Glenda Martin

Our last guest speaker was Glenda Martin, career development consultant. She spoke with us about marketing ourselves, what to expect from placement and how it will benefit us.

“Employers expect to recruit people from university that have not only the relevant academic qualifications but also a wide range of skills and experiences”

She explained what employers look for and how its our responsibility to manage our own careers but to be warned that the market is forever changing, and in our industry it changes more constantly.  According to Glenda the top ten skills employers want are;

1.Commercial awareness (or business acumen)




5.Problem solving

6.Accuracy & attention to detail


8.Perseverance and motivation

9.Ability to work under pressure

10.Negotiation and persuasion

Ways to enhance these skills are placement opportunities, extra curricular courses, volunteering etc. She offered us a wide range of extra help and sites for us to check out for more information on everything she was telling us for example;

She kept informing us that in the longterm we need to make ourselves stand out in the best light we can. Why are we best for the job? She went into further detail about writing cvs, cover letters etc. The more personalised the cv is for the company the better. Tailoring your application to their needs, selling your skills and always being positive.

She also gave us some advice on interviews, the usual showing enthusiasm, smiling and being positive where mentioned. Being a people person helps massively in any industry and communication skills are always key.

She then shared some possible interview for placement questions with us;

  1. Why did you choose your degree?
  2. Why did you apply for this placement?
  3. How do your qualifications and experience meet the requirements of this post?
  4. Outline to the panel your work experience to date and how this might relate to this position?
  5. Outline for the panel something you have worked on recently.
  6. Give us an example of when you have had to prioritise and really manage your time well
  7. Describe a situation when you had to work in a team to get a job or task done.
  8. What important trends do you see in our industry/business over the next 5 years?
  9. Why do you think we should choose you for this placement position?

Not only is communicating well in interview important but body language and confidence is also important. First impressions are big because the person or company will have never met you before.

Glenda was super helpful although some of what she shared with us was pretty obvious and we had been told a lot previously. Although she did share her contact details with us and told us where we could find her if we ever want help or even setting up mock interviews etc which I think would be super helpful! I’m grateful that all of these services are available within our university, it’s help on your doorstep all I have to do is open the door to it.




Persistence helps – but in a nice way

Our sixth guest speaker  of the semester was the lovely Laura Livingstone, producer at Ntropic. Originally from Armagh and studied in Dublin she told us about her foot into the industry which was definitely different to the speakers before. In her course in Dublin she was the go to producer for all the projects. After her course she moved to Spain and Germany then on to LA interning, where she worked on development work. She explained when projects fell through and she was broke and jobless. She took chances and went for interviews when she knew she wasn’t qualified enough for them. She basically locked herself away and learnt for herself. Her persistence was amazing and she ended up getting a job in visual effects and post production and got to work on Iron man! Which she thinks was her big break, her foot in the industry. She had worked for many companies within the past few years, her future plans are to get back into feature films. I found her story was very inspiring because she told us about her problems in detail and spoke about the reality of things and it all seemed very recent.

She went on to give us great advice;

  • Do only what the client asks of you
  • “Be easy going” 
  • “Communication is key”
  • “Persistence helps” – Be persistent but not too persistent, you don’t want to come across rude or creepy. Be friendly with whoever you are contacting.
  • Always research into whatever company you are applying to or contacting, find something or someone you admire and try to contact them may it be for feedback, advice or a opportunity.
  • Never lie about your skill levels
  • Keep up to scratch with software skills, keep developing yourself.
  • Some companies don’t advertise jobs so don’t be afraid to ask!

James Baker

The fifth guest speaker of this semester was James Baker, a freelance visual development and storyboard artist with many films under his belt some examples include- Toy Story, The Boxtrolls, Cars and Finding Nemo.

Having the opportunity to speak with him felt surreal! He broke into the industry straight after school in 1981 and found his first job in Sydney.  He spoke about his journey through the industry and how he ended up where he is today, he shared some great inside stories you wouldn’t ever hear about too.

He offered loads of advice for us;

  • He explained how smaller studios give you more opportunity to grow and develop than bigger studios would. He thinks bigger studios are better for when you already have the experience and are somewhat settled, also with bigger studios you do get the chance to be creative like smaller ones but your perimeters are smaller. The only downer with smaller studios is that you have to be prepared for great projects to fall through, it’s just how things happen!
  • Think of the animation industry as a whole, don’t think that the studio your working at is the best because everything and anything can take a turn for the worse.
  • “Just keep doing what you’re doing, if you’re doing something well you’ll be recognised for it”
  • Keeping a good balance between personal work and industry work is key! In your portfolio the professional work shows what you have done, but your personal work shows what you could do.
  • “Movies are like essays, you can create a movie around the same structure that you would your essay. Intro/question/counter point/conclusion.”

“You gotta raise your VOICE”

Our forth speaker of the semester was a old friend of Greg’s – Karin Cooper, a visual effects artist from Germany but she now lives and works in the states. Talking with her was great and hearing her experiences in the industry was awesome! She spoke about one of her most recent projects – The Revenant, it was fRickin* amazing!!

After telling us about her journey in the industry and a massive insight technically to The Revenant, the q&a part of the talk give us a chance to pick her brain!

  • She spoke about the importance of feedback, how you have to be open to criticism, how you have to be patient when working on a scene because you could be working on a single detail for long periods of time and be told that it’s not good enough or told what to change but it’s all part of the industry,  its learning and bettering yourself constantly.
  • A question was asked if she felt like moving to the states to get into the industry was a good idea, for work or for placement. She explained that it used to be that way but now the industry is global. You can literally go anywhere you like. There is always the option of working from home for a company, you don’t necessarily have to work in house these days.
  • She then went on to tell us that she thinks starting in London is a good point if you do want to make it to the states.
  • For employment she also said it doesn’t matter if you’re a generalist or a specialist. If your work is really good then whats the problem? Your personality is also a big factor (like other guest speakers explained) if you have people skills and a good showreel you can do anything!
  • She then went on to tell us that there aren’t many barriers and you can cross anything as long as you’re given the chance.
  • Being a woman in the industry can be hard, because it is male dominant there is almost a underestimating approach with girls. Although she explained that girls communicate better! In meetings when people speak  80% of it is “hot air”,  do not feel intimidated to all that “tech talk”
  • “You gotta raise your voice”
  • “if you want something go after it”

Push yourself or you will fade to the background

The third speaker of the semester was Mr Gavin Moran!! A senior animator at Epic Games and director of the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo ‘A Boy and his Kite’.

The link above is a awesome breakdown and behind the scenes of the creation. After speaking with us about this project, he then gave us a taste for his workspace.

  • All his work is project based. Nobody wants to work with somebody they dislike or somebody who doesn’t “fit in” well. It’s not all about wether you’re the best at something but if you’re going to join and click with the crew, you need to be the good guy!
  • When hiring for longer deadline projects it’s something that employers take into consideration, “Will you be able to stick this person for years…” As for short time employability it’s less of a problem. They don’t necessary care, just get the job done.
  • Showreels should never be more than 2 minutes long, the shorter the better and always and only put your best work! Make it entertaining!
  • Stop using comedy clips for lip syncs!!!
  • Don’t get comfortable, always be willing and eager to learn new skills – “Push yourself or you will fade into the background”
  • Things are forever changing in this industry and it’s up to you if you want to keep up.
  • Be passionate!
  • Why copy other peoples work, be different, make something of your own.


Make things you’re passionate about!

Our second speaker of the semester was Gerard Dunleavy a graduate of the Animation Masters course here in at Ulster University. He is currently working at MPC in London but considers himself to be a free lance generalist in the animation industry.

Hearing from a past pupil who was on a similar path as us students currently are, it was super interesting to see how he managed to get his foot in the door. Winning international CG Student of the year 2012 with his showreel was a big help I’m sure!

Giving us a insight into the super companies in London, he’s experience on different aspects of projects ranging from films to advertisements. He was very encouraging and pushed us to believe in making what we are passionate about and focus on the smaller things and do them really well to stand out.

  • The major differences between film and advertisements is the speed! Advertisements are very fast paced, quick and punchy with shorter deadlines in comparison to film where you have more time to focus on each shot to make it picture perfect and the directors vision is realised. “I do like commercials, I like speed”  also in advertisements you have the chance to have more creative input, to try some cool and different things and learn new skills where in film things can be more restricting.
  • Secret showreels – “If something gets cut on the film, you can’t use it in your showreel, you can’t put it online but you can still have it on your laptop or something” Gerard explained to us you can always ask the company can you use the footage that was cut in a showreel, but only to show employers in interviews/ in person.
  • He also emphasised the importance of word of mouth and how recruiters talk just like Niall did.
  • “Don’t be epic!!” – Make something you’re passionate about! Keep it simple for now, do something really well and it will surely stand out. You need to stand out thats how you get in the door.
  • Be prepared for crazy hours, it’s normal in the beginning.



We’re the Lucky generation

Starting off the semester Greg invited Niall Carlin from Double Jump to come and speak with us. It was so interesting to hear about his journey through the industry. I thought his mind set of “everything is awesome” was so relatable, coming into the course with expectations of what and how things would be done were blown out of the water! In the last two years I’ve found myself been blown out of many waters so to say, everything we’re learning and experiencing really is awesome, and getting the chance to speak with people in the industry here in Northern Ireland and abroad is one of many chances a lot of students and people don’t get.

Niall was so kind to give us advice and pointers.

  • Reputation is key in the industry no matter what role you play, word of mouth helps. “Be the COOL GUY!!” fitting into a company is great, if you get on well with people you work then you’re already a step ahead.
  • Value becomes great – Be great basically, learn everything you possibly can from design theory, colour, composition, typography & animation! Constantly ask why? Question things and learn the skills that don’t come in tutorials because everybody knows how to use google.
  • Take on criticism – criticism is good, something I’ve learnt in the past two years to be very true. Bewaring the gap, “there is always somebody better” learn from them, take that opportunity to pick their brains, and you might even make a friend.
  • There is no right answer to a creative brief
  • Deadlines rule your creative life – I think we’ve all struggled with this one…
  • Time is money
  • The skill is not using the tool

We’re the lucky generation everything is out their waiting for us!