If you’re tuned into the world of digital marketing and design, you already know that virtual reality is poised to be the Next Big Thing. Though the technology has existed since the 1980’s, VR is finally seeing mainstream attention – and huge business growth. Experts predict that 12 million VR headsets will be sold in 2017, and that by 2020 the total global market for VR will be worth $34 billion.
The VR revolution brings with it game-changing career opportunities: job ads for VR/AR/MR roles have increased by 800% in the last two years, and that number continues to rise. The world's leading companies are building these teams – and if you’ve been thinking about pursuing work in virtual, augmented, or mixed reality, you could be just the person they’re looking for.
Between a flexible bar for entry, increasingly accessible tools, and an expanding range of ways to get involved, now is the perfect time to take your first steps into the VR space. Just ask Talent Manager Stephanie Hill, VR Designer Lou Ward, and VR organizer and influencer Eva Hoerth: industry experts who know what it takes to hit the ground running in this fast-developing field.
Keep reading for their take on why 2017 is the best year ever to abandon your excuses – and start building your career in VR.
1. Newbies are in demand.
In an industry that’s still in its formative stages, having direct experience in VR/AR/MR isn’t a prerequisite. Those in the know emphasize that if you’re a fast learner with a solid creative and technical background, you’re already more qualified than you think.
Filter Talent Manager Stephanie Hill has placed multiple professionals in VR roles at leading companies – and very few of them had already worked in the field. “This area is so new that almost no one comes in with a ton of VR experience,” she explains. “Companies are hiring Developers, UX/UI Designers, 3D artists, Prototypers and other professionals for their VR projects – smart people with skill sets and aptitudes that translate really well to this medium.”
Stephanie points out that beyond hard skills, it’s enthusiasm and curiosity that make an awesome VR candidate. “My clients are seeking out people who are truly excited about VR and what it can accomplish. Taking initiative by learning about VR in your own time really impresses employers.”
The bottom line? With strong design, development, and related skills – and a hunger to learn more about the industry – you’re in a great position to start looking for your first VR job.
2. There's a niche that'll light your fire.
Because VR has traditionally been dominated by game developers, it’s no surprise that the majority of people still associate it mainly with entertainment. But the landscape is changing fast: every day VR is extending into more areas, from education and healthcare to art and architecture and beyond.
Seattle-based VR leader Eva Hoerth, one of the top 20 industry influencers of 2016, used to think of VR as a space run by, and made for, gamers. Her “aha!” moment came as she floated down an icy river in a DeepStream VR experience; much more than entertainment, this virtual winterscape was actually a healthcare tool for burn victims. By immersing patients in a “cold” environment, it relieved their pain as effectively as Morphine.
“Once I realized VR’s capacity to improve lives,” Eva says, “I was absolutely hooked.” She was inspired by "the Grandfather of VR", Tom Furness, who pioneered the concept of "VR for Good" – and had the opportunity to work alongside him as a Design Researcher at HITLab. Since then, she’s been helping VR newcomers discover ways to apply the technology far beyond gaming.
“Whatever area you’re passionate about,” Eva says, “there’s a way VR can touch it. This is the perfect time to get in on the ground floor and shape the directions the industry will take.”
3. VR tools are more accessible than ever.
Filterati and indie VR filmmaker Lou Ward says the best reason to get into VR this year is that the technology is now much more accesible for consumers and creators alike. “For a long time,” he explains, “experiencing VR was prohibitively expensive, and developing it was prohibitively difficult. Today, the barrier of entry is lower; it’s much easier for people on both sides to jump right in and explore their curiosity.”
Unity, today’s hottest VR tool, has made prototyping much faster and simpler for non-coders. “Although Unity takes years to really master,” Lou says, “potential employers don’t expect you to come in as an expert. Don’t pressure yourself to become a Unity guru in a matter of weeks or even months – and remember that all of us in the VR industry are in the same boat in terms of learning as we go.”
Eva recommends checking out A-Frame, which she describes as a “stepping stone” to Unity. You can learn the basics in a weekend – she promises! “In just a few days, you can create your own VR experience. And if you show up to an interview able to show your creation on a simple device like Google Cardboard, you’ll definitely stand out.”
4. The VR "fam" is waiting for you!
At the heart of the VR industry is a vibrant community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts – and now more than ever, there’s a place in it for you. “No matter your background in VR, or lack thereof, go to local events and meetups,” Lou urges. “Finding your people is the best way to learn more about VR, swap ideas, and discover job opportunities."
Lou and Eva are co-organizers of the Seattle Virtual Reality Meetup, which offers workshops, guest speakers, informal networking, and demos of the latest VR technologies. At events like these, Eva says, you’ll rub elbows with a diverse cast of characters. “The VR ‘fam’ is made up of all kinds of people,” she says, “from ‘VRgins’ to industry leaders, from CEOs to college students. You’ll see teachers, doctors, artists, activists, and psychologists; there's pretty much no discipline or experience level that’s not represented.”
Eva was hesitant to attend her first VR event two years ago, having had no formal background in the field. But her nerves quickly subsided – and showing up, she says, was one of the best decisions she ever made. Today she works to promote inclusion in VR, focusing on involving women and other underrepresented groups.
“For VR to really take hold," Eva explains, "it will have to be shaped by a wide range of different voices, perspectives, and ideas. So if you have a fresh point of view to share, you’re not just welcome – you’re very much needed!"
So what are you waiting for?
There’s never been a better time to make your move into the VR space, and we’d love to help you do it. Get in touch to talk about what you can bring to this fast-growing field – and how you can start making your VR vision a reality.