Climax’s technical director James Sharman discusses his role in programming

Get That Job: How to be a technical director in games

Develop brings you a game industry professional to explain what their job involves and key advice to help you follow in their footsteps.

Technical director

Programmers progressing their career at a studio may look to eventually take on the role of technical director, overseeing the day-to-day coding of a game. Climax’s James Sharman tells us how aspiring coders can work their way up to the position.

What is your job role?
I’m the technical director of Climax Studios, which means that I run the programming department. At a high level, I am responsible for hiring coders, managing their careers and guiding the technical direction of the studio. Day-to-day, it’s my job to ensure the individual projects have the right code team and the right support to deliver great games.

How would someone become a technical director?
As you would expect, I come from a programming background. I’ve been in the games industry for about 19 years and most of that as a programmer. Since it’s a senior role there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. Most studios will either promote internally or look for a candidate with existing experience, so I’d advise people to get involved and build their reputation.

What do you look for when recruiting programmers?
All the best programmers I’ve met in my career genuinely enjoy programming, so beyond the core skill set, I like to see some hints that they are interested in the work. Even before starting work most candidates seem to have a pretty good idea what areas of programming interest them, so, obviously, I need to look at those in relation to the technical needs of the studio. For example, we are particularly interested in hiring graphics/engine coders at the moment, so those are keywords that will stand out on a CV. In that area of specialisation – as with any other – it’s about more than just saying, “I’m an engine coder”, I’d expect either experience or evidence of practical experimentation.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
Plenty, but it’s not all about job titles. Programming in a team is often more about building confidence and respect. For example, if you start with a job title of ‘programmer’, the next step might be ‘senior programmer’, but it’s not like we tick boxes until you get the promotion. More often than not a job title change is recognising and rewarding a change that has already taken place.

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