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#WomensMonth: The Women Behind Team Liyab
Posted by Donna Almonte March 30, 2021

Getting a career in esports is lucrative, especially now that esports is gaining massive growth and popularity in the Philippines. There are different roles where anyone, regardless of gender and identity, will be able to shine. While female gamers are still underrepresented and fighting stereotypes in the esports industry, behind the cameras, there are inspiring women who are striving to change the game and represent us, too. 

 

A proper management system is key for our PH athletes, like Team Liyab, to ignite our country’s passion for esports and compete in the international arena. For #WomensMonth, meet Kai Ibea and Angel Neri, who are Team Liyab’s business dev’t and marketing managers, respectively. They’re here to tell us all about their esports career journey, how to manage a pioneering team, their role in shaping the local esports industry, and what they’ve learned along the way. 

What led you into becoming a manager for Team Liyab?

Angel: After Garena Philippines’ restructuring, I had an interview at Mineski Philippines as a player development and marketing manager of an upcoming esports team powered by Globe Telecom and Mineski and that team eventually became Liyab Esports. I’ve been with the team from the beginning.

Kai: After leaving the food industry in the middle of the pandemic, I went on a job search to look for a new environment and industry where I can grow more and contribute my sales skills. Thankfully, I saw an online job posting for a career in the fast-growing esports industry. Having friends and brothers who are into gaming, I knew it was an opportunity I cannot pass up. Although I am not from the esports industry originally, being a fan of (ball)sports gave me an overview and idea on how esports teams are operated. My colleagues in Liyab Esports, especially our Marketing Manager Angel and our Player Development Manager Gerald, have helped me a lot also by sharing a lot of information and insider knowledge that they have.

 

What does a day in the life of a marketing manager and a business development manager for an esports team look like?

Angel: As the current marketing manager, every day is different. I am in charge of all the things related to content that we churn out. Taking a look at our content calendars for multiple social media assets as well as overseeing video shoots, photoshoots, and media interviews. I also create multiple marketing strategies and directions for all our teams and content creators and deal with a lot of statistics and numbers. Finally, I also monitor several partnership deliverables. It’s crazy but fun.


Kai: As the business development manager, I look for partnerships and collaborations for the team, our players, and our creators. To put it plainly, I look for sponsors for the team.

 

Did you have to make adjustments? What does training look like for new managers?

Angel:  There are a lot of things that you learn on the job itself. There’s not much training for situations that you can’t really prepare for. You can only try to be prepared as much as you can but there are a lot of instances where you have to adapt and be flexible because everything really depends on how the teams will perform or how the audience will receive the content.

Kai: Yes, a lot of adjustments, especially for me who came from another industry and a smaller company. The esports industry grows exponentially every day in a lot of ways and it can really be overwhelming especially when you are in an organization backed by two industry giants. Training for a new manager is really like being a sponge and a [lump of] clay at the same time. One has to absorb all the knowledge and information available. 

 

Then, one has to allow his or herself to be molded or mentored by the industry veterans who have been here since the beginning. Personally, I learned that to be able to adapt fast in esports, I have to open my eyes and ears to what is happening with the different games, tournaments, teams, players, casters, influencers, and content creators each day. But most importantly, those who are behind-the-scenes are the best sources of information. That is why I always ask Angel and Gerald on who’s who and what is happening in esports. There are always new things, updates, and developments happening! It’s really exciting and interesting!


What are some of the misconceptions or challenges you’ve experienced being in this industry?

Angel: Challenges? Meeting the expectation of all stakeholders? Hahaha. Top of my mind would be the misconception that anything to do with social media or content is easy. In this industry, there’s so much to handle there because people aren’t always nice. One of the biggest challenges is also trying to make the people understand that the esports athletes aren’t just playing. This is a thing they do professionally and their training of 8-10 hours a day comprises not only in-game training but of studying and analysis as well and physical training. For some people to disregard this hard work is painful to see.

Kai: Angel already mentioned the best misconception most people I know have told me, that the lives of esports athletes are easy because they think they are just playing a game, which is not the case. Another for me would be…that since it is male-dominated, it is intimidating to enter. I actually first met Angel in a Facebook group called Gamer Girls because I inquired with the members there on what it is like to work in the esports industry here in the Philippines, especially since it is widely known to be male-dominated. 

 

She’s one of the girls there who wrote a comment to reassure me that although it is male-dominated, there is nothing to worry [about] because they are professional. So far in my experience, that is true. And even if the males are more in number, the women here are supportive and willing to lend a hand to make things easier for fellow women. 

 

What are your proudest moments so far? 

Liyab Esports First Anniversary / Image via Kai Ibea and Ange Nepomuceno

Angel: The first one would be our Arena of Valor (AOV) team qualifying for the Arena of Valor International Championship (AIC) back in 2019 in Thailand. It’s an international-level tournament for AOV. The second one would be the same players becoming national athletes in the Southeast Asian Games also back in 2019. I was with the team since the beginning so seeing them reach that level felt amazing. OH ONE MORE THING, the Liyab Esports billboard along EDSA Guadalupe back in December 2019. It was amazing seeing that.


Kai: Liyab esports is partnered with two big brands so far for this year! Yehey! To give credit where credit is due: this is not only because of me but also because of the business development team in Mineski who trained me on the ways of the force, and my Liyab colleagues who patiently answered every question I had when I first started.


What’s your advice to fellow women who want to join the industry and have a career in esports management? 

Angel: Not limiting it to just esports management but be who you want to be. If you want it to happen, there is a place for you in esports. It could be as a player, manager, business dev, marketing, or content creation. 

 

In esports management though, not everybody would recognize you all the time, the spotlight is definitely NOT on you, but it is very fulfilling and rewarding because you guide and nurture a generation of esports athletes who aim to make the country proud.


Kai: Come join us here! It is really interesting and exciting since the industry is still young and developing. There are a lot of opportunities available, depending on your interests and skills. Echoing Angel, there is a place for women here in esports. To add to that, do not be afraid even if you do not have a background in the industry. Don’t be afraid of a beginner because just like any industry, the key is to find mentors and colleagues who will make your life easier to adapt.

Do you play games competitively as well? Has managing Team Liyab personally changed your outlook on esports? 

Angel: I spend a lot of my spare time playing but I don’t play competitively. That’s just on another level. I enjoy different online games like League of Legends: Wild Rift, League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra but mostly, I super love RPG games like the Final Fantasy franchise and games like Suikoden. Managing Liyab Esports has probably widened my outlook on esports. Since before I was part of the publisher and game operations, now I’m on the other side of the fence with talents and professional players so it really allows me to see esports [from] different angles. 


Kai: No, I prefer action-adventure types like God of War, Spiderman, and The Last of Us because I am a sore loser and I don’t think I can compete without being affected emotionally. 


Managing team Liyab made me realize that there’s so much more happening behind the scenes in esports (and even in sports!) than what I thought. Although I am more in the business side of things, I realized that the day-to-day operations are heavily run especially since they are dealing with multiple teams playing different games. On top of that, I saw and experienced firsthand how the players and us managers have different kinds of pressure coming from fans, stakeholders, sponsors, and even from personal lives.

 

What else do you geek out on? 

Angel: I love pop culture in general. It’s something I always dabble on and even study at times. I’m also a film geek. I watch and review films from all over the world but right now, I like watching a lot of Asian films and series. Aside from those, I’m similar to Kai where I am a HUGE fan of basketball in general but especially to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. I’ve been supporting them long before I entered university and I watched all their games since 2001. 


Kai: I like reading comics and watching series about superheroes whether that’s Marvel or DC or even Netflix and Amazon. Don’t get me started on Star Wars too, because that will never end. During basketball season, however, most of my free time is devoted to consuming basketball content because I’m a huge fan of UAAP and NBA. I cheer for the Ateneo Blue Eagles since that’s my university’s team and the Miami Heat since the Big Three (Lebron-Bosh-Wade) era. I actually apply the same fangirl-ing and support on those two teams on Liyab. It’s also a strange coincidence that one of Liyab’s colors is blue like Ateneo and our logo is a flame like Miami Heat’s. It’s fate.

So there you have it, folks! Like Kai said above, esports in the Philippines is male-dominated and intimidating to enter. But that doesn’t have to stop us. Kai and Angel have proven that women have what it takes to thrive and be a game-changer in the industry. (And you can, too!) For gaming career-related articles featuring powerful ladies, read our interview with #GGG producer Joni Yap, 5 Awesome Games Made by Women, and real talk about how male gamers can be our allies with Ubisoft’s communications professional and resident Twitch streamer, Lyksaber.

Now Reading: #WomensMonth: The Women Behind Team Liyab
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