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Women in Charge: A Conversation with the Female Staff of the Guangzhou Charge in Celebration of International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Guangzhou Charge introduce some of the women keeping the team on track. Competitive manager Brenda Suh, social media specialists Jinni Xu and Kimberly Suh, and special correspondent Li “ChiXiaoTu” Qiong discussed their roles in the Charge and how they got involved in the esports scene.

First, tell us a bit about yourselves. You all have really interesting backgrounds that don’t scream esports – how did you come to work in esports?
Brenda Suh. Courtesy of Chris Hwang.

Brenda Suh: I’m the competitive manager for the Charge. I have a business degree and worked in several different industries and companies, but through all of that, I find that my passion is in leadership and management. I worked with Seoul Dynasty for part of their first season and left the industry. But I missed the fast pace and constant change. I also realized that no one has really figured out how to build a great esports organization, and the opportunity to do that with a strong leadership team here is what made me come back.

Jinni Xu: I’m a social media specialist, and I manage our Chinese social media platforms. My path to esports was not traditional at all. I grew up in China but studied accounting, finance and computer science in the U.K. After I went back to China, I worked in management consulting which was very stressful, and I started to rethink my career path. Just then, the Charge was looking for someone to manage social media – I worked in community management for a games company when I was in the U.K., I’ve been playing Overwatch since open beta and I was already a huge OWL fan, and I’m from Guangzhou so of course it was the perfect job for me.

So, who was your favorite team before switching allegiance to the Charge?

Jinni Xu: I followed Shanghai Dragons because they were the only Chinese team last year. And my favorite player was Poko because of his big plays on D.Va. Sorry, HOTBA!

Kimberly Suh: Like Jinni, I’m a social media specialist but for English language platforms. My background is actually in animal science – I worked in animal research labs before I joined the Charge. I’ve always loved Overwatch, especially the competitive side of it. Brenda is my older sister, and when I was between jobs, I was helping her out wherever I was needed and I think I proved myself because I was offered a position. I decided to jump in because I’m learning a lot about esports and marketing, and because this organization feels like a family.

Li “ChiXiaoTu” Qiong. Courtesy of Chris Hwang.

ChiXiaoTu: I’m a Special Correspondent with the Charge, and I’m also a commentator for the Chinese broadcast of the Overwatch League. So my role with the Charge is more about creating content when there is downtime during the season. My career in esports started with a passion for games, and I progressed from managing semi-professional teams to streaming, to casting, and then being fortunate to having an opportunity to work with Blizzard. It was a more traditional path then being an animal scientist!

Fiona: I work in administration for our basketball team in Guangzhou and now split my time between basketball and esports. I studied English literature at university in China and was a college English instructor before I was hired to be the English translator for our European basketball coach. Then I moved into an administrative role. When our parent company invested in an OWL team, I was given the chance to work on esports. So I didn’t choose esports, but esports chose me because of my sports background, and I feel very fortunate.

Describe a typical day – what do you do?

Brenda Suh: My role is to be the central communication and coordination hub internally across our competitive, marketing and business teams, and externally with the league. It’s my responsibility to make sure that everything works smoothly for the competitive team across everything from logistics, to facilities, to game day schedules.

The Charge asked Brenda about the ‘house mom’ stereotype. 

Brenda Suh: I turned down interviews with another OWL team because they were looking for a house mom, in their own words. That’s not what I’m interested in. Beyond the day-to-day work, it’s my responsibility to make sure that operational decisions are made in alignment with our overall organizational goals, and that the culture we want to build is instilled and reinforced within the competitive team. I joined this team because there is strong leadership here that believe in building the organization the right way, and I want to help make that happen.

Kimberly Suh. Courtesy of Chris Hwang.

Kimberly Suh: A typical day for me involves planning out the editorial and content schedule for social media, and brainstorming creative ideas with the rest of the marketing team. I also track social media analytics. I actually spend a lot of time thinking about how best to communicate our message to our fans in less than 140 words.

ChiXiaoTu: The day is really long for me. During the season when I’m commentating for OWL, I’m based in Shanghai and because of the time difference I wake up at 1 a.m. or 5 a.m. depending on the match schedule. Then comes the prep work behind the scenes before I actually go on air – that includes rehearsals, VOD reviews, data analysis, and lots discussion with my co- workers to make sure we are all aligned. And after my work with Blizzard ends, I sync up with the Charge marketing team on the team’s marketing content.

What do you love about esports?

Brenda Suh: It’s the human interactions. I was drawn to the strong leadership team here, and I love having an opportunity to have an impact on our players who are so young – they may not realize that the decisions they make today may have a huge impact on the rest of their careers, and I love having the ability to directly impact that.

Jinni Xu. Courtesy of Chris Hwang.

FionaMe too, I love watching our young men grow and develop. That’s what I love about my job working with the basketball team – I see teenage kids come into our organization and watch them struggle and persevere, and then grow as athletes and as people, and I get that same satisfaction now in esports.

Jinni Xu: I love esports because it’s something unique to my generation, my friends all geek out together over esports. But I also love esports because I love my team – we’re all young and our work culture is so open where everyone can express themselves and play a part in shaping our vision.

How do we get to the day when we’re no longer talking about women in esports, when it’s the norm and not the exception?

Brenda Suh: Getting a job in esports is a lot like getting a job at a hot startup, where networks play a big part. And when that network is male dominated, it becomes really hard for women to break in. I was fortunate that I got this job through a mentor’s network, and I want to reach back and help others break in.

The Charge asked if the efforts go beyond individual responsibility.

Courtesy of Chris Hwang.

Brenda Suh: Yes, definitely. When Geguri was being scouted by OWL teams, I remember that some teams said that they didn’t want to tackle the challenge of housing a female player. But then those teams will go the extra mile to put up with demands of male players for single rooms and all sorts of other things. It’s up to teams to change that kind of thinking.

Kimberly Suh: I think it’s starting to happen already. We all love games, and that passion is a big part of what esports organizations are looking for. Highlighting the women in esports and their origins stories is a great start – hearing more about how women got involved in esports helps to show the opportunities that are out there.

The Charge asked Jinni for her perspective, since she has both Western and Eastern work experience. 

Jinni Xu: For young women in my generation, I feel that barriers are breaking down in the Chinese esports scene. But one thing I’ve noticed is that in China, it’s still rare for women to work on the competitive side of the organization. So Brenda is a trendsetter, where she plays an important role in managing the competitive team. That’s pretty neat.

Thank you to Chris Hwang and the Guangzhou Charge for collaborating with The Game Haus on this piece! Best of luck to you in the season ahead!

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Follow Darby on Twitter @soundchecck! She is happy to talk about anything she’s written! You can also get in touch with her on Discord (soundchecck#7242).

Featured image courtesy of Chris Hwang.

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