Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Jenna Hardy (C’92), Chief Financial Officer at The Gearbox Entertainment Company

What was your first big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

During my Georgetown Junior Year Abroad in Munich, I saw The Little Mermaid in German. I was so impressed by the global reach of amazing storytelling that I decided right then I wanted to work for The Walt Disney Company. It took more than five years before I joined Disney, but I never gave up. I added business classes to my Georgetown courses and did every project on Disney. I completed a year at a top French business school and secured a summer internship at Walt Disney Records (Paris). I moved back to the US to do my MBA at Rice University with a focus on finance and media. After my MBA, I moved out to Los Angeles with just a suitcase for a three-week consulting job at Walt Disney Records. That three-week job became 18 months of consulting and eventually I accepted a full-time position. Singular focus, dogged persistence, and openness to any opportunity to get your foot in the door are critical.

What is the most challenging part of your job? What is the most rewarding part?

Leading and managing a team is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my position. I take great pride in identifying talent, providing opportunities for growth, and rewarding those who succeed. That’s part of what I learned at Georgetown – how can we create an environment that inspires the next generation of leaders and prepares them for challenges. This foundational principle is at the core of who we are and a touchstone for me as I continue in my career.

What is a current project you are working on that you are excited about?

I’m incredibly excited by the transmedia potential of Gearbox. Historically, we were known around the world for our leading AAA video games. However, we’re now leveraging that intellectual property for new projects in film and television. Recently, we announced that famed director Eli Roth will direct a movie based on our Borderlands franchise. Cate Blanchett also signed on to star in this film. This makes me proud from a professional perspective, but also from a personal one. From my young days I wanted to be a part of The Walt Disney Company, now I’m an executive and leading the charge to creating the next Disney-type entertainment leader.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

The wealth of world-class professors, speakers, activities and opportunities at Georgetown helped me to explore many different intellectual paths and reinforced that I’m not limited to any one path. I loved being a language major, but I also loved taking history and business classes. I always felt like there was more to do and learn and that Georgetown was just the start.

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

The advice I give every high school or college-aged person is to make sure that they do as many internships as possible, even if they are unpaid. I know from experience that it can be a financial burden, but internships are critical for building your network as well as the work experience you need for your first job search. My first internship in Paris was the cornerstone to getting my next one at MCA Records Nashville and, ultimately, the path that led to working for Disney.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

The $150B+ video game industry has proven to be one of the most successful in the new “shelter at home” economy. Digital sales and in-game purchases have increased over the past six months and video game companies have reported record profits in their Q2 Earnings calls. Content is king and interactive entertainment is the preferred entertainment for the current generation. The advent of the live nature of video games dramatically shifted the landscape. Gone are the days when we could ship a title and be done. Now, we’re creating immersive worlds that require ongoing work and maintenance, new events and updates, and engaging continually with our fan base and player community. Highly connected games are the most dominant and expanding cross-platform play is adding scale, increasing player engagement and generating higher revenue-per-user. All of these trends increase costs for creators and also create complex finance and business structures. This new ecosystem, coupled with ever-changing finance and accounting regulations, requires leaders to be current and forward-thinking when it comes to our industry and our subject expertise. My education and experience at Georgetown laid the groundwork for my ability to synthesize seemingly disparate pieces of information quickly, develop data-based strategies, and pivot to anticipate consumer demand.

Best Business Advice Received:

“Chase authenticity, not approval.” It is easy to spend too much time trying to impress people. Creative industries, in particular, thrive on passion and diversity. It is important to remember that being YOU is the very best thing you bring to every interaction in life including your professional career.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

Diligence and hard work. When it comes to working hard, I never ask my team to do something I’m not willing to do and I try to never cut corners. At times, there will be factors outside of your control and you won’t always succeed, but doing the work has the highest rate of return and stands up when tested. I’m always amazed at what my team can accomplish when we pull together.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

Twitter is my favorite app for real-time news and industry announcements.

Favorite Georgetown Professor: I loved attending classes with all of the exceptional professors at Georgetown. Barbara Moser, professor of German, stands out because of how approachable and supportive she was. I really enjoyed my classes with her and as a teacher, she was instrumental to pushing my proficiency in German to the next level.

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar: Many of the restaurants and bars I visited while at Georgetown are no longer around, but one consistent favorite is The Tombs. Of course, I have many fond memories from my undergraduate years. However, my memories of reunions with my Henle roommates and their spouses and children over the years are even more dear. The bonds we share deepen with time and life experiences and catching up over brunch at The Tombs is even more special today.

Favorite Georgetown Memory: During my senior year, Michael Eisner, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, came to speak on campus. I read everything I could about Eisner and Wells taking over Disney and deeply admired what they accomplished. My roommate, Jenny, knew how much I wanted to work for Disney, but she also knew just how shy I was. She wasn’t going to let me miss my one chance to meet him in person so she dared me to get his autograph after his speech. Because it meant so much to me, I was a nervous wreck. It was one of the hardest things I had done to that point, but thanks to her, it moved me to take my first action towards my goal. I still have that autograph but what I remember most, was how my Georgetown roommates pushed me past my own limitations, with unwavering support, to pursue my dreams.