Geeks With Blogs
Chris Howe

I recently moved to the US from the UK, and one of the many things that worried me about the whole process was the job issue. How long was it going to take me to get a job? especially in this economic climate? What kind of job will I be able to get? Can I afford to be picky and wait for a job in my specialist field (games development) or should I just apply for everything and take the first one that I'm offered? What worried me the most though was that the cultural differences would prevent me from getting a job at all. Maybe this quirky quiet Brit just wouldn't find a place in the high-volume high-energy world of Corporate America.

It turns out though that Corporate America isn't that different from Corporate Britain, especially in the microcosm of the games industry. The differences that I have seen though are almost all for the better.

In my experience interviewing for a programming job in the UK is almost entirely based around the actual in-person interview. I've had a total of two written programming tests in my UK career, and these were both administered on-site immediately prior to the interview itself. I'm not including simple C++ tests in that statistic, I mean real tests that cover a broader range of knowledge. I never had a pre-interview test and I never had a phone interview.

My experience in the US has been a little different. Every interview that I've had was preceded by a phone interview, which itself was preceded by a take-home test. The interviews themselves are generally more technical and less biographical. The objective seems to be to weed out weak candidates as early as possible, and also to learn as much as possible about the candidates skills in a short period.

The UK approach puts much more emphasis on past experience. This is not always a good indication of a candidates skill level. When a simple test is given then its results are given more relevance than they should. If you only give a C++ test then you will get good C++ programmers, but don't count on them knowing anything else. You also run the risk of dismissing the candidate who is a middling C++ programmer, but a genius in several other applicable areas. The US approach, while being harder on the candidates, ensures that the company is actually getting people who can do the job they are hired for.

The other differences that I've seen are more specific to the games industry. The games industry in the UK is extremely male dominated. I've worked at 3 UK studios and worked with probably a couple of hundred different artists, programmers and designers. I think 3 of them were women. The ratio in the US is much higher and this is a good thing for an industry that has always struggled to attract women gamers.

The last difference is that US games studios just seem nicer. I know that's very vague, but I can't really pin it down. Maybe it's the fact that everyone seems glad to be there. Maybe it's the feeling of community, not just within a studio, but also through organizations like the IGDA. Whatever it is I'm glad to be here.

Posted on Saturday, July 18, 2009 5:53 PM | Back to top

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