A Day In The Life Of... Programming

It is "A Day In the Life Of..." time again, our monthly series where we delve in to the daily tasks of one of our team members! Here we chat to Junior Programmer Kalliopi Tsavari about code, collaboration and Lara Croft...

What do you do?

My role here at nDreams is a Junior Programmer and this means learning and getting experience by doing as many different things as I can! I write code or use the Engine editor to complete my tasks for different code departments. For our current project Phantom: Covert Ops I have worked on Gameplay, Interaction, AI and UI. The code team also work closely with design and art departments to ensure the features they design are implemented correctly and efficiently within the game.

How do you fit into nDreams

I report into the Principal Coder of my team as well as my line manager, who is the Technical Director and together we figure out the best task for me to do on the project. One thing that I really value here is the support I get for evolving my skills towards elements of programming that I enjoy.  As a part of this, my managers will help tailor my tasks towards things I want to specialise in. When I’m working on my tasks I like to go and speak to the designers or artists I’m working with to ensure we are on the same page, it’s always good to be face to face… If I need help or even a second opinion on solving a problem, the more experienced programmers are always there to help me out.

What kind of skills and experience do you need to be effective in your role?

In my opinion, to be great at programming, you must be motivated and passionate about what you do. Coding is not an everyday job, you really do have to like it to be able to do it… it isn’t for everyone! Communication skills are really important as well, as people need to be able to discuss and solve problems together as a team. Being able to collaborate with others helps the production of the game to be more efficient.

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Tell us about a typical working day…

I usually cycle in to work and get in nice and early; we have flexible working hours here so that means I can leave earlier and enjoy my evening at home! The first thing I do is make a Greek coffee before checking my emails and getting the latest revision of the project from Perforce (our current source control). A typical day involves completing my code tasks, running through these with the principal programmer and submitting the final version… but we also have several meetings throughout the week with each of the different teams to plan ahead, check progress or rework things from our task board. I speak with the other disciplines that are involved in the game development throughout the day, for example, while working on the tutorial system for Phantom, I have to be in constant communication with the designer who is working on how to illustrate and place these systems into the levels. On my end, I make sure to do my best to make the system exactly as the design document says and sometimes help artists or designers by giving them small tutorials at their desk to help them implement or use my newly created systems in the Editor.

What about an un-typical day recently?

When I am not coding, I really enjoy attending events to support diversity and women in the gaming industry. Recently I attended the Women In Games conference in London, we had an amazing time listening to all the successful women in games! One workshop stood out to me about how to do presentations and embody confidence. I took away a lot of learnings from it and I hope to apply them to presenting myself in the future. I find these events a really great way to learn new things and meet new people, I’m always inspired by them and eventually I want to inspire other women in games myself.

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What do you love about your job?

I love the fact I am making an actual game… I always wanted to do this (see below!!) and coding is such a critical part of the development cycle. I am very far from my home and having such supportive management and colleagues has been a great help, the people here are really nice and always willing to help me learn.

What areas do you enjoy less?

I personally don’t enjoy the backend coding e.g. engine tools… However, these are a vital part of any project and so I am incredibly grateful that other people love to do this part of programming!!

How did you get started in the industry?  Why did you join nDreams?

When I first started playing games as a little girl it amazed me and I was so curious about how they were made. I went to my mum when I was ten and said I wanted to make the next Tomb Raider based in my home island of Symi! Unfortunately, there is no specific videogame education route in Greece so I studied computer science which was the closest thing. I was able to create my first mini game for my dissertation. I then went on to do my MSc in Video Game Development here in the UK and from there I started to look for jobs in the industry! nDreams is only my second role in the industry, and I decided to join after speaking to Grant (our Technical Director) and realising that I could learn a lot from him and the others in the company and especially in a the field of VR which is still fairly new…

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Do you have any advice for people who want to do what you do?

Follow your dreams! I was told a lot that I couldn’t be a programmer or do this kind of role as it was traditionally more for men, but I was determined to prove that I could do it and I have. If you want to do something, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because you can!

Huge thanks to Kalliopi for taking time out of her day to talk to us!

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