Allyson Benas


Allyson Benas

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 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 Digital Entertainment, 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 revenue recognition for 9 studios around the world. 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 competitive reality television shows like 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. As she recalls from her time in an industry dominated by male focused video games, she had to work hard to pitch her game ideas to male investors 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

Xin Lin

Xin Lin

Xin Lin

Xin’s LinkedIn page, consisting of names that commonly adorn the tallest skyscrapers in Manhattan, reflects the illustrious career of the young alumnus.  In the seven years following her departure from the Hills of Westwood, she has achieved what is considerable success for most people. However, Xin is not most people. Her propitious forays into the financial world is only the beginning of her adventures.

After talking to Xin for a few minutes it becomes apparent that she is constantly looking for new challenges and is willing to work exceptionally hard to bring them to fruition. It was one such adventure that led her to the United States from Singapore. After two years at a community college, she was accepted into her dream school, and began her journey at UCLA. Entering college in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis, Xin wanted to study something that was not only interesting but also pragmatic. This coupled with her passion for problem solving made Business Economics the perfect fit. Any Junior reading this would be relieved to learn that Xin, like many of them, had no idea which path she would take. During her Junior year Xin was accepted into the prestigious Sharpe Fellows program, through which she was able to develop a strong network of peers and mentors. This network helped her secure an internship at Merrill Lynch. Later in her senior year, she got the opportunity to embark on another adventure in NYC, and she did not hesitate.

When asked why she chose finance for her first job, Xin unabashedly remarked that there was no romantic Cinderella story. She was not sure of her career path and wanted a career that would enable her to grow. As a member of a generation constantly bombarded with platitudes like “follow your dreams”, it was extremely refreshing to hear someone talk about the quotidian reality. “There is nothing wrong with saying that I need the money,” believes Xin, due to the need to pay her parents back for the cost of tuition. Contrastingly, she also believes that the financial motive soon begins to erode. After the first few years, if you do not find your job interesting you will be dragging yourself to work. One needs to strike a balance. She further elaborates that the field you choose after graduation may not be the end-all. As you grow as a professional your priorities begin to shift. Conveniently, she herself was the perfect example.  After seven years on Wall Street, during which she rose to position of Vice-President at Goldman Sachs, Xin’s financial needs were met. However, she felt that her growth was approaching a saturation point. She shifted her priorities to using her financial expertise to create impact on a micro-level. With this in mind, Xin recently decided to take go on a sabbatical and contemplate her next adventure.

Xin posits that her success was a result of her ability to expose herself to new experiences and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. While at UCLA, Xin pushed beyond the circle of international students and actively tried to gain exposure to different backgrounds. Additionally, she was extremely self-motivated and entrepreneurial. When we asked her about the feared long working hours in finance, she said no one ever forced her to work, and that what you do in the office matters more than how many hours you spend there. She always wanted to learn as much as she could as soon as possible. This ability to go the extra-mile gave her an enhanced knowledge base which she could use to add value to whatever room she entered. Besides, she emphasized confidence and assertiveness as key qualities to succeed in her field. Throughout her education, she was taught to stand out and ask questions. She was constantly encouraged to not shy away and let her curiosity shine. These experiences shaped her ability to be comfortable in the limelight, which she believes to have contributed significantly to her promotions in the workplace.

Xin’s journey represents the trials and tribulations that await so many of us as we prepare to step into the “real world”. However, it also embodies the life-lessons and triumphs that we will have the privilege to experience if we do it right. More importantly, it teaches us that whether you are an incoming Freshman, a graduating Senior, or an experienced professional on a hiatus, the adventure is just beginning.

by Qiuyu (Simon) Dong and Harsh Gupta