Recently inspired by my colleague Allen’s interesting blog post about his hiring experience I’ve decided to follow suit and share my own experience on acquiring an internship the year before graduation!
I’m sure most anyone reading my blog knows of a company called thatgamecompany. I have recently been offered a summer internship! The company is an amazing one and I personally feel that I belong at such a place. I’ll see how good of a fit we make in the coming months, though I remain extremely optimistic about the whole thing.
Smaller game companies seem to work like a mini-Valve in that the team structure is flat. When speaking with thatgamecompany’s lead engineer John and researching the company I was drawn towards the way that John detailed about the internals of company working. One thing that stuck out to me most was that John had mentioned that often times a developer will get an idea, experiment and try it out and see how things go. If a good idea is placed into the game other employees will recognize this and “hop on the bandwagon” to work together to get to the next iteration. John had mentioned that he feels a good fit for a team structure like this are individuals with a lot of initiative. I myself strive for an environment that embraces initiative, experimentation and professional growth.
They even sent me one of their AWESOME T-Shirts! Special thanks to a particular someone’s mom :)
So I’ve been struttin round with my snazzy shirt for weeks ever since I was made an offer. I think it would be fun to describe how I actually met John Edwards, one of the founders, in an effort to perhaps inspire others to do similar.
In my early studies at DigiPen I was hungry to find all resources that exist on the C++ topic of code reflection. thatgamecompany’s lead engineer John Edwards had made some sample material available to students at my university a few years earlier, and at the end of his material he left his email in case anyone wanted to contact him.
Happy to have found the exact reference material I needed I implemented all that was presented, and then added a whole lot more atop. After feeling great about the results I emailed John thanking him for his contribution of knowledge and linked him to one of my portfolio videos. I do this with most people that give out GDC lectures or other types of online-material, as I know from experience that seeing others’ work benefit from your own material grants a very rewarding feeling -like a sense altruism satiated.
John ended up liking my video and asked me to shoot him an email next year if I was interested in interning at thatgamecompany. At first (as a Sophomore) my mind wasn’t on internships or hiring in any way, and I was really just lucky I sent him an email at all.
The interview process was actually super long spanning a couple months. Albeit Christmas did strike through the middle of the process, it was still long. The usual is programming tests, phone interviews followed by some form of in-person meetup and additional interviews; interviewing with thatgamecompany mostly followed this format. In general (not specific to thatgamecompany) knowing 3D math to point where it feels like a language in and of itself, and proficiency in C++ seem to be pretty much the only requirements to make oneself appealing as a potential hire (as for as tech skill goes for engineers). If anyone wants tips on how to practice for interviewing my advice would be to make sure you’re proficient in your area of study. Beyond this I find that practicing writing code on a white-board helps for formal coding interviews, practicing with a mock-interviewer. For me personally the biggest practice was just repetition of mock coding interviews to keep me from being nervous. When I’m nervous my mind can go pretty blank.
Another thing thatgamecompany was very interested in learning about was how I handle myself in team situations. I actually appreciated the care they took to find out who I am and how I work with other people. So if I did have any advice that might be of help to anyone, it would be to not underestimate the value of working on a larger project with other people in order to ship a product. I feel that I’m quite lucky to have a few small school/team projects finished and released, and would advise others seeking entry level positions to do the same if possible.
Hopefully my luck will last out a little longer as I proceed towards graduation!
In this I would say the moral of the story is: people that write or put forth educational content always do so with an interest to teach others. If one is genuinely interested in the content and contacts the original authors with a thank you, they will inevitably be interested, especially if intelligent followup questions are asked. I would suppose that seeing others benefit and take interest in your efforts to help is just irresistible. It’s a great way to thank wonderful people and educate yourself at the same time. I’ve done this with dozens of various authors of all sorts of content, and every single one of them has always responded very generously; I’m very thankful to them all for their willingness to help.