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Esports Career Interviews - Marketing with Heather “Naysayerz” Dower

Heather has the position of Marketing and Communications Manager at ESL UK, and was able to offer some brilliant insight into the world of esports marketing in our interview with her!

Next up in our interview series where we speak to established professions in the esports industry is Heather “Naysayerz” Dower, Marketing and Communications Manager at ESL UK. We wanted to speak to Heather about marketing in esports, which is our most active sector on the website!

Her day-to-day duties involve a heavy marketing emphasis, and include anything outward facing to the community. Heather told us this could be B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) responsibilities. This could range from ensuring fans have the best experience at an ESL event, to choosing ticket pricing for that event, to overseeing content on the company’s social media channels and making sure their outward communication is staying on brand.

Here’s what she had to say on her journey into her current awesome job and the advice she would have for aspiring marketeers and esports job seekers in general.

Heather’s journey to becoming Marketing and Communications Manager at ESL UK

Heather has been involved in gaming from a very young age. A Gameboy Pocket ignited the passion in her, which she would play under her duvet until she had to get up back in her school days.

Gaming was a strong factor in Heather’s childhood, and something that assisted her in forming friendships, so much so that she is still in contact with one of them.

“I had one particular female friend at school who I stay in contact with - she’s now a game design teacher, but our friendship was all formed over Friday nights, meeting up and playing on the Xbox together or talking about the latest PC games.”

Despite the presence of gaming, Heather made sure that “studies and sports came first.”

We wanted to hear about what steps she may have taken in school that helped her land a career in esports. She revealed that while her in-school choices weren’t too related to gaming, she honed her skills outside of her education. “Media was always a love for me but I did it in my spare time - it was a self-taught thing during school. I’d go home and make cool little fragmovies, or photo slideshows for Scouts.” (a nationwide club in the UK).

“I was kind of given the impression that studying creative subjects would never get me a job and that a creative job wasn’t viable. Yet now I’m doing a creative role in esports despite not studying creative subjects, so I’d always advise anyone from a young age that wants to get into gaming to just study the subjects you want to learn, because you could always get a career with those later on. If gaming doesn’t work out, which it might not do for everyone, it’s good to study the subjects you’re interested in as a fallback plan.”

Whether or not degrees hold much weight in finding a job in esports is something we hear being brought up quite frequently, and it’s our opinion that they’ll never hurt a job application, but may be something not that necessary in certain sectors. With Heather being a mechanical engineering graduate we wanted to find out how this had affected her journey and her views of needing a degree in esports.

“In job interviews, everyone will always set the goal that you have a degree. So, for instance, even in esports, the expectations in esports for job specs sometimes are just absolutely ludicrous. “We’re looking for 15 years of esports experience” a job advert might say, and I’m like “Dude, it’s only been viable for 15 years!”

“If you want to go get a degree, do it. Great. You can always go back to university at any age; it’s an adult education.”

“It’s still a personal preference, but for me I hated the idea of being in school from about the age of 5 all the way through to 24 with no experience - so I worked all the way through my university time, I worked through my secondary education from the age of 15, because I was like ‘I need experience to be able to do anything in this world.’ Whether that’s getting customer service experience working in a shop, or experience helping out volunteering somewhere, I feel that’s more valuable, sometimes, in this day and age than a degree.”

“I’m definitely not set on a decision, but for instance with my children I’ll let them decide whether to go to university or not as long as they’re going to make sure that they’re doing well in whatever they’re choosing to do.”

Some of the experience Heather was collecting while at University came from her exploits into streaming and casting online. She told us that she started streaming World of Warcraft on Twitch, and some of her first viewers still follow and talk to her now.

“That’s nearly 7 years ago now! So that’s amazing.”

Using this, she built up skills in broadcasting software that she felt would be useful in possible careers down the line. “I learned how XSplit works, I learned how OBS works, I learned when are the best times to stream, what’s the best way to be interact with your chat, what bots are out there to make your viewer experience better.”

These would all help her down the line when Ginx TV came calling, which we think just shows the value of building as many of your skills as possible.

What also began in university that would assist Heather in her on-camera work in the future was some light casting while playing CS:GO. She streamed this just as she did World of Warcraft.

“When I died in the round I would commentate on what else was going on.” People watching Heather encouraged her that she had the skills to commentate CS:GO in a more serious capacity, which led her to do some offline commentary for epic.LAN (a UK esports event) as well as some online casting for North American matches.

This wasn’t something she stuck with, though, and she set her eyes on different ways to get into the esports world. “I didn’t feel encouraged, I didn’t really know of Redeye at that time, or Machine. I still wanted to be involved in esports though and I guess that’s how I actively started looking for jobs.”

She told us that after streaming, she became more of an “online personality”, frequently producing content on Call of Duty. This got her noticed by some strong brands within esports.

“This landed me a lot of opportunities to start appearing with ASUS and XSplit at events and being a guest speaker or a host and all those kinds of things. And I slowly turned into more of a host and a knowledge person where I would be able to interview anyone.”

The big break that thrust Heather into the public eye came from doing work for epic.LAN and EGX - both of which are gaming/esports events in the United Kingdom. “Ginx TV saw me hosting and casting there, and they were like, “Hey, we’ve got this new podcast/TV show with OJ Borg and Machine coming up, would you like to be one of the co-hosts?” And I literally got off the phone and was stunned.

Heather smashed the trial show with the other proposed hosts and she became part of The Bridge lineup. “OJ wanted me on the show after that, and I’m really grateful that OJ and Machine worked really hard with the likes of ShannaNina and Nysira to help us with our TV and esports experience.”

It was shortly after this that Heather felt confident enough to drop her job at Apple to make the leap into esports full-time. Ginx was looking to have more content on their channel and asked if she wanted to work with them on this, which prompted her to commit full-time to the company. This took the form of her own daily show called the “Daily Download”. Heather took ownership of the entire segment.

“I would research, produce, interview, and book all of the guests.”, she told us. And if there’s something that looks good on a resume, it’s having successfully done something like this were a hundred different skills are needed.

As well as the Daily Download demonstrating how Heather could handle more facets of a production than just presenting the content, it also served as her introduction to the marketing world - her current focus at ESL UK.

“So portraying the image, being on brand, deciding the messaging behind the show, the goals, the demographic all had to be considered. All these questions are going around your head which makes you think which of the 20 news stories are the most important. Which ones are going to resonate with our South African viewers more than our EU viewers? How are we promoting this on social media? I started caring more about what was going into the show’s content than just how I was presenting it.”

While this shows how Heather began to become well-versed in marketing, we wanted to know what else it took for her to get approached by a company as prestigious as ESL. She told us how the work she did for Ginx, which spanned almost two years, embodied much of what ESL were looking for.

“It’s a very interesting mix of a lot of things. To execute something for linear broadcasting on your own, everyday, shows a high skill set, passion and knowledge of the esports scene, which were all big selling points for ESL.”

“They always want passionate people that come with quite a good skill set already. With that, I’d say a lot of experience from other jobs I had, esports and non-esports, helped. Knowing how working with other teams works, how to deal with high-pressure situations also helped me get approached by ESL. Clear signs that you want to learn more and you have a thirst for knowledge is also good.”

“I think overall I set myself up pretty well by making sure I’d worked a little bit outside of the esports world before I entered it because I feel I could come in strong and draw upon other experiences that I would have needed to do, like reporting and analytics and apply them to what my job role now.”

General advice for getting a job in esports

We were also keen to know what general advice Heather had for people looking to get into esports, and here are the great points she shared.

“You need to show you’re active and you care about esports and that you’ll turn up to events to keep up to date with the latest teams and results.

“Everyone always says ‘just attend events’ but, it’s like, what do you do when you attend those events? Maybe after you attend those events you want to become a writer so you write reviews, you start writing pieces on those matches. You might do a live blog update while you’re there. Who knows?”

“It’s key to use your time effectively when you attend events. You might arrange meetings to find out more, with talent or whoever, because surprisingly they are always willing to help!”

“What I would say is that you can generally get into most things that you want to, in terms of titles or departments, because esports has got this amazing flexibility. I joined as a host and never thought I was going to be a marketing manager. Go with the flow and be quite fluid with where your career in esports is taking you and be open-minded about all the possibilities of jobs out there - even jobs that haven’t been created in esports yet, because we’re still growing and they are going to be viable in the next couple of years”

“If you want to be in that job role that you don’t see anyone in just yet or you don’t feel like you fit the mold of that job role, go in and apply and give it your best shot!”

“General points I think are do your research, show you’re passionate about whatever you’re interested in and hone those skills that you think are going to help you with that job role. Also certainly attend events and have fun as well, because at the end of the day we all get into esports and gaming jobs because we have fun doing it, we love it, and we want to make it our job.”

Advice specific to getting into marketing in esports

If marketing is where you see yourself going in esports, you’ll want to check out what Heather says about advice for getting into that particular sector:

“Any marketing experience that’s non-endemic to esports is super valuable right now. We’re in a time where we need to know how to optimize digital marketing. We need to know how to talk to non-endemic brands on how they want to approach marketing in this space because at the moment, esports is growing so fast that digital brands and brands themselves are having an issue knowing where their role fits in with this. So anyone with non-endemic experience that knows how those companies and brands are working that genuinely want to have those conversations, they can help dot the I’s and cross the T’s and generally influence the way this industry will grow.”

“I think any non-endemic, as I keep saying that key buzzword, “experience”, whether it be on a local or global level, is super important, and companies generally everywhere will want you.”

“That might be as a starting role as a community manager and then establishing yourself in that company and moving up to become a marketing manager, or marketing director. Generally any experience is super valuable to esports right now in terms of marketing!”

And while we know that hearing you need experience to land jobs can be disheartening, but remember this is non-endemic work Heather is talking about! If you’ve got a background in that, make sure your resume shouts loudly about it. If not, then see if there’s anything you can get into local to you so you can build up that portion of your skill set.

Thoughts on volunteer work to get experience in esports

Volunteering for orgs and companies in esports is a controversial topic. Some see it as a good way to gain experience to set you up to land those sweet paid jobs in the future, whilst others don’t believe your time should ever be given to further a company’s interests for free.

We asked Heather what her belief on volunteering in esports is.

*Laughs* “I had this conversation this morning. For a lot of us that now have jobs in esports we volunteered for years. And I think then there’s maybe this slight, kind of, divide when we’re starting to bring people into a company and we’re like “here’s your day rate” and it’s more than I could ever have earned back then.”

“I think it’s super important in whatever industry you’re in that you do some voluntary work. If you wanted to get into sports, you would volunteer at your local cricket club to help train or warm up the younger kids - it could be something as little as that.“

“I think volunteering and making yourself useful is still part of that grind and it certainly gets you noticed and, if you’re doing a good job, within a few volunteering roles you’ll certainly get offered a freelance position and paid work. People bringing on volunteers are not in this just to get free work - we want to pay people for their hard work - but I also think voluntary work, as I mentioned in any industry, is super key to have your first steps into your ideal job role.“

Advice to make somebody’s esports application stand out

Heather revealed that she does some hiring in her job role. She’s brought on a full-time freelancer as a social media coordinator, several freelancers to run more social media content on multiple game titles, as well as interns from local universities.

Because of this, we wanted to know what really impresses her in an application and is more likely to get that person hired, or at least moved through to the next stage of recruitment.

“Make sure your social media is up to date and it’s not got anything that you think is going to affect you getting a job. Because social media, especially in marketing, is a key thing. We want to see how well you’re conducting your social media if you’re going to influence the way we run our marketing channels, which is obviously primarily, in esports, through social media. So that’s one key thing, especially in my area of work!”

“Make sure that your CV (resume) looks great. If you want to get into marketing, if your CV looks cool and you’re marketing yourself really well, you can probably market what we need to get out from our offices and our events as well. Keep it to one page maximum.”

“Always offer to have a call - say “Hey, I’d love to chat to you”. You’re being proactive and you’re standing out from the crowd and you’re busting with passion, because you might not be perfect for that role but now I’ve got you in the back of my head and I’m like ‘You know what? There’s going to be an opportunity in two months time, if you can hold tight, I think you’ll be perfect for it.’”

“Being proactive, obviously not harassing people like “Hi, you haven’t returned my emails yet…”, don’t be annoying, but also make yourself noticed, because our inbox gets pretty full, our messages get pretty full, but if you’re obviously really keen and you give us a little intro of who you are, I’m more than likely going to pick up the phone to you and chat to you.”

“Those are kind of things you can do to improve your application. Also come along to events! Chat to us. We’ll talk. Easy.”

Final words

“Have fun and don’t let it get too stressful in the world of esports. There’s these running jokes of “Hah, what’s a day off in esports?” and honestly, there’s not a day off because if you’re in esports you love it. You go home, you play your favorite games. You come into work, you’re doing whatever it is around your favorite games. So make sure it’s fun. If it’s not fun for you and you’re getting too stressed or bogged down or you feel worried, there are so many people out there that will talk to you. Reach out, get some advice, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Follow Heather:

Twitter - https://twitter.com/Naysayerz

Website - http://naysayerz.com/

Follow ESL UK:

Twitter - https://twitter.com/ESLUK

Website - https://play.eslgaming.com/uk

Image credit: DreamHack / Jennika Ojala

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