Spotlight Interview: Michael Hoag

Michael Hoag: Madden NFL Producer, EA (Electronic Arts)

Orlando, Florida

WFU Class of 2011

Major: Communications

Double Minor: Journalism & Entrepreneurship

Michael Hoag’s job is the best of both worlds (in our humble opinion) - his Producer role at EA merges sports and video games. That’s mainly with the Madden NFL franchise, to be exact! Continue to learn how Hoag went from no experience in his field, to an impact player at EA.

Michael Hoag’s job is the best of both worlds (in our humble opinion) - his Producer role at EA merges sports and video games. That’s mainly with the Madden NFL franchise, to be exact! Continue to learn how Hoag went from no experience in his field, to an impact player at EA.

DeacLink: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Please walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

Michael Hoag: My path to my current role was quite unusual. I started out trying to play in the NFL, had a few opportunities to show my stuff for NFL teams, but unfortunately it just didn’t work out. From there, my network at Wake Forest really kicked in. Stan Cotten and Dave Goren were kind enough to offer me a part-time gig calling Wake Football games on IMG Radio. I jumped right into the mix and thought, “Hey, I’m on my way to a career in sports broadcasting. This is cool.”

Turns out my Wake network had other plans. While making ends meet waiting tables back home in Knoxville, TN, I received an email from the student athlete services department making me aware of an EA Sports NCAA Fellowship opportunity. It was a fully paid opportunity to go make video games for the NCAA Football franchise. I knew nothing about video games, but I definitely played them...so I applied. Interestingly enough, my time as a sideline reporter piqued their interest and they selected me for the fellowship program. I was off to Orlando.

Fast forward six years and a whole lot of self teaching, learning, and help along the way, you will find me still making video games. I’m a producer on our Madden NFL franchise and I’m incredibly blessed to work for such an incredibly company that took a chance on a 23-year-old kid with no video game background.

DL: What led you to pursue a Masters at UT, and how did you select that program in particular?

MH: After three and a half years as a video game designer on the Madden Franchise I started to get the itch for a some career change. I wasn’t ready to leave video games or the tech sector, but I wanted to get a little closer to the business side of our product. Understanding more about what goes into making a game and driving revenue.

Some internet searching (and ignoring advice to get a traditional MBA) lead me to the Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization (MSTC) program at UT, Austin. This program was the perfect fit for me. Plenty of business coursework (accounting, finance, marketing) mixed with a healthy dose of entrepreneurship and startup training. While I’m not working in a startup, the program offered great insight into building a business from the ground up and identifying successful habits and practices to not only build a business, but sustain and grow one.

DL: How did you balance working and going back to school?

MH: Lack of sleep. Luckily, I had a great support staff cheering me on. My wife (also a Deac) was my number one supporter and my management and work fully supported the initiative. I traveled to Austin once/month and attended virtually for the other class sessions. Many late nights and early mornings, but it was totally worth it!

DL: Your role sits at the intersection of entertainment and technology, and sounds like many people’s dream job. What advice do you have for readers interested in pursuing a similar path, or for breaking into the industry more broadly?

MH: Pursue avenues that allow you to be close to your field of interest. For me, I was lucky to get into video games, and the industry has a firm hold on the advancement of technology. So I get to experience cutting edge technology, but I am constantly exploring what other companies are doing (inside the games industry & outside of it). Keeping an ear to the ground with the latest in your passion sector is critical to getting an opportunity and making a lasting impression on the people you meet. You never know when the next opportunity might come knocking.

The last bit of advice is this; Don’t be afraid that you’re unqualified because you didn’t get a degree in a certain field. If you’re passionate about something and are willing to learn you can do just about anything. It’s all about getting an opportunity to jump in. I think you’ll find that your lack of traditional knowledge can be a burst of outside the box thinking that people need in their organization.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, networking, WFU resources, other)?

MH: As mentioned above, I was alerted to the position from Student Athlete Services. The relationship I build with the folks in that department became the link to finding my job. Relationships can be so critical to finding success in the business world.

DL: What do you think Wake could have done better to prepare you for life after graduation?

MH: For me, the biggest opportunity that I missed out on was having an internship. Football prevented me from doing that at the same scale as my classmates, and sometimes I wonder if that was a detriment, but I’ll never know. The University did a really nice job of preparing me for life after sports in my opinion.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

MH: Create meaningful relationships and work to maintain them. I’ve been blessed to meet many great folks along my path through Wake Forest and while it might have seemed insignificant at the time, making the effort to spend time with folks and treat them with respect has certainly helped me.

It starts there, but keeping in touch and returning the favor where applicable is something that is invaluable in business and in life.

Spotlight Interview: Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson: Associate Producer, Jack Morton Worldwide

New York City

WFU Class of 2014

Double Major: Communications with Media Studies focus & Theatre

Elizabeth Patterson 1.jpg

Elizabeth Patterson is an Associate Producer for Jack Morton Worldwide in NYC. She graduated with a double major in Theatre and Communications. Her main message? Network! Read on to her about Elizabeth’s path since Wake.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Elizabeth Patterson: I was a theater and communications double major, with a media studies concentration.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

EP: My career path started when I was at Wake. I loved theatre, but didn’t want to pursue performing professionally, so I explored the operational side of art organizations. A few Wake alumni recommended Berkshire Theatre Group, as they had interned there and made key connections in the industry. I ended up at BTG for two summers - first in the box office, and then as the Development Assistant. In development, I connected with high-level donors and helped with fundraising campaigns, but my bigger role was assisting with their annual summer gala.

While in the Berkshires, I made contact with a family friend, who learned more about my role in events at BTG. As a theatre major herself, she introduced me to a new way to merge my goals and passion through experiential marketing at Jack Morton Worldwide.

I started at Jack Morton Worldwide as a freelance Production Assistant, going onsite to my first event between exams and graduation. Moving up to NYC for a temporary job, I was introduced to my team as the freelancer that was here indefinitely. I have never turned back. This industry operates with a lot of freelancers, so I was a permanent freelancer for three years until joining the Jack Morton staff full time last year. This has given my an opportunity to develop my skills, working up to an Associate Producer on the production team.

My job is essentially corporate theater - I produce shows. It can be anything from a local, internal board meeting, to top-tier talent performing an original show in an exotic location. It wasn’t my original industry, but when I look back there was a clear path here. It perfectly applies to both of my college majors, and has given me a way to tap into both my creative and business interests.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held?

EP: Networking! As mentioned, I found BTG through Wake alumni, and I ended up finding my current role through a family friend. An in-person conversation is always best, but any form of connection is beneficial. Most people remember what it will like as a college student or recent graduate looking for job opportunities - it can be intimidating so Alumni want to help.

DL: This route is an interesting option for art alums considering we don’t have a formal arts administration program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

EP: For me, I discovered that my liberal arts background gave me the rudimentary skills applicable to my role. Also, a bonus with liberal arts is creative thinking, which is harder to teach post-college. For the skills that I wanted more expertise in, I found there are multitude of platforms to continue learning of specific skill-sets. I have used online programs like Lynda, or searched for local seminars in the area for certain skills that I want to learn more about. For a niche market like mine, you apply a lot of different backgrounds and skills, so I am always trying to find additional ways to round out my expertise.

DL: What could Wake have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

EP: One of the best things that Wake Forest did for me was providing the career trek to network through the OPCD. We came to New York for a few days, to tour companies and network with alumni. While it was a great opportunity, Wake could have done more to prepare us for the trek and coach us on the follow-through of the networking, to give us a more well-rounded experience. I was overwhelmed at the Alumni networking party, and I think that with more preparation and post follow-up I would have made stronger connections with alumni. Looking back on it, it was a missed opportunity for me, but an easy fix would be a longer program, giving me best practices for networking going in, and goals set in place to follow up with alumni post event.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in New York?

EP: New York is one of the biggest cities in the world, and one of the most diverse. It is special because of the cultures and people that make it unique - creating everything from world-renowned events to the family-owned restaurant. I was excited to move here because of the bucket-list NYC items that I had heard about, but what has kept me here are the little experiences that have made me feel like a true local.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Jack Morton?

EP: My team. I have traveled all over the world, working on amazing projects, but that isn’t rewarding unless you like the people around you. Some of my closest friends I have made from work - we work long onsite hours, but then we still hang out post-event to enjoy where we have traveled. My colleagues have helped me grow since I joined the team, and there is mutual trust that ensures success for a project.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

EP: All of my advice comes back to networking. Reach out. It’s always worth it.