Like many young men his age, Ben Madlena grew up playing Xbox video games. Now, the 2019 Seattle Pacific University graduate gets paid to work on the games.

The 22-year-old, originally from Tacoma, secured the position of quality analyst in the Xbox division of Microsoft even before he graduated in June with a degree in business administration.

Madlena credits some of SPU’s programs for helping him land the job. He transferred to SPU after a year of community college, eager to study at a school near plenty of tech companies.

“He stood out, and he was really focused,” says Don Lee, associate professor of management. “Twenty or 30 years from now, I’m sure I’ll be so proud that I had the opportunity to be a part of his career path.”

With an eye on a tech career, Madlena took steps to connect with professors and mentors who could help him develop the skills and experiences he’d need. In one of Lee’s classes, for example, Madlena tailored a final paper to the job at Xbox.

Between classes and job responsibilities, he found time to connect with Mark Oppenlander, director of SPU’s Center for Applied Learning. Oppenlander connected Madlena with professionals in SPU’s job shadowing and mentoring programs.


“Ben came to me multiple times, not just for connections but for advice on how best to work with professionals in the community,” Oppenlander says. “He was very intent on figuring out ‘How can I maximize these experiences?’ I thought that he had a very good approach.”

While a student, Madlena interned as a data analyst at Amplify Consulting Partners Inc., and Oppenlander coordinated job shadow visits at Expedia and Microsoft. Madlena visited the Microsoft campus in mid-February 2019, where he met with Xbox employee and SPU graduate Matt Kesselring.

“I got to meet a few people on his team,” Madlena said. “I got to see around on campus and it made me think, ‘Yeah, I really want to work here.’ ”

Madlena has always wanted to work at Microsoft. For one thing, he was attracted to Microsoft’s commitment to helping people; the company matches its employees’ charitable and nonprofit donations, for example.

“My employer cares so much about helping people and helping communities — I thought that was totally ridiculously cool,” he says.

Madlena’s role as a quality analyst at Xbox means he will coordinate developers, game testers and gamers to work through any technical issues the game has. He might get to test out the games, too.

He’s crossing his fingers, hoping he’ll get to work on one of his favorite video games, “Halo.”

“That’s one of the reasons why I love Xbox,” he says. “Down the road, I hope I get assigned to a ‘Halo’ game.”

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