The Secrets of Seattle: We’re in town for the first Full Sail Alumni Networking event in the northwest region

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Today’s weather is pristine. Not cold and rainy, but warm and cloudless. The month of August is apparently the only time of year when one can experience weather conditions of this brand in Seattle. Was it great planning or dumb luck that thrust the PAX West Conference [and by extension our first Northwest Region Full Sail Alumni Networking Event] into the middle of this perfection? My cab driver instructs me not to tell anyone. “We have enough new people moving here already.” He’s lived in the city for 25 years and he wants to keep the place to himself. I wonder just how many people are moving here. The 2010 census puts Seattle’s population at 608,660; an 8.0% increase over ten years. This places Emerald City well below the kind of numbers contained within major market cities yet Seattle is an undeniable place of viability for the entertainment industry.

What do you think of when I say entertainment industry in Seattle?  Rock music right, what with the 90’s grunge scene and all? [Please don’t tell Eddie Vedder I used the word ‘grunge’.] In 2000 the city opened the Frank O. Gehry designed Experience Music Project. The EMP has been a key economic driver among Seattle nonprofit arts and culture organizations, with combined EMP institutional expenditures and EMP audience-member spending resulting in $651 million dollars of local economic impact. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Music was, is, and will continue to be a mainstay in Seattle.

In 2011 however, it is technology that dominates the industry here. Thirteen miles to the east in the city of Redmond is Microsoft’s expansive 300-acre headquarters. The “campus” consists of 40 buildings housing 14,000 offices. The company employs over 78,000 people worldwide, 35,000 of them in the Puget Sound area.

Head back in the direction of Seattle proper and you will find console game developer, Bungie. Here is a snippet from the About Us page on their website: “From a creepy one-bedroom apartment housing two dudes, to a fully loaded game studio stuffed full of free snacks.” I am not sure what the deal is with game dev studios and free food but most all of them have it. Coding must give one the munchies. Or maybe these people just never leave the building.

I love how community-oriented the game development industry is. These people bring real substance and usefulness to sites like Twitter and Facebook. You can find just about anyone, and just about anyone will talk back to you. Hit up Bungie’s website and you will find an inventory of articles and interviews direct from the staff. What fantastic insight for those who are pursuing a career in gaming.

At the evening’s networking event I meet several Bungie employees including our Alumni Ambassador, 2006 Game Development graduate Josh Hamrick. Obligatory small talk tossed aside our conversation quickly moves into the story of how Josh found himself in Seattle working for Bungie. Post graduation Hamrick takes a designer job with Midway in Texas. Just a few years later in 2009 Midway files for bankruptcy and Midway Austin shuts its doors. By virtue of his professional network Josh is offered a job working on Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. Hamrick was elated,  “But the timing just wasn’t right…we couldn’t make the move.”

Hamrick’s next interview was with Bungie but that didn’t go as planned either. “It kind of felt like the girlfriend thing-its not you, its me.” It turns out, nobody was right for the job, and Bungie ended up closing out the position rather than hiring. But Josh had made an impression. It took another six months for Bungie to come around and tap Josh on the shoulder again. This would be the interview that lands Josh his current gig. “One month before we were going to move back home [to North Carolina] actually.” Weeks after we meet I learn that Josh has been promoted to Senior Designer at Bungie.

Talk about a rollercoaster ride.  This is what they mean when they say “perseverance”. Sometimes you just need to stick it out. It’s no real mystery, though at the time it certainly can feel like one. Sometimes the best news you can get is that there is someone else like you having the same experiences, navigating similar difficult terrain. These are universal stories and regardless of where you are in your own voyage you will likely find something that rings true to your own experience. Future networking events will be announced on the alumni website. Be sure to check in regularly and get yourself and your fellow graduates out to the event nearest to you.

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