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With graduation right around the corner, we talked with six students who will be entering the game industry full-time this spring. We asked them about what they will be doing at their respective studios, as well as how their educational experiences at DigiPen helped them gain employment. Good luck and congratulations to the Class of 2010!

Josh Stanger

Which degree program are you graduating from?

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Where are you going to work?

Zombie Studios

How did you go about applying/securing this job?

While I was on campus last summer I spotted a flyer on the bulletin board saying that Zombie was looking for an intern. I took down their information, applied for the internship and was hired on as an intern in September 2009. After working there for 9 months, they offered me a job and I eagerly accepted. Aside from the good people I work with, the size of the company was also a draw. It was really fun for me to see how quickly they grew in a 9 month period. They went from 15 people to 30.

When do you start?

I start on May 3.

What are you going to be doing for Zombie?

Because it’s a smaller company, I get the opportunity to do several different things. Primarily, I will be a character artist that does modeling, texturing, and concept and art design.

Do you think attending/graduating from DigiPen helped you secure this job? How?

If it weren’t for the bulletin board and the contacts I made at DigiPen I wouldn’t have applied for an internship at Zombie, which led to me having a job now. So, yes, I think attending DigiPen helped me in this endeavor.

Did DigiPen’s course work help you? If so, how?

Throughout my courses I became a much stronger artist and modeler. The courses demanded a lot of us, and through the rigor of it all my skills were refined.

If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow graduates about getting a job, what would it be?

In my experience, the biggest thing is the interview. I’d recommend that graduates calm down, manage their nerves and be themselves. I feel like being myself helped me in my job search, I hope it can help others.

Patrick O’Leary

Which degree program are you graduating from?

Bachelor of Science in RTIS.

Where are you going to work?

I work at Microsoft Game Studios on their incubation team, “SEED.” I started working here in January, when I completed my coursework at DigiPen.

What is your role at Microsoft?

I am a Software Design Engineer.

How did you go about applying for/securing this job?

I was an intern for Microsoft, which led to this job. I found out about the internship last year during DigiPen’s Career Day and through a series of interviews I began my internship with them over the summer and got the job in December.

Do you think attending/graduating from DigiPen helped you secure this job? How?

Yes! I found my internship because of DigiPen’s company day and with the support of my instructors and the resources available to me I got a job I really love. As a matter of fact, since I’ve been here, we’ve already hired two other DigiPen RTIS graduates onto our team! So yeah, you could say DigiPen has a good name for itself. Overall, DigiPen has a good name for itself.

What DigiPen course do you find the most applicable to your current job?

Professor Matt Mead’s Advanced C/C++ class helped a lot. I had next to no programming experience before coming to DigiPen, and I can definitely point to that class as the moment when C++ clicked in my head and I became confident in my ability to write code.

If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow graduates what would it be?

Be passionate! We all came to DigiPen because we want to get into the game industry. So, I recommend my peers getting out there and showing how badly they want it. I feel like, once people see how passionate someone is, their message is more likely to resonate with the people who are listening.

Nick Hahn

Which degree program are you graduating from?

Master of Science in Computer Science

Where did you get your job?

Nintendo of America (NOA)

How did you go about applying/securing this job?

I went to DigiPen’s career day this year and met two reps from NOA, provided them with my resume and was interviewed over the phone a few days later. After the phone interview, I went into NOA for an in-person interview and was hired on to start on May 17. I was surprised by the quick turn around, but of course am thrilled to start working with NOA.

What will you be doing for NOA?

I was hired as an engineer and will essentially help second and third party programmers program for the Nintendo platform. My internship experience and graphic skills made me a good fit for this position.

Where was your internship?

I did an internship for 7 months at Vicarious Visions in Albany, NY. I worked on the tail end of the development cycle for Guitar Hero 5and Band Hero for the Nintendo Wii. In this internship I primarily did code merging and scripting. Both tasks enabled me to learn a lot.

What DigiPen courses taught you the most?

All of the game classes taught me a lot. Each class motivated me to get into the industry and eventually inspired me to apply for the internship at Vicarious Visions, and my job at NOA.

If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow master’s graduates about getting a job, what would it be?

First, get an internship! Regardless of the company, getting an internship in the industry is beyond worth anyone’s time. And, I would say is even worth taking a semester or two off of classes for. Secondly, I would encourage everyone to work as hard as they can, and in addition do things outside of their class work that deepens their learning even further. As a graduate student, I found my extracurricular studying to be beyond useful in and outside the classroom.

Ted Fishman

Which degree program are you graduating from?

Master of Science in Computer Science

Where did you do your undergraduate work?

I went to the University of Washington and studied Physics.

Where did you get your job?

Sucker Punch Productions

What will you be doing for Sucker Punch?

I will be a game designer. My background is not just in programming, but a wide area of study, so this role sort of combines all of that experience.

How did you go about applying for/securing this job?

I originally applied for a programming position, and ended up interviewing for a programming position and a design position. After the interview process, Sucker Punch thought I would best suited for the game design position. I think I may have shown more passion in the design interview, so it made sense to me why I was chosen to fill that role.

What will you be doing as a designer?

I will be designing systemic content on an unannounced project, starting May 10.

Did you do an internship?

I did. I was a dev support intern at Havok in San Francisco for 3 months. It was a great experience. Overall, it taught me a lot about the professional environment, what is expected of you in that environment and how to perform under pressure. I’d highly recommend DigiPen students get an internship.

What DigiPen courses taught you the most?

I really enjoyed my project classes. Namely, Physics 350/550. It taught me how to write a game engine from scratch in a practical and hands-on way, while getting good feedback from my classmates.

If you could give one piece of advice to your fellow DigiPen graduates, what would it be?

Game development is not easy, so I’d advise that people know what they are getting into when they come to DigiPen and/or when they want to get into the industry. Aside from knowing what you want, I would encourage undergraduate and graduate students to push themselves beyond their limit and research/read about the industry on their own time. Doing both of these things paid off in spades for me.

Thomas Cameron Micka

Which degree program are you graduating from?

Bachelor of Science in RTIS

Where are you going to work?

I got a job at Lucas Arts Studios, in San Francisco. I’m moving a few days after graduation and starting work on May 17.

What will you be doing for Lucas Arts?

I’ll be a gameplay programmer and will be working on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.

How did you go about applying/securing this job?

I was always a fan of Lucas Film, so when they did a company day at DigiPen I made sure to attend. After attending this session, I became even more excited about Lucas Film and was sure to stop by their booth at GDC in 2009. It was here that I got the 12-week, summer, internship with the Lucas Arts Studio. In September, after completing the internship, I was hired on full-time; but had to finish out my senior year at DigiPen.

Do you think attending/graduating from DigiPen will help you in your new position? How?

Yes. I will be doing much of what I did in my game classes and much of what I learned in my CS 460 (advanced computer animation) course.

What DigiPen course taught you the most?

My game classes were beyond helpful, but my favorite course would be CS 460 (advanced computer animation). I will use a lot of what I learned in this course when working on The Force Unleashed II.

What advice would you give to students and/or graduates at DigiPen?

I would advise freshman and sophomores to work hard and get the best grades they can. For juniors, I’d recommend they start applying for internships. I found my internship invaluable. Last, but not least, I’d recommend everyone work on projects outside of their usual course work – this shows you have a genuine interest in the industry and will teach you more than you could imagine.

Stephen Scott

Which degree program are you graduating from?

BFA in Production Animation

Where did you get your job?

At a small Indie Xbox Live Arcade start-up in Seattle, called Exato Game Studios.

What will you be doing for your new employer?

I work as the Technical Artist mainly, but have a hand in most of the art assets – like character modeling, 2D assets, animation and rigging. Aside from this, I also help the company with running their website.

How did you go about securing this job?

Karen Wheeler, the head of DigiPen career services, notified me of a posting made by Exato stating that they were in need of a “Generalist” for 2D cinematics and modeling. I figured I would apply because a generalist position seemed right up my alley. In my interview with Exato, they seemed impressed with my technical expertise from the two games I worked on while at DigiPen – Brutal Beatdown and Oneiro – as well as the contract artwork I had done for an Xbox Live Indie title, War of Words. In addition to my games portfolio, I had a wide variety of art to show from paintings to high and low-poly 3D Models.

Do you think attending/graduating from DigiPen will help you in your new position? How?

Absolutely, I can already see how it’s helping me. Working on a game team was one of the most beneficial things I could have done while attending DigiPen. By working on a game team I learned short cuts, how to make 3D light, and how to be efficient even when the game engine is still in development. Being a part of two games that were building the pipelines as I was working on them presented several issues for me to solve, and now when I run into these kinds of problems at work, I can just run the tests that have worked in the past and usually push through most challenging issues that are presented to me and my team.

Aside from learning how to solve problems, I also learned how to manage my time. As an art student, I learned how to work under a lot of pressure and ridiculously tight deadlines. Because of DigiPen pushing me, I am now able to get things done on or before the time they are due – which boosts the company’s productivity.

Which DigiPen course taught you the most?

It’s a toss up for me; I’ll go with the ironic one. CG225. I actually failed CG225 the first time through, and had to take it again. Taking it for a second time, I was able to focus more on a lot of the technical aspects and finer parts of modeling and rigging, and acquired a better understanding of 3D Studio Max because I already had the foundation down from my first way through the class. By the end of my second go with the class, I was doing advanced rigging, assembling muscle groups out of bones and dummys, and making IK/FK switches on the fly, which are some of the tougher aspects of rigging.

What advice would you give to students and graduates at DigiPen?

To students I would say, make sure you are competent at everything. You don’t need to be a master at everything but it sure helps if you can adapt to any project you’re presented with and produce. For instance, if you’re a 2D Artist you should still know how to unwrap a 3D model, and do some minor geometry fixes, if and when you’re asked to do so. To graduates, I can’t stress this enough, research and ask around before applying to a company, and do your homework before applying and interviewing. If you have a portfolio, it should be adapted to whatever job you are applying for.