Jumping into speciality vs any open position

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    • Jumping into speciality vs any open position

      I recently went to a game job fair. While a hiring manager was looking over my resume he noticed that I have a job outside the game industry and then asked what kind of programmer I wanted to be in the industry. My response was that I was interested in AI, but as I had no experience in the industry I was interested in any position that would fit. His response was that I should stick with only looking for AI jobs if that's what I was really interested in.

      After looking around at a few companies (EA, Blizzard, SOE, and some smaller studios around my area), associate/junior AI doesn't seem to be a position. In fact, there seemed to be few, if any, AI related jobs. It seems to me that the correct route is still an associate position (usually UI or Tools) and then moving into other positions as you gain experience. Is this correct or am I just not seeing associate AI (or even other specialties outside UI/Tools) in my limited search area?
    • I very much disagree with that hiring manager. As a junior engineer, you are a generalist almost by definition. There are very few junior programmers who are specialized in AI or graphics or physics or anything else. Most are seniors, especially at medium-sized companies where there may only be one AI programmer or one graphics programmer on the entire team. The exception is for heavily AI-driven games. On The Sims 4, I had one junior AI programmer on my team. His job wasn't advertised as AI programmer either; it was gameplay programmer. He got put on my team because we had a need for someone and he was available and interested.

      The absolute best way to break into the industry is to be a generalist who is interested in something. If you came to me and said that you were interested in AI but that you were happy doing anything, that would be a plus in my book. It shows me you have ambition.

      Out of curiosity, was this person a working engineer, or was he someone from HR and/or management?

    • Trinak wrote:

      It seems to me that the correct route is still an associate position (usually UI or Tools)

      It's odd isn't it how companies so often put new/inexperienced developers into the Tools team? I've noticed that too and (as an experienced tools developer) it causes so many problems. It means that you often get quite a turn around in tools programmers, because they all move on to "the exciting stuff", so you're left with lots of mismatching tools, often with questionable quality, by people who don't really want to be writing tools anyway. It's like tools work is considered un-important, but if your deploy process is slow it can mean that you lose several man-days of work each day while people wait for their changes to build and deploy to a console. It sounds like an exageration (which is probably why tools is still considiered menial work), but if you have a small-medium sized team of 30 people, and assume that in a day they will all have to build, bundle and deploy a level at least once, and assume that that process takes 15 minutes (which is quite typical on some projects I've worked on), that works out to be 30 x 15 = 450 minutes = 7.5 hours lost waiting for the deploy. Consider that many will need to build and deploy more than one level per day and the numbers really start to soar!

      Whoops, went off an a bit of a rant there didn't I? Back to the topic; I agree applying directly for specialist roles without prior experience is going to be a hard sell and pretty unusual approach.