I just graduated from college with a degree in animation and game design. During my time there, I ended up managing and organizing projects for games and assignments, and I focused a lot of effort in building up skills for project management. Now that I am out of college, I'm finding it difficult to find jobs that don't require a lot of experience.
As someone who can manage projects, what do I need to focus on to build my skills to get hired? What types of jobs should I apply for to get into the industry? What needs to be in my portfolio to show I can do the job?
Thank you for all your help!
If you are interested in project management an excellent starting point uses to be QA. Some of the better project managers I've met started out as QAs. It's quite logical as you become the counterpart to the project manager - you check the stuff he/she planned if it was delivered properly. This gives you a great view of all happening during production, a good sense of what works and what doesn't when it comes to planning, a feeling for estimations and practise in dealing with people. Career tends to be QA -> QA Lead -> jr project manager.
You can also try to get a job as project manager anywhere outside of game dev. The work is not really different. A good project manager can adjust to the project and teams he/she is working with. His own tasks don't change, just the topics he/she will be dealing with. But this will be difficult to get as an art background won't open many doors.
You can always end up snatching a intern or jr position as project manager with a studio. They might be open to it and they have tests as well, so be prepared for that.
Last advice, as much as I personally call it rather a religion than a proven organizational structure, Scrum is something that you should learn. Some companies even ask for certificates - like any well established cult :P
That will have to come with experience and practice. A lot of people (mostly on youtube and instagram) will tell you you have to live a certain way to be productive or to enter the flow state, and that might work for them, but it really only works if you disconnect from reality, which is messy and distracting.
Alex Javor said: Thank you so much for your advice. I think it's good to understand what the team needs to do in order to break the work down into actionable tasks and to communicate with them during the production of the project. I want to be able to do things to help and support the team.
Thanks! I'll check it out!
Doesn't that end up with too many cooks in the kitchen? I thought the purpose of a project manager was to be the one to keep track of the project as a whole and be a sort of middle man between the leads and the corporate to make sure that everybody is on the same page in terms of creative/mechanical direction.
I agree that the leads should be the one to break down the tasks and know what each person on the team can do, but each lead also has other worries and tasks they need to work on. The project manager is the one looking at the task list and asking "We said we'd get this task done. Has it been done yet? does it need to be done? what can I do to support your job?" The project manager is the one to look at the project from the top-down and organize the work in a way to improve cohesiveness between teams and reduce risks and bottlenecks.
Projects are fluid and need to evolve over time. You can't always predict all of the steps that need to be taken at the beginning of the project. Sometimes, you start working and realize certain tasks don't need to be done, or certain tasks need way more attention than you thought. If that happens, that's ok, but someone needs to keep track of that process and revise the project during development.
What do you mean by this? You're the first person to suggest it.
Thank you, everybody, for your advice! It's really helpful, informative, and constructive. I really appreciate this discussion!
Now I don't have project management experience of the scale you likely aspire to work at, but I would definitely look at the market where you're applying.
Some companies require certifications, others are able to take in a QA lead/manager and move them up to project management on a part of the pipeline, it varies.
I'd say having the certifications is a safer bet, else best to look up adverts that list requirements for potential candidates.
Considering this is game development and there is a ton of favoritism, I cannot really say that ever hire has met the listed requirements.
To sum it up, scrum is incredibly inefficient compared to proper leads/project managers, but people burned by bad leads/project managers tend to run towards it buying into the propaganda - 'if your scrum failed, you actually failed as you didn't do enough scrum'.
Planning is only part of the project managers tasks - and I have yet to meet a good one that didn't talk to leads and team members regarding tasks and planning and no - leads don't make the better planners just because they have a better knowledge of the tasks involved. Artists/programmers can also end up being too optimistic about what they can finish in given timeframe - that's when a neutral more distant perspective can come in handy . And there is so much more to it than simply planning the next month or so. If that would be all they have to do they would be done in a day or two and not sit for the rest of the month and work overtime. Also I really don't want leads to take over all the PM tasks - its a huge waste of their time. So much communication and overhead goes through PMs. Dealing with budgets, vacation planning, dealing with absenses, keeping other departments informed, organizing stuff so the team can work without delay,... - if all your project manager is doing is to plan your tasks and doesn't even involve the team into it, then he/she isn't doing his/her job. Good project managers are key facilitators that maintain the flow so artist/devs can focus on their actual work and being creative.
Product managers on the other hand are a different thing - related, but different. They are not focused on the team, but on the product and its place on the market. Therefore working a lot more with data (some data anylist basic skills might be required), have to know the comepition in detail, also market and its requirements,... people often confuse these two roles, partially because they tend to be mix in smaller teams, but in bigger teams they tend to have next to nothing in common, although they work tightly together.
Yeah, another great thing about scrum it turns PMs into jira-ticket authors and meeting room bookers in an ill attempt to make them fit a system that suposedly doesn't need them
But honestly, I usually tend to do the planning together with PMs. They basicially come up with all the things that other teams need as dependencies and leave it to me to make sure to make it fits the schedule without any micro management. Based on my estimations and planning they then also communicate with other teams, deal with 'book keeping' and other stuff that would just distract me
There is no point trying to force it onto prop production for example. You know how long the props take and you know how many props you need (if you don't you've already failed) so the schedule part is extremely straightforward.
In my experience, you need good full time producers or equivalent if you want any chance of getting a working game out of the door.
They are there to facilitate communication at a project level and if you don't have that you're basically fucked.