Tell us about yourself
My name is Jonathan Hughes and when I joined the bootcamp I was a web
developer making bespoke business solutions, primarily for traffic management
companies. Now I am a junior programmer at Coatsink and I am currently working
in Unity on Gang Beasts.
Why did you decide to move from web development to games?
I found my drive and motivation in the things I was making were lacking but it probably took the pandemic and working from home where I ended up spending a long time with my thoughts and questioning what I wanted to do for a living.
Games have always been a big part of my life, being one of my main hobbies so combining my experience in programming, what I’m passionate about, and a “now or never” feeling made it an easy decision – I only wish I had decided to do it sooner!
Why did you decide to join the bootcamp?
The main drive was to learn and get guidance on how to make the switch to
programming games. I had tried learning Unity before but dropped off, so it was
also a good way to keep myself accountable and motivated to keep going.
A game developed by Jonathan in collaboration with William Fox
What did you like the most about your bootcamp experience?
It was helpful having a mentor to push me along and help guide me but the part I
found most valuable was the coaching sessions. For me, at least, it was really
helpful to talk out issues and perceived blockages – I have a terrible habit of
listening to the doubting voice inside my head so the sessions were helpful for
me to get into a better head space and improve my belief in myself.
Tell us about your job search process, was it challenging?
From early on, I’d browse job boards daily and see if there were any entry-level
listings that I felt I wasn’t too far off (I think it’s ok to not tick all the boxes on a
job listing), I’d apply, and I’d always send a cover letter too. It was challenging at
first as I didn’t have many gamedev-specific skills, but that improved as I
reworked my CV to include my game jam experience. A lot of job applications I
never heard back from, whilst others gave the generic “thanks for applying” but
getting a rejection, or no response is the same as not applying so I was very
much of the “why not? What have I got to lose?” position.
What do you think helped you stand out from the rest?
The interviews I did manage to secure were usually preceded by a programming
test, and doing very well at those was probably the most significant factor in me getting
the job offer, so it should come as no surprise but you’ve got to have the
technical skills. Also, being a good fit is pretty important too so I tried not to get
too flustered and just be myself. I like to think sharing my dream game idea of
capturing the fun, improvisation and emergent storytelling at the D&D table
helped as I got a big thumbs up!
A narrative puzzle game developed by Jonathan
What’s your advice on building a portfolio that got you noticed by recruiters?
I had plans to make a dedicated portfolio website but never did and instead just
shared my itch page, and that was enough. Any work should be recent and viewable/playable in the browser – any additional steps a recruiter has to take to see your work could mean them moving on to the next applicant. I think first impressions are very important, so don’t neglect the visuals. My portfolio is mostly game jam submissions and for the last handful, I worked with artists, which helps if you’re not an artist like me – if your portfolio looks appealing and eye-catching, that can only help to leave an impression.
How vital were networking and community building?
I didn’t do too much networking before the job opportunity came along, but I came across this post on Twitter where folks in the industry were making themselves available to be contacted for advice, etc. I reached out to a couple of folks on the list, and I got some really good feedback and advice on my CV, interview skills, and, probably most importantly, self-belief.
A game developed by Jonathan
What helped you most during the interview process? Did you do anything different from what you used to do before?
I don’t believe I did anything significantly different from before other than trying to
get into the right head space so I could be calm and collected in the interview.
What would your tips be for creators looking for the same job/role as you?
Probably the best tip I can think of would be to have a can-do attitude. A lot of
times during jams, I’d get asked to make a feature or some kind of gameplay and
my reply was often that I don’t know how to do it right now but we’ll work it out –
It’s ok not to know everything but being prepared to put in the time and effort is
For a programming-based job, you need to know how to program there’s no
shortcutting that, so I’d recommend spending time learning the fundamentals at
least, ideally more.
I am fortunate in that my previous role meant I had a working knowledge of C# but
there’s still lots of Unity-specific programming that I had to learn on the
bootcamp and the learning is ongoing still in my new job.
To that end, participate in game jams, especially in a team. They’re probably the
best way to get experience making games if you’re not in the industry, working
with others in a jam proves to a prospective employer that you can do it for
them and they’re really fun!