Catching Up With id Software Game Programmer Mark Diaz
Full Sail University Alumnus and undisputed Rock Star Mark Diaz came back to Orlando this past week to visit and participate in the Hall of Fame 8 festivities. He did this on his own dime which goes to prove that passion is priceless. For those getting started with your careers heed Marks advice. He gets involved because he is passionate about his industry. The residual outcome is that he now has another 25-50 people to add to his network. You may think that a guy that ships a game like Doom in his first two years in the industry shouldn't worry about making new friends and networking? Well guess what? Networking doesn't end once you start working, it's a lifelong process. Managing your career is essential.
Thanks Mark for talking to us and for giving back to your Industry and School's communities.
Mark Diaz is a US Navy veteran and Full Sail Game Development alumni. He's been working as a gameplay programmer at id software since May 2014.
RC - What does networking mean to you?
Mark - Networking to me means establishing a connection with another human being. Whenever you’re experiencing someone else’s creation you’re learning a bit about that person. It’s inevitable that a creator instills a bit of themselves into their art. One of my favorite things about video games is their ability to teach us about other people as well as ourselves. Getting to meet the creators of this art form that I’ve grown to love and respect is a dream come true, therefore networking to me means building a connection with another creative person and in the process fostering a relationship with them.
RC - How do you go about meeting people in the industry and connecting with them? ?
Mark - I genuinely enjoy getting to know other creative people. I like to network through Social Media mostly because it's informal and accessible while still giving you the chance to get to know someone. I love seeing other people posting about their interests and work. It’s important for you to do the same! Post code you’ve been working on, features you’ve been thinking about, share screenshots, talk about what’s going on with your life, and never be afraid to send a tweet to someone, jump into conversations or start one up! If I played a game that I really liked I’ll tweet about it or to the people who worked on it. I’ll totally fanboy out a bit. It’s a great way to put yourself out there without having to worry about being super formal. Social media is how I got to meet one of my good buddies, Andrew Hulshult. I was a fan of his music when I noticed he lived in the same town as me. I sent him a few messages freaking out about how awesome his music is, we met up for beverages, now we make it a point to hang out a few times a month.
Networking on Social Media is great for the day to day, but it’s the most impersonal form of networking. Far and away the best way to network is to meet other people in person at relevant events. Conventions, Game Jams or Dev meet-ups are common in most major cities these days. Many times colleges will hold dedicated networking events ( and if they don’t, they should ).
RC - What advice would you offer those that are uncomfortable in networking situations?
Mark - I know it can be intimidating to strike up conversations with strangers, but knowing that everyone has gathered for a shared interest helps. Strike up a conversation based around this! This is where social skills come into play. I do my best to listen at least twice as much as I speak. Just being interested, polite and a little reserved can get you far.
Do a little research beforehand. Try to find other people going to the event and learn a little bit about them. This can help break the ice when you get a chance to speak to them.
Business cards can definitely help too. If you sense the conversation wrapping up hand him/her your card and thank them for their time, more often than not they'll reciprocate.
Different people have different levels of social anxiety and I know it can be a tough obstacle to overcome. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself if that's something you struggle with. Bring a friend, take a break from the crowd if it gets overwhelming. There's something you can learn from everyone, and conversely there's something everyone can learn from you.
RC - How do you stay connected to people you meet?
Mark - This is another one of social media's strengths. After meeting someone, send them a tweet or a friend request the next day. A short message telling them how you enjoyed the conversation and are looking forward to running into them again. If it's someone local invite them out. Ask them what the next event they'll be attending is, or for bonus points you should already know what event is coming up next near you and can ask them if they're going, Send messages every once in awhile. “Hey! Remember that thing we talked about? I heard this about it today. So crazy right?”
Establishing a rapport with someone will help you stay in touch. Just google “how to establish a rapport” and you'll find a ton of good advice. As weird as it sounds, pay attention to their activities. If they're setting up a booth at a con or giving a talk somewhere, go and say hi! Don't show up at their house at 3 in the morning with a box of chocolates. Even if you know it's the kind they like.