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My last two credited titles I was Lead Programmer then moved to Lead Design role. At my current company I kinda switch between design and programming hats quite often.

The bulk of my education is in programming and my experience is pretty broad. I honestly can't pick which I prefer, and if I focused then I think I would do the other in my spare time. My colleagues consider me capable in both roles.

I'm currently looking for opportunities, some at larger companies, and often people seem to be thrown by my dual role. I feel like it may be damaging my chances in some cases, because they can't easily fit me into the company.

Should I just pick one and focus or is it viable to continue wearing my two hats?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You may want to set up two resumes, with slightly different focuses. Hiring managers, specifically, will HAVE to know what you are and will get very confused if you say you can do both. They will assume you know neither and fail to call you back. But, you can set up a programming resume and a design resume, mentioning the other discipline but customizing the skills list and focus for one discipline. You can say something like "I'm applying for the gameplay programmer position but am available for other opportunities as well" or even apply twice.

In reality the difference between a "gameplay programmer" and a "technical designer" is essentially 0 once you're working, but they probably go through slightly different hiring processes. Both sound like they would work for you, and both actual jobs would end up using both halves of your background.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you claim to like doing two things equally well, the person interviewing you will just get confused. Confused interviews do not equal successful interviews.

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Smaller companies will generally want you to try and wear as many hats as you can. However usually larger companies will just want you to stick to what you do best. It's your call really but you should take into account where you want to head.

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1  
+1 Was just about to write the same thing... –  bummzack Jul 22 '10 at 22:20

Tailor your resume towards the job you're applying to. (This goes even for those of us who are untalented single-skill hacks ;) Read the job description, emphasize the parts of your experience that match the job skills.

People at big companies usually understand that Indie work is different and means many hats, so don't worry when it comes up in the interview - but make clear with the resume that you understand the requirements and want that specific job. (A broad resume is often read as "I take anything you got" - which is a bit desperate ;)

Some companies have roles of e.g. "Technical Designer", but you need to find a large team to get that specialized..

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In my experience, there are two types of companies where "multi-class" developers are useful. One is really small companies, where everyone has to wear multiple hats because you don't have enough specialists to go around. The other is really large teams, where you have huge programming, art and design departments and they need departmental liaisons who can speak the language of other departments to act as an information bridge. For those kinds of companies, your breadth of experience is certainly an asset.

Speaking as a hybrid programmer/designer myself, I would say this has been more of a benefit than a detriment to me in getting hired, although it varies from team to team (and even project to project) just how much my dual skills come into play. Worst case, if a particular job forces you to choose one side of the fence and stay there, you can always exercise your other skills at home on hobby projects on your own time :)

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Depends on what you're doing this for. If you're doing it because you enjoy it, and you "honestly can't pick" which you enjoy more, then it sounds like you're doing just fine with both roles, so keep it up. If efficiency is more important to you, then logically evaluate which one you're better at and focus on it.

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Since making games is about iterating versions, communication between the team domains is paramount to solving design and production dependencies that inevitably arise. That's why having a multi-discipline member in a team is a blessing. He speaks two "languages", and can more easily anticipate, identify, explain and help solve problems that are at the boundary between the two domains.

I would advice you to definitely talk about you double competence, especially to the production manager if you meet him.

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If you're looking for typical job openings, just read them carefully; they are usually very particular in their requirements. Most of the open positions I see are specified and your chances of getting the gig are probably higher if you're an expert in that given role.

I think the ability to wear multiple hats can be valuable once you've proven yourself to your employer, but probably wouldn't help you (usually) get your foot in the door.

So long story short: I'd recommend picking one and focusing on that side of your skillset per position you are applying for.

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"You're doing great in this role and in that other role. We just don't know where you best fit in."

Find the company that does make use of all your skills, or you won't find satisfaction with your job over the long run. I've been there. I started my career as Level Designer, but quickly went to writing game scripts full-time. I was a programmer of sorts at the lower end using scripting languages for many years. I also kept my design proficiency and still took on design tasks here and there. It was a long process to be accepted into the ranks of a Software Engineer, yet when I got there, I was more disconnected with the actual game-making process, where Designers put together fun missions and require help with scripting and design.

For over a year or two I was even a department manager. I also worked on databases and tools that half of the company used. I had about two dozen different internal customers with conflicting interests. Managing expectations was suddenly on my menu.

Overall, while I keep all of these things in my resume, I would choose very carefully which of these to use if I ever applied to a job again. I don't want to be chosen because I have also done databases, or localization, or management. I want to make games.

Big companies can rarely make heads or tails of Jack-of-all-Trades. You tend to sit between roles, switching from one to the other, never really making it in any of them unless you focus your energy into one particular role. But is that what you want? You're probably much better off working for a smaller Indie shop. They know the value of someone who can do all of these things, and provide ample opportunities to put most of your skills to use. But they too also want to know what your main focus is.

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