Grads In Games Student Conference

Monday 29th March 2021

Conference Schedule | Speaker Details | Sign up as an attendee

The Grads In Games Student Conference is back for 2021 as part of Games Careers Week, with a lineup packed with games professionals talking to you about life in the games industry! Including in-depth discussion on what first roles are really like, how future game technology will influence the skills you need, glimpses behind the scenes on how leading games are made, and how to develop and improve your own ideas and approaches towards game development.

Conference Schedule

Grads In Games Student Conference 2021


10:00 Welcome to the Grads In Games Conference!
Grads In Games Team
10:15 The Art of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout!
Alexander McKinney-Raphelt, Art Director, Mediatonic

This keynote orbits around the process of visual development for FallGuys: Ultimate Knockout – The different stages of ideation, our approach to concept art, 3D, and VFX, and nourishing those ideas to ultimately become a big fat global phenomenon 🙂

11:00 An insight into developing a career in the games industry
Jessie Thomson, Animation Programmer, Cloud Imperium Games

In this talk I follow my journey from university graduate through to animation programmer at Cloud Imperium Games. I aim to offer my personal insight and knowledge from my experiences that have helped me along the way.

11:45 Impostor Syndrome – Infiltrating the Workplace
Zoe Sams, Tools Programmer, Rockstar North

Your first day at work can be a daunting experience. An estimated 70% of us will experience Impostor Syndrome at some point during our professional lives, but very few of us talk about it. Zoë Sams goes over her path into the games industry, her first day in the office, and combatting impostor syndrome in the workplace.

12:30 Create the perfect CV for the Games Industry
Andy Driver, Operations Manager, Grads In Games

Andy takes you on a masterclass on creating the type of CV that will help you get in the door of a games studio, based directly on what studios are looking for. We’ve worked with hundreds of studios (and seen many thousands of CVs…) over the years, so this is a great insight into how to maximise your approach when applying for games industry jobs.

13:30 Unreal for next generation gaming
Mark Flanagan, Education Partner Manager, Epic Games

Looking at how the latest advances in realtime technology in the Unreal Engine will influence game development.

14:15 Conscious Character Design
Lucy Kyriakidou, Art Director + Freelance Artist

Lucy will break down her character design process and provide practical advice to improve as an artist while exploring important steps of concept art and visual storytelling. The talk will also introduce ways to diversify your work and build a character design portfolio.

15:00 Finding the Fun without Falling Flat!
Sitara Shefta, Head of Studio, No Brakes Games

Sitara will discuss different processes and experiences she’s encountered working on games including Human: Fall Flat, to make the best player experiences. This talk will include key tips for best processes to use and learnings from her career.

15:45 The Creative Process
Fawzi Mesmar, Head of Design, EA DICE

The talk tries to describe what are ideas, where do they come from, how can we come up with better ideas and what is originality and how can we become more original in creating video games and present key ways to become more creative in our work.

16:30 The importance of soft skills and how they are strengthened through diversity
Hannah Bradshaw, Senior Production Coordinator, Rockstar Games

The gaming industry can sometimes feel like a very hard skill focused workplace. Hannah will talk about the importance of soft skills and how working and networking with a diverse group of people can improve those skills.

17:15 How to create a perfect animation showreel
Diana Donado & Chris Tuck, Animation Director & Junior Animator, Starbreeze Studios

In this talk you will learn the steps and work needed in order to make a good animation showreel, from both the perspective of a successful candidate as well as an experienced hiring manager.

18:00 The power of networking & an insight to starting your own indie games venture
Orthors Team

Discussing the importance of being confident in your skills, identity & narrative you want to portray, also how to creatively think outside the box when showcasing your content or games. Furthermore the impact of creating a space for people to enjoy and learn about different gaming experiences.

18:45 Conference Review & Chat
Grads In Games Team
19:00 Close


Conference Speakers

Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Fawzi Mesmar - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Fawzi Mesmar
Head of Design, EA DICE

Fawzi Mesmar is a award winning Game designer, leader, author, public speaker and retired e-sports player that has been in the gaming industry for over 18 years in a career that spanned The Middle East, New Zealand, Japan and Europe working for companies such as DICE (EA), King (Activision Blizzard), Gameloft and Atlus Ltd to name a few. As a game designer / Director he has worked on over 20 titles that have been enjoyed by millions of players worldwide including entries in Battlefield, Persona and Candy Crush franchises.

Alex McKinney-Raphelt
Studio Art Director, Mediatonic

Alexander McKinney-Raphelt is a Studio Art Director at Mediatonic overseeing the art for FallGuys: Ultimate Knockout, as well as a next-gen mystery project…and, has been a total nerd since he played bootleg games on his dad’s C64 for the first time. After almost 18 years in the industry, art-directing and managing game teams all around the world, he’s still a nerd, but now at least the graphics are better. Alexander has worked in all relevant game-fields, from AAA games, mobile, to PC; in companies such as Take2, Zynga, NaturalMotion, InnoGames, and now MediaTonic. He loves to be nostalgic when he thinks about the insane amounts of free time he had at his hands when he still used to draw comics; now his life is less about drawing comics but advocating for mental health and LGBTQ+ rights and spreading the idea that non-toxic work culture is actually a good thing.

Lucy Kyriakidou - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Lucy Kyriakidou
Art Director & Freelance Artist

Managing a successful freelance career as a character designer and now also Art Director, Lucy’s art has helped bring dozens of games to life. With over 10 years experience in the games industry, she is an advocate for its improvement through her work as a Women Making Games NE admin and STEM ambassador, as well as her talks on body diversity in games.

Hannah Bradshaw
Senior Production Coordinator, Rockstar North

Hannah Bradshaw is a Senior Production Coordinator for Rockstar North. Having studied fine art at university she tripped and fell into the games industry. Starting in QA and settling in production Hannah is passionate about the human aspect of game-making and as one of the POC in Play #BHMGames100 she is an advocate for more voices of colour in the industry.

Hannah Bradshaw - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021
Sitara Shefta - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Sitara Shefta
Head of Studio,No Brakes Games

Sitara is Head of Studio at No Brakes Games, the developers of Human: Fall Flat, and also forms part of the POC in Play team. During her 10 year career she has contributed to a number of studios from AAA to indie, where she has worked on titles including LittleBigPlanet 3 and Snake Pass.


Orthors showcase realistic narratives through their creative mediums, thriving to build a safe and productive environment for future generations. They strive to be at the forefront of fresh new talent within the gaming industry; laying down the foundations for building a creative community with an excellent ability to learn, collaborate and progress. Orthors is built by Max, 3D Modeler & Animator; Taylor, Software engineer, designer & video editor; and Yasin, Marketing manager & producer who studied at Bournemouth Arts University. All sharing the passion for gaming & being creative, over the past 5 years they have found a way of marking their footprint within the industry by independently building a gaming company. From being players to creators. They have had their game recognised and spotlighted by Apple, featuring them for ‘ Top Game this week’ and during Black History Month. Collectively they bring hope to rising game devs wanting to pursue a career in the industry.

Orthors - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021
Mark Flanagan - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Mark Flanagan
Education Partner Manager, Epic Games

Mark started his professional life as an architect in Ireland, in the last Millenium. His interest in art and technology led him on a winding career path. Returning to study animation, he moved to the UK to work with Codemasters games. A move to Australia led from a role as a Technical Art Manager with Transmission Games, then becoming a lecturer in Melbourne’s leading universities including RMIT, Kangan, NMT, and Victoria University. A meeting at GDC inspired him to become an industry trainer. In recent years he has contributed materials to Pixar’s RenderMan group and Pluralsight. He moved to Vancouver as a trainer with DNeg, on projects such as Bladerunner 2049. Then back to the UK for a similar role in ILM, on projects including Star Wars and Marvel Franchises. His Education Partner Manager role at Epic allows him to bring together his previous experience in empowering educators to prepare their students for the future of interactive media.

Zoë Sams
Tools Programmer, Rockstar North

Zoë Sams is currently employed as a Tools Programmer at Rockstar North. Her passion lies in combining art and code, with some of her favourite projects being real-time simulations, animation tools, character rigs, and interactive installations.She’s a Women in Games ambassador and a SpecialEffect ambassador, and she is a strong believer that diversity can only strengthen our industry and push us to continue creating fresh, innovative content.

Jessie Thomson - Speaker at the Grads In Games Student Conference 2021

Jessie Thomson
Animation Programmer, Cloud Imperium Games

Working as an animation programmer at Cloud Imperium Games, Jessie has a background in machine learning and computer vision and since completing her PhD in 2016 has worked in various AI and animation programming related jobs before starting her job at CIG.

Diana Donado & Chris Tuck
Animation Director & Junior Animator, Starbreeze Studios

Diana Donado is the Animation Director at Starbreeze studios the developer of the Pay Day franchise. She spent 10 years in the film industry, and almost 15 years in the games industry, where she’s worked with studios such as Microsoft, Ubisoft, Rebellion, Epic, Asobo … She worked on many different games such as The Ravin Rabbids, Fragments, Quantum break, Sniper Elite, Zombie Army, Pay Day franchise to name a few, while using film and game techniques. Chris is an up and coming animator who has recently graduated from University and landed a junior animator job at Starbreeze Studio who are making Payday 3! Chris is working on all types of animation at Starbreeze, ranging from First person key framing animation to recording and editing mocap! Seeing how different working from freelance and studying a BA Animation at Plymouth College of Art in the UK to working in a big gaming studio in Sweden can be!    

Diana Donado & Chris Tuck
Diana Donado & Chris Tuck

Andy Driver
Operations Manager, Grads In Games

Andy leads the Grads In Games team, helping to improve the opportunities for students and graduates to get their first roles in the games industry. Through this work he’s become a prevalent voice in games careers education, providing guidance and advice to students across the UK and Europe through the Get In The Game careers talks, in addition to discussing games career options as a guest lecturer and invited speaker at multiple universities.

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