My Portfolio self critique

I get a handful of emails asking for portfolio reviews from people who have somehow found mine. Frankly I think my portfolio has a few issues that I just wanted to air out because I don’t want readers thinking my approach is a textbook good example for students. While I think my site is okay and gets the job done, there is always room for improvement. However, I don’t really have the motivation to completely redo my site as I’m not doing cold applications to jobs now so just posting the problems I see that I will fix someday to bring the site into the 20s. 

The not so great

  • Too many mediocre featured projects. When I look at portfolios before interviewing a candidate, I really only need to see their top 5 or so best projects related to the job they’re trying to apply for.
    • When I first started out I didn’t have many projects so I had to feature the things I had at the time. However, since I haven’t actively been on the job market without being a referral in several years I haven’t had to really make the hard emotional decision of what to delete. I improve so much every year, having older projects that don’t look polished brings down the average impression. The old projects have high emotional value to me… but won’t to viewers.
  • No up to date reel on my landing page.
    • I had a reel I edited myself in 2010. It is good for viewers just to get a quick look at your history, especially non-technical recruiters. They take a lot of effort to keep up to date though.
  • Not enough gifs
    • As any indie marketing guide will tell you, gifs are way better than static screenshots at getting gameplay across. Don’t include so many that the site is slow though.  

Things that I like about my site

  • Short descriptions focused on what I contributed to a project.
    • When I’m about to interview someone I want them to do well, so I will look for things they talk about in their CV or portfolio to ask them into more detail on. Often it’s a great conversation starter for me as the interviewer to be like “I see you optimized something by X percent here, how did you do that?”
    • Keeping it short is very important. When evaluating portfolios I don’t want to read a candidates life story, I usually want to get an overview in under a minute so I can look at the next of many candidates.
  • Screenshots and videos of each project
    • While I mentioned about this should include gifs as well the important thing is you have some visual way for people to evaluate you quickly for the less than a minute a hiring manager will likely be thinking about you.
  • No in your face code samples
    • This might be a controversial opinion but I don’t think code samples should be the first thing someone sees about me. When I’m evaluating candidates I basically ignore any code sample not from a code test because they tend to be easy for bad candidates to cheat and just copy someone else’s work. They also allow bad interviewers to nitpick something stupid in a coding style that doesn’t really matter. 


Another tip as you look for portfolio examples to check the wayback machine. It’s good to remember that no one programmer started out with a ton of projects and you can see sites evolve over time.

If you, dear reader, have questions feel free to email me. I don’t have all the answers but I think it’s important to help new people get in the industry and pay it forward.

Hofstadter’s law is a huge underestimation for GDC talk preparation

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

I’d prefer if this would scale to WAAAAY longer, but I suppose the vagueness has it’s advantages.

I think after a short panic I am ready for my GDC 2017 talk, Cozmo: Animation Pipeline for a Physical Robot please come check it out if you happen to be at GDC on Friday.

I am now going to sleep now that I’ve hit save for the last time on these slides (hopefully), party/learn at GDC all week, and then sleep more next week.

Long term tips for multiple short game jams for programmers

I see multiple blog posts around the internet for tips on just doing a single weekend game jam, these tend to be pretty obvious like drink water and get sleep. What I don’t see that I think is harder is strategies in getting better after doing several and how to stay motivated to keep doing them as a programmer.

I keep motivated doing gamejams/hackathons because I find it’s the easiest way to follow some great advice in The Pragmatic Programmer. The book suggests learning at least one new programming language or big tool every year and reading one technical book a quarter. Easy to remember and great advice. Even if I’m not doing a deep dive that weekend, I still get a good sense about what makes engines or platforms different and get out of habit. This is different from the common designer motivation of using the tool they’re most comfortable with so they don’t need to spend a lot of time in tutorials and can focus on a mechanic.

I assume that most people’s 1st or 2nd gamejam is consumed just by trying to complete a project so these tips mostly only apply to once I started being able to scope and complete projects.
Strategies I use for making progress on my 3rd+ gamejams and still feel like I’m growing as a programmer while still having a finished concept others can give feedback on:

  • I don’t focus on multiplayer if people need to judge it on the internet. The friction is too high, you can’t keep a populated server and even in the case of local MP most people don’t have friends around.
  • I prefer working with tools that making having an online build easy. When trying to get others to play quick games, low friction is even more important than in a f2p game. This isn’t to say that I don’t play around with native stuff, but it factors in that I won’t get much feedback.
  • I timebox myself when I feel like I’m “going down a rabbit hole” and trying to make a new tool do something it doesn’t want to do. When I feel like I’ve sunk more than a few hours into a feature like getting water working or glow shaders, and it just isn’t happening I try brainstorming a replacement once a set time has past so you don’t waste too much time. If I get it done within that time, great, if not just come up with an alternative
  • If no good ideas come to me for the theme I just start playing with tutorials. Official new tutorials often showcase the strengths of a new tool you might not know, so it gives good direction.
  • I figure out where my resource holes are before starting. This gives me some idea of how much time I’ll end up looking for art or sound, or whether someone else can fill those in.
  • If I have friends that tend to like to have ideas but haven’t made a game before, I try to help them make their own game in twine or something similar before being on a formal team together. It helps when everyone learns scoping skills before working on a bigger team.
  • The biggest motivation is doing things you’re not allowed to do at work.For me that’s my cynical based humor.

This is by no means a complete list I’m sure. These are just the things I’ve found that other people have disagreed with me on but I feel work really well personally.

“How is being a Women in Game Development?” or “What’s it like to exist as you?”

I feel like I relatively frequently get asked by students “What’s it like to exist as you?” or more precisely “How is it being a women in game development/ Girl Gamer/ Female programmer?” So just posting a general answer.

I understand where people are coming from when they ask but it’s such a strange question to expect to be able to extrapolate any information from that can be applied to another’s experience. As a women programmer, I often hesitate to talk about it publicly for fear of my single story being projected onto a whole population as the inquirers sample size is likely small. So this post comes with the disclaiming that this is just my experience, but I have come to realize that visibility matters and that it means I should talk about it more.

I was a tomboy growing up and didn’t have many friends who were girls, but once I got to college and there were only about 10 of us in a CS major of 200 total students, suddenly it felt like being a women was a massive amount to have in common with another human.
When I graduated and got a job, I didn’t have many gender related incidents when dealing with people in real life fortunately, stereotypical examples of microaggressions happened but nothing terrible. Eventually I got used to responding to “she” since who else could your co-workers be talking about, if you’re the only women in the room most of the time.

When I felt I had enough experience and free time I started mentoring and doing what I can to “change the ratio.” A lot of this came from the motivation that I really do think homogenous thought is artificial and makes worse teams. I take the two-fold approach:
1. Volunteering to instruct young girls to be interested in STEM. I highly recommend working with Girls Who Code. I’ve learned a lot working with teens and trying to make them feel a bit more guided through the rough intro process so hopefully they can have a bit of a head start and not feel so overwhelmed when starting college.
2. Trying to get my women co-workers talking more. Something as simple as an e-mail alias really demonstrates how the “right to assemble” helps to get people discuss ideas and help each other with any problems that might be encountered since it might be a shared experience.

Feel free to contact me if you are one of those people that do have more anecdotal questions… just don’t ask me “how to solve sexism” there are plenty of blog posts written by smarter people on steps towards that goal, it’s complicated and will require us all to work together.