“I want to ask my boss about available training to advance my skillset, but don’t want to sound like I am incompetent and cannot do my job. What should I do?"
This is a great question and particularly relevant to the ever-changing games industry.
A good place to start is to think about why is it you want training and what are you hoping to achieve? Will the training help you with your current job or are you thinking of where you’d like to be in your future career? The answer to this question will help you to choose the training you need to achieve your goal.
The first taste of training for people entering the industry is typically through education. Studios generally look for a degree as the core foundation of coding or creative skill to establish a base level on which to build. Once in a job, keeping skills up to date is a constant challenge in the tech-enabled world of games. If you find you are struggling to do elements of your role as effectively as you would like due to a lack of training then it’s vital to flag these with your boss. Seeking training to do the job you’re in does not mean you are incompetent; you just want to be the best you can be and need more input to get there. Employers expect to invest in their teams and typically encourage learning. The only caveat here is that you haven’t said that you were an expert in the product / skillset when you were hired and this wasn’t true!
Align your goals with the studio's
When you do sit down with your boss the key to your conversation is to focus not on how training will benefit you but how it will benefit the business. Provided your personal goals are aligned with the studios, employers are likely to view a training request positively. It shows commitment to self-improvement and developing skills - and all employers want great people in their team. A good rule of thumb in any situation is don’t go to your boss with a set of problems, research what kind of solutions there might be and provide some thoughts on what’s out there, at different cost levels. There are several online tutorial options such as Digital Tutors, CG Cookie and 3D Buzz available as modular options. These can be tailored specifically and are more affordable in terms of time and money than off site training. It is worth bearing in mind that any creative skills you acquire through training will always need to be demonstrable in your portfolio.
Invite some feedback from your team
If you are asking your employer to pick up the tab it’s fair for a studio to see return on the investment. One way to explore this is to invite some feedback from your team or manager about areas of your performance that could be improved so that you can focus on these things once you’ve had extra input from training. For longer term benefit from the training there needs to be a level of commitment from you to capture, digest and implement what you have learned. It’s important to put your energy and attention in to getting the most out of what you learn for as long as you can. Think about what impact it will have on your or your team’s performance and how you will measure the benefit. Games is an industry with very tangible outputs for you to demonstrate your learning.
If you already have the tech or functional skills to do your job you may feel that you would benefit from a more holistic learning experience, perhaps you are looking to become a more effective people-manager, be more confident in presentations or you would like to improve your organisational skills. Many people look to training for an overall enhancement, learning a new approach rather than a hard-skill. Artists are increasingly updating their workflows to add to their understanding of producing PBR based assets. Some of the more formal training certifications such as SCRUM mastery is also in line with development working practices.
Learning comes in many forms and games professionals often benefit from events and conferences where speakers offer new ideas and share their own experiences and the capabilities of emerging tech. This can be a truly valuable source of inspiration and ideas to take back to your own studio and provides a networking opportunity to continually learn from other like-minded experts in the industry.