Before the first real iteration of Ollie’s Esports Insider Careers Series is published later this week from a legal perspective, we thought it would be worth publishing a brief overview of his own general background, how he got into the weird and wonderful world of esports and his musings on the space for those looking to work in it now.
I had the unholy task of asking him extensive questions about himself, and here’s what we ended up with.
ESI: What did you do prior to working in esports?
Ollie: I hopped up the M1 to the University of Birmingham to study Economics from which I graduated with an upper second class (2:1) back in 2013. Having done an internship in 2012 with KPMG, the professional services company, I went straight into a graduate job in Canary Wharf, working towards a dual accountancy qualification in both chartered tax and chartered accountancy. Although I was strong in exams, I actually hated doing them. Here’s my first pearl of wisdom: if you don’t like exams, don’t do accountancy. After leaving KPMG I went and worked for GlaxoSmithKline working in “transfer pricing transformation” but I shan’t bore you with exactly what that entailed.
Going to the University of Birmingham and doing Economics, there’s a lot of pressure on students from the university to get a graduate job. We’ve all heard the spiel of how competitive it is out there and any job is fantastic, and whilst that may be the case – it’s easy to jump into a job that isn’t particularly enjoyable. My motto back then was “I don’t really give a sh*t what I do, as long as I earn a lot of money”. As it transpires, if you work in something that you really don’t enjoy, it’s really quite soul-destroying so I decided to make the jump.
ESI: You plonker, how did you end up working in esports and specifically writing then?
Ollie: My work at KPMG was within Transfer Pricing, and the tax documentation required is a report. Without boring everyone to death, each report has a functional, economic and industry analysis which make up a significant portion of the documentation.
“There’s more than just esports to write about, so if writing is truly your passion but you’re struggling for esports jobs, try and pick up other writing roles and build a portfolio”
Writing a Functional Analysis would involve identifying where tasks were being performed, almost by interviewing employees in different subsidiaries of a multinational company. Industry Analysis would be researching the general industry that a company operated in, and an Economic Analysis would be more of a template so required less writing. I actually enjoyed the writing aspect so that’s why I thought it was a job I may pursue.
When I left working in finance/professional services, I was looking for anything that I deemed to be exciting and different from what I was doing. I considered studying the NCTJ diploma and going into an entry level sports journalist job as I had done a few match reports for my local paper and loved that. Then I remembered that I didn’t want to do exams.
I had been spending a lot of time watching esports and playing games terribly for quite a while – but even back in just 2015 there wasn’t a huge amount floating around the industry. I would optimistically refresh “esportscareer.org” and see what was there. A few random jobs, potentially a role in Poland with Kinguin and a whole lot of voluntary positions. I spotted a freelance role writing for Red Bull, so thought I would apply and after meeting the editor in London that was my first “break”. I was off out to the Frankfurt Major anyway, so he agreed to let me come back with an article and so it went from there.
“The difference now, in my opinion, is that passion isn’t enough to land you a job in esports”
The first article I had feedback on was basically like “well written, but it reads like a tax report”. As it turns out, writing esports pieces for Red Bull was slightly different to preparing tax documentation. From there, I went to events, relevant conferences and just networked. I had business cards made and I spoke to people. I met you (Sam, ESI Editor) at a conference in London and you may recall that you mentioned there was potentially a site being launched in the future and if I’d be interested in getting involved. It’s a cliché rhetoric but unless you try your hardest to get your name out there, your name won’t get out there. It nearly always takes a bit of luck, but that’s the case with most things.
For a long time, esports writing alone was nowhere near enough to provide any sort of sustainable income. I wrote over 15,000 words in the style of Elvis reviewing online casino websites (it’s as bad as it sounds) but again, it’s something I can show people if I want to go for a writing role.
There’s more than just esports to write about, so if writing is truly your passion but you’re struggling for esports jobs, try and pick up other writing roles and build a portfolio. Write Medium posts about esports if that’s the only way you have to get published. Eventually, someone will notice.
ESI: What advice would you give to someone trying to enter the esports industry now?
Ollie: There are a whole lot of jobs out there now compared to a few years back.
The difference now, in my opinion, is that passion isn’t enough to land you a job in esports. There are people now making the jump from “standard” industries into the esports world as it’s a fully viable career path that people have started to believe in. There are advertisements for jobs that require years of experience in certain fields that would never have existed a few years ago.
Just because you love esports you shouldn’t treat the industry as if it were different from any other. Your passion for Call of Duty might be what others have for the foreign exchange markets. The difference is, they know they need to get qualifications and relevant work experience to even think about breaking into that industry. Esports is fast becoming very, very similar. If you want to work within an organisation doing marketing or sales, go and do marketing and sales elsewhere first.
Prove you have done it and can do it and then with your passion for esports it’ll become a whole lot easier to land a role. Esports is here to stay, so make sure you position yourself correctly to give your future self the best possible chance.