Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

Tour at Zynga

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Image source: www.adweek.com

There were dogs everywhere. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me after seeing the huge dog logo on the massive building, but it still caught me off guard in a pleasant way. Zynga also gave off this sense of happiness—just walking in, I could tell that the people employed by Zynga were pretty content with their environment. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga happens to be one of the largest and best-known mobile and social gaming companies in the bay area– you’ve probably also seen a few games of theirs on Facebook.

A group of four people and myself from Cogswell got the chance to visit Zynga from Women in Games International, a group formed for the purpose of providing women with support and opportunities in the game industry. While there, we got a tour of the studio, which included the exercise room, bar (yes, there’s a full bar) the candy room, and the Farmville rooms!

After the tour, we got to enjoy some h’ordeuvres and listen to a panel given by women leaders at Zynga. Some of them had been in the industry for quite some time, and a few originally hadn’t had any intention of going into games. Yet another one actually played WOW as a side hobby. (Yes!)

It was amazing to see Zynga up close. It was clear to see the passion that they had for their work. We also got to do a lot of great networking, and meet people working in the heart of the mobile game industry. It was an amazing opportunity!

Sierra Gaston

Women in Animation and Women in Games International

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Image from http://www.womeninanimation.org/


Image from http://www.womeningamesinternational.org/

The animation and games industries are two places where you rarely find women working, until recently. Even Cogswell has been a heavily male-dominated school until a few years ago. What’s exciting is the wide-spread growth of organizations that are specifically for women in these industries (although men may join). These groups promote networking, inclusion, exposure, encouragement and opportunities to hear industry leaders. By creating a more diverse workplace, animations and games will be even stronger therefore garner more consumer enjoyment.

Two organizations that I am involved with are Women in Animation and Women in Games International. Thanks to Women in Animation, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Pixar twice as well as network with some of the best known women in the business. Being a newer member to Women in Games (WIG), this week I will visiting Zynga’s campus for the re-opening of the San Francisco WIG chapter. As a primary developer of Facebook games, Zynga is one of the most famous game companies in the Bay Area.

I definitely recommend checking these two groups out, and any groups dedicated to animation and games in general. As well as being fun to join, they can be key to getting crucial contacts in the industry.

http://www.womeningamesinternational.org/
http://www.womeninanimation.org/

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell Alumni Mixer

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

On Saturday, April 11th, something pretty exciting will be happening here at Cogswell.

In an effort to create stronger connections between alumni, students and the school, Cogswell will be hosting a mixer event honoring our past students and future graduates. So what can we expect to see at this event?

In addition to having the opportunity to connect with alumni working in the industry from all degree concentrations, students can attend a panel at which graduates will speak about their experiences since leaving the school. All attendees will also have the option to showcase their portfolios and demo reels during the event. (Since this is also this last semester we’ll be in the old building, we will have a pretty fun activity that might involving writing all over the walls—more details on that later!)

Students, be sure to polish those portfolios up pretty well—we will have alumni attending this event who might be interested in hiring!

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell Alumni Work at Impressive Companies

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Recently, I’ve been researching Cogswell graduates to add to a contact list for an alumni reunion. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at some of the names that cropped up—not only were there an impressive number of graduates working in the industry, quite a few held job titles like Lead Animator, CEO, Art Director, and even more still owned their own companies. Previous to doing this research, I’d had no idea they existed; and I thought I’d share their job titles as a resource to other Cogswell students.

In the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions, we have a number of alumni working at Disney, DreamWorks, EA, Sony Animation, Cryptic, Activision and other large, well known studios.  They are storyboard artists, technical artists, designers, animators, layout artists, riggers and hold tons of other positions. I was blown away to learn that, among others, one of our alumni is a Lead Animator at EA games. In addition, we also have alumni with positions such as: Art Director at Sony Animation Entertainment; Lead Lighter/Compositor at DreamWorks, Lead/Senior designer at Crystal Dynamics; Vice President of Production at Toonbox Entertainment; President/CEO at Logigear; Broadcast Designer at NBC; Supervising Engineer at Warner Brothers; and the list goes on. Alumni from all degree programs are talented leaders.

We are a very small college, and yet it seems we have a very large amount of alumni in comparison holding impressive positions within the industry. Most students aren’t even aware of the credits that our graduates hold. Personally, I feel like Cogswell College is a bit of a hidden gem in the Silicon Valley—not everyone knows that we’re here, but those who do find Cogswell know that they have stumbled across something unique.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Visiting Pixar Studios in Emeryville California

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Inside the Pixar Animation StudioA couple of weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Pixar with the manager of post-production, Robert Tachoires. Besides just being a nice and all-around awesome person, Robert took the time out of his busy schedule to show me around Pixar for nearly two hours. I’ll be honest—it was slightly surreal. I casually passed by people like the director of Brave, Mark Andrews, Pete Docter, and other famous names.

He gave me the general tour of what you’d expect at Pixar—the cafeteria, Oscar awards case, cereal bar, post room, studio store—but he also got clearance to show me the animation and tech departments!

Pixar has two main buildings where the artists are located. There’s the Steve Jobs building, which has animators on one side and the tech/post production side on the other, and the Brooklyn building which houses the pre-production artists. Naturally, I didn’t get to see much of pre-production since that’s all top secret. Going through the animation department however blew my mind—there is literally a mini-village inside of Pixar!

Each animator is given the chance to decorate their own space however they want—and some have literally imported Tuff sheds to live in while they do their work. One was decorated to look exactly like a miniature everyday-house you’d see on a street, white picket fence included. Another looked just like a Tiki hut, and a particular ‘street’ in the animation department resembled Chinatown. One room seemed to overflow with Ninja Turtles toys and posters.

I got a close-up look at their Oscar trophy case—which actually included drawings by children! That earned a couple of bonus points in my book. Also, they had a huge Render Farm—processing machines lined every wall of a see-through room – which had a water-circulating system designed specifically for keeping everything cool.

The saddest part was definitely leaving Pixar. It was thrilling being around so many people who made the Pixar name legendary. It’s pretty obvious why everyone wants to work there! (Not just because of the Pixar store, though that was amazing. I loaded up on some major Pixar swag).

Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student

Digital Media Management Students attend the “Next Steps Forum”

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Cogswell Student DeShawn Davis and Rev. Jesse Jackson

DMM student DeShawn Davis (right) meets Rev. Jesse Jackson (left).

Cogswell College Digital Media Management (DMM) program faculty and students attended the “Next Steps for Technology Forum” which was sponsored by Intel and Rainbow PUSH. Engaging in dialogue about increasing diversity in the employment and supplier pipelines over 300 people including VC’s, entrepreneurs, technology companies and community based organizations. Participants were treated to talks from Rev. Jesse Jackson and upper management from tech companies.

CTN Animation eXpo 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Creative Talent Network Animation Expo

If I were to describe an experience as life-changing, this would be one those experiences. Talent from all over the world was concentrated into a single, weekend-long conference at the Marriott Hotel in Burbank, California. Thousands of artists and animation enthusiasts gathered to participate in workshops, visit artist booths, have their portfolio reviews by industry professionals and make connections. Animation legends like Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg were there. More than once, I walked by a short, older man in a Hawaiian shirt and realized I’d just passed by one of the greatest names in animation. While I never got the chance to talk with Eric Goldberg, it was thrilling just having seen him in real life.

Sierra Gaston with Dice Tsutsumi

Sierra Gaston with Dice Tsutsumi

I participated in seven workshops, many of them concentrating on character design. A particularly useful one by Ty Carter, a visual development artist at Blue Sky Studios, focused on how to get a dream job right after college. Ty Carter made it very clear that a lot of hard work was required—and that if any of the workshop attendees were as good as the artists currently exhibiting at CTN, we would definitely get into the industry.

I had around four portfolio reviews; two by Nickelodeon from their Artist Program and Interactive Content Development departments, one by a professional (and very exhausted) character designer, and the last by an extremely talented character and design artist who actually volunteered to look at my portfolio and gave me feedback. Portfolio review is so extremely important—while getting invaluable critiques on how to make your art work better, you are also making connections and getting a really good look at what the industry standard is. There’s a certain degree of fear in what others will say about your work, but I was mostly eager to see in which areas I was succeeding and which ones I needed to work harder at. The reviews were very positive, and I left with a clear vision of what I needed to work on before application dates rolled around.  I also gained a possible lead working with Nickelodeon.

Sierra Gaston with Tom Moore

Sierra Gaston with Tom Moore

In addition to workshops, book signings, and meeting artists, I got to see a screening of Song of the Sea, the newest animated feature by Cartoon Saloon in Ireland. A story about selkies, humans that are part seal in nature and can transform when they put on their coats, Song of the Sea is breathtaking in its 2D traditional intricacy. It’s wonderful seeing a traditional animation studio from Ireland making waves in such a 3D animation-focused industry.

CTN is an absolute must for any serious student in any area of animation. The connections are invaluable, and it is a privilege to be in the same room as some of the artists that attended this year. It’s a dose of reality to be around industry professionals of that caliber—while in school you’re in a completely different environment, but once you’re actually talking and interacting with people you’ve only heard about your entire life, it makes it that much more real. A weekend in Burbank among people in love with what they do is the perfect tool for inspiration and personal growth.

Sierra Gaston, Digital Art & Animation Student, Cogswell College

Cogswell student group ready to go to CTN Animation Expo 2014

Cogswell student group ready to go to CTN Animation Expo 2014

About CTN

The CTN animation eXpo
Nov 21-23, 2014
Burbank Convention Center
800 604 2238 | 818 827-7138
www.ctnanimationexpo.com

The only event of its kind presents a unique opportunity that brings together the top professionals from both the traditional and digital worlds of animation. Hosted by the Creative Talent Network, this six year event has captured both the industry and local community’s attention as a resource for education, employment, inspiration, business opportunities and most of all FUN!

While the Expo has a very broad appeal, it is focused specifically on “THE TALENT” from the animation and surrounding communities. In an intimate setting at the Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center thousands of attendees meet the faces behind the fantasy from yesterday, today and tomorrow over the course of 3 days. The event presenters include contributors from some of the highest grossing animated films of all time and are targeted to empower professionals, educate students and entertain the general public.

Of particular interest to attendees are the Live Demonstrations, Networking Receptions, Master Workshops, Panel Discussions, Business Symposiums, Recruiting and the Professional Exhibits offered throughout the Expo as well as the signature One-On-One Personal Consultations with creative professionals from top studios and educational institutions both local and international all happening during the first city wide proclamation of “Animation Week” just for this event.

With a demographic that includes both students and professionals it is our pleasure to work closely with each of our sponsors to ensure that every agreement is tailored to address your specific marketing objectives. Together we can make this event a memorable and successful one that will bring the community together as well as raise awareness for the animation medium each and every year.

“…AMAZING … ONE OF A KIND … BETTER THAN EVER … SO NEEDED IN OUR INDUSTRY…”

- See more at: http://www.ctnanimationexpo.com/axAboutUs.php#sthash.4zihYqnp.dpuf

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Cogswell’s own Kegan Chau attended the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention this year, gaining valuable knowledge and insights about his future career. Being both a student at Cogswell and a member of the student AES chapter at Cogswell, Kegan expresses how well prepared he felt while taking on this year’s AES. Kegan is a Digital Audio Technology student at Cogswell and has been a part of several large projects at the College. Currently, he’s working with on-campus animation studio, Star Thief Studio, as both composer and sound designer.

Watch the interview on YouTube here: Kegan Chau, Digital Audio Student, Attends AES

Marc Farly, Senior Sound Designer at Sony Playstation

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Cogswell AES Student Chapter Presents: Marc Farly
Monday, December 1th
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Dragon’s Den

Are you interested in sound design? What about sound design Sony Playstation? Senior Sound Designer Marc Farly is coming to Cogswell College to share his experiences and background, then open the floor to give  students a chance to have their real world questions answered.  Don’t miss it!

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by Forbes.com, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website (www.suntactics.com) and Amazon.com. Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [www.score.org a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!