Sunday, November 23, 2008

How I got my job, part 3 of 3

After my sophomore year of college, I took up a part time job at the campus bookstore, Ex Libris, in the Spring of 2006. It was combination retail book store, text book provider, and art supplies store. I was hired on as a temp and, after working at Best Buy the Christmas before, I knew that I could possibly be let go of after the initial beginning of the quarter rush.

I did what I was asked and managed to stay on for quite a while. Two years, actually. I found a nice niche downstairs in the text book department working with Ms. Sandra Brown and Mr. Jerry Best, who are, without a doubt, the best people I've ever worked with in a retail environment. There were moments where we had our ups and downs (especially after our parent company changed the textbook management software) but we managed to make things work.

After I graduated in 2007, I worked close to full time hours, but still as a part timer. At that point, our parent company had put a freeze on hiring anyone full time unless it was a management position. Things happened within the store and, as a result, some of best workers left the store. Two of them were full timers who worked the art supplies. As a result, there were actually two full time positions available. I mulled over it a bit, knowing things in art supplies weren't the best they could have been. Even so, the idea of having my hours cut (and consequently, my paycheck) when summer rolled around didn't sit well with me, so I moved up to art supplies. In terms of work experience, it was a bold and beneficial move. In terms of personal morale, however, it was a big mistake, as I got to put up with even more furious students than I had encountered in the textbook department. There were other things that I'm not at liberty to talk about, but it all comes down to the fact that I was not happy working upstairs.

Adding to this was the fact that I had done little work on my portfolio after graduating. I had chased down some companies via email about concept art positions, but were pretty much told that the position was filled or that I wasn't what they were looking for.

I also had this idea for a grand, but small scaled role playing game in my head and would spend whatever hours I wasn't at work toying with the designs of such in one of my notebooks.

After a while, I determined that this grand RPG just wasn't going to happen anytime soon and decided that I was better off pursuing a smaller, simpler project. Reluctantly, I decided to revisit Lumps; with the idea and the gameplay proven, it seemed a rather easy task to repolish it and make it public. At least I'd be able to show skills in something.

I looked over my options for making the game. I wanted it to be cross platform and easily accessible, which just screams "make me an internet game". The best way of doing that, I thought, was through Flash. Which I didn't have. The situation was made worse by the fact that I refused to steal software, so I would not download an illegal copy, even if offered. I remembered that the SWF format was an open format and Googled some options, which lead me to SWFMill and the Haxe project. I tooled around with it and posted my thoughts on blog. Somehow, someone found that post and sent me a message that set me straight; that message was Download Flash Develop.

So I did and that's when things really started to pick up. After a few days (and nights) of some after hours ActionScript 3.0 programming, I managed to get an interactive demo up and running. I still didn't fully understand the concepts between AS2.0 and AS3.0 at that point, but I was learning. It needed a better name, though, because Lumps just sounded horrible. I thought about it over a few days and decided to call it Afflicted. My grand scheme was to try and get it up on Kongregate and get some exposure that way.

After a few weeks, I was talking to a friend of mine, Andrew, who actually had managed to get a job in the industry. I showed him Afflicted and he informed me that his company was looking for Flash game programmers. I was surprised at the offer, but followed up on it once he gave me the name of the person in charge of the department. The next day, I got a call for setting up an interview. The next week, I was on a plane flying out to talk to the company. I literally flew out on the day before the interview and flew back the day of after the interview. My father was kind enough to loan me $700 for the flight and I am eternally greatful for this contribution.

A few days later, I had a job offer and accepted it happily. I put in my two weeks notice at work and said goodbye to my friends in Savannah. I then drove 2,500 miles in three days by myself with no real place to live other than bumming off of a couch in Andrew's place.

Luckily, two weeks after arriving there, I learned that my grandfather did not live too far away, so I spent a month living with him. Shortly afterwards, Andrew was looking for a new place to live and we found a place together about 14 miles north of work. We moved in at the beginning of August. It's been an interesting coexistence so far (more hilarious than anything else) and work at the new company has been mostly fun and not nearly as stressful as working retail. I've managed to learn a lot in my few months here and I've becoming incredibly comfortable with programming Flash games now.

At this particular point in time, I can honestly say that I like my job. I'm feeling more inspired by being around creative people and getting to see the cool things they manage to create. Unfortunately, since then, I've not touched Afflicted at all since the move. I'll have to return to it some day. Along with Meyers's go-get-em attitude and some careful research, it got me where I am today.

I do hope to go back to Savannah again. I love it there, despite the crime and the crazy homeless people. Pretty much living there for almost 5 years will do that to a person. But there isn't very much creative industry there for me to work with at the moment. It's a hard choice to decide between living in the city you love with your best friends and working the job you've always wanted. Hopefully, sometime in the future, I'll manage to have both. But for now, I can only have one of them.

No comments: