Godfrey Powell takes hold of technology

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (ABJ ’11, AB ’11), marketing and communications chair for the Black Alumni Leadership Council.  

Atlanta native Godfrey O. Powell, Jr. (BBA ’00), who leads product strategy for media partnerships at Facebook, delivered a talk at the TEDxUGA event on March 22. Powell majored in finance and management information systems at Georgia, and prior to joining the team at Facebook, he worked in investment banking at JPMorgan Chase, held leadership positions at Samsung and launched a film studio at Marvel Enterprises. His talk, titled “Taking Hold of Our Technophobia,” was about the intersection of media and technology.

Powell spoke about grappling with excitement around new technology and the fear of not being able to control the rate at which we are receiving information. He examines public opinion around technologies of the past, like the printing press and the automobile, to contextualize our fear of and relationships with technologies today. He also offered tips about how Wakanda, the fictional country in Black Panther, can serve as a model for how Americans can use technology as a tool, rather than forming unhealthy dependencies on smartphones.  

We caught up with Powell and asked him a few questions about his favorite things about the University of Georgia.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? 

I wanted a large state school with a combo of good brand name, strong academics, and great sports programs. The deciding factor was I got a full HOPE Scholarship.

What did you think you would be when you grew up? Do you still have plans to become that? 

I always loved the idea of being a businessman and entrepreneur growing up.  The specifics I never knew.  Due to the current state of tech, I am fascinated to be in it and feel a high degree of entrepreneurship. At a certain point in the future, I may explore starting my own business.

What did you learn from your TEDx experience? 

I loved, and was quite challenged by, the creating and delivering a TEDx Talk. The basics of this process are obvious but worth mentioning: getting the right topic that matches your credibility and educates the audience, structuring the talk and then being (hopefully) entertaining. UGA was quite impressive in the way they organized the event, making it a large community event, and providing tons of tools and institutional knowledge to guide me in crafting the talk. I know from talking to the other presenters they felt the same way.   

I spent the first six weeks ideating on what topic I wanted to speak on, and how it could resonate. Then, I spent the next three weeks writing an outline, getting feedback from the team and putting together visuals. Then, I spent the last three weeks writing out the full draft and in the process memorizing it. The last week, I practiced it six times a day and each day made slight tweaks. Along the way, I shared it with trusted friends and family for feedback, which was a critical step in mastering the tone of piece and making it my own. I finally felt good the day before after dress rehearsal and getting feedback from the TEDx Talk curator. 

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates? 

Throughout my career I’ve used this same thesis: I pursue things that just seem interesting and unique to collect experiences. Each step, I thought about the potential for growth and learning. Am I joining an area that has industry growth? When you look at industry growth, it matters less the exact role, but just getting involved.