Pixel Toys’ Tom Gleadall on how you can bag that career leap

Get That Job: How to be an associate programmer

What is your job role?

Associate Programmer at Pixel Toys, working on Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade

What qualifications and/or experience do you need?

Normally a qualification in Computer Science or Software Engineering is required, but in the right circumstances any technical degree – Maths, Engineering – combined with either professional or non-professional programming experience can work.

How would someone come to be in your position?

It’s easy to find graduate/entry-level programming roles advertised on websites and in magazines. So with the right qualifications, responding to these ads could land you a job.

However there are other routes. I made a sidewards leap from a game design career since I realised that I was increasingly drawn to the more
hands-on, code-based aspects of design, such as game prototyping. I found Pixel Toys, a local company
well-aligned with my experience and interests, and I speculatively sent through my CV with a long cover letter explaining my situation. After an interview and a few positive references, I was in.

If you were interviewing someone, what do you look for?

For entry-level programming roles I’d look for someone who can demonstrate flexibility in their work, since they might frequently be asked to jump around between systems, especially in a small, growing company like Pixel Toys.

Communication is also critical – a useful programmer is one who can discuss technical systems with other programmers, discuss game features and requirements with designers and artists, and also document their own code in a clear way. Also, an experience of relevant games is a huge win too, so if you’re going to be working on mobile games, for example, you want at least a passing understanding of how IAPs and touch input work.

Why choose to follow a career in your field?

If you enjoy playing games – digital or otherwise – and you like to understand the inner working of things, then being a games programmer is a perfect match. It’s a great combination of logic and fun, with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure.

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