Meeting radio DJs, overseeing video shoots for professional eSports players, watching live sports matches – it’s all in a day’s work for Yeap Su Fern, the Senior Associate of PC Game Operations at Garena, Southeast Asia’s largest and fastest-growing Internet and mobile platform company that focuses on entertainment, social and commerce, and financial services. Headquartered in Singapore, Garena has grown from four to 4,500 employees within six short years, and has presence in more than 10 Asian countries – including Malaysia.
Su Fern had actually applied for a position at the Human Resources (HR) department, thinking that one must surely need IT qualifications in order to build a career in the technology industry, whereas she had majored in sociology. However, the HR manager saw her potential in game operations and decided that she would be a good fit. That foresight has turned out to be spot on.
“I have a passion for people so I feel good that my Key Performance Index (KPI) is to give back to our community of young gamers,” says Su Fern, and goes on to explain that her key responsibilities include managing various online and offline campaigns for a free-to-play PC game called EA Sports FIFA Online 3. “These campaigns vary... they include marketing initiatives, community events as well as eSports tournaments on a local, international and regional scale.”
Her work involves reaching out to a young target audience, and strategising ways to keep their attention span while gaining their trust and loyalty. To do that, Su Fern and her team often venture into unchartered territories. “We take risks and aim for outside-the-box solutions,” she says. “I appreciate that the company allows us a good level of autonomy to try out new marketing ideas.”
To do well, she says, one needs to be attentive to the gamers’ needs and stay one step ahead to be clued in on what is popular to them. It is a tall order but Su Fern takes it all in her stride and finds that being constantly kept on their toes actually energises her team. “When we work with a young target audience, we have to keep up with them in terms of creativity and all that’s trending,” she explains. “When the gaming community responds to our initiatives, it is the most rewarding feeling.”
Keeping up, in this case, means taking on various responsibilities and playing multiple roles. To make a campaign work, Su Fern has to dip her hands in a multitude of areas: Event set-up, marketing, partnerships, human resource, public relations and project coordination, among others. It also means that her day-to-day tasks are quite unpredictable. “For example, today my appointments were all related to media liaison. I had a meeting with Flyfm Radio DJs/emcees to arrange a briefing for our upcoming Garena Cyber Games, and The Star’s R.AGE Team has challenged our professional eSports players to a friendly 3v3 FIFA game.”
It’s not all work and no play of course. Su Fern has had the opportunity to watch eSports tournaments in Singapore, Vietnam and Korea, and observe how far computer games have come. The last FIFA Online 3 tournament she attended, for example, offered a prize pool of USD300,000. “Garena also sponsored the Liverpool match at Stadium Bukit Jalil in 2015, and the Juventus match that played at the Singapore National Stadium in 2014,” she recalls. “I took two selfies with Paul Pogba!”
The industry is certainly a dynamic one so if you want to make your mark; you need to be just as flexible. “The competitive landscape of this industry is always changing, and it affects my responsibilities every six months. I feel versatile enough to take on other community and marketing campaigns in the tech industry,” says Su Fern. “Being open to advice and adaptable will definitely help you in this line of work. Passion, sincerity and humility are equally important qualities if you want to work with the gaming community and get their honest feedback.”
If you’re an avid gamer who’s looking to carve a future in this industry, Su Fern’s advice is this: Follow eSports seriously and take note of what’s new. It’s also important to get involved in offline activities to get a sense of how down-to-earth and humble this industry really is. “Be kind to everyone you meet, we are a small, close-knit industry,” she elaborates. “Most importantly, and this is something I share with all our young players as well, you must get good grades!”