For Billy Sprout, asking what educational or career path you take into esports qualifies as a “wonky question.” And for good reason. Given the newness of the industry, there are few solidified pipelines into the world of competitive gaming.
Below, Sprout was kind enough to elucidate the academic degrees and personal qualities he thinks make an esports resumé pop — with insight and honesty. Read on for our Q&A with the Tespa esports coordinator, who’s turned his love of gaming communities into a career that molds and connects those same communities at colleges across North America.
Find Your Grind: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey, Billy.
Billy Sprout: I made my debut in esports as a ‘goalie’ for the FPS shooter Tribes 2 back in high school. When I got to college, I was dismayed to find that no one actively played Tribes at UConn, so I picked up StarCraft II and joined the SC2 gaming club there.
Fast-forward a couple years, and I’ve taken over presidency of the UConn StarCraft club, rebranded it to a general gaming club, and grown it from a tiny, five-person group to a flourishing ecosystem of 50+ students who played various games. I received an email from Chris Kelly, who was reaching out on behalf of Tespa, Inc. to see if I’d be interested in making UCGC one of the first official Tespa Chapters.
Two months later, I was flying out to Austin (my first time away from the East Coast) to assist with Lone Star Clash 3 (and by “assist” I mean stare in awe at how much better UT Austin was at esports events than I was). Two months after that, I was flying out to Irvine to start my first paid position in esports — as a Strategic Programs intern at Tespa, Inc.
Fast-forwarding again to 2018, and I’m coming up on my second-year anniversary as a Collegiate Esports Coordinator at Tespa, and my fourth anniversary of helping Tespa host large-scale tournaments for college students. I’ve built our tournament programs into a turnkey annual product, pioneered new formats (and even a new genre with Tespa’s Dungeon Race), helped develop and grow 30-odd students into fully-fledged esports professionals, and built relationships with old and new partners that will make ripples in the industry for years to come. It’s been a wild ride so far and an immense privilege to have a hand (however small) in shaping an entirely new industry out of nothing.
FYG: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?
BS: I envision, build and execute tournaments programs that allow thousands of gamer students across North America to sate one of two distinct needs: to compete at a high level and show the world what they can do, or to forge new lifelong friendships (and strengthen existing ones) with other gamers at their school. Through our scholarship programs and employment opportunities, I strive to prove to the world that gaming is a force for good.
FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?
BS: This is a wonky question to answer when it comes to esports. There are countless people working in this industry that have rocket science, chemistry, theatre degrees … but they can all brag about a few core skills. I’ll list them out below and give a few options as to the kinds of activities that would allow you to demonstrate these skills on a resumé:
- Project Management
- The ability to take a project, break it down into buckets, then prioritize and execute each of those buckets. PMP Certificates are the best objective way to quantify PM skills. They do cost money, though!
- An eye for optimization & efficiency
- Best demonstrated by degrees in programming-oriented STEM fields, business degrees that train you to plan programs at a huge scale like marketing or communications.
- An MBA makes you a shoe-in for this particular facet of esports and allows you an incredible amount of agency as to what role you play in the industry.
- Vision & Passion
- I can’t give you a generalized direction as to how to demonstrate your vision and passion in esports. It certainly can’t be quantified by a major. What you need to do is seek out the aspect of esports that lights a flame within you, and demonstrate your drive to stoke that flame as much as you can in the limited time you have in academia. For example, I discovered that my passion was bringing gamers together with people that share their love for games. I demonstrated that passion by taking a struggling gaming club and building it into a family where geeks could finally be themselves.
- All this said, there are a few key pitfalls to avoid with these specific qualities.
- There are buzz words that get woefully overused in esports resumés and employment conversations. Use them sparingly, and don’t just say “I have passion” or “I have SO much vision, I promise.” QUANTIFY your passion: “I have a passion for esports that drove me to work day and night to build the esports scene at my campus.” Or, “My vision and leadership enabled me to build lasting esports infrastructure and tradition for my club.”
- Show employers how your vision and/or passion would make you a value-add to their team.
FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?
BS: Find a way to participate. If there’s a thriving esports culture in your area, join the largest organization (or the one with the most potential) and find the best way you can help build it even bigger. If you can’t find a local group IRL or online, build your own! Start an after-school games club and have everyone bring their smash setups or laptops. Make a Facebook group or Discord server that allows students at your school to connect with each other, and use it to schedule events or host discussions about Rocket League strategies or the latest Overwatch meme. If that doesn’t take off, try to find online communities that aren’t too big for you to make an impact on them.
FYG: What kind of lifestyle does your career allow you to live? What sort of salary and work environment can people typically expect from a position or field like yours?
BS: I can’t give too many details, but my position is relatively entry-level and still allows me to live comfortably in Orange County. Work environments vary drastically in this industry, but I mostly see laid-back office environments where everyone is super tight-knit and invested in each other’s success.
FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?
BS: Motivation, mental acuity, leadership, compassion, and humility make the difference between a standard applicant and an excellent one. Everyone should learn to program—there’s no excuse anymore! There are hundreds of websites that allow you to add this skill to your repertoire for free. Focus on getting very good at two or three languages that have different applications. (I chose C++, HTML and mySQL.)
FYG: What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind? Why is it important?
BS: To me, Finding Your Grind means finding a project or mission into which you don’t mind pouring countless hours to ensure it succeeds. Something you can lose track of time while doing, and only stop when you realize it’s 4 a.m. If you can find a career doing something that stokes your fires like that, you’ll never be happier.