Before our Squids trek back to their respective homelands for the holidays, our amazing HR department worked tirelessly to bring an early holiday bash to the Squid Tank. Last week’s festivities included a filling lunch at Red Fish Grill, soothing massages from Balance Massage, holiday bartending tips from Ralph & Kacoo’s, holiday film favorites, ornament arts-and-crafts, and the star of the show: The TurboSquid Gingerbread Throwdown.
Our staff was divided into teams and issued one challenge: create the best gingerbread house, to rule them all. Each team was handed a box of graham crackers and an assortment of candies, though they were allowed to bring extra decorations from home to aid their creativity— and they didn’t disappoint.
One of the party organizers, Deanna Sparkman (our VP of Human Resources), was surprised that an office full of tech folks was so on board with the contest. “ I think the neatest part of the whole experience, for me, was coming up with this idea and inviting the judges. When I walked into the judging chambers (AKA, my office) they were floored at the first one I brought in. They weren’t traditional houses like they expected, and as our competition name suggested. We were all blown away.”
One of our judges, John Koch, agreed: “Everyone seemed into it, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was an old time Christmas theme brought forward into a TS time and space. We had no idea that we would be looking at anything other than a bunch of Hansel and Gretl-looking houses.”
Indeed, our first place winner blew it out of the water. Judged on three scoring categories— theme, creativity, and execution- Godzilla and Mothra destroyed the competition.
Godzilla and Mothra: a smashing success for our first place team.
In a reportedly tight race, second and third place went to the Cajun Christmas Cabin and… what we’ll call the “gingerbread drug den,” respectively.
Cajun Christmas Cabin snagged a second place trophy from the blue bayou.
One of the more tame views of the “gingerbread drug den,” with all apologies to the folks at Breaking Bad.
While comic themes clearly had the upper hand, we also had some more traditional houses, including a recreation of the St. Louis Cathedral, as well as a take on the Baba Yaga hut of legend. Check out our Facebook page for a gallery of the impressive days’ work done by our Squids, and Happy Holidays from the TurboSquid office!
Three cheers to Deanna Sparkman and Susan de la Houssaye for an amazing event, and to everyone who worked and participated in it!
In this week’s Meet the Squids, we’re talking to Susan de la Houssaye, Human Resources Coordinator at TurboSquid. While her daily to-do list is varied and plentiful (and probably impeccably organized, as you’ll read below), Susan also monitors the many resumes that flow into the TurboSquid inbox. If you’ve applied for a job with us, it’s very likely that your resume passed through her hands first. Read on to find out some of Susan’s handy resume tips– as a former Career Counselor, she definitely knows how you can get the attention of her fellow HR folks.
What’s a typical day at the Squid Tank like for you?
Every day here is different. Some days I’m making travel plans, preparing for a new hire to arrive, doing pre-screens over the phone with potential candidates, posting job openings, contacting headhunters, working on expense reports, signing checks, sending wire transfers, ordering lunch for a department meeting, preparing for a company meeting or a board meeting, and the list goes on.
It seems like there’s a spotlight on New Orleans, as a great place to find tech jobs. (In fact, our CEO, Matt Wisdom, just sat with a panel for NOLA Tech Week, where they talked about this.) As someone who sees a lot of resumes, what’s one way for a candidate to really get your attention? And are there some mistakes that could get a resume sent straight to the “No” pile?
Spell check, spell check, spell check! When I open an email from a job applicant, I can tell immediately if they have read our job posting in its entirety. We ask that everyone visits our website, creates a username, and includes it in their cover letter. Candidates should attach their resume and include the job title in the subject line of their email.
In my opinion, a resume should always fit on one page and the cover letter should be three short paragraphs summarizing their experience and letting us know why they are qualified for the position they are interested in. Candidates should have friends and family review their resume before sending it out, in order to catch any last minute mistakes. One time, I received a resume from an applicant and they had their phone number wrong on their resume, so I was calling the wrong number.
One last tip– resumes should be received as a PDF, not a Word doc. Please check our website for all of the current job openings.
What’s your favorite thing about working at TurboSquid?
The best thing about TS is the relaxed work environment. Everyone here works really hard, but they also know how to have fun. There will be times when the office is quiet and everyone is working diligently, and then you will hear people taking a break and joking around in the kitchen. Everyone here is freakishly nice and helpful!
Do you have a favorite model on in the TurboSquid catalog?
I eat out, work out, and travel a lot. I love trying new restaurants, therefore, I have to work out religiously. Right now, I think Coquette is the best restaurant in town. Regarding working out, I’m obsessed with going to HourBlast. I love traveling on the weekends to visit friends or to hang out with my family in Pass Christian, MS. If I’m around here on the weekends I’m often hired to do home organizing. I basically help people de-clutter their homes. I have my own website – check it out!
Before we go– give us three random facts about you! Go!
1. I like to skydive.
2. I love country music.
3. I am addicted to all of the Real Housewives shows on Bravo.
This year’s CheckMate Advisory Board Meeting was a rousing success! While we made sure to feed and entertain everyone while they were in New Orleans, 3D Modeling was, as usual, at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We also got to add a number of new board members, representing IKEA, Armstrong & White, as well as welcoming Michele Bousquet back in an Advisory Board role, given her track record with CheckMate. There were many roundtable discussions over the two-day, on-site meeting, and what the Advisory Board had to say about using TurboSquid models was surprising, even to us.
Over the next few months, we’ll be posting more specific information gathered from the meetings, but for now, we feel it’s important to give our dedicated artist community a quick recap on several major topics.
This is information that comes directly from the folks who are buying and using your 3D model content daily, and the insights they provided covered a broad range of industries and needs, from film and television, to architectural design, game development, advertising, news, and furniture manufacturing. Since you’re making models to sell on the site, we feel this kind of feedback is timely and worth reading.
Several Advisory Board member companies now rely more heavily on CheckMate models and won’t allow a non-CheckMate file to be purchased if there is a CheckMate one available. Why? Because they know with a CheckMate model, they “can run with it,” without being concerned over quality or usefulness when it comes to further changes or modifications, regardless of their pipeline.
Lower resolution or un-subdivideable content is becoming less useful as directors and clients constantly change their minds and want to see scenes from all angles… meaning background objects can unexpectedly and quickly become foreground objects.
Realistic models are strongly preferred. While clients know that your creativity is a great thing and provides huge benefits within your work, a real-world modeling pipeline requires models that look exactly like the thing they represent. In short, if you’re modeling a product that exists physically, you should be using a ton of references, so you can model it exactly the way it was designed. The Board wants artists to know that they can be as creative as they like in getting to the digital double of the real-world object, not in taking liberties with the way the object looks.
Today’s production pipelines are no longer based around a single 3D app and are far more “fractured” in terms of where specific aspects of the production takes place, with content flowing in and through multiple platforms. Whether you’re modeling in Modo, Maya, Mudbox or ZBrush, texturing in BodyPaint3D, Mari, Photoshop or GIMP, the content a company makes or purchases is being pushed into multiple tools downstream as part of production.
How does that affect you as a TurboSquid artist? It means these companies are looking for a consistent standard like CheckMate that ensures clean transport between products, and that if you’re not building to the standard yet, you should look at it again.
When looking at TurboSquid models, the Advisory Board mentioned that it can be a challenge to do a good comparison of materials and shaders between models, since lighting can be dramatically different. As such, they suggested that we look at building HDRI/EXR only standard light-rigs that could be used across renderers and 3D apps, so that there could be a better way to determine how a model’s materials are constructed and how they react to a consistent and known lighting environment. This is how most of the Advisory Board members review their own internal models, so we’re looking at how this might be achieved within the TurboSquid artist community. We’ll keep everyone posted on our progress here.
As we’re growing our CheckMate certification, we’re looking to grow with our artists, and help them to achieve an even higher standard.
Artist training is an ongoing challenge for all companies as tools, techniques, and pipelines change annually. Our Advisory Board told us that artists who can’t evolve and adapt to new technologies and processes tend to find themselves quickly out of a job in production as the demands change. Specifically as it relates to modeling, they mentioned that having a solid foundation of modeling skills and techniques is the most important thing any artist can bring to the job, since new hires are not necessarily working inside of the 3D app that they originally started in.
This certainly struck home with us, as we also feel that helping you get to the CheckMate standard is vital, as the 3D stock content space evolves. Describing how to model something is a good start, but understanding why you should make a model to meet a certain standard (whether it’s part of your employers’ pipeline, or for CheckMate) is often overlooked.
Because of this, TurboSquid is going to begin expanding our training and our artist outreach for the CheckMate Pro certification process soon. There were some good ideas discussed during the meetings, and we will be working to get them implemented. The important thing here, as it relates to our artists, is that we want you to be successful, but we also understand that some of you have been frustrated by the specs. We’ve heard you, and we will be working to get you comfortable in understanding why the CheckMate specs call for certain things (and how to achieve them).
The CheckMate Advisory Board and some of the TurboSquid staff gather for a New Orleans dinner, 2013.
Thank you to Deborah Anderson, for helping to pull these bullet points from a fascinating two-day summit.
In our Meet the Squids series, it seems we’ve also managed to cover many distinctive facets of New Orleans culture (food, drink, music, and numerous organizations), and this week’s interview with Eric Arvidson, CFO, is no exception. Eric is one of the voices of the beloved New Orleans’ listener-supported radio station, WWOZ, now in the midst of its annual membership drive.
Eric offers his thoughts on why he loves WWOZ, and talks to us about one of his more… fiery hobbies.
What does your day typically consist of?
A typical day consists of emails, spreadsheets, planning, and meetings. Each day can be a bit different, but the overall goals are to make budget projections and make sure we pay our artists each month. Much of my time is spent helping others do their job, and sometimes that means staying out of the way!
What’s your favorite thing about working at TurboSquid?
Working at TurboSquid is always a challenge and each day presents something new. I enjoy that we try to keep the “corporate rules” to a minimum. But when it really comes down to it, distilled down to its essence, what makes TurboSquid cool is the people – employees, artists, friends and family. It is fun to see everyone working from so many different angles, for a common goal.
NOLA Burners’ 2012 project, Bebe Brulee, was featured at Burning Man. Eric says, “I love to create big art structures and then burn them down. Of course, we do it on purpose (and safely), but I think that scares my wife sometimes…”
WWOZ is in the midst of its membership drive - why do you think WWOZ has become so important to New Orleans? Oh, and when can you be heard on the air?
I think WWOZ is the voice of the culture of New Orleans, and as they say at the station, they are the Guardians of the Groove. New Orleans has such a unique and robust music scene and I think it is vital that there is an outlet for local musicians and sounds be heard. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful radio station that pushes that out, all over the world. I am not regularly scheduled on air, so you just have to keep listening to hear me next!
One more thing! Tell us about your favorite model from the TurboSquid catalog.
I love this Sea Stallion. Just a cool looking, big helicopter.
This week in our Meet the Squids series, we’re talking to Paul Teall, General Manager of the Content Group. In addition to his management duties, Paul also has a secondary job title at TurboSquid: commissioner of the office’s cutthroat Fantasy Football league.
What do you do with your time outside of work?
I’m relatively new to New Orleans, so I still love exploring the city with my family. There’s so much to do here – we’re all still thrilled to be discovering new things about the city.
I’ve had a couple of jobs in the video game industry, and I’ve got a side project centered around that – gamejobhunter.com: It’s a site that’s focused on helping people get a job making games.
What does your day at TurboSquid typically entail?
Working with the CheckMate team to help expand our certification efforts! The team is working incredibly hard to make sure that our quality of our catalog continues to rise. I’m also working on a few more very cool projects, but it’s a little too early to discuss those yet.
Do you have a favorite thing about working here?
I love the people that work at TS – we’ve got a really fun and talented team. Being in downtown New Orleans is also great. We’ve got a lot of cool restaurants and bars nearby, which keeps things interesting.
What else do you get to do at TS HQ?
One of my unofficial job duties is acting as the TurboSquid Fantasy Football league commissioner. Our league has gotten pretty intense over the years – we’re up to 16 teams, and the competition is ruthless. I get to publicly shame people that forget to set their rosters, which is always fun.
Is there anyone in the office who’s doing particularly well this season? Now is an acceptable time to praise them, or throw some shade.
Ted Sedberry is actually 9-0.
How much does everyone hate him right now?
Probably a lot.
Ed. note:Without shaming anyone too hard (I’m super nice like that), we also talked about the highs and lows of the league, with Paul citing the “fall from grace, for our Super Bowl champ of two years ago.” So I had to ask…
Is there a Loser Bowl trophy?
They get $50 and a year of living with the shame of a Loser Bowl “championship.”
Before we go, tell us about your favorite model in the TurboSquid catalog:
If you’ve made a call to our Support Desk, it’s very possible that you are already familiar with Member Services Agent, Jordan Cressy. In this issue of Meet the Squids, Jordan shares her thoughts on talking to customers, and shares her dream of talking to animals.
First of all, what do you do when you’re away from the Support Desk?
I like to overestimate my ability to DIY. My house is littered with half-finished projects and art supplies. I really like music. I sing and play a little piano. I also love to write… I like to write children’s stories.
I have a corgi named Raleigh. I am a little obsessed with corgis. My corgi has a lobster outfit, ‘nough said.
What does a work day look like for you?
I answer questions. Well, I try to answer questions. I am the liaison between questions and answers (fancy).
I answer chats, phone calls, and tickets from our customers. Generally, if one of our members tries to contact us, there is a one in five chance (sometimes one in three) it will be me! I do my best to help our members get the information they need. I want to help!
Another big part of my job is to hunt down fraud, like Buffy. That’s what she was doing, right?
What’s your favorite thing about working at TurboSquid?
I am just a 3D girl in an 8 bit world: a Super Mario World! (otherwise known as the Member Support desks) My other favorite things about TurboSquid include: Endless Hot Tea, and the soda fountain (this is less important to me, but my friends are so jealous!).
Mostly, I get to learn about some really awesome stuff with some great people! Because what is cooler than 3D?
Pretty much nothing! What’s it like working with TurboSquid customers?
It is really nice when we have customers who appreciate what we do. Most of our customers leave feedback, but it is always really great when customer sends us a message of thanks. We also have a couple of characters who we all know by name. It’s funny because we are really a very small group, so most of our customers know us and we know them. That said, I am sorry that I sometimes don’t remember names… But if you come in to chat or call and say “Hey! I am the guy with the Elephant model in Maya” I’ll totally remember you!