‘08 alumnus was innovator at social media company
By Marie Dunn-Harris
Ever since he was 12 years old, BGSU business alumnus Matt Kelly ’08 has had a fascination with the Internet. So much so, that he taught himself how to code. His fascination led to determination and hard work that eventually landed him a job at one of the biggest companies in the world: Facebook. Kelly spent six years at the social media giant and was a leader who helped the company grow.
“I started at Facebook in 2009 when 900 people worked there. When I left there were around 12,000,” he said.
Facebook was only the second company that Kelly has ever worked for out of college. His first job was at a New York company called Large Animal Games, where he started his sophomore year.
“I built a super simple game and pitched it to about a dozen companies. Large Animal contacted me and instead of giving me money for the game, they offered me a job,” he said.
Kelly spent the summer between his sophomore and junior years in New York working for Large Animal Games. After a month of putting together computers, he was asked to help rebuild their website before returning to Bowling Green.
“It ended up working out really well, so they retained me while I moved back to Ohio,” he said. “I spent a total of four years there.”
“I want to find other problems and work on them. That’s what really motivates me. I like building things from scratch and solving problems that currently don’t have enough focus” Kelly worked remotely for Large Animal from Bowling Green, spending time in between classes working on their website. The timing worked out really well for him. He entered the video gaming industry when games were becoming popular on the internet.
“Nobody else at Large Animal knew the web as well as I did, so I ended up building a lot of their infrastructure in their back end for what became all of their web games,” Kelly said.
Kelly helped lead Large Animal into building games for companies like Lifetime TV, Myspace and Facebook. He continued to work there for about a year and a half after graduation, until one day, someone he knew through Internet Relay Chat approached him about a job.
“It was a chat room that you could ask about building games on Facebook. I was one of the first people in that room and got to know three or four people over the course of two years,” he said. “One day they messaged me and asked if I wanted a job.”
Kelly’s career at Facebook began in 2009. His first role was on the newly formed Partnerships Team. The team worked directly with big companies that wanted to integrate onto Facebook.
“The role was good because I had been building things on Facebook’s platform longer than most people had,” he said. “So when I joined Facebook I had much more knowledge about building and putting games on the platform than anybody in the company.”
Some of the major companies Kelly worked with were Spotify, the New York Times, CNN, Rotten Tomatoes and Pandora. He helped them integrate things like the Facebook like button onto their websites. He also worked with those companies’ engineers teaching them how to build the Facebook log-in onto their websites so users could personalize their experience
Soon after, he moved onto the mobile platform, working with developers in integrating Facebook onto mobile apps and games. He also traveled and organized developer events all over the world.
His next role at Facebook moved him to the Growth Team and product manager. While his previous role was more engineering-based, this new position was spent working on Facebook’s core product.
“The Growth Team tries to get everyone who’s on the Internet signed up on Facebook,” he said.
According to Kelly, Facebook has 1.5 billion active users per month and one billion daily active users. His team worked on analyzing how to make those numbers grow even more.
“My job was to put together the strategy and hire and manage the team that would figure out how to execute that strategy,” he said.
The fascinating part about Kelly’s job was that he helped create things that Facebook users use everyday—things like notifications that you receive and how you receive them, or clicking on a Facebook like button on your favorite website. For this reason, Kelly met with Facebook’s legal team on a regular basis and filed multiple patents. He was granted two of them and the rest are pending.
“Whenever we were building new technology for platforms, we knew we were onto something nobody else had done,” he said. “It wasn’t just building a clone of something that already existed. I consider myself very fortunate, for sure.”
In 2015, Kelly decided that it was time for him to leave Facebook. One reason was because he is a problem-solver.
“I want to find other problems and work on them. That’s what really motivates me. I like building things from scratch and solving problems that currently don’t have enough focus,” he said.
He’d also like to work for a smaller company.
“Working at Facebook was awesome and it’s a fantastic company, but it had grown a lot since I had been there,” he said.
Today, Kelly is spending his free time traveling, visiting friends and family, reading and Netflix binging. He’s also engaged and will be married in July.
“The six years at Facebook were insane, so I’m taking some time off for myself,” he said.
Kelly keeps in contact with a couple of his BGSU professors who had an impact on him. He also has some unique advice for students who may want to follow in his same career path. He favors the non-traditional ways to reach out to companies when searching for a job.
“There are ways to impress people and creative opportunities for anything you want to do,” he said. “Blow the socks off of someone by doing something creative that helps them solve a problem and reach out to them directly, rather than just sending your resume through their career center. That person will take that as a sign that you’re super motivated.”