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cifa

Experience after uni before landing into industry

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Hi all! 

 

I start by saying that this post is maybe premature but these questions have been puzzling me a lot lately, so I prefer to ask now. 

My life-goal is to become a graphics programmer in games industry, but before jump to the question let me post  a short bio to frame my situation. 

 

I've completed my undergrad studies in computer science in Italy obtaining the highest mark. However, during I don't feel like I've programmed a lot and I barely touched graphics. For thesis I've finally done something implementing a very simple mesh viewer with phong shading in OpenGL and WebGL + an .obj to JSON converter. So actually not much. 

I'm now finishing an MSc at UCL in UK. While this master is computer graphics and imaging related (Image Processing, Virtual Environment, Computational Photography, Geometry Processing, Computer Graphics are most relevant module), I feel like the rendering part wasn't that relevant, just pretty basic stuff, at least in practice. On the Image processing side I've done way more, but I'm not sure if/how this will help me in my life goal (that's actually question 1: will it? ) and everything was implemented in MATLAB.  Every coursework so far has gone very good in markings but due to the completely different system here I'm not sure I will be that good in exams.

 

Unfortunately during my undergrads years I didn't have the ideas clear enough to start some side-project by my own and now here I definitely don't have the time to start one before the uni finishes.

Giving this what I've in my hands are just some coursework and what will be my final thesis (screen space subsurface scattering implementation for skin rendering). On a theoretical side for rendering I feel that I have some knowledge although not that complete on an intermediate-advanced level.

I tend to have the Imposter Syndrome but in this case I really feel inadequate to start looking for a job. Now, I don't really mind start my working experience with an internship, but even so I don't think I've enough to show or I'm good enough. So this lead to my central question:

 

Wanting to be a graphics programmer what is in your opinion the best path to follow in my situation? 

  • Starting the search for an internship straight after the graduation. As material to show use just the courseworks and the final thesis (which hopefully will be good in terms of result and not that basic) 
  • Stop for a while and produce something by myself before trying to apply for job positions. I think this is the only way possible for me, but in this case what you think is a good project to start that will be well appreciated by a possible employer? 

Thank you very much and sorry for the long post :) 

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I don't know how it works in Europe, but in the US, once you finish university your college loans come due and you're pretty much out in the world on your own - that means you need money for things like food, rent, lights, internet etc... Generally you do internships while you're still attending the university - if you're graduating with a master's degree, you should be able to find an entry level position in the software industry (even if it isn't graphics programming - if it is, bonus!).  That experience counts and will help you get to the job you want.

 

Sometimes before you can get the job you want, you need to take the job you need.

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I don't know how it works in Europe, but in the US, once you finish university your college loans come due and you're pretty much out in the world on your own - that means you need money for things like food, rent, lights, internet etc... Generally you do internships while you're still attending the university - if you're graduating with a master's degree, you should be able to find an entry level position in the software industry (even if it isn't graphics programming - if it is, bonus!).  That experience counts and will help you get to the job you want.

 

Sometimes before you can get the job you want, you need to take the job you need.

 

Fortunately I had a  scholarship and the rest I was able to cover with my own finances without loans. Although I can't afford to stay still forever I definitely can for couple of months as I can go back home and work from there. In such situation I would definitely try to work hard to get the job I want, is this delusional? 

All the internship system is not usual in Italy, so I never had the chance sad.png

Edited by cifa

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I can not give you a final answer as it's always hard to tell from company to company, but I will share my experience with you when I was searching for an internship as graphics programmer. A real job might or might not be more difficult depending on a lot of factors that is once again different per company. This info also includes programmers I know that actually got a job.

 

I'm studying in the Netherlands, which has a game development course that is relatively well known in here and the (mostly) qualitative people that graduate from there, so that is also a factor that favors them. Generally, you will not get hired as graphics programmer immediately, they expect some experience first or you really need to put some convincing stuff in your portfolio that shows you know what you are doing, so be prepared to be flexible if you found a place where you really want to stick and work your way up.

 

A degree is something that is in your favor and if it is something relevant to what you want to do, that's always a good thing. A degree alone is not something that will get you there though, a portfolio with relevant work on it is a must in almost all cases. So the more relevant work you can show, the better your chances are. Especially as a programmer, they want to see some code as well. 

 

For my application to Guerrilla Games, I was given the feedback to post some source code and that they would've liked to see some more projects other than the college ones. Didn't get the internship, but the feedback was very valuable for future references of course.

 

In your case, I think both options will benefit you one way or another. Getting experience "in the field" is always a good thing, though some companies don't count internship as "real" working experience, but that might also be just when it is actually college related. You can also always work on something on the side alongside of an internship.

 

Hope it helps, and good luck! :)

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If you can get a job now, do that - and work on your portfolio in your spare time.
If you can't get a job now, keep trying - and work on your portfolio in your spare time.
An internship is a job, btw.

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I can not give you a final answer as it's always hard to tell from company to company, but I will share my experience with you when I was searching for an internship as graphics programmer. A real job might or might not be more difficult depending on a lot of factors that is once again different per company. This info also includes programmers I know that actually got a job.

 

I'm studying in the Netherlands, which has a game development course that is relatively well known in here and the (mostly) qualitative people that graduate from there, so that is also a factor that favors them. Generally, you will not get hired as graphics programmer immediately, they expect some experience first or you really need to put some convincing stuff in your portfolio that shows you know what you are doing, so be prepared to be flexible if you found a place where you really want to stick and work your way up.

 

A degree is something that is in your favor and if it is something relevant to what you want to do, that's always a good thing. A degree alone is not something that will get you there though, a portfolio with relevant work on it is a must in almost all cases. So the more relevant work you can show, the better your chances are. Especially as a programmer, they want to see some code as well. 

 

For my application to Guerrilla Games, I was given the feedback to post some source code and that they would've liked to see some more projects other than the college ones. Didn't get the internship, but the feedback was very valuable for future references of course.

 

In your case, I think both options will benefit you one way or another. Getting experience "in the field" is always a good thing, though some companies don't count internship as "real" working experience, but that might also be just when it is actually college related. You can also always work on something on the side alongside of an internship.

 

Hope it helps, and good luck! smile.png

 

Thank you very much! Do you have any idea of the scope of works on the portfolio they want? 

 

 

If you can get a job now, do that - and work on your portfolio in your spare time.
If you can't get a job now, keep trying - and work on your portfolio in your spare time.
An internship is a job, btw.

 

Oh ok! So basically keep trying sending application while building the portfolio! Thanks!  Do you have any suggestion about what can be a good project to work on my own to increase my chances of be considered as graphic programmer? 

 

(I know internship is a job, for job position I meant everything from intern to junior programmer, whilst with the first option I don't think I can do much more than internship) 

Edited by cifa

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Job hunting can be a slow and long process, so probably good to start as soon as your studies are done - or even while you're still studying if a good opportunity arises, e.g. If you see an ad for a junior / entry-level graphics programmer!

Your SSS work will be good portfolio material. Make sure to explore a few different trade-offs and/or different techniques. If you can, use code samples from that project in your portfolio.

Other gfx work that you could do to practice could be
- if you're interested in API design, make a wrapper around one or more other APIs, such as a d3d/GL portability layer, or a high level renderer on top of either d3d or GL.
- do more post processing work, such as DOF, bloom, HDR tonemapping, lens flares, color correction, etc.
- implement a few different lighting systems and the ability to switch between at runtime, e.g. Forward, deferred, light-pre-pass, inferred, forward+, clustered deferred, etc.
- implement a few different shadow systems, e.g. Cascades, omni lights, spotlights / filters like PCF, ESM, VSM, etc.
- implement some different material models (BRDFs) like Lambert, Phong, Blinn-Phong, Cook-Torrence, GGX, Ward, etc.

P.S. Don't worry about the impostor syndrome. Everyone will have low expectations of a new graduate, and will expect them to learn a lot on the job. As long as you're capable of continually learning, you'll be fine. Also, a lot of people working in the industry are of an average skill level, not everyone is a rock star coder ;)

P.p.s. Gfx programmers are really in demand right now, there's lots of advertised positions. Join some of the game jobs groups on LinkedIn so recruiters can find you. Describe yourself as a graphics programmer on there too ;)
I don't often see junior gfx programmer jobs listed, but because demand is so high, some companies may be willing to hire one anyway, because they can't find any senior/intermediate candidates.
I personally started in gameplay, then tools, then transferred internally to graphics, then effects, then engine... But you might get lucky and find a good gfx spot right away.

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Thank you very much! Do you have any idea of the scope of works on the portfolio they want? 

 

I personally try to keep it as much graphics/special effects related, but I guess being flexible is a good thing. In other words, I don't know really :P The people I know that got a job had mostly "specialized" portfolios with a couple of side projects on them that drifted a bit from their specialization.

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Job hunting can be a slow and long process, so probably good to start as soon as your studies are done - or even while you're still studying if a good opportunity arises, e.g. If you see an ad for a junior / entry-level graphics programmer!

Your SSS work will be good portfolio material. Make sure to explore a few different trade-offs and/or different techniques. If you can, use code samples from that project in your portfolio.

Other gfx work that you could do to practice could be
- if you're interested in API design, make a wrapper around one or more other APIs, such as a d3d/GL portability layer, or a high level renderer on top of either d3d or GL.
- do more post processing work, such as DOF, bloom, HDR tonemapping, lens flares, color correction, etc.
- implement a few different lighting systems and the ability to switch between at runtime, e.g. Forward, deferred, light-pre-pass, inferred, forward+, clustered deferred, etc.
- implement a few different shadow systems, e.g. Cascades, omni lights, spotlights / filters like PCF, ESM, VSM, etc.
- implement some different material models (BRDFs) like Lambert, Phong, Blinn-Phong, Cook-Torrence, GGX, Ward, etc.

P.S. Don't worry about the impostor syndrome. Everyone will have low expectations of a new graduate, and will expect them to learn a lot on the job. As long as you're capable of continually learning, you'll be fine. Also, a lot of people working in the industry are of an average skill level, not everyone is a rock star coder ;)

P.p.s. Gfx programmers are really in demand right now, there's lots of advertised positions. Join some of the game jobs groups on LinkedIn so recruiters can find you. Describe yourself as a graphics programmer on there too ;)
I don't often see junior gfx programmer jobs listed, but because demand is so high, some companies may be willing to hire one anyway, because they can't find any senior/intermediate candidates.
I personally started in gameplay, then tools, then transferred internally to graphics, then effects, then engine... But you might get lucky and find a good gfx spot right away.

 

 

An enlightening reply! Thank you so much! I'll try some of the things you cited.

As far learning is concerned I'm always extremely eager to learn!

 

Again, I sincerely thank you a lot for this answer! 

Edited by cifa

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