How would you describe what you do?
I’m a Unity Developer. I originally came from full-stack web development because I did a lot of it in C#. Unity is also in C#, so transferring the skills over has been easier than I was expecting it to be.
How did you start out in web development? What was your journey to where you are now?
After completing my studies in digital media development, I started off at a company called Jenison. They provided online training courses for things like fire safety, diversity training, and so on. I would manage the software that made the courses and someone else would make the course. This re-branded as Microlearn, and after a few years in this role, I spent a couple of months learning the Unity engine because that was what I’d want to do next – to work with game engines but not necessarily to create games. Once I started looking for jobs in Unity, it was my software development background that really helped me get noticed.
What skills do you think you need to be good at this job?
I would say that being able to solve problems with code is the most important skill. There are many limitations to what the Unity engine can and can’t do. You’ve got to be able to work your way around the restrictions that it might impose on you. Learning the limitations of your technology and how to work with it is always key.
What is tough about what you do that you have to overcome?
I’d say it’s solving problems with the code while managing other competing priorities that need to be done. You’ve got to figure out what works and what’s feasible for your end-users, and be able to communicate that effectively to your teammates so they know what your next steps are. This can get confusing given all the terminology that we use to make sense of the problems we are solving.
What have you worked on either here or elsewhere that you’re super proud of?
At my last job with Microlearn I was the only IT staff there for about three years. The fact that we managed to get that going and it was bought by a larger company is something I’m proud of. I was managing all of the IT work on my own while constantly fixing bugs.
How did you get unstuck when you were the only person on that team?
With great difficulty! In truth, it was alright. By the time I was the last team member most of the code was bug-free, so it wasn’t too painful. And by this stage, I knew the code really well. A lot of companies will have a developer that’s like that, where they’ve worked there for something like 20 years, and they’re still there because they’re the only person who knows the oldest parts of the software.
"You’ve got to teach yourself. You can’t wait around for someone else to teach you. You’ve got to go and do it yourself, even if that means having long periods of time where you’re getting very little visibly done."
Do you prefer being alone in your role or working as part of a group?
While both have their advantages, being in a group is a lot more enjoyable because I can discuss things with others and understand how they do things. I’ve learned more in the last two months from the people I’m working with now than I did during the six months where I was working by myself.
You mentioned that while you wanted to work with game engines, you didn’t necessarily want to create games. I’d love to know more about this decision and how you’ve made it work?
First off, full-time video game development often is an unpleasant work environment. It’s full of crunch culture and general mismanagement, especially at large companies. It’s also very, very competitive. Currently, I’m not prepared to have to work 14-hour days for six months, for little to no incentive. And then of course you can always do indie games, but that’s assuming that you’ve got the money to do that by yourself, and you’ve got all the other skills that you need. I’m not a good artist.
I think there are many people who don’t realise that so many products are created using game engines that aren’t games.
Absolutely. That’s the thing – many people train to create games and then realise that working in the games industry isn’t for them. You end up with these skills and you don’t know what to do with them when in fact, there are all kinds of commercial things you can do with Unity.
What advice might you have for people interested in becoming developers?
You’ve got to teach yourself. You can’t wait around for someone else to teach you. You’ve got to go and do it yourself, even if that means having long periods of time where you’re getting very little visibly done. These skills take years to develop. Eventually, it will click and you will break through, and by that point, you will have something that, at the very least, looks like code, or a working product.
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