Here is a short Q&A I did for the University of Bradford where I touch on things like career development, what I would have done differently, and advice for graduates looking for their first job. Hopefully there are a few key take aways regardless of whether or not you're studying at university .
"focus on keeping it short, sweet and relevant"
Year of Graduation?
Current job title – Company – Freelance?
Senior Animation Ninja at Ninja Theory
How has your career developed since leaving the University of Bradford?
After graduating I took a long, hard look at the work I had done and compared it to what quality was needed in order to get a place at the companies I wanted to work for. Although I had worked hard and learned a lot, my choice to specialize purely in animation meant that I needed to spend more time really pushing my skill-set and focusing on this aspect.
I had my work cut out.
The following year was spent learning as much as possible about animation, following the industry and constantly trying to improve using forums and friends for feedback. One day I was listening to an animation related podcast (I think it was Re-Animators podcast) and they had a guest who worked at Ninja Theory. At the time I didn’t really know the company name so a quick search took me to their website. After being wowed by their previous project, Heavenly Sword, I discovered they were advertising an animation internship. Until this point I hadn’t had much success with applications and was in the process of putting together a new demo reel, but couldn’t pass on applying for this great opportunity. I applied and two weeks later they made me an offer.
Since then I’ve had the chance to work on games such as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, DmC: Devil May Cry and Disney Infinity. Currently I’m working on Hellblade which is a self published, independent AAA game scheduled for release on PS4 and PC. Unlike most traditional projects we have an open development, so if you’re interested in game development you can track the progress of the project by watching our development diaries at http://www.hellblade.com
What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
Looking forward to Monday so I can keep making video games! Getting to work with a bunch of talented and inspiring people on a daily basis, working with the latest technology, tackling new problems and constantly improving and pushing my animation skill-set. Also playing animation I’ve made in a game hasn’t gotten old yet.
What did you enjoy the most about your time in Bradford?
I enjoyed the cultural diversity of the city and the great people I met. The National Media Museum was great too (with a whole floor dedicated to animation!).
Oh, and the food!
Do you have any tips for new graduates?
Never stop learning. University was only the first stop at the beginning of my career, and I have learnt a tremendous amount since. It’s so important to take the skill of learning how to learn and keep going, don’t give up.
As an industry professional, do you have any tips for students starting their degrees?
To focus on the artistry and fundamentals of what you’re doing instead of the latest software upgrade or release. Sure there are things that will make your life a bit easier (like all the cool features the latest version of Maya may have) but ultimately good artistry is what really counts.
Learn how to use reference. Learn from your peers and share your work. Getting comfortable with receiving feedback is really important and will help you improve tremendously. Also take this time to be open and try new things, you may find a passion or interest in unexpected areas.
What did you wish you would have done differently during your degree?
If I had to do it again I would have simplified my ideas and focused more on the execution. When you’re inspired and in the rhythm of learning it seems like anything is possible, but there comes a point where it’s not realistic to recreate The Lord of The Rings by yourself in a few months.
What is your 5 year plan?
I’ve never really had a solid 5 year plan. Over the past 5 years I had a feel for the direction I wanted to go in and tried to make choices which I thought would get me closer.
At the moment, for my personal development, I have a list of goals which range from three months to a year as I prefer to work in shorter, more measurable time frames. Regarding my professional development, my goal is to just keep improving on my last task, keep learning and growing as an artist. Once I no longer feel able to grow then I would have to revisit this.
Top three things that help you get the first job?
Talent. Focus on creating a killer demo reel with no filler. Try not to pack it out with all the work you’ve ever done but instead focus on keeping it short, sweet and relevant to the studio you’re applying for. Secondly it’s really about whether you’re a good fit for the team. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your colleagues so think about what kind of person you’d like to work with. Finally having a growth mindset is a must. Ask for feedback, seek the skills you need to overcome your problems and be proactive in developing your skill-set.
Do you have any other interests that you feel compliment your work?
I’m interested in general fitness, and I find my time at the gym really helps solidify my understanding of body mechanics. Keeping active also helps when filming video reference or performing in a motion capture shoot, they can be quite exhausting!
LinkedIn / website/ or even a professional email?
The best way to find and contact me is either through my personal website at www.cgmation.net or follow me on Twitter @cgmation
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