Unity’s internship program allows students from a broad spectrum of disciplines to work and grow under world-class mentors. From engineering to program management, our offices around the world eagerly look forward to welcoming interns into the Unity fold every summer. In this “Faces of Unity” post, we’d like to highlight Alexandra Lindman, a Technical Art intern with our Graphics team in Bellevue this past summer. Read on to learn more about Alex and her experience as a Unity intern this past summer!
I was a technical art intern working with the graphics team in Bellevue on the Shader Graph. As a technical artist, I typically tried to find places where the workflow or pipeline of a certain toolset would be confusing or painful for artists and designers, or people with generally less technical experience. Working with the graphics team as an intern generally meant tackling smaller tasks, adding smaller features, and helping to test out parts of the tool to find workflow hiccups or bugs. I also got to create really cool test content, which occasionally got released for everyone to look at and judge, like this blog post!
A few days a week, I started with a meeting with the rest of the graphics team who are based in Copenhagen and sometimes a few from Paris. Typically that morning meeting was the only formal meeting I'd have in a day. After that, I'd troll through Slack and catch up on the conversations from the other side of the world that I missed while I was asleep, and check my emails and user feedback forums. Most of the time, I tried to find small tasks to tackle in the morning - one new node to add, some documentation to write, or PRs to submit. Afternoons were usually my power hours: I sat down with any of the larger tasks that needed finishing, caught up with my mentor, and made sure I hadn’t gone totally in left field.
Again, this blog post! I was really lucky I was able to create a sample project and do a complete write-up to publish on the Unity Blog. I spent several weeks putting it all together and several more weeks waiting not-so-patiently for my turn in line to get published. I also was able to get a nice chunk of nodes shipped in the library for the Shader Graph, so now I can point at like three things in the tool and tell people "I made that!” I also got to work on another really cool project, but it's still largely in the planning stage, so I probably shouldn't say exactly what it is.
Maybe it's a bit odd, but one of the things that really made me want to work with Unity was my relative inexperience with it. Before joining, I had experience creating games in custom-built engines. I was really excited about the prospect of coming to the company with an almost blind view of the product, especially as a technical artist. I think it gave me a unique perspective to come in and point out certain things that really don't work anymore that maybe everyone else had just gotten used to. Beyond that, the real kicker was the people. I was excited to have the opportunity to work here, but after my interviews and getting to talk to the people that I could be working with, I was dead set on getting the job.
I was lucky because it really felt like everyone on my team was my mentor, to an extent. Everyone had time for me, to answer questions and help me learn about the project and the tasks that needed accomplishing. Working with a mentor at Unity felt more like working with a boss who provides really hands-on training. Ultimately everyone just wanted me to succeed and produce good work for the team.
The biggest is definitely my first piece of shipped code. I've written plenty of code, and I've released plenty of it to the public online in various formats, but this was the first time that an actual product from a large company has shipped with pieces of my code in it. It's mine and you can download it from the Unity website and, damn, that's just really cool.
The general working atmosphere, really. There’s a comfortable balance between worker-mill, get-your-head-down-and-do-work vibes, and I-can-totally-kick-your-ass-in-smash-1-v-1-me-bro vibes. Generally, everyone knows what they need to be doing and are really driven and passionate about doing those things. It gives way into an interesting laid-back atmosphere where taking a spontaneous fifteen-minute break to discuss the validity of Ash's Pokemon choices doesn't really get in anyone's way. Being comfortable at work definitely improved my productivity and quality of work.
The cold-brew coffee on tap. No, but really, the cold-brew coffee on tap. Should I put anything else? I feel like I should write something else, but all that comes out is cold-brew coffee on tap.
There's a lot. I love Civilization (5 is tops, 6 is pretty good), and I have a special place in my heart for the MMOs that I used to play with my dad all the time (SWTOR, we loved ye well). Ultimately though, my all-time favorite video game will always be Rampage: World Tour for the N64. There's nothing better than turning into a giant monster and getting bonus points for eating people.
I want to keep going in the field of technical art. Working with Unity just kind of proved to me that I found something I don’t tire of after 40 hours a week, and I’m excited to keep doing that wherever I go next.
The culture around working with interns was really great. I have several friends who went and got internships at other big-box tech companies and a lot of the time I'll hear complaints about how they got passed grunt work or how they didn’t feel as respected within the rest of the team. I never experienced that at Unity. In the day-to-day, I don't think I ever saw an intern at Unity get treated any differently than full-time employees. That was really the most valuable work experience: I didn’t just gain technical knowledge from my time with Unity, but I learned what it's like to really work in an office with a hundred other people on a product with a thousand other people. I felt respected, and I wasn't ever really scared to speak up in meetings with thoughts or ideas that I had or to bring up projects or new features that could be worth working on. I wasn't hovered-over, either, as if everyone was just waiting for the intern to screw something up. I was trusted to do my job, and in turn, when I did screw something up or needed help, I felt much more comfortable asking for it. There's really no doubt in my mind that this was the most valuable intern position I could've gotten.
If you’re interested in learning more about internship opportunities with Unity, keep an eye on the Unity careers page, we’ll be accepting applications for 2019 summer internships soon! And learn more about the Faces of Unity series by checking out some of our previous blog posts.