Frank Fields: From the Professional Ranks to the Sponsorship Game

 

Since diving into competitive gaming in high school, Frank Fields has witnessed many facets of the industry firsthand. And there are many facets, he advises newcomers. In 2018, it’s not enough to say you want to be involved in esports when the industry comprises everything from athletes to promoters to marketers to technical support to people with fluency in contract law.

For his part, Fields is currently in business development for the hardware company Corsair. But he started where so many in the industry do: in front of a screen, stoking his passion for the games to which he would later work in service. Read on for the Fields’ full interview.

Find Your Grind: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey, Frank.

Frank Fields: I’m 31 years old and live in Fremont in the Bay Area. I’m originally from Ohio and got into esports while still in high school.

I got into the competitive DOTA scene as early as 2003 and became professional level from 2004 to 2006. I eventually started covering the competitive WarCraft 3 for the site MYM.com in 2007 at the height of the game, and then played competitive Warcraft 3, where I was semi-pro, but not quite professional to get ready for StarCraft II.

In my personal life during this time, I went to Ohio State University for psychology, dropped out, went to community college for programming, and then decided to attend Wright State University for English. Everything came to a head around the same time.

During the SC2 beta I became very, very good, and started my own team called VT Gaming, eventually changing the brand to Team Reign by 2012. The whole time, I was working IT and going to school at Wright State. It was my running of this team that had me recruited by IGN to run their StarCraft II operations. Unfortunately I hadn’t finished school, but I wasn’t going to let that chance pass.

I’ve worked esports or gaming ever since. From IGN, I went to Blizzard, then to Riot Games, then to a startup called NowLoading then to another startup called Kess (amazing game company), and now to Corsair. I’ve worked many freelance gigs in between, including for ReKTGlobal, ESL, among others.

FYG: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?

FF: I run biz dev for esports. Esports is like professional sports for video games. Simple, right?

That’s usually the elevator pitch, and then people ask a lot of follow up questions. But right now I work in sponsorships and esports. I scout and recruit teams, leagues, tournaments and influencers, negotiate contracts, plan content and social media campaigns.

FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?

FF: If you weren’t going to get the grass roots and gradual climb of experience that I had, you’d have to study business and a bit of contract law (I also did this) to understand the landscape. Once there, find an entry level job at either an endemic games company, esports team, or game develop in a related field and try to move horizontally or vertically.

It’s not easy. This industry is not easy. But if you can do it, it’s rewarding.

FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?

FF: Balance your schooling with your esports aspirations. Don’t stop school to try to go pro. Work on building the skills you’ll need to succeed in the field you want to enter. “Esports” is not specific enough; think deeper. Team management, player management, business development, operations, league operations, social media, or community management. All of these are different.

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?

FF: At my level, somewhere between 75-95K per year. But for entry level it’s more like 55K per year. Work environments vary drastically from company to company. Riot Games was more like a frat; Corsair is like a happy dysfunctional family. The key is adapting to that environment but not letting it rule you.

Keep sight of both your long-term goals and what’s good for the company.

FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?

FF: Critical thinking, patience, and emotional intelligence will go a long way. Using problem solving skills is pretty much necessary in my position. Nothing ever goes 100 percent to plan — you have to be OK with that.

FYG: What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind? Why is it important?

FF: It’s about finding what you are good at, and the position that complements your skills. It took me a while to realize I wanted to be a program manager and then find an opportunity to do it. Hopefully you can figure that out sooner that I did (6 years), but sometimes it takes experience to know what different roles are like. But once you do, you will be happy.

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