Placement Experience: Immersive Technician at Vantec Europe - Jake Hartnoll

Jake wearing VR headset

Jake talks about taking risks in his role and being offered a full-time job after he graduates! 

  • 31 March 2022
  • Placement Experience: Immersive Technician at Vantec Europe - Jake Hartnoll
  • 5 min read

How did you find your placement role?

I managed to find this role through the Creative Careers vacancy database. I applied to over 20 positions before I applied to this one. I received an email from Creative Careers and applied due to the email.

How did Creative Careers support you in your placement search?

Creative Careers was essential in helping me understand what makes me a good potential candidate helping me tailor my CV and portfolio to suite the job roles I was applying for. You may think you know how to stand out, but they can really help increase your chances of standing out amongst the crowd. They also were extremely useful in helping find the placement. If I hadn’t received the email about my current position, I may not have found it.

Where do you work?

The company I have been working for is Vantec Europe, which is a third-part logistics organisation in which I work in the Rolls Royce side of the company. I work in the IT side, but specifically in the immersive technologies department, into which I am one of the first few people to be hired.

What do you do at Vantec?

When I was first employed, my main role was to create and produce training content to be put into an immersive suite. The Immersive suite is a room with projectors which project onto the walls and floors, which then use sensors to track where you’re pressing. When I first started, it was primarily video editing and then hooking it up in the immersive suite, but over the first few months of being here, I managed to push for us to start developing VR projects in Unity as well as a forklift truck simulator.

In the immersive equipment

Jake in VR equipment

How is your placement related to your degree?

This placement initially wasn’t entirely what I was hoping for but as time went on, I managed to push through different ideas such as VR for us to start developing. So initially there wasn’t too much overlap, but now almost the entirety of my work is done inside of Unity, so its now about as related as you can get.

What are the benefits of being on placement?

Being on placement has given me some serious benefits with one of the main ones being that it has given me the time and experience to be able to continuously improve myself and my skillset, which will help me in the future with the final year of my degree. During second year, I only really started to pursue games programming, and being here has helped me develop my skills significantly.

Furthermore, due to me being able to push these project ideas through the management of the company, I have also been offered a full-time job out of being here, so over my final year I’m dropping to part-time then after my degree, coming back to working full time.

What’s been the highlight so far?

The opportunity I’ve managed to carve out for myself within the company has been the highlight. When I managed to get us to start on the projects I’m working on now, it meant that they needed someone to become a full-time employee to develop for the projects, which they gave to me. So essentially, I created a new job role inside of the company and managed to get it for myself.

Also, I have had many discussions with the CEO of the company Martin Kendall and the projects I am working on are being actively followed but Komatsu in Japan, and he wants to sell what I’m developing in Japan to these huge automotive brands, with the potential for me to showcase what I’ve created.

In addition, because I’m more of a programmer I needed an artist and because of that, I was able to push for us to hire another Student on the art side who I have been friends with for 5 years. This is something I’m proud and happy with, as instead of working with someone I don’t know I am able to work with my friend on some amazing projects, opening up huge opportunities for us both.

Example of work Jake is doing at Vantec

What skills have you developed?

As I was the only developer within the company, a lot of the learning was self-directed and much of the time came from research and a lot of trial and error, following articles and tutorials and gathering as much information about Unity development as I possibly can. Because of this I’ve become a much more robust developer.

Is there anything you’re not enjoying?

I mostly enjoy everything I do, but I’d definitely say the only real downside is that I work in a room by myself, where sometimes I can have days at a time where I barely speak to / see anyone. At times this makes it quite hard to stay productive as I don’t really have someone to talk to about the projects and can occasionally get stuck and procrastinate.

What concerns did you have before going on placement?

I was kind of nervous when I first started, as I wasn’t entirely sure what was in-store for me and didn’t know at the time, entirely what I wanted to be doing. But to be honest, in this situation, you must make what you can out of it. The worst thing that can possibly happen to you when you put yourself out there and take a risk, by saying “Oh I think we should do this, because of this”, is that you will be told no, which yes if you are told no, it can be disappointing, but what would be worse is never taking that risk and not knowing what could’ve happened if you’d just tried. Because I took that risk, I landed a full-time job, landed my friend a full-time job and get to work on some awesome VR and simulations projects.

What are your plans for your future career?

This placement has essentially set me up for my career. I’ll be dropping to part-time over final year, so I won’t need to get something like a weekend job again, and then once my degree is complete, I’ll be coming back and working full time. My long-term plan is to get these VR and Forklift Simulation projects complete, get my 3-5 years in industry and 2 products launched and then spend a year after that travelling. I am doing it like this because if I can get the experience, when I get back from travelling the likelihood of being able to re-land a job again is much higher, than if I were to just leave, mid-way through projects.

Immersive technology equipment

Immersive technology

What would you say to students who aren’t sure whether to do a placement?

To this I’d say give me a reason as to why doing a placement isn’t beneficial? It gives you an extra year to hone and develop your skills before you leave University and enter the real world with no hand-holding, it’ll give you real connections and relationships with people who are already in industry, you have the potential to land a job out of it, you get to work on cool projects, it motivates you to learn I could go on and on.

I personally believe the placement year should be looked at by everyone, because once again by constantly applying and putting yourself out there, literally the worst that is going to happen to you is you’re told no. Never see that as a negative, take it and learn from it and rise above it. Failure makes a person. I applied to 20-30 different places and got turned down constantly, yes it can be de-moralising, but what’s even more de-moralising is giving up trying.

Have you got any tips for students in year 2 starting their placement search?

Yes, don’t be too picky. Initially I was way too picky in where I was applying, I was only applying for the big games studios and wasn’t really considering anyone outside of that, but when I changed that I managed to find this place, and I’ve landed a goldmine. Don’t discount them just because they’re not specifically making video games. Game development skills aren’t exclusively sought after by just game studios!