Day in the Life of an Intern: Shannon

Riot’s summer internship program offers students projects, mentorship and play– no coffee runs here.  The deadline for summer 2014 applications is fast approaching on January 15, 2014.

Shannon joined Riot as a summer 2013 intern on the Visual Effects (VFX) team, earning her spot on the team by impressing us with her VFX demo reel, a League of Legends take on her senior thesis. Shannon recently started as a full-time Rioter on the VFX team after finishing up her Game Art and Design degree at Ringling College.

Shannon dished on her experience as a Riot intern:

What team did you intern with? 

The Visual Effects team – part of the Art team here. They create the special effects you see in game, like the ambient fires and the look of champion abilities. I mostly worked on VFX for the champion relaunch team, so I collaborated with Concept, Animation, Modeling, Splash Art and a bunch of other Art teams.

Tell us about working with your team.

I got the chance to work with everyone on the team and got a lot of feedback and mentoring; leveling up your teammates and growing as an artist is extremely important here. We also had quite a few VFX outings and, of course, played lots of League of Legends. We knew how to get stuff done, but still have fun together.

What’s the coolest project you tackled, and how involved were you in the project?

I was put on the much-anticipated visual update for Sivir. I was really nervous at first because I knew everyone was really excited for her, so she’d have to be extra kickass. The Sivir relaunch meetings I attended were really insightful because there were so many people from different teams who had a hand in Sivir’s relaunch.

 I helped create Sivir’s new particle effects: the special effects you see when she uses her QWER spells, dances, taunts, etc. When working on her Spell Shield, I took a screenshot of every spell shield in the game so that I could better understand the visual language of spell shields, and worked from there to create the right shield for Sivir. It was a lot of work and I relied a lot on my team’s feedback and guidance, but it was totally rewarding. Right after Sivir relaunched, I spectated a game on the huge monitors in the lobby and saw a player using Sivir. It was so cool to see something I worked on appear in the game!

Since joining Riot full-time, I’ve worked on Pop Star Ahri and applied a lot of what I learned during the summer. There isn’t much pink in the game, so it was cool to play around with hearts, sparkle and pink. And because fan concepts inspired us to make the skin, it was really exciting to deliver on that expectation.

Tell us about your typical day.

I learned pretty quickly that it’s up to Rioters to manage their own schedules and get their tasks done, so there really wasn’t such a thing as a typical day for me. Generally, though, we’d have our team standup in the morning and then I’d do hardcore work ‘til noon. We’d usually go out as a group for lunch and eat at the picnic tables outside. After lunch, a few of us would set up an ARAM and get some playtime in. At the end of the day, we’d have VFX team review where we’d go around to each other’s computers and give feedback. I had a habit of staying late at the office to get in some Summoner’s Rift.

Share a fond memory from the summer.

My fondest memory was when my Riot Rumble team won our first game. We joked that we’d get pink champagne if we won and, sure enough, we won and had to run over to the supermarket. It was super fun, and it became a tradition that we’d invite the other team over to our desks to have a little party every time we beat them.

I played a lot of League of Legends before I interned at Riot, but I wasn’t huge into esports yet, so I decided to volunteer for the LCS events. I did pretty simple stuff, like check badges and hand out swag, but I really enjoyed it! I even went backstage and met some of the pros and bonded with the Esports team.

How did your experience interning at Riot compare to your expectations going in?

Going in, I knew that I’d have to give it my all and push myself. There were some crazy, rough patches, but I’ve grown a lot as a person and artist since being here. What surprised me was that I never felt out of place and no one treated me like I was less capable because I was “just an intern.” My team’s attitude was that I had the potential to be just as amazing as them, and they could help me get there. I’m so lucky to have been a part of such a positive, passionate group of people.

Everyone here is a kickass artist, yet they’re amazingly humble. Having Chris, a senior VFX artist, as my mentor was amazing because not many people I’ve met at school are passionate about VFX; not only was Chris super into VFX, but he was really invested in helping me level up my skills.

How have your professional goals changed? What’s your biggest takeaway from the summer?

My goals have changed just by the fact that I’m a full-time Rioter now. It’s always been my dream to work at a large game studio. Now that it’s right in front of me, I’m really taking the time to think about what I want to do in five years and what I’m going to do now to get there. As a woman in the industry, I’ve also benefitted a lot from working with Christina, the lead on the VFX team. She’s been a great role model and someone I’ve gone to with my career-focused questions.

I’ve learned that being a Rioter says a lot about me as a person and my work ethic. It says that I love games, have developed hard tech skills, learned different leadership techniques and that I’ve grown as an artist. My biggest takeaway is that we’re in charge of our own paths and it’s not luck that got me here. No one is going to push me; I need to push myself. It’s all about hard work, passion and being able to believe in myself and my work. I’m so happy and thankful to have interned at Riot and be here now.

What are some things you learned at Riot that you think will help you in the professional world?

More than anything, I’ve learned that although I may have these idols I look up to in the game industry, they’re just normal people who do amazing things; with lots and lots of hard work, guidance and feedback, I can do amazing things, too!