8

I've been a game developer for two years primarily working in Unity3d and C# but am interested in transitioning into software, most likely C# related, since that is my strongest language. The problem is if I apply to a .NET shop that uses asp.net or some other Microsoft technology that I haven no experience with how can I sell myself to them knowing that I can't instantly dive into projects? I have experience with quite a few other languages and many game related technologies but nothing business or Microsoft related so even though I think it demonstrates that I'm a fast learner and picking up new things is no problem for me is that going to be enough for someone to hire me?

I had an interview recently where they asked me if I had experience with this or that technology and I said no- the only skill crossovers were C# and my general development skills, and they said something to the effect of "well if we need a 'C#' guy we'll let you know" as if that was the only thing I would be capable of. They also asked what area of development I would be interested in, "front end, back end, etc." but I haven't really done either per say (technically front end I guess) so I just said that I would work on any of them, which in retrospect seems like a bad answer but I don't know how I could really answer it any differently (since I was just being honest).

Thanks.

  • 2
    Being a fast learner won't differentiate you from the masses in the IT world. If you can't get working experience in something then take a class in the topic, and egads get a certification if there is one available. Also, there has to be something that interests you more than some other thing. You could have said you were interested in learning more about x and y, but your near near term goal is to learn more about x. Not having a preference says to me, as an interviewer, that you don't have any goals. – Xenson Jun 10 '13 at 18:56
4

Let's take a step back for a moment. If you applied to a game shop that used Unity3d and C#, would you be able to dive into current projects and fix bugs within the first 5 minutes of being on the job? I doubt it greatly and this is going to be true of most places because there is a period of getting to know what their code looks like, what standards are used, what architecture is used, what patterns were chosen, and which conventions are used. Thus, the key here is to state that while you don't know ASP.Net, you are prepared to learn and dig in right off the bat. Consider carefully how fast do you think you could deliver even if the shop used technology you know but not necessarily in the same manner as the game shops you did previously work.

By stating that your only crossovers are C# and general development, you telling the employer, "Well, I do this stuff and nothing else," which may not go over well. Are you prepared to learn new things? Are you open to trying to apply skills from one area into something else? This is what could be key to note otherwise you may sound like the auto mechanic that works only on Ferraris and nothing else that wonders why a GM shop wouldn't hire him.

While you did game development, which ends did you work? What parts do you know of a system, the UI piece that is the front-end, the middle-piece tying UI to databases or the back-end that is the databases and stuff completely hidden from the user? What parts would you like to know and which ends make sense given your skills and preferences? Do you want to work on the shiny front-end that users would use? Do you want to work on the back-end that has little UI but may require lots of optimization for performance?

4

When I am interviewing and I know that I do not possess all the skills for the job, I focus on four major things during the interview that generally make me appear to be somebody really special.

Believe and Act like you are Special

There is a fine line between optimistic confidence and narcissistic arrogance. Try to walk that line as closely as you can. Adjust your attitude and appear in a certain way:

  • Attractive and clean (good clothes, wear a nice watch, get a nice haircut, etc...)
  • Smile a lot
  • Do not be nervous or too serious
  • Put the interviewer at ease, get him to like you, chat with him before and after questions
  • Get up and go to the whiteboard when you want to explain something, don't ask
  • Speak clearly and eloquently, use big words and complex language.
  • Answer quickly and be a fast talker, you will look like a person that is an extremely hard worker and always has to be moving and pushing forward.

Most people are surprisingly shallow and will actually think that the tall handsome or confident guy is more skilled than the other comparable guy. At best it becomes a tie breaker.

Exemplify the Skills you do have

Focus heavily on knowledge you do know. When asked questions about a skill you possess then really make sure you know it well and communicate this. Take an extra long time or go above and beyond the question the interviewer had asked, answer questions in your long winded answer that were not even asked.

Before the interview, READ and get conversational knowledge on all the skills you SHOULD have for that job

Not everybody can possibly have every skill for a job that they apply for, but at the very least know enough about it to have a general conversation about it. When asked about EntityFramework for instance, mention you have no direct experience in it but talk about how you have read heavily on the subject and talk about the pros and cons of it, how you think it could have been used on a previous project, and act like it is something you could pick up fairly quickly. Of course don't just say you can pick it up quickly but if you can hold a conversation about it then the interviewer will often forget or not realize that you really knew nothing about it three or four hours before the interview.

If you are an exceptionally good people person then you can sometimes fool them into thinking you are an expert, but again, be careful with arrogance and narcissism and avoid a trap that will make you look like a fool.

Sell Yourself as a Problem Solver, not as an Expert

Often the interviewer will look for an expert, but the real problems they and the company face are that they have a problem that needs to be solved and they are incapable of doing this by themselves, otherwise why would they be hiring? We have all hired the expert and become disappointed because they didn't know how to communicate status or didn't mesh with the group or maybe they were really good at interviews and that is about it.

Find ways to show them and talk about how you see technologies, skills and tools as a means to solving problems and that your true passion is solving problems that the business faces. Talk about domain problems that you have solved in previous jobs and use that time to show that you are both a follower and a leader.

Most interviewers see the value of somebody with a passion to solve problems and a strong work ethic, however some interviewers honestly just want an expert to specifically do X and nothing more. You don't want this job anyway, it is for chumps. There is no room for advancement in such a position where your people skills aren't given a chance to shine or work for you. It's okay, you will talk to a better company tomorrow.

  • 2
    Seriously? A WATCH? in 2013? ;) – Amy Blankenship Jun 8 '13 at 15:50
  • @AmyBlankenship Once the first hipster starts wearing a watch sarcastically then they will immediately become back in style just you watch :) – maple_shaft Jun 9 '13 at 2:58
  • I'm sure the hipster thing has just about run its course. Interested to see what's next. – Amy Blankenship Jun 9 '13 at 16:26
1

Some job descriptions have so many skills listed, it's a miracle anyone qualifies. Some will differentiate between "must have" and "prefered". Some of these job descriptions must come from the previous employee making an extensive list of everything he/she did over the course of several years. I made a change to our SharePoint site once so list: SharePoint 3.0, HTML, CSS, Javascript, ASP.NET 2.0, SQL Server 2005, IIS, C#, VB.NET, design and architecture. Didn't you do that diagram in Visio once, put that down too.

I think it is important to let them know you've had other experiences where you did not have the required skills up front, but were able to aquire them and incorporate them into your work in a reasonable amount of time and level of quality.

Short-term contract jobs need to focus on a set of skills. Personally, I'd be more interested in a company looking for good programmers who can pick-up on the necessary skills because a few years from now, they may not be the same.

1

"C#" could be Winforms, ASP.NET, SQL Server packages, console apps, who knows? Some of these are sufficiently distinct that people that know one element don't have any experience with some or all of the others.

If you're interest in 'business' programming, the best initial approach may be to get deeper into the 'business' end of your current employer, including subscriber registration, payment processing, user feedback, etc.

Another approach is to start fishing around on Craigslist for crazy jobs where people are paying hamburger flipper rates, and you take on some thankless assignment for someone who's out in left field. In short, they don't know any more than you do, but you can gain experience. This is evening and weekend work to get up to speed. In either or both of those situations, you would be better prepared to take on a new full-time role.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.