Get That Job Daily: How to be a principal engineer

Get That Job Daily: How to be a principal engineer
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

January 31st 2014 at 11:00AM

Sega Hardlight’s Tom Gaulton discusses the key skills needed for his role in engineering

Every working day this month, as part of our New Year, New Job 2014 special, Develop brings you a game industry professional to explain what their job involves and key advice to help you follow in their footsteps.

Principal engineer

Today, on the final day of our month-long jobs special, Tom Gaulton, principal engineer at Sega Hardlight, shares what it takes to organise and execute technical plans for this Leamington Spa studio.

What is your job role?
My role as principal engineer is a mix of coding, assisting other coders on the team, and liaising with other departments and scheduling. At Hardlight we use agile development methodologies so responsibility is devolved to team members where possible – which makes my life easier.

How would someone become a principal engineer?
I started out with the title of junior programmer and worked my way up through regular, senior to become a principal. That’s a pretty typical career path.

What qualifications and/or experience do you need?
Strong maths skills are important, particularly vectors and matrices. A university degree is useful but not essential – a strong portfolio is more important.

What do you look for when recruiting a new engineer?
The applicant’s portfolio is the first thing I look at. Ideally, this should include a variety of projects that demonstrate the ability to take a concept and see it through to completion. A personal website which is easy to navigate and includes videos of the projects as well as downloadable games and sample source makes a great first impression.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
Games coding is a hugely diverse field ranging from small indie and mobile teams that need generalist programmers to big triple-A projects that include very niche roles in graphics, networking, physics and so on. As such there’s scope to take your career in any number of directions. Experienced coders often choose to move into management and mentoring roles, although there’s plenty of room for those that just love to code too.

Why choose to follow a career in your field?
For the love of games of course! Deciding which particular career path to pursue is really a case of working out what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Making a small game on your own is a great way to find that out.

If you’d like to get involved with Get That Job Daily this year, contact aaron.lee@intentmedia.co.uk. You can take a look at all the available engineering vacancies over at our Develop Jobs section.

This feature is part of New Year, New Job 2014, Develop’s month-long guide to games recruitment. You can read more at www.develop-online.net/jobs2014.