Francisco Inácio, Lead Programmer on Squad

Inspirational Hull graduate on how to succeed in video games industry

From getting your foot in the door, to rising through the ranks, the games industry can be a tough place to get noticed.

The University of Hull has a long track record of providing graduate talent to some of the world’s biggest gaming companies. One of those graduates is Francisco Inacio - Lead Programmer on Squad.

Francisco graduated from Hull in 2012 with an MSc in Games Programming and went on to complete a PhD in Computer Graphics, also at Hull. He now works at Vancouver-based Offworld Industries.

Here, in his own words, are his top tips on how to get into the gaming industry. This talk was delivered to the University of Hull as part of a series of virtual seminars for our Computer Science students.

Find out more about Computer Science degrees at the University of Hull.

Getting into an interview

Education vs work experience

No matter how good or bad you are, your CV is your gateway to getting into the industry. To get your first interview, you can work on the presentation of your CV, but also remember to acquire the skills you need to stand out. Education is very important, but equally important to a lot of employers is work experience. I look for people who have a solid educational background, but also relevant experience in the industry.

Personal projects

If you do not have that career experience in the industry, then make sure you have evidence of some personal projects you have worked on. Show that you have that passion and are willing to do things in your own time.

Specialised experience

Gaining specialised experience or knowledge of areas such as rendering, networking, Tools & DevOps, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity can really make you stand out on paper.

Don’t take it personally

Last but not least, never take it personally if you do not get an interview. There are a lot of candidates out there. You can be brilliant at what you do, but there might just be someone who is better suited to that role. It is never personal, it’s business.

How to ace the interview

Make sure it’s a two-way dialogue, but don’t be arrogant

People sometimes say an interview is a one-way interaction, but actually I like to spin that around and make it two-way. Yes, the company is looking for someone, but you are also looking for a company. Be confident in what you say and do, ask the questions you need but do not be arrogant.

Admit when you don’t know something, but try anyway

It is perfectly OK to admit that you do not know everything. This shows humility. It is important for the interviewer to see you try and solve the problem, even if you do not know the answer off the top of your head.

Take time to think before answering

Do not rush in an interview. Always take a moment, if asked a difficult question, to think before you give an answer.

It’s not a matter of whether you can do it, it’s about how long it will take you

You do not need to be able to do everything right from the off. You do however need to be willing to learn new skills. I like to say it’s not about whether you can do something right at that moment, it’s how long it will take you to learn it if you cannot.

Take notes and learn from it

Some interviewers like to see you taking notes during an interview. It’s the little things sometimes that have a big impression. It shows you are engaged and are taking the process seriously, and want to improve and learn from it.

screenshot from squad game

Gameplay from Squad, developed by Offworld Industries

Habits to gain and break

Do:

  • Be humble and collaborative
  • Try things before asking for help
  • Try to find solutions to problems
  • Get your code tested and reviewed by others

Don’t:

  • Be arrogant and competitive
  • Ask for help all the time, take the time first to try and find the solution
  • Assume your code will work just because it works locally

How to stop being a junior

Don’t just wait to be told what to do

One thing I have learned is everything can feel very scary when you first start out. Sometimes you might hold back because you think you cannot do something. No one has all those skills to start with – it is up to you to say yes, and take a leap of faith and develop those skills on your own, but with support from your team.

Start taking on bigger tasks with more responsibilities

Each time something shows up that seems a scary task that no one wants to take on, it is a great area for growth. Taking on bigger tasks more regularly, with added responsibility, is a great way to show your company that you are an ambitious, valuable member of the team.

Become the person that people approach for help and advice

You need to become the guru in your team, who people turn to for help on projects. Become an expert and play to your strengths.

screenshot from squad game

Screenshot from Squad, developed by Offworld Industries

How to become a leader

Be a bridge between team members

Being able to connect people in your team, to enable them to have more collaboration with each other, is a really important skill in being a manager or leader.

Know your team and what everyone’s best strengths are

You need to know the people in your team, where everyone’s best strengths lie, and who the best person is to turn to for help with a specific task.

Be the oil that keeps the machine running

As a leader, you need to be able to do whatever is needed to keep the machine running. Prompt your teammates to see if they need help or are struggling, and if no one else can provide advice to them, then maybe you need to take that on yourself.

Build trust and mentor others to help them achieve their goals

You need to be more than just a boss – being a mentor to your team, helping them develop, learn new skills and achieve their goals is what really makes a leader.

Find out more about BSc Computer Science for Games Development at the University of Hull.

screenshot from squad game

Gameplay from Squad, developed by Offworld Industries

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