People often say that if you want to get started in the video game industry, you need to know someone to get you in the door. That is very true for 99% of the companies out there. However, once you get in the door, you need to demonstrate your skills or else you've just been wasting everybody's time, including your own. For me, it was a little more obscure than that, but here goes my Access pre-history.
For the majority of my adult life, I've worked around video games. I worked in an arcade in the now-leveled Ogden City Mall. I worked for Software Etc. in the Newgate Mall. Finally, I ended up the Hardlines Lead at Media Play in Riverdale, Utah. People came to me because I was extremely honest about the videogames that we had. If a game was a dog, I said so.
One of my regular customers came up to me and said that he just got a job offer managing a local software store. He wanted me to leave Media Play and go work for him at this new place. I'd be in charge of handling purchasing, stocking and layout for the videogaming section. After doing some digging into the place, I accepted the job offer and gave my two weeks notice at Media Play. My manager at the time made my hours a living Hell for those two weeks, but I understood why.
Evidently, I should have dug more. Within three months, my new manager was let go, the videogame section was eliminated completely, the company reorganized, and I ended up the IT Manager for Morgan Business Systems. If you've never heard of them, that's a good thing.
I was pretty miserable there. If it wasn't for a couple of co-workers, I would have gone off the deep end.
My former customer/manager knew I was miserable, so he put me in touch with Bill Biggs down at Access Software. Now, I had applied for a job at Access Software as a web developer in the past. I actually was interviewed, but the job went to someone the development team knew. However, Bill trusted my friend's judgment and interviewed me. He hired me on as a test lead on September 1, 1998.
Now, there were four issues here. One, I hadn't told my current job that I was even interviewing, let alone leaving. Two, I wasn't sure if being in test was a good fit for me. Three, the job was a significant pay cut (down to $8.00/hour.) Finally, the job was a significant distance away. I lived in Ogden at the time, and while I was within walking distance of MBS, it was a 2-3 hour bus ride to Access.
Well, I ended up using a week of vacation and worked my first week at Access while taking vacation leave from MBS. I loved it. I felt alive for the first time since I had started at MBS. So, I went in on Saturday, typed up a document with all of the admin passwords, etc., and left the document, my keys, a letter of immediate resignation and everything else on the desk of the owner.
I took a significant cut in pay to be happy, and it was the best decision I ever made. I never realized that I'd do it twice, though, but that's a story for another time.