Allyson Benas, currently Head of Product at Holotech Studios, had many worlds to navigate before she levelled up to her current position. As Benas recounts, she started her first year as an undergraduate at UCLA open to the numerous opportunities it had to offer. Originally an International Development Studies Major, her passion for community development programs found its place in the numerous organizations on campus, and took her to an internship in Honduras that piqued her interest in the nuances of business. She started taking economics classes and eventually decided to major in Business Economics with a minor in Accounting, and was even in the inaugural year of the Sharpe Fellows program.
After her graduation in 2009, Benas was specifically interested in real estate banking, motivated by her learning about land reform policies in Central and South America and her semester abroad at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Her first position out of college was at PricewaterhouseCoopers, after successfully overcoming the challenging job search process. A “Big 4” firm was a good place to start for the experience of working in a large organization with lots of cycles of development and growth, and due to the strong emphasis on foundational knowledge.
However, her quest lay elsewhere. When one of her mentors moved to London to work for King, the makers of Candy Crush, she went along to discover a new world of video games. Playing to her strengths, she was on the finance team at King and managed revenues of 9 studios around the world. Her biggest takeaway was learning how to manage people with different perspectives through being open to and mindful of her colleagues’ inputs. Benas also acquired a keen eye for design that was integral to her future positions.
Benas put this design skill and her business acumen to the test with her entrepreneurial stint as the founder of Fantasy Suites. She built a game designed around fantasy leagues for the reality television show The Bachelor, inspired by a simplified version she played with her friends. This challenge required savvy game design perspective as it had to compete against ABC Network’s own game, and because it had to be designed around the fantasy leagues atrophying as contestants were eliminated off the show. However, the invaluable experience taught her to overcome the challenges in securing funding and learning how to pitch her female centric game. In an industry dominated by male focused video games, she worked hard to pitch her game ideas to men with their own misguided intuitions about female focused video games. She emphasizes the need for women to be comfortable owning their greater experience and knowledge of their demographic, as the growing market of female gamers cannot be ignored. Furthermore, she encourages aspiring video game designers to reach out to similarly underserved markets. For example, Benas is confident that the next market breakthrough will be apps for baby boomers moving into technology.
Benas is a big advocate of learning by doing, and reiterates the role her time at UCLA played in teaching her this skill. For her, being at a competitive school like UCLA underlined that she was accountable for her own outcomes, and motivated her to seek out the numerous resources that the campus had to offer. Her most important piece of advice is definitely food for thought: “don’t overthink the future, it will limit the risks you will take”.
Written by Yashwini Sodhani