Sumo Digital: Graduates and Education

Sumo Digital’s Talent Acquisition Manager, Rebecca Askham, talks about graduate employment and what Sumo Digital does to help universities and students prepare for their entry into the games industry

What is Sumo Digital’s relationship with UK Universities and Education and why is it important that studios work with establishments and courses?
We have invested lots of time and effort in recent years to engage with and develop strong relationships with universities. The more that we as an industry work with universities, the better equipped students are, from a skills, knowledge and software perspective, to work as real world game developers when they graduate. We discuss with course leaders their syllabuses and how their courses can best prepare their students for a career in games, and actively pursue involvement with students by setting project briefs, giving technical lectures, sponsoring and judging competitions and meeting with students to give one to one feedback on their work.

We liaise closely with placement and careers departments to offer career advice and actively promote our paid placement scheme for sandwich students and career opportunities and paid internships for graduates. Our hugely successful graduate recruitment results over the last few years and new graduate internship program demonstrate how successful this investment has been for us and how important it is to build and nurture the links between universities and industry.

It is also important to engage with schools and careers services to give them a better understanding of the jobs available in games and enable them to advise kids on the best path through education if they want to work in the digital sector. We support events such as Games Britannia and Sheffield Digifest run by Sheffield Hallam University which are a fantastic introduction to digital careers and inspiration for school-age children, and a brilliant source of information for parents. We plan to increase our outreach to schools and careers services in particular, as we feel there is still a lot to be done here. As such, we have enjoyed fantastic success with our placement scheme and graduate recruitment.

What kind of things can Sumo Digital do for graduates before they graduate, and how does that help potential new employees?
As well as the contact we have with students while at university, we have for many years offered paid undergraduate placements for budding designers, artists and programmers in their sandwich year at university. Students have almost certainly worked on their own games as part of their degree course but the placement year at Sumo gives them valuable experience in a real development environment as part of a large team working on a high profile commercial project.

This helps to consolidate all of the theory learned on their courses and gives them a much better understanding of how the various disciplines work together, as well as a host of other skills including team communication, tools and tech. In terms of graduating and looking for their first job a year in the industry often puts them ahead of graduates that haven’t done a placement year.

How does Sumo Digital help graduates once they’ve started work with the studio?
Graduates are contributing to live projects from day one in the job and as a result, they develop their knowledge and skills incredibly rapidly. They have mentorship from the leads on the team and other team members and are given tasks that both complement their strengths and interests but also challenge them.

Are there any examples of how graduates have excelled or helped the studio or a project?
Our graduates are highly valued and respected members of the team and we welcome the raw talent, imagination and enthusiasm that they bring. We only hire graduates of the very highest calibre and all are expected to excel and make a real impact on the project that they are working on.

Are there also any examples of how Sumo Digital has helped graduates or courses or events for students that have led to greater things?
This year we sponsored and judged two high profile competitions held for university students and soon-to-be graduates; Brain’s Eden at Anglia Ruskin University and Search for A Star/Rising Star organised by Aardvark Swift. Through these, we met with some of the best students and graduates in the industry and have hired several finalists and winners at our Sheffield and Nottingham studios!

Why is Sumo Digital a great place for graduates to take their first steps into the industry?
We have high expectations of our graduates and interns and reward their hard work and enthusiasm with the opportunity to work with and be mentored by incredibly talented teams on AAA console projects. The sheer variety of platform, engine technology and genre of game that we make at Sumo provide an incredible opportunity for graduates to accelerate their learning experience and go on to develop a long term and varied career with us.

As well as developing for publishers such as Microsoft and Sony on huge franchises like Crackdown 3 and LittleBigPlanet 3, we also encourage original game ideas from staff with our regular game jams. The recently released Snake Pass was a result of our first game jam and has been an incredible success for Sumo.

What advice does Sumo Digital have for graduates, students starting education or others looking to work with graduates?
We get asked this a lot! For programmers looking to get into games, we expect a good Computer Science or Game Programming degree and need to see a portfolio of C++ work samples included with your initial application. At school and A-Levels, this starts with Maths, Maths and more Maths with Physics and Computer Science also relevant. For Artists we’d expect a degree, perhaps in fine art or more digitally focussed, but most importantly we need to see a great portfolio of work showcasing both digital and traditional art skills.

Don’t include work that you’re not proud of and don’t try to be something you are not. Design is a huge discipline but generally, we expect a design graduate to have an online portfolio and a sharp application that shows an imaginative and engaging style of writing and presentation of ideas.

Here are some accounts from graduates that now work at Sumo Digital:

Abbie Willett – Animation Intern

What kind of things did Sumo Digital do for you before you graduated, and how did that help you become a new employee?
My first physical contact with the studio was at EGX in Birmingham in 2016, where they were showcasing Snake Pass. After a lengthy discussion about potential career opportunities and the development of Snake Pass I was encouraged to apply for a position, so I did.

How does Sumo Digital help interns once they’ve started work with the studio?
When I started work at Sumo Digital I was immediately made welcome and felt part of something bigger. Interns are immediately introduced to their team members and their practices as well as the various projects currently in development. The atmosphere of the studio and the encouragement from the warm staff members has been fantastic – there’s so much experience here that there’s always someone to help answer a question. Knowing that there’s such great support – whether it’s technical or not, made the experience priceless.

Why is Sumo Digital a great place for graduates to take their first steps into the industry?
Sumo motivated me to continue developing new skills and instigated huge growth and personal development. The studio encourages teamwork and communication not only between members of the team but those on other projects too. In addition to the talented people here, one of the most exciting things about working at Sumo is the range of titles and genres the studios develop – quality is key and there aren’t many places you get the chance to work on such a wide variety of games.

Chris Haslehurst – Former Placement Programmer, now full time Programmer

“My placement here gave me a lot more confidence to learn new things by myself and tackle problems I had no prior experience of. This confidence fed really well into my last two years of uni (I did an integrated masters so had 2 more years to do after my placement). I took on something much more ambitious for my master’s thesis than I would have otherwise, in an area that I didn’t really have any prior experience with. Essentially my placement at Sumo really helped me succeed in my final two years at uni, which in turn, helped me get this job. So it all feeds into each other really well.”

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