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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

From carpenter to VR designer: A journey of adversity and skill

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Carlos Melo is a Venezuelan migrant who forged a new path in Australia, transitioning from carpentry to becoming a virtual reality (VR) experience designer. Since graduating from SAE Creative Media Institute with a Bachelor of Game Development, Carlos has utilised his skills to create hyper-realistic VR environments for clients that prepare their staff for the real world. Carlos’ story exemplifies the transformative power of education and determination in the face of adversity.

Originally hailing from Venezuela, Carlos made the life-changing decision to immigrate to Australia owing to the rampant corruption and challenges plaguing his home country. It was during this time that he discovered his interest in carpentry.

‘I built strong connections with builders in Australia, and got to experience many different aspects of the construction industry, which has really helped me now in my current career as a VR experience designer,’ says Carlos.

Carlos’ exposure to diverse aspects of the construction industry proved instrumental in shaping his subsequent career as a VR experience designer. Fuelled by a lifelong passion for video games, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Game Development course at SAE in 2015. 

The transition from gaming enthusiast to a student studying game development posed initial challenges, including language barriers and unfamiliar technical terms. However, as his English skills improved, Carlos began to extract greater value from his studies and found the experience at SAE to be captivating and highly relevant to his career aspirations.

‘Initially, I didn’t know what to expect – having a passion for gaming is different from studying game development. 

‘I always enjoyed the course, and as my English got stronger, I got more out of it and found the overall experience at SAE to be really fascinating and relevant to what I wanted as a career.’

Collaborating with fellow students allowed Carlos to gain practical insights into industry dynamics and effective communication among team members. 

Upon completing his degree, Carlos secured a position as a VR developer at XRJV Training, ultimately transitioning to Next World, a globally recognised leader in VR training services. His role is to collaborate with subject matter experts and create immersive VR environments that deliver on an organisation’s needs to upskill and develop their staff with training that is highly engaging.

‘One of the projects I previously worked on was giving professionals safety inductions on managing large machinery in tunnels, which often is such an alien concept to some people. If you can train people in safe environments within VR that will prepare them for the real world.’

Applications of VR technology now extend beyond gaming to encompass diverse fields such as farming and warehouse packaging, presenting boundless opportunities for future professionals looking to enter the industry.

Carlos says anyone who wants to explore a career in VR will find studying at the SAE provides the core skills and knowledge to start out. ‘Even thinking about how you’d take a different approach to a single feature of a game you like playing, will get you seeing things differently and will help you in a future career in game development.’

Discover SAE’s range of creative media courses at their Open Day on Saturday 12 August from 11am to 3pm at the SAE Byron Bay campus on Ewingsdale Road. Find out more at sae.edu.au/openday.

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