Godfrey Powell had a hand in some of the most compelling and innovative high-tech and entertainment developments of the 21st century — and it’s all because he decided to swing on the professional trapeze without a net.
The Atlanta native, who now lives in the Bay Area, spent nearly five years with Marvel Entertainment, focused on creating the film studio that would bring us modern-day movie classics such as “The Avengers,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Black Panther.”
Powell also worked for several years at Samsung Electronics when the company entered the cell-phone market with the launch of the Galaxy smartphone. And until recently, he worked as head of product transitions at Facebook’s secretive Building 8, which creates and develops augmented and virtual reality consumer hardware products.
“With my career, there’s nothing that’s been planned,” says Powell, who now works for Facebook on business development partnerships. “It’s been based upon my interests.”
Given his interest in the intersection of media and technology, it’s telling that Powell’s talk at the TEDxUGA event in late March touched on occasionally unplugging from electronic devices.
“It’s appropriate to recognize that we have a lot of fear of technology in the media and just in general,” he says. “I wanted to frame my talk in terms of the historical fears of technology, going back 500 years ago when people were terribly afraid of the printing press. And I walked through the past 100 years when people tried to ban cars and that technology because they thought it was so harmful.
“We have a natural inclination to fear something new, and there are plenty of historical references. Now we’re at a point where we feel overwhelmed by the volume of technological advances, that volume creates so many fears of what could negatively happen and we should acknowledge that.”
Powell earned degrees in finance and management information systems from the Terry College and received his MBA from New York University. In 2014 he was honored as a UGA 40 Under 40 recipient and the beginning of his career found him working on Wall Street for JP Morgan Securities.
But he happily admits his one background item that always seems to generate the most conversation is the year he spent appearing as UGA’s enduring mascot, the ubiquitous Hairy Dawg.
“Again, I don’t have tons of plans — I try to do things I think are interesting, and I will say the Hairy Dawg experience, other than my education at Georgia, is the single-most talked about discussion point in my career over the last 20 years,” says Powell, who donned the 60-pound suit during his senior year.
“It’s a very grueling, exhausting process, very physically and mentally demanding because you’ve always got to put on a show. I did football, basketball, volleyball games and lots of events.
“It was influential. I’ve always put it on my résumé. It’s amazing how many people have seen that and said, ‘I want to hear about your experiences with Marvel and in New York, but first I want to hear about Hairy Dawg. You were the mascot?’… I love to talk about it and what a great experience it was serving the school.”
An ardent UGA recruiter and networker on the West Coast, Powell says his Terry College experience was also paramount in his professional success, plan or no plan.
“What is consistent about Terry is that as I’ve had an international business career, I’ve always been prepared,” he says. “Obviously you have to work at your job and put in the hours but I never had a feeling that I was under-prepared for it or didn’t know about this or that.
“You always have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder when you get into areas where Georgia is not the predominant school, like in New York or California, but there’s a tremendous amount of respect for Georgia, which I appreciate. And the faculty and staff are world-class people. I was very much prepared to be where I am today. It was a really good business education that allowed me to flourish.”