Published Nov 05, 2020
Grad Spotlight: Ashley Bennett (Game Development BS) - Technical Program Manager, Facebook
Game Development grad Ashley Bennett has spent over a decade enhancing the online experience for gamers across platforms with EA and Facebook.
Ashley Bennett's career in tech industries has spanned AAA video game titles with Electronic Arts, AR/VR development, and now privacy at Facebook. A graduate of an early iteration of Full Sail's Game Development program, Ashley has spent over a decade developing technology with some of gaming's biggest brands.
Going through the program, Ashley gained valuable knowledge beyond standard game development that would stay with him during his career journey.
"I learned a heck of a lot," he recalls. "I was introduced to some programming and C++. But there were some classes where we had to build our own utilities, things like an exporter for 3D model animations to bring content into the game. Doing things like that, I realized, 'Oh, there's more jobs in the industry than just making the game, coming up with a game idea, or making the game play. There's all sorts of other aspects to it.'
"I think I even said it out loud to my friends in the class, 'I bet this is the job I end up getting.' And more or less, that was true."
Getting a start in the game industry early on, Ashley was hired by EA even before his graduation. Specializing in online and multiplayer management, the grad worked his way from software engineering to senior roles in launching console and PC titles. His expertise then led him into technical project management for EA mobile. After working on dozens of titles for the massive game developer in his 11 years, Ashley was in need of a change.
"Mobile games just weren't my thing anymore," he says. "Looking at what the next thing would be, I thought VR could be that."
Looking for opportunities in virtual reality led Ashley to apply for a position with the social media platform Facebook.
"I jumped at the chance to come in, and I did the interview and did well there. Even better, they brought me in to work on AR which was even more cutting edge," he recalls.
"I've gotten to see things from the research stage into how can we make this into more of a platform and then how can we get that integrated into the different apps, for different products," he says. "Then, how can we get it into the hands of people, like creatives, so they can start using it? We're trying to just democratize AR."
But Ashley's decision to pivot didn't end with AR. "I realized there was another critical area of the company in privacy. It was something I knew nothing about, but I raised my hand to volunteer," he says.
Now working as a Technical Program Manager with a focus on user privacy for Facebook products, the grad finds himself in a state of disbelief on the reach of his day-to-day work.
"I'm now helping out over 2.7 billion active users every month with some of the stuff that I'm working on," says Ashley. "It's just another level of scale, which is just kind of mind-boggling to me."
Ashley has spent his career enhancing user experiences for gamers online and his desire to evolve is far from stunted, saying, "I've been in games for over 10 years now. Great. What else can I do to help people a little bit more while also still having a bit of fun?"