Posted October 16, 2019
From intern to Imagineer, Digital Media (DM) alum Ashley Jennings (M.S. 2016) has quite the Georgia Tech tale.
“I can affirmatively say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the DM program,” she says. “I use all kinds of digital media skills daily!”
As a Media and Art Pipeline Developer at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), she’s involved in the development of digital pipeline tools for future attractions and experiences in Walt Disney’s parks and resorts. Most of her daily responsibilities involve gathering digital assets from many other departments at WDI, like building models, animations for audio-animatronic figures, media for projected images, and so on, using these assets to build a previsualization of the attraction using Unreal Engine 4.
“This allows creatives and designers the ability to see how their individual deliverables fit with other department’s work, and gives them a glimpse into what the attraction will be like before any ground is broken in the field,” Jennings explains. “I’m also responsible for developing tools to help artists work more effectively in this pipeline.”
She admits it feels great to know that the projects she’s involved in at Disney will one day inspire guests of all ages (“Just like myself when I was growing up!”).
And as much as she enjoys her job now, she holds her time at the Institute in high regard.
“Moving across the country by myself was certainly difficult, and the position at WDI is much more demanding than my previous positions and internships,” she says. “But looking back on how much I’ve grown and learned since starting this new role as a Pipeline Developer over a year ago reminds me of why I decided to take the leap. One of the things all Georgia Tech alumni can agree on is how much the Institute prepares its students to handle complicated work and persevere.”
Jennings began at Georgia Tech as an undergraduate in the Bachelor of Science Computational Media program, hosted by the College of Computing and School of Literature, Media, and Communication, and saw graduate school as an opportunity to strengthen the skills she was already developing in her classes. Upon applying, she also understood the advantage of standing out in an increasingly competitive field. The DM program, when met with Jennings’ own Disney dreams, became a vehicle for both progress and prominence.
And the rest, you may say, was history. But she would tell you, actually, the rest was hard work.
“[The program] taught me to be comfortable taking on new technology that I’m not familiar with,” Jennings explains. “I’ve learned that with a lot of willpower and focus, I can quickly teach myself software and programming languages that are new to me.”
The program’s influence, however, was not limited to lessons and lectures. It could not be measured in a classroom or lab; rather, Jennings sees her career path as a testament to Tech’s true worth: the opportunity to challenge and be challenged.
“[Digital Media] is a lot of work!” she admits. “But it is only for a year or two. . .During my time in the program, I tried my best to find courses that interested me the most, and allowed me to step outside what I was comfortable with. It definitely helped me be more well-rounded by the time I graduated.”
Among the projects and prototypes, Digital Media also led Jennings to a crossroads, not one that represents division but one that encourages connections.
“The program was also one of the first opportunities I had in my career to experience the intersection of art and technology. . .a situation that I find myself in every day at work,” she reflects. “I enjoy what I do because I am fascinated by bridging the gap between art and technology. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be a Disney Imagineer!”
Learn more about Ashley’s journey on her LinkedIn profile or view her most recent projects on her portfolio. Applications for the Digital Media Graduate Program are accessible here, and information for prospective Master’s students can be found on our applicant page.
Contact For More Information
Maria Elena Margarella
Graduate Research Assitant, Digital Media