Animating your future
By Richard Scott
CEO & Co-Founder, Axis Studios
In my experience there are four types of feelings people express about their job. There are those who do it for money, those who like their work, those who enjoy their work and those who love what they do.
I am lucky enough to be able to say that ‘I love what I do’. Given that the average person will spend over twenty percent of their waking life working, it makes sense to at least enjoy it, if not love it.
When I was leaving school, things weren’t looking quite so rosy. Art was the only thing I was consistently good at during high school, so on the advice of my teachers I applied to the top three Scottish art schools.
I didn’t get accepted to any of the courses and I didn’t have a plan B. The careers advisors then suggested that I should consider other things, forget art altogether, or wait a year until I could apply for college.
Over my career I’ve become more and more confident about making the most of opportunities when I see them. At seventeen I took my first big opportunity, although I wasn’t feeling confident.
That opportunity was the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). The YTS was set up by the government at the time to get young people into work and train them on the job. It did however have a suspect reputation, and some considered it cheap labour.
The YTS allowed me to be immediately involved in the only thing I felt passionate about and that was art. I got a YTS placement at a graphic design firm in Glasgow and my first year was spent as the most junior member of staff, doing the most menial tasks. What I did learn however was how all the parts of the company worked, this was invaluable, and as I later realised, wasn't something you’d get at art school.
I spent six years at the design company taking every opportunity I could to learn and progress. When I came to leave that company, something dawned on me. If I’d gone to art school and done a four-year degree, I’d only have two years’ work experience by now. I wouldn’t have managed to move from graphic design, into photo retouching, into 3d design, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn from some amazing professionals along the way.
Fast forward through the next four years and I spent time working in animation and video games before setting up Axis Studios with four colleagues in 2000, where I am now the CEO. Axis Studios is a trio of animation and visual effects studios in Glasgow, Bristol and London. We partner with entertainment clients all over the world including BBC, Netflix, Activision, Sega and Amazon Studios.
Since setting up Axis we’ve looked to give people the same opportunities we had early in our careers. We look for people who are ambitious, who have passion, who take responsibility and relish some form of challenge. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked with us for five years or are brand new to the team, if you exhibit these traits, we’ll give you a range of opportunities to progress.
When we are hiring we obviously look for a certain level of skill and competence for the role. We also look beyond that for soft skills. These are the skills that equip you to get along with others, make smart decisions and fit in well with our team.
When I think back to my early career in the design company a big part of what I really learnt were these soft skills. I don’t really think you can learn these on an academic course, it is interacting with people in the working environment that helps you understand what gets results.
We also put a lot of emphasis on learning new skills on the job, just like the YTS. As a studio we like to work in a certain way and it is important for people to know how they can get the most out of themselves in that environment. However, we also want people to suggest how to improve things, to add value and feel valued whilst making exciting creative work.
Your career will always be so much more than any qualifications you have. My advice is to always be on the look out for opportunity, do as much practical learning as possible, work hard on the soft skills that you’ll use every day, and most importantly find a path that you love.