Alex Woodrow is an IT Support Engineer for Escape Studios, having previously worked on game titles; Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier and Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR at The Imaginati Studios. We asked Alex, some key questions about getting into the games sector.
Explain your role like I'm 5 years old
I keep the computers running!
An "IT Support" person (often an "Assistant" or "Technician") will spend most of their time directly fixing IT problems for staff, whereas an "IT Engineer" might only get involved in more complicated IT problems, and spend the rest of their time working the studio's technical systems. I've been doing a bit of both for the last few years.
Take us through your average day at work
Typically I'll start by logging in to check my emails and messages to find out if any problems were reported last night or first thing this morning.
Once my team has dealt with the outstanding minor problems ("I can't log in") we can move onto more complicated and involved problems ("Unreal Engine throws an error when packaging for Android"). While keeping an eye out for new incoming problems, we can then get on with project work such as writing scripts or preparing new software installations.
What was your educational and career journey into your current role?
I graduated from university with no idea what to do, and got an admin job at a small non-games company. The job included 1st line technical support, but I gradually picked up more responsibility as time went on, and started managing the company's server and email accounts. After that, I applied for a junior IT role at a games company and never looked back.
What do you love most about your role?
The variety of challenges. I really enjoy logical problem-solving, and doing IT at a games company provides you with no end of interesting problems, as well as the tools to accomplish that.
What's the hardest thing about your role?
In a word, communication. It is hard enough sometimes when you're speaking to someone directly about their IT problem, it can be incredibly difficult when you're communicating by email through a ticketing system, and they only have a very basic understanding of what they're trying to describe to you.
What key skills should people work on to do your role one day?
Scripting - in this day and age it's an absolutely crucial skill to develop in order to move into more senior roles, as well as looking really good on your application for more junior ones. In addition to that, it helps you train your problem-solving and troubleshooting skills. The "Python" language would be my recommendation to start with.
What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?
Perhaps "get involved early and try things out". PC gaming at home is honestly a really good way to start - if you can build your home PC from components and figure out why your friends can't connect to your modded Minecraft server, that's great practical experience for this kind of role.
Do you have any links to good articles or videos that you think might give some tips or advice to someone starting in your role?
Not specifically to the games industry, but I've found it really helpful listening to tech podcasts to give an overview of IT systems, careers, and news - The Sysadmin Show by Dustin Reybrouck recently had an episode on IT Career Options. I've also subscribed to Sysadmin Today, This Week In Enterprise Tech, and TechSnap among others.