Sam Roach is a Solutions Engineer for Unity, one of the most renowned platforms for making and accessing interactive content. Last year over 50% of all PC/console/top mobile games combined were powered by Unity. Previously, Sam has worked in Quality Assurance and Customer Support roles on titles like Samurai Siege, Rival Kingdom and Transformers Earth Wars. We asked Sam, some key questions about getting into the games sector.
Explain your role like I'm 5 years old
I work with people within the Media and Entertainment space on how they can best utilize Unity. Sometimes this means demonstrating technology, other times this can mean generating proofs of concept or often it's just a conversation.
What makes this fun and exciting is that Media and Entertainment is a very broad field covering everything from Fashion, to XR (virtual/ mixed /augmented reality) to film and animation! I spend a lot of time understanding companies current processes and working out how Unity could help save them time, money or improve the quality of what they're doing.
Take us through your average day at work
Although no two days have been the same since becoming a Solutions Engineer, if I had an average day it might look something like this: I start my day by checking in with my colleagues, scanning my emails and skimming through the news. The industry can change overnight so it's important to keep an eye on the landscape.
Once this is out the way, I have a look at who I am speaking with that day and whether any resources might be useful for this. That might entail opening Unity and playing around with some things, checking the company website or reading through manuals. When that is done the rest of my day consists of working on projects, proof of concepts or learning new software and brushing up my skills. As Unity expands, coding develops and new industries step into the real-time space, there are always new questions to be answered.
What was your educational and career journey into your current role?
I have a degree in Games Design and Development from the University of Greenwich which gave me a strong base in all things games but also showed me my aptitude and love of coding. It's also where I found my passion for Virtual Reality!
While I was studying I was lucky enough to get a job at Space Ape Games, which was an absolute dream. The team taught me a lot about working on and maintaining games, teamwork and the industry as a whole. They gave me so many opportunities to learn and grow it was the best possible start in industry for me.
While I was at Space Ape I worked on the customer support team. I loved talking to the players and helping resolve issues. The team really believed in me and were always quick to give me the feedback I needed to improve. After a while, I saw more interest in the development team and managed to step into a Quality Assurance role. I went from zero knowledge to a fully-fledged QA thanks to the training they gave me in house. This meant writing and running bug reports, setting up test environments and doing all the things that help make a game consistent and ready for players. As I approached my final year of University I left Space Ape to focus on my final year project.
My first job upon leaving University was as a junior realtime engineer at Rewind. Keen to write code and work within the immersive space (Virtual / Augmented / Mixed reality) this was my dream job. I finally got to use a Hololens! Rewind was a step away from games and let me work to solve entirely different problems in very short times frames. I've always thrived on short term goals. I spent a lot of time working as the only coder or with one other person which helped to build my confidence as a problem solver.
Moving on from Rewind I worked at Make Real. They had released a game called Loco Dojo and I was keen to see how their experience in XR differed from mine. They had a range of different work from training to games and again I saw myself on a lot of short projects which helped develop my critical thinking and coding skills whilst being able to lean on an extremely talented team. When the time came I stepped into my current role as a Solutions Engineer.
What is it about the role that you love?
I'm the engineer who can't sit down for too long, I love coding but I'm also a social creature. I like to think about lots of hard problems and help people come to solutions, most importantly I want every day to be a learning day. A Solutions Engineer doesn't know everything (how could anyone know everything) but is resourceful, willing to learn anything and work out fresh problems. That's what makes me love the job. I like to think that all my previous roles added together make me a good solution engineer.
What's the hardest thing about your role?
You're constantly managing your own workload, you need to be able to prioritize. Additionally, you will often be out of your comfort zone, this is something I love about the role but it's not easy to be comfortable being uncomfortable!
What key skills should people work on to do your role one day?
Always be learning. There are solutions engineers that work in all kinds of fields and specializations but what we all have in common is our desire to work as a team, teach each other and keep learning!
What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?
Always be working on your own projects!
Don't be afraid to ask for portfolio reviews and advice to help you land that job. Then when you do get the job, you're not going to know everything, ask your colleagues for help when you need it. Avoid crunch at all costs, you don't owe it to anyone.
The people you look up to don't need to be more senior than you, there are people at every level you can learn from.