How to Break into the AR and VR Industries
The AR/VR community saved me. It’s Monday and I was hungover with sadness from the Golden State Warriors’ epic loss (or the Cleveland Cavaliers’ historic win, if you insist). Apropos, it was the longest day of the year.
But I should’ve known that this was not going to be an ordinary summer solstice. It was one that brought out a strawberry full moon. And by the light of that uncommon moon, the AR/VR community gathered for a Meetup “AR & VR Recruiting Panel: How to Break into the AR and VR Industries.”
If you missed it, you missed a really good one. The energy there was my “hair of the dog.” Here are some takeaways, if you can put up with the lingering basketball theme.
Strength in Numbers.
A strong 230 packed the beautiful Autodesk Gallery on Market Street. The sign up was nearly double that. There was strong showing of non-technical candidates in addition to technical talent.
One year ago, Road to VR reported on the growing virtual reality jobs market highlighting that virtual reality positions are hard-to-fill and “[a] quick scan in the Silicon Valley area shows that 3% of VR professionals are in the region.”
The talent that showed up last night was eager for a crack at those positions. Hiring companies — including Google VR, Autodesk, Meta, High Fidelity, Blippar, Immersv, Visbit, IDEAbuilder, Unity and others — came with lists of open requisitions and tips on how to get their attention.
AR/VR Women, who organized the event, also runs an academy that aims to train “the next generation of VR and AR experts” to help grow the talent supply. Visit AR/VR Academy for more information and to sign up.
Trending last night was “passion.” The AR/VR market is new to most and renewed for a handful. In a show of hands, only two went up to indicate being at their current AR/VR job for five years or longer. The panelists emphasized that what a candidate may lack in experience, they can make up in passion. This may sound trite, but they actually meant it.
What does passion look like? How do you package it? They recommended making something then tell your story about it. Adopt the mindset of an inventor. This goes for both technical and non-technical candidates.
One way to show that you’re “all in” is by downloading Unity and creating something you can show in a Google Cardboard. Start simple; and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Or, if you want to break into High Fidelity, answer their call to action to “Explore, create and host worlds with High Fidelity’s open source, shared virtual reality.” Get thee to their GitHub!
What will you gain? You’ll be able to speak the language of AR/VR. You’ll have a sense of what’s possible and what’s not. This is key for those applying to technical positions, of course; and useful for those applying to be a bookkeeper (you’ll better understand what’s behind a budget) or salesperson (you’ll better understand what you can promise and deliver).
Caveat: AR/VR tools are processing hogs. You’ll have to invest in a beefy computer that can handle the job. Don’t try this at home with an aging MacBook Pro, like I did.
Though not the Denver kind of nuggets. I scanned my notes for fun takeaways and random quotes. This is not comprehensive; feel free to add your takeaways in the comments. They’re not in any particular order and some may belong in a file called “as obvious as an Anderson Varejão flop,” but still bears repeating.
- Seek out an internship. For instance, High Fidelity’s internship program is a prominent feature for attracting and cultivating talent.
- Participate in hackathons. Especially if you’re a designer. An audience member credited two hackathon wins to having a designer on board.
- Be persistent. Don’t give up. If one door shuts, find another. Seek out influencers in the company. If they have a blog, podcast or LinkedIn group, engage them there — comment on their article or story.
- Be a collaborator. “The lone wolf coder is not cool anymore.” Because “[if] we only had engineers, the world would be an ugly, awkward place.”
- “If you have a computer science degree, you have a job [in AR/VR].”
- Opportunistic hiring happens. In a start up environment, “sometimes you don’t realize you need someone until you meet them.” So, go out there and meet people.
- Be a sponge. Sign up for AR/VR companies’ newsletters. Listen to podcasts like: Voices of VR — Kent Bye, Rev VR, Research VR, Upload VR Presence, and Upload VR Gamecast. (Hat tip to Meetup member Amy L., who shared this list)
- Be modest. Humility goes a long way. Resist the temptation to send a recruiter “The Resume to Rule Them All.” True story. One of the panelists recently received a resume with that braggadocio label.
- Leverage your current skill set and knowledge base. Ask yourself: “how can the [AR/VR] industry impact what you used to do?”
- “Learn Unity, people!”
If you can play, you can play.
Above is the slogan for a namesake project fostering non-discrimination against LGBTQ athletes. It’s in the same spirit of non-discrimination that this Meetup was organized. Allesandra McGinnis, event host and moderator extraordinaire, shared the group’s mission last night: 50/50 in 5. To achieve a completely even gender balance in virtual and augmented reality industries by 2020.
We have a long way to go, according to a report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Diversity in Tech, May 2016. It states, “In Silicon Valley, employment of women and men in non-technology firms is at about parity with 49 percent women and 51 percent men. This compares to the 30 percent participation rate for women at 75 select leading Silicon Valley tech firms.”
Reading the comments on the event page this morning, I think we inched our way toward this goal. Support and respect ruled the night. Let’s do this again!