How I got into the Games Industry…

Insomniac Games’s HR guru Angela Baker blogs about working in the industry, getting jobs, dealing with recruiters and all sorts of other cool things that are great to know if you are considering a career in the gaming industry. Here’s her latest blog!

My Story: How I got into Video Games (or at least in the building)

Often at shows, or in chatting with candidates here at Insomniac, people ask “How did you get into the game industry?”  It’s becoming more and more a common question – and I’m not sure if I should be flattered or confused by it.  Is it because I don’t seem like the typical gamer (I’m not- but what is that today anyway), or is it just because there is a lack of information on how one really does break into the industry?  I will be the first to say I am not involved in the creative aspect of the games- I don’t program, my art skills are laughable, and if asked to design anything – I would break out in a cold sweat.  But I do love to work with creative people, and I knew that I could handle the world that is game development.

In a nutshell this is how it went down: Graduated from college (Go Gauchos!), and was working a job at a dept store- my college degree being put to such challenging work as folding, and hanging.  I went to my college roommates wedding, and reconnected with an old friend from school.  After much complaining on my part about how my job was awful, she recommended I get in touch with her company’s HR placement branch.  This was the early days of email- I had to ask a friend to help me email my resume to the recruiter! (I forgot the .com part).  After going on two different interviews, one was great, one was terrible – I was hired by one (clearly the one that went well!)  I was officially hired as the Departmental Assistant aka Front Office Person!  But it was the entry (entry, entry) position in a field I knew I wanted to get into.

After being a sponge for four years and learning all I could, a contact that I worked with, suggested I interview for an open position at a game publisher.  She was conveniently helping with the placement, and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking an interview. Sure!  What have I got to lose!  So, I faked being sick with food poisoning, and went on an interview.  After an interview or two (or five), and meeting with my first SVP, I was hired.  Taking a step up in title and responsibility at this new company – I was afforded the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business.

After 2+ years at that company, knowing that my time was at an end, and having made the decision to start looking, said company made it easy – they laid me off.   I will say it right here and right now – it was awful when it happened.  The panic, the questioning of one’s worth…the whole thing.   It’s that thing of knowing you need to break up with someone and then they go and beat you to the punch and break up with you!  The nerve!  I will also say “A HUGE Thank You” as well.  It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  It made me realize that there are lots of great companies out there and you just have to find your place.  Anyway, back to the job search.  I had a bit of time before I would find myself living on friend’s couches when a former coworker recommended a position at a network.  Sure – again-  what have I got to lose?  It was a creative environment and sounded like a challenge.  I was busy putting my resume out to various creative outlets – and thru another friendly contact- I sent my resume to Insomniac Games.  I knew full well they did not have an opening, but it was a company I admired, and had heard nothing but THE BEST about.  I made contact (with my now current boss), and asked to be kept on file – just in case anything changed.

Fast forward about 10 months- lots of work at the network, with a group of amazing HR professionals –  lo and behold, through another networking group that I belonged to, I found out that Insomniac Games was looking for an HR rep!  So I reached out again to the Head of HR, interviewed, met with Ted, and have now been here almost 5 years.  I still feel lucky to be walking in the doors every day.

It’s a bit more than a nutshell, but the point of all of this is connections and networking.   Most of the professional opportunities I have been afforded have been through networking with former coworkers, contacts at companies I had business with, friends, classmates, etc.  It’s all about making those connections work to your advantage.   Take every opportunity you can to connect with people, put a face with the name, and always remember to leave a good impression.  We work in a very small industry, and people remember having a positive (or negative) experience.

I honestly cannot recommend enough keeping in touch periodically with the people who you used to work with, and using networks to keep tapped in. Make sure you have a professional network, and a professional profile that can be looked at (like Linked In).  Also join groups- WIGI, your local IDGA, or be involved in the local community of gamers.   You just never know where your next (or first) opportunity is going to come from.

Until next time…