Inside Activision: An Interview with Destiny Product Manager Jake Whisler

With Inside Activision, we interview team members to share what it’s like to work in such a close-knit environment.

by Kevin Kelly on May 11, 2018

What do you do at Activision?

A little over three years ago, I was approached with an opportunity I couldn’t pass up: come to Activision to help lead brand strategy with Bungie on the Destiny Product Management team. I’ve been a gamer my entire life, and the Halo games created by Bungie were the centerpiece of gaming for me while I was growing up. Getting the chance to work with such a storied developer on the most exciting new franchise in gaming could not have been a more compelling opportunity.

As a product manager, it’s our job to steward the brand. It’s exhilarating, daunting, challenging and rewarding at the same time, all the time. However, inspiring is the word that resonates with me the most. When you’re lucky enough to work on a brand like Destiny, you wake up each day knowing that millions of people are looking at you to deliver incredible experiences for them to enjoy. Whether it’s the hardcore, the solo player, in a group, competitively or casually, it’s critical that our team works with every team across Activision and ties in closely with Bungie at every turn to ensure we’re giving our players the experiences that we, as massive gamers ourselves, want to play.

What is your favorite part about working here?

The people, without a doubt. But closely followed by the brand itself. The Destiny team at Activision is comprised of some of the smartest, most driven and incredibly passionate people I’ve had the pleasure to get to work with. Coming into work every day isn’t just awesome because of the fact that I know everyone is extremely good at what they do and cares deeply about what they’re doing, it’s the fact that these are fundamentally amazing people.

The culture on the Destiny team is extremely open, accepting and genuinely fun. We crunch together, celebrate together, buckle down together and play together. Beyond the people, the brand is a huge part of why I love working at Activision and with Bungie. Aside from the fact that I’ve put well over 500 hours into this franchise (which to the core makes me a lightweight! Respect to the Guardians out there with over 1000 hours), I’ve always been a huge Sci-Fi fps gamer and fan.

And Destiny, being one of the only games of its kind with its blend of first-person shooter action, social gameplay, and RPG-style investment, has been an extremely rewarding challenge to tackle for each release’s marketing campaigns.

What is your favorite Activision video game?
Man, there are a ton to choose from! I think I’ve got to go with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The campaign in that game completely blew my mind. From hopping in a gunship to donning the ghillie suit for “All Ghillied Up,” probably one of the most legendary missions ever created in gaming, the epic moments that the game delivered were unparalleled for me at the time.

But, the attention to detail in the campaign cutscenes or the different characters that exuded the effortless “calm, cool and collected” personality you would expect from a Tier-1 operator or Marine just added to the experience.
And then there was the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Multiplayer. I can’t even begin to think how much I played that, and how much fun my friends and I had doing it. That entire trilogy is one of my all-time favorites.  

How do you put Activision's Core Values into action?

For me, it’s always been “You’ve Gotta Have Fun to Make Fun”. My coworker and close friend Joe August and I both joined Activision back in the Spring of 2015. Funnily enough, we had also worked on the same team at our previous company, and we went to college together before that. We came into the team as a tight-knit unit that valued culture and team dynamics above all else. Our philosophy was that if you had a team who genuinely enjoyed their time at work and liked one another other beyond just the pleasantries exchanged at a coworker to coworker level, you could create an incredibly effective and simultaneously fun work environment.

So, we introduced some things to the Destiny team culture step by step, like team movie nights and happy hours. We continued and amplified a great tradition called “Fast Food Fridays” where we go out and buy fast food from a local eatery of random choosing for the entire team. We grew beyond work hours with team hikes and even camping trips for those that wanted to join. We fired up team celebrations for major reveals and launches to celebrate hard work. We even worked at the highest level to carve out approved budgets to throw team events on a semi-regular cadence.

The result? A team that works extremely well together that never cracks under even under the toughest pressure. Helping create the culture of this team is one of the things I’m most proud of in my career here. 

What do you like to do for fun?

There’s the obvious, which is playing video games – jumping into a brand-new campaign and diving into an incredible story, playing co-op activities with friends or crushing them competitively (my personal strong suit!) in multiplayer, I always enjoy picking up the controller.

But balance for me is critical. I love the outdoors. Living in Los Angeles, you might think I’m in a tough spot to be an outdoors guy. However, LA is actually a surprisingly good hub for any number of outdoor activities. Hiking and fishing are my big go-to activities. The San Gabriel range, home to mountains like the 10,000+ foot Mt. Baldy, or the San Bernardino National Forest are only a stone’s throw away for some incredible hiking. You forget you left Santa Monica an hour or two earlier.

But my favorite is the Sierra – the true gem of California. There are few things better than stepping outside your tent at 11,000 feet in a high alpine meadow, breathing in the fresh mountain air and marveling in the grandeur of 13-14,000 foot peaks reaching for the sky all around you. I have plans to attempt to summit a number of Sierra peaks this summer/fall, and I couldn’t be more excited.

And when I’m not scrambling up a peak somewhere, I’m up in Washington state in a jet sled with my dad going Steelhead fishing on the Lewis River. If you’ve ever hooked one and fought it into the boat, you know how much of a fun time that is and how incredibly good eating they are!

Finally, if you could be any Activision character, who would you choose and why?

I’m going to throw it back to the Modern Warfare trilogy and go with Captain Price for this one! Ever since the second mission of Modern Warfare, Crew Expendable, where you see Price calmly smoking a cigar before fast-roping onto the enemy vessel, he became a beloved character for me. The guy stops at nothing to do the right thing no matter if the others can’t see it, don’t get it or absolutely don’t agree with it - even if that means launching a nuke into space and detonating it above the eastern seaboard to level the playing field for the Americans fighting to save D.C. from the Makarov spurred Ultranationalist Russian invasion.

Interested in joining the team at Activision or one of our partner studios? We’ve been named one of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2018, so check out the job listings and get in touch!