My good friend Taran was already working for a local Utah game developer called Saffire. He clued me into an entry-level opening at the studio as a tester. Taran was also a tester, and Saffire let him go the day they hired me. It was an ironic way to start my career. Nevertheless, I pressed forward as best I could.
Testing is mind-numbingly repetitious. A focused tester with a logical mind and decent communication skills can be a strong help to the team, but more often than not, testers lack these traits. I had them. I would spend countless hours replaying all the levels looking for slight discrepancies from the previous version. When a new version would come out, I would redo it all over again, sometimes all through the night as deadlines approached. My observance sharpened as a tester, and no one was quicker or more efficient than I was at finding bugs and verifying fixes.
Towards the end of the project, the lead designer of the game, Gavan, trusted me enough (or was desperate enough) to let me design a couple of multiplayer (competitive) maps. Oddly, multiplayer level design has never been my forte, although in this case the levels worked out OK and the game shipped. I guess they were so happy with my work, they promptly promoted me to designer.