Strawdog's Derek Pettigrew on the skills needed to bag the role

Get That Job: How to be a technical director

What is your job role?
My role is technical director. I oversee the programming team and steer the technical discussions and decisions to ensure that we are always finding the most appropriate solutions for our technical challenges. We need to make sure we are choosing the correct solutions for the studio and not ‘re-inventing the wheel’ every time we start a new project.

What qualifications and experience do you need?
A degree in computer science or games development is a good start. However, it is only a start.
The games industry is constantly changing, so you need to keep abreast of all new technologies. Look at new tools, install interesting middleware and then experiment with them. The ability to author documentation and communicate your ideas clearly is also very important.

How would someone become a technical director?
The best route is to follow a programming path – junior, senior, lead – and make sure you get involved in all areas of programming, such as audio, rendering, AI, gameplay, input, tools etcetera. This will stand you in good stead when you have to make key decisions in those areas.

What do you look for when recruiting a new programmer?
The graduates that we’ve seen recently tend to come with very similar looking demos. We’re looking for something more than coursework: pet projects, and so on. You really need to stand out from your peers.
All candidates must be able to demonstrate clean and tidy code (with no spelling mistakes), and a real passion for what they have created.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
Technical director progression is possibly more limited once you’ve reached that level. Possible moves would be to other senior management positions, or perhaps starting a completely new business.

Why follow a career in your field?
The technical challenge. The industry is ever-evolving and there are always new avenues to explore and technologies to master. Just when you think you’ve got it all covered, something new arrives.

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