Jessica Park Headshot
Photo by Tyler Van Loon

‘I Thought the Fun Part of My Life Was Over’ Grinding through levels of fear and uncertainty, Jessica Paek '18 arrives at esports success.

By the time I hit my early 20s, I had quit within a year every job I’d ever had. I craved a workplace that rewarded self-starters who wanted to shape their workplace environment in exchange for flexibility. I was still trying to finish my undergrad but had no prospects for a stable career. With graduation fast approaching, I thought the fun part of my life was over.

As a history major at Chapman, I loved my studies as well as my work in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) while writing my senior thesis. Although I enjoyed collaborating with like-minded peers, working on projects and testing new technologies for research, I didn’t want to go to grad school or go for a Ph.D.

I had wanted to be a writer since I was 8, but I wasn’t really sure what kind I wanted to be, or how I would make a living. I had published an essay through the Iluminación program where I also mentored Orange High School student writers, but the idea of writing on a professional level was terrifying: Putting myself out there to be rejected, promoting myself and not having a stable income were big fears for me.

I spent a lot of hours scrolling through websites on LinkedIn and the Chapman Handshake website, a tool connecting Chapman students with employers. I kept seeing writing jobs in esports, a field with which I wasn’t really familiar. Still, I had always loved video games, and I was intrigued. Over the next few months, the number of posts by employers looking for esports writers seemed to grow steadily.

Jessica Paek in motion at event
During an esports festival she helped launch, Jessica Paek ’18 finds joy in the journey, even as she scrambles to keep up with a flurry of tasks. “Looking back, I never would have thought I would end up where I am,” she says.

After some investigating, I managed to finagle the email address of the content and communications manager for ESL, the world’s largest esports league, and I managed to secure a contract position writing marketing content for ESL’s website, mainly covering Halo Pro League tournaments. At the same time, I was writing for a few other sites to gain exposure. One site offered me a press pass for PAX West, a huge gaming convention in Seattle.

PAX West was the first time I had ever met with other industry folks in real life, and it ended up being a pivotal point in my career. I met two indie game developers who were launching a game marketing platform and they needed help getting started. I joined their team, and after seven months of preparation, I helped launch my first startup.

Launching the platform was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I thrived on the challenge. I fell in love with startups. I realized that tech startups would allow me to do so many of the things I loved while I was at Chapman: write, collaborate with a team and create efficient systems for sharing information. Startups would let me take on different roles building and shaping company culture while working remotely. On the platform, I helped with user acquisition and retention as well as onboarded clients helping them get the most out of the services. I learned content strategy, business development and B2B marketing.

Now I consult for early-stage startups in the esports space, helping teams find their identity and develop marketing strategy and brand identities. In the past six months, I’ve helped launch three startups: a gaming and esports festival, a prize-payment app and a fund that invests in Latin American esports. I provide resources and support for each startup, ranging from copywriting to project management.

Looking back, I never would have thought I would end up where I am. Arguably the biggest hurdle I had to overcome was my fear of failure. I have definitely made a lot of mistakes throughout my career, and I will undoubtedly make more. I’m so grateful to everyone on my journey who has given me the opportunities to try new things and make mistakes – especially the team at ESL that first hired me, and my parents, who have always supported my unorthodox path in an emerging industry.

I thought that when I graduated and entered the workforce, I would have to give up a lot of my dreams. But working with esports startups has provided me with everything I could have wanted in a career.