Hi Robert, nice to meet you! Could you tell a bit about yourself?
''Sure! My name is Robert Day O’Connor, I am 21 years old and I live in the Netherlands for 4 years now. And beside my study Creative Game and Media Technology, I am working fo Abstraction games.''
And why do you study at Saxion?
''I am originally from the Ireland and there was a careers open day at my high school where there are many agents who give you some directions regarding your study choice. There was a guy from an organization which represents several universities all over the world. I shared that I wanted to work in game development and he pointed out several universities in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.''
''I chose the Netherlands because it was the most English friendly country from the 3 of them. Then I had to make a tough choice between studying at two other universities of applied sciences and Saxion. I was thinking between one of them and Saxion because they provide study program which focuses on the type of games I wanted to make. I chose Saxion because the other university really expected from you to have a really solid basis which I did not have from my high school. It was almost as if you were doing a Master’s degree. On the other hand, Saxion gives you the opportunity to study solid basis for 2 years and specialize at the last 2 years which was the middle ground I was looking for.''
And how's your student life?
''The student life at Saxion is not perfect but there is a lot of fun to it. It is way more laidback then students expect it to be which something really nice. What I mean by laidback is that no one will make you to be there like in high school. There are no attendances checklists or whatsoever which I find awesome. The drawback of this is that you should do something that you like because if you do not have this inner motivation you will fall behind and eventually drop out of school.''
''Another thing I really enjoy is the relaxed atmosphere. During the lectures, there are a lot of discussions on how to solve a certain issue. It is not as some universities where they just give you the textbook and say go learn it yourself and come back for the exam week. There is way more room for communication between students and teachers and you can always get feedback or advice on anything. Also, there is the international atmosphere on campus which is also really nice. I have met and lived with people from countries I would never imagine I would. It is a nice way to broaden your social and professional networks as well.''
And now you're studying to become the next big thing in the gaming industry?
''Haha, I hope so! I am currently studying the program called Creative media and Game technology which is a 4 year program offered in Enschede. About the study itself I really like that the first 2 years you study the foundation base. In the gaming you industry you really need to have a solid base which is something I like at Saxion. It is like the first 2 years you decide which path to take an become artist, deisgner or programmer. Then you follow the basis to prepare yourself for the last 2 years when you shape yourself as a professional.''
''The last 2 years are open to what you want to do. You have an internship, minor and a project called IMTS which all help you with your career orientations. Almost all students do the same minor which helps you further elevate your designing and programing skills. It is also a really nice preparation if you want to be a future freelancer.''
''Everything which happens after the first two years, forces you to get out of your comfort zone. It makes you take everything in your hands and be more decisive and independent. For example, during your minor, you design software and it is up to you to find people from the gaming industry to give you feedback. It can be something challenging but it also really nice because it helps you build a professional network outside university which is something really important to do in every study. You never know who might be the person to give you a hand after graduating.''
And what was it like for you to find a job?
''As I mentioned earlier you have to an internship in your third year which is how I found my current job. I started as an intern and it was really hard to find an internship especially during corona times. I applied to 15-16 companies in the Netherlands because it was quite hard to move out during these times so I preferred to stay in the Netherlands.''
So I start looking for vacancies on the internet and I applied to loads. Funny enough I sent an email directly to the executive board of company called Abstraction games. It is not something you are supposed to do but luckily, the CEO actually replied and offered to conduct an interview which turned out to be my ticket to the job.''
It is a lot of work to balance student and professional life
And what do you do exactly at your job?
''One thing we do is to adapt games to many platforms. For example, we take a game which people play on PC and make it playable on other platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo etc.''
''Currently, I am working as producer which is my job title. As a producer at a gaming company I usually hop on problems and see how we can solve them. For instance, we have shortage of time to finish a lot of work and my job is to come up with way to set my team to do the job most efficiently so we do not fall behind schedule.''
''A typical day starts with the morning meetings where I meet mostly with my team and we discuss the progress of all the projects. In the afternoon I have meetings with clients who we are working for. I give them a quick update on how far thing are and if there are any changes we should make. After all meetings I play the games, which does not sound like a job but it is. I check all games if there is a room for improvement. Last meetings I have is with all producers in the company and we brainstorm about ways we can improve the company overall. It is quite a busy schedule but that is what the gaming industry is about.''
''The thing I find most interesting is problem solving. I do not call for problems but when there is a big one it is when the fun begins. The satisfaction I feel after dealing with some hardship we encounter is the thing I mostly enjoy about my job. It might sound a little generic but it is actually what I enjoy the most. To feel useful in the end of the day is the satisfaction factor I am looking for.''
''On the other hand, one thing which I find quite daunting is that there is money involved in failures. At university it is impossible to simulate that feeling because there failures are related with not passing certain exam. However, in real life thing are different. With every decision you make there are money involved which presents a little bit of a pressure on your decision making. I wouldn’t say it is a negative thing because in the end it is a good motivator to do the job as precisely as possible. There should be something to keep you on the edge when you work. To push the quality of you work and force you to deliver your project at minimal time and minimal cost.''
How do you balance your work and student life?
''It is a lot of work to balance student and professional life. Mostly the student life is really difficult to deal with because the schedule is really static. You have your lectures set at a specific time. Despite the fact that one will make you be there, you don’t really want to miss the lectures.
On the other hand my job is really flexible. I can decide when to do the job I am supposed to do which gives me a lot of freedom. Nowadays, I do not think anyone expects you to be there at the office from 9 to 5 but to have the job done. One good thing I must mention is that my university teachers understand the position I am in and try to help and give me some breathing room from time to time. This is something really nice because you know people try to help you and place themselves in your shoes.''
Do you have any advice for students who want to combine their student and professional life?
''It is really hard to give advice to students because you do not want to set them up with a study they might not like. I always wanted to make video games and I never ran away from this goal which is why it was quite easy for me to pick my study. However, I advise every student to follow what they enjoy doing because in the end you should pursue something you like. It is not about studying to become some prestigious doctor or layer it is about enjoying the work you do. Think of something you already enjoy doing and find a way to can make a career out of it. Also, you need to realize that even if you achieve your goal it won’t be always fun there are also difficulties involved in any job.''