As the popularity of esports continues to grow, more people are getting interested in having a career in the industry. However, it can be very difficult to actually find a job in esports because many get lost in where they need to start and how they need to prepare. The need for people with various talents increases as the industry continues to grow, but it can be difficult to know how to get into the industry.
For those planning to have a future career in esports, we at Inven prepared a series of interviews with people in the industry, essentially showcasing the various jobs in esports. From how they found their jobs to what they needed to prepare to get these jobs to details about their roles, we had a chance to hear the stories of their past and the present. We hope that this series of interviews will help those that are looking for a potential career in esports.
The fourth is the competitive operation specialist of the LCK. This division is responsible for operating the LCK successfully by creating guidelines and policies, and carrying them out. Meet Ahn So-yoon, the competitive operation specialist of the LCK.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Ahn So-yoon, and I’m in charge of operating the league. I’m the competitive operation specialist of the LCK and I’ve been working here for a year. Everything I do is related to the LCK, and most of my job involves schedules, rules, guidelines, policies, etc. If the LCK is a flower, I’m in charge of keeping the soil healthy so that the flower blossoms properly.
How did you first get interested in esports?
I liked gaming since I was in college. I played League of Legends as soon as it launched in Korea and I’ve been to many events to watch games in person.
I used to be a fan of Teo 'Blaze' Jia Xiang. I heard that there was a player that really didn’t want to practice at one point, but a teammate forced him to practice, saying that it was not time to goof off. It was exactly the opposite for me. When I played games, I was scolded. Hearing that changed my view on pro gamers completely. I thought that pro gamers were people that actually 'play' for a living, but that made me think that they are cool people with professionalism. That also made me interested in the esports industry.
Back then, not many people knew what kind of jobs there were in the esports industry, so I didn’t think of getting a job in esports. I actually got in the industry late as I gained more interest in esports. The best league in esports is the LCK, so that was the first place I looked. When I saw the job opening, I read through it several times. The more I read it, the more I was sure that it was an area I could do best. That’s how I applied to be the LCK operation manager.
An ability to work meticulously and systematically is necessary as well as good communicating skills for this job. My career until now prepared me for this kind of work, so although it was a new area, I was sure that I can do well.
How is your day as LCK competitive operation specialist?
My day is usually different depending on the period. During the offseason, I need to update the rules or guidelines for the next season, or I prepare a long-term project. The amount of work I need to do isn’t specific, so I need to keep thinking — and if I keep thinking, my work could be extended infinitely. I sometimes even pull out my phone in bed to take notes of any ideas that come up or even get up to work.
I think it’s a job that requires more creativity than people would think. You have to run so many simulations to create the rules and guidelines properly. We need to deal with all situations from A to Z, and the guidelines should be based on those simulations. If any unexpected situations occur, I get to think about which area needs to be strengthened.
When do you feel the most satisfied with your work?
The most recent was the opening day of the spring split. When we announced some changes to the league, fans recognized that the changes were progressive, and they praised what I did. Most of the time, even if we take tens of thousands of steps, it doesn’t seem like a big change from the outside. I was really grateful that fans recognized those small movements we made.
In contrast, when does the job feel the toughest?
The toughest part is that there are no precedents. I refer to traditional sports, but esports is an industry that’s just beginning. New things happen every day. It’s interesting, but at the same time, it’s tough.
Recently, establishing the guidelines related to COVID-19 and processing them was really difficult. Obviously, there were no precedents, and nothing was clear. We had to create guidelines, deliver them to teams, and lead them at the same time. What made it worse was the everyday-changing policies of the government on COVID-19. It was a tough time.
It was a relief when the teams followed the guidelines properly. We were able to carry through to the finals since teams understood and followed the altered playoff guidelines properly as well.
How did you prepare yourself in taking on this job and its responsibilities?
I didn’t have any experience related to esports before I worked here, so it’s difficult to answer this question specifically. It’s really hard to find any people with experience in managing leagues. What was the most important for me was understanding the work. When I first saw the recruitment notice, I read the notice thoroughly several times and made myself understand what the work is. Then, I found ways to deliver how I could show the employers what I’m capable of doing.
Can you tell us some of the questions you were asked during your interview? Are there any questions that are memorable?
I don’t remember specifically, but they focused on my priorities when I work. They focused if my priorities were on the fans. When we work, there are times we need to be decisive, and those decisions are made based on priorities. That was why the priorities were important, and I guess they were curious if my priorities were similar to the companies'.
What advice would you give to our readers that are looking to walk a similar career path?
What I do, my job can be very unfamiliar, and many of you don’t even know that there’s such a job. Most people think of fanciness when they think of esports. As for me, my job is to carry out my responsibilities where people don’t see me.
When serving sushi, the radish shreds are to make the sushi stand out more. That is my role. My work isn’t fancy and the results aren’t clearly seen. That’s why I think this job is more interesting.
Any last comments you’d like to say to our readers?
It’s been a year since I started my job here. Through this interview, I enjoyed looking back at my past year while doing this job. Through looking back at the past year, I was able to see what I could do better in the future.