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Simon Zafirovski Interview with The Rookies

Hi, I am an Unreal Engine Authorized Instructor currently teaching at the M3DS Academy in Skopje Macedonia.
Besides teaching, we also work on our in-house game projects, where I am the lead Game Developer / Engineer.

Check out Simon's Artstation Check out Simon's Rookies Project

The Journey:

What's your current role and what does it involve?

In my current role as the Head of Games and Education at M3DS Academy, I have multifaceted responsibilities.

My primary focus is to oversee the development and execution of our game-related educational programs.

This entails ensuring that our students receive top-notch training in the ever-evolving field of 3D and game design.

I collaborate closely with our instructional team to guarantee that our curriculum aligns with industry standards and trends. Additionally, I manage instructor assignments, mentorship programs, and course development to maintain the highest educational quality.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are you involved in?

I'm privileged to work at M3DS Academy, an esteemed institution dedicated to nurturing talent in 3D and game design. My role allows me to be deeply engaged in shaping the future of aspiring artists and game developers. I'm involved in various projects aimed at enhancing our educational offerings, such as creating innovative curricula, implementing the latest teaching methodologies, and forging industry partnerships. These projects ensure that our students receive a comprehensive and relevant education.

When did you first realize you wanted to work in this industry?

My journey into the 3D and gaming industry commenced during my formative years of education. As I delved deeper into the captivating world of 3D art and game development, I realized that my passion could be transformed into a fulfilling career. This realization ignited my desire to contribute to the industry and guide others on their creative paths.

How did you get your first big break?

My initial breakthrough into the industry occurred when I joined M3DS Academy as an instructor in 2021. This was a significant milestone as it allowed me to share my knowledge and passion for 3D and gaming with eager learners. Serving as an instructor provided a platform for me to grow both as an educator and as a professional in the field. It was within this nurturing environment that I honed my teaching skills, deepened my expertise, and began my transformative journey.

Describe the journey you took into your current role.

My journey into the position of Head of Games and Education at M3DS Academy has been a remarkable and fulfilling odyssey. It commenced with my role as an instructor, where I had the privilege of teaching and inspiring students. This initial step allowed me to gain valuable insights into the dynamics of the education process and the specific needs of our learners. Over time, my dedication and commitment to providing a top-quality education led to my promotion as a certified Unreal Engine instructor in 2022.

My journey continued as I further expanded my role by becoming involved in curriculum development and educational leadership. This phase allowed me to shape the academic direction of our programs, ensuring that they remain relevant and effective in the ever-changing industry landscape. My unwavering passion for education and my aspiration to provide students with the best possible learning experience culminated in my current position, where I have the privilege to steer our educational endeavors and support the growth of our students.

Day in the life:

Describe a typical workday for you.

A typical workday for me is a dynamic blend of various responsibilities and interactions. It begins with meetings with our instructional team, where we discuss ongoing courses, students' progress, and any adjustments needed to enhance the learning experience. These meetings are essential for maintaining a high level of instructional quality.

Additionally, I engage in curriculum planning sessions to ensure that our programs are up-to-date, engaging, and aligned with industry standards. Collaborating closely with our instructors, I provide guidance, support, and mentorship to ensure that they have the tools and resources needed to excel in their roles.

Moreover, I actively communicate with students to gather feedback and address any concerns, ensuring they have a positive and productive learning experience. This interaction allows me to stay in tune with their needs and expectations.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use?

In our educational programs, we employ a diverse set of tools, encompassing both third-party and proprietary software. These tools enable our students to gain proficiency and practical experience with industry-standard applications. Some of the key software and tools we use include Autodesk Maya, ZBrush, Substance Painter, and Unreal Engine.

These industry-standard software packages are essential for mastering various aspects of 3D art and game development, from character modeling and texturing to level design and game mechanics implementation. By providing hands-on experience with these tools, we equip our students with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the competitive 3D and gaming industry.

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

My role requires extensive collaboration with various departments and key individuals within M3DS Academy. I work closely with our instructional team, which includes dedicated and passionate instructors who play a pivotal role in our students' development. These instructors are experts in their respective fields and are instrumental in delivering high-quality education.

Additionally, I liaise with our curriculum developers, who are responsible for crafting engaging and industry-relevant course materials. Our management team is another critical aspect of my collaboration, as they provide strategic guidance and support to ensure our programs align with the academy's mission and vision.

Furthermore, I have regular interactions with our students, creating an open channel for feedback and communication. This direct engagement allows me to better understand their needs and challenges, facilitating continuous improvement in our educational programs.

Are there any industry trends that are changing the nature of your role?

Indeed, the 3D and gaming industry is continuously evolving, and these changes significantly impact my role. One notable trend is the increasing demand for real-time graphics and immersive experiences, driven by advancements in hardware and software technologies. This trend necessitates that our educational programs stay current with the latest tools and techniques used in real-time rendering and game development.

Additionally, the growing prominence of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in various industries is shaping the landscape of interactive 3D content creation. To prepare our students for the future, we must adapt our curricula to include these emerging technologies and workflows.

Furthermore, the industry's heightened focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is driving changes in how we approach education and foster a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds. Ensuring that our programs are inclusive and accessible is paramount in this evolving landscape.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

One aspect of my job that I wouldn't change is the opportunity to make a positive impact on our students' lives. Witnessing their growth, creativity, and passion for 3D and game design is incredibly rewarding. Being a part of their journey and helping them realize their potential is a constant source of motivation and fulfillment.

What is one thing you would like to see change?

While there are numerous aspects of my role that I cherish, I would welcome further collaboration and partnership opportunities with industry leaders and studios. Establishing more connections within the 3D and gaming industry would enable us to provide even more valuable insights, experiences, and opportunities to our students. This would further enhance their readiness for a successful career in this dynamic field.

Career Advice:

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

While formal education can provide a strong foundation, it's not the only path to success in the 3D and gaming industry. Practical experience, dedication, and a robust portfolio are equally crucial. Many professionals, including myself, have diverse educational backgrounds and have honed their skills through hands-on work and continuous learning.

What are some of the transferable competencies or skills you have developed on the job?

Working in education has allowed me to cultivate valuable transferable skills, such as effective communication, adaptability, and problem-solving. These skills are essential in any professional role and have been instrumental in my journey from an instructor to the Head of Games and Education.

What do you wish you knew about the industry before you started?

One thing I wish I had known earlier is the importance of networking and building connections within the industry. Establishing relationships with peers, mentors, and professionals can open doors to opportunities and provide valuable guidance. Networking is a valuable asset for anyone looking to advance their career in the 3D and gaming sectors.

Where do you get your inspiration from, and how do you implement it into your work?

I draw inspiration from various sources, including video games, films, art, and the creative work of our students. Observing the passion and dedication of our students fuels my drive to continually enhance our educational programs. Additionally, staying updated with industry trends and innovations inspires me to incorporate relevant content and practices into our curriculum.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

A compelling project brief for artists would involve creating a character or environment that tells a unique story. This allows artists to showcase their creativity, technical skills, and storytelling abilities. The brief could include details such as the character's background, personality, and the world they inhabit. This kind of project not only demonstrates artistic prowess but also the capacity to engage audiences through visual narratives.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

One common mistake is not tailoring their portfolios to the specific job they're applying for. It's essential to showcase relevant skills and projects that align with the position's requirements. Additionally, overlooking the importance of effective communication during the application and interview process can hinder an artist's chances. Clear and concise communication of one's skills and experiences is key.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Never stop learning and pushing your creative boundaries. The 3D and gaming industry thrives on innovation and fresh ideas. Stay curious, embrace challenges, and seek opportunities to grow your skills and knowledge. A resilient, growth-oriented mindset will set you on a path to success in this exciting and ever-evolving field.


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