Prac­tice, Prac­tice, Prac­tice!

Some Help­ful Ca­reer Tips from Drexel University’s Nick Jushchyshy­n

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Nick Jushchyshy­n, Pro­gram Di­rec­tor of VR & Im­mer­sive Me­dia at Drexel University worked in vfx for fea­tures and TV shows be­fore he started teach­ing in 2010. He joined Drexel in 2012 where he was the Pro­gram Di­rec­tor of An­i­ma­tion & Vis­ual ef­fects for 6 years be­fore mov­ing on to launch and di­rect the VR & Im­mer­sive Me­dia de­gree pro­gram and Im­mer­sive Re­search Lab. So, he knows a lot about many dif­fer­ent as­pects of the in­dus­try and what it takes to get your foot in the door. We asked him a few ques­tions about the do’s and don’ts of job hunt­ing in 2020: “The most im­por­tant thing an an­i­ma­tion stu­dent can do to pre­pare for the job mar­ket is to prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice… ideally while get­ting and ap­ply­ing feed­back from ex­pe­ri­enced ad­vis­ers/men­tors,” he says. “This is not a dis­ci­pline where you can sim­ply watch a tu­to­rial or take a les­son and then head off into in­dus­try as a prac­ti­tioner. Much like mas­ter­ing a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment or dance or some other sport, suc­cess is con­nected far more to your per­sonal ef­forts and prac­tice than sim­ply the in­for­ma­tion you’ve been ex­posed to.” He points out that some­times, the hard­est step in this cy­cle is the first one. “Our in­stinct as hu­mans is to hide our weak­nesses, so it’s nat­u­ral to be ap­pre­hen­sive about open­ing up to oth­ers at the start of this jour­ney, but there re­ally is no bet­ter way to im­prove quickly and ef­fec­tively than to re­quest and ap­ply feed­back on it­er­a­tion af­ter it­er­a­tion of work. The fact is, this is ex­actly how the in­dus­try works. We come away from watch­ing a mas­ter­fully an­i­mated, gor­geous movie or broad­cast se­ries with a com­pelling story and are left with im­pres­sion that what we saw on screen was ex­actly what was planned from the start. In re­al­ity, by the time the pub­lic sees any­thing on screen, the show had been writ­ten, re-writ­ten, an­i­mated, ren­dered, re­viewed, re­vised .... over and over and over, by a cre­ative team cri­tiquing one an­other along the way.” Re­la­tion­ships Mat­ter Ac­cord­ing to Jushchyshy­n, a demo reel or in­ter­view visit can’t fully ex­press a can­di­date’s abil­ity to take and ap­ply feed­back on their work over ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, but this skill is one of the most im­por­tant traits that em­ploy­ers seek. “Build­ing re­la­tion­ships with in­dus­try men­tors through these feed­back cy­cles can show your tenac­ity, de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­mit­ment to qual­ity to peo­ple in the in­dus­try that may later be­come job ref­er­ences or even in­vite you to ap­ply when an open­ing be­comes avail­able in their or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he says. Philadel­phia-based Drexel University of­fers two pro­grams that en­sure stu­dents gain hands-on, in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore grad­u­a­tion. The first is the co-op pro­gram, which has been in place at Drexel for at least 100 years now. With co-op, stu­dents have six­month breaks in classes built-in to the aca­demic pro­gram, where their “as­sign­ment” is to work in in­dus­try. Stu­dents in the pro­grams can choose be­tween a four-year aca­demic pro­gram, with a sin­gle six-month co-op, or a five-year pro­gram, which in­cludes a to­tal of three, six­month co-op ex­pe­ri­ences dis­trib­uted over their aca­demic ca­reer. “These op­por­tu­ni­ties not only pro­vide stu­dents with out-of-class work ex­pe­ri­ence, but also af­fords them the chance to ex­per­i­ment with po­ten­tial ca­reer paths,” says the pro­gram di­rec­tor. “While many co-ops are with tra­di­tional en­ter­tain­ment-based stu­dios, oth­ers use these op­por­tu­ni­ties to try work in other ar­eas like med­i­cal vi­su­al­iza­tion, ar­chi­tec­tural vi­su­al­iza­tion or cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions. With the launch of our VR pro­gram, we’ve even seen em­ploy­ers re­cruit­ing our stu­dents so the or­ga­ni­za­tion can learn about these new dis­ci­plines from them. The sec­ond op­por­tu­nity is our Drexel in LA pro­gram, which runs each sum­mer in a ‘pop-up’ cam­pus in Los An­ge­les. This is dif­fer­ent from co-op, since it is a short, three-month en­gage­ment each year, and it hap­pens while classes are be­ing taken. Drexel ar­ranges for hous­ing and class space in LA. Stu­dents are matched with day-time, sum­mer in­tern­ships and take their Drexel classes for the quar­ter from LA-based in­struc­tors, or on­line.” Jushchyshy­n is quite ex­cited about the boom in VR and im­mer­sive me­dia projects over the past few years and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it of­fers Drexel grads. “Now that these im­mer­sive tools have be­come so read­ily avail­able, a whole new ar­ray of in­dus­tries have been look­ing to hire our stu­dents for their ex­per­tise in this field,” he says. “As a re­sult, stu­dent de­mand in these classes grew rapidly over the past six to seven years, such that a few classes be­came many, which be­came a mi­nor, and now we have an en­tire Bach­e­lor’s de­gree pro­gram specif­i­cally in VR & Im­mer­sive Me­dia.” When asked to of­fer some help­ful tips for fu­ture an­i­ma­tion pro­fes­sion­als, he says, “Re­mem­ber to love the work, not just the end re­sult. Prac­tice and im­prove your craft con­stantly. Seek and ap­ply cri­tique from ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple you re­spect. Fi­nally, lever­age a bal­ance of tra­di­tional art and de­sign skills with cur­rent tech­nolo­gies that al­low you to pro­duce more work at higher and higher qual­ity, re­peat­edly. Es­sen­tially, learn to do dif­fi­cult work well. If you can do that, and con­tin­u­ally learn and ap­ply new skills and tech­niques that build on what you’ve mas­tered, you will be po­si­tioned well for suc­cess in the years and decades ahead!” For more info about Drexel University’s an­i­ma­tion and VR pro­gram, visit Drexel. edu and digm.drexel.edu/ace­lab

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