Chief Technology Officer, PerBlue
BSCMPE ’09, BSCS ’09, UW-Madison
Each year, the College of Engineering recognizes outstanding alumni during Engineers’ Day—a celebration of engineers, held on Homecoming weekend. Andrew Hanson is among the engineers we will honor in 2018 at an Oct. 19 banquet.
Andrew has leveraged his lifelong interest in making games into a career that perfectly fits his passion. He’s among the co-founders of the leading Madison-based mobile gaming company PerBlue, which has grown from an endeavor launched out of a student apartment into a developer of role-playing and strategy games played by millions of people around the world.
We are honoring Andrew for his leadership in nurturing the Wisconsin entrepreneurial ecosystem, the state’s economic development, and as an exemplary demonstrator of collaborative engineering success.
Recently, we chatted with him about everything from his memories as a student at UW-Madison to his career and hobbies. Here are his responses to some of our questions.
Why did you choose engineering?
I always knew, from a very young age, that I wanted to do something with computers. And so I was kind of somewhere on the spectrum of computer science to electrical engineering. And I essentially just landed in the middle on computer engineering; it was a good mix of a solid engineering degree with technical challenges that were fun to overcome, but still programming, which turns out I really, really enjoy.
How did your experience in the College of Engineering shape your career?
I met my business partner, Justin Beck, at the College of Engineering, and 10 years on we’re still working at the company we started in school.
It’s a little cliché, but I think college is a point in your education when it starts becoming your responsibility and not someone else’s responsibility what you learn and take away from it. And I think that the opportunities I had on campus to do extracurricular things—from working in student orgs to meeting people—were foundational in expanding my interests in those kinds of things. I think that part of my success today is due to my interests and desires to just get things done, work on things, and make things happen. That’s something I got to practice and get better at.
Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
I think the fact that we have a company that I helped found that employs 50 people here in downtown Madison. There’s a lot of things I have done personally that I’m like, “Cool, that’s really awesome. I’m really happy to do that.” But seeing 50 passionate people come into work and create something awesome, the magnitude of that astounds me honestly every time I look at it.
Who has played the greatest role in your achievements?
I have to say my parents have made a pretty huge impact in my achievements. I have really great parents, really solid experience growing up, very encouraging of what I’m interested in. They had a huge impact and I wouldn’t be the person I am without their guidance and mentoring and all that kind of stuff.
What are your hobbies or interests?
I design games at work. And I like to design games as a hobby. I had my first board game, Cursed Court, which is a fun deductive game, published last year. That’s where I spend a lot of my free time. And there’s a really great community in town of people who also design games and play each other’s games, so that’s what does it for me.
What advice would you give to students?
I would give them advice that I got from my dad, which is, “Find the boundary between two things you are interested in.” Whatever that thing is, the odds are there’s some sort of profession or job that exists there. It’s relatively easy to find someone who likes one topic, or one field, or one discipline, but if you can find interest in two of them, you’re much more likely to be unique—it makes you more valuable if you can bridge that gap.