Foster Club Spotlight – Level Up!

There’s never been a more exciting time to get into gaming! With the global gaming industry now worth over $300B and Big Tech rapidly joining in, there are a multitude of new MBA pathways (e.g., Product Manager  Product Marketing Manager, Data & Analytics, Finance) and new ways to game (e.g., VR, Mobile, Free-to-play). Level up! Foster aims to connect students through gaming. 

“Whether you want to explore MBA career paths in Seattle’s thriving gaming industry (ranked No. 1 in the U.S.), or just want to enjoy playing games with your classmates, we want to create a community through world-class speakers, exclusive consulting projects and of course social gaming events that establishes our UW Foster MBA program as a regional and national leader for game business talent,” said Joe Taaffe, Full-time MBA alum from the class of 2023 and ex president of Level Up. In this feature, Joe and Kylie Wright, Evening MBA class of 2024, senior VP of Level up! Share their insights.

Level Up Minecraft joint teams

Please tell us a bit about yourselves.

Joe: Prior to starting my MBA at Foster I spent most of my 20’s hopping from NY to DC to WA as a customer experience strategy consultant helping companies transform their business through new digital products. I’ve always had a life-long passion for gaming and played way too many hours of Call of Duty & FIFA & watched way too many hours of Apex e-sports. It wasn’t until I got to school and joined Level Up that I saw a path for myself in the gaming industry. I had always loved building products and now I get to do it in a space I’m passionate about. I’m really excited to be joining Electronic Arts as a Senior PM for mobile gaming after graduating!

Kylie: Throughout my MBA journey, I have actively participated in the Level Up club, serving as a board member every year. Currently, I hold the position of Senior VP of Programming and Operations. Prior to pursuing my MBA, I embarked on a career at Xbox, despite having no prior experience in gaming. 

What unique role does your club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?

Joe: Foster is a place where students have a unique opportunity to explore potential career paths and at Level Up we are focused on demystifying career paths in gaming. There are so many roles out there from product management to analytics to strategy. We try to couple speaker events with hands-on experience to give students exposure to what it’s like working in gaming. We are constantly collecting and sharing applications for gaming internships and full-time roles and making sure our club members are equipped with the right tools to crush any job interview.

How has your club influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?

Joe: Foster places a lot of emphasis on student-run clubs which gives us the opportunity to source amazing speakers and consulting projects. For leaders within our group it gives us valuable access to professionals throughout the gaming industry that we can learn from to guide our own paths in gaming.

Which club events have been most popular or successful and why?

Joe: I personally really love our gaming nights, whether we are playing Mario Kart or codenames because you get the opportunity to hang out with classmates you may not have met otherwise and bond. Our premier speaker event with Xbox CMO Jerret West is always hugely popular, he’s incredibly transparent when talking about Xbox’s strategies and his perspective on where the future of gaming is going.

Level up speaker event with Jerret West, Xbox CMO

What have you learned about leadership while in this role?

Joe: I’ve learned that leadership is about helping your team shine. Our past club leaders have always tried to pass forward opportunities. The president before me, Odin Soevik, connected me with the EA internship last summer and helped prep me for the interviews while our club’s founder, David Lau worked with me this past year to bring two different consulting projects for our students to work on at Minecraft. It’s important to me that everyone in the leadership team gets the opportunity to bring in speakers and I’m really excited to see what the new Level Up president, Brady Lemons, will accomplish with his team next year!

What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up? What has been enjoyable? Challenging? Surprising?

Kylie: Seeking to connect with like-minded individuals passionate about the gaming industry, I made the decision to join the Level Up club, with the hope of learning from its exceptional speakers and expanding my professional network. The experience has proven immensely valuable, as I have had the opportunity to gain insights from professionals working across diverse areas of the gaming world. In addition, I had the opportunity to gain invaluable real-world experience through an Applied Strategy Project with the Minecraft team at Microsoft and Mojang. The club has also enabled me to forge meaningful relationships with peers from both the Evening MBA and Full-time MBA programs. 

Joe: When I took on this role, I really wanted our club to showcase how exciting working in the gaming industry can be. So many students play games but don’t think of it as a career path and I wanted to provide avenues to pursue these opportunities. I think what surprised me is how generous our speakers were in offering up their time to speak with students or provide us with hands-on-experience. We brought in a lot of professionals in senior roles and I’m constantly impressed with how willing they are to share their expertise.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time with the club? Any event you want to highlight? 

Joe: My favorite memory is definitely the Minecraft applied strategy project I worked on. We got to partner with Mojang clients, go to their offices and work on solving real problems. Seeing behind the curtain of such an iconic game and understanding the business was really interesting and I loved getting to work with a team of Level Up club members that are also passionate about gaming.

How have you worked with other clubs to provide networking opportunities?

Joe: For many of our speaker events we will partner with other clubs like the strategy club and the marketing club to broaden the aperture of speakers we can bring in. It is always fascinating to see how students with different backgrounds and interests think about careers in gaming or the gaming industry at large and these partnerships bring students across clubs together to learn from each other.

Why should students join Level Up?

Joe: Students join Level Up for many reasons. Some join to get professional opportunities in gaming, others join just to learn about the gaming industry or make new friends through gaming. Regardless of their individual goals, everyone that does join is passionate about games and wants to be part of a community that shares that passion.

Kylie: Prior to joining Level Up, I was unaware of the multitude of opportunities available within the interactive entertainment space. I am grateful for the incredible connections I have made through the club, as it has expanded my knowledge about the possibilities that lie ahead in a gaming career.

What tips do you have for incoming MBA students as to why they should join Level Up Leadership?

Joe: Joining Level Up leadership opens doors to talk to anyone and everyone in the world of gaming. Seattle is the Hollywood of the gaming industry with companies like Xbox, Nintendo, Bungie, Valve & many up-and-coming gaming startups in our backyard. I’m constantly surprised at who is willing to chat with me about their journey in the gaming industry and encourage anyone that wants to explore what it would be like to work in gaming to join leadership and bring amazing speakers & projects to Foster students.