels event, created a LinkedIn profile, set up my own website and blog with WordPress as well as my own GitHub repositories with scripts from class assignments. I also started to apply for scholarships to go to GDC in my second year (I wasn’t successful with those). In my second year I also created a professional twitter account, and started doing networking events I found through the Meetup app and Facebook groups, as well as saving up and going to every paid event during Melbourne Games Week. I also started applying for internships once we started our final project (again, I wasn’t successful with any of them).”
This networking inside and outside of the game dev industry was a great idea, as it enabled Nicola to push the fact that she had some things that made her stand out from other developers, she was female and was specialising in VR, but most importantly she was making herself known and establishing important connections.
The first actual job she applied for was at the middle of second year.It was an internship with an AR company. She got an interview, and got offered the position during the interview – although pressured might be a better description. The whole experience made her instinctively want to turn down the position. After help and advice from her teacher,deputy head of school and friends she got help drafting an email to politely turn down the job she had “accepted”.
This interview experience was taken to another opportunity that came up for Nicola after she was headhunted for a position at a creative tech company; a panel interview (which is an interview with at least 3 people interviewing you at once.
” I’ve done them before with other jobs), and did a small programming test. I didn’t know everything, but I openly admitted this and was generally confident with my abilities. My favourite interview question was “Do you know the difference between a CPU, GPU, memory, and so on?” to which I leaned across the table and said “I have a 1080, i7 with liquid cooling, and I built my own PC.” which made them laugh and look happy. You’ll notice I didn’t give much detail, I just spoke with confidence and when given the opportunity, owned the conversation. That is how you ace interviews.”
In all, Nicola applied for over eight different positions before finally landing a position as a software engineer for a company that makes VR experiences for film and art through UNSW. They get contracts from around the world and develop their own software and adapt other companies work to be able to run on different VR hardware setups. She is working with the head engineer and a team of artists and film makers to create content.
Nicolas advice for new graduates is…
“Go to networking events. If you want to work in game dev, go to game dev ones. If you want to work in film, check out film related ones. Meetup, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are your best friends for networking. Also save up and go to Melbourne Games Week in November – especially to go to GCAP and GCAP Loading, which is for students! I know it’s expensive, I ended up paying about 1800 for everything (You can do it with less), and that was with Early Bird tickets. If you are planning on going, don’t get student tickets for GCAP – you can’t go to the after parties, and you WANT to go to the after parties; it’s where you network the most. ”