A Marketer’s Journey: A$$hole to Empathy

Hard work/results are important, but won’t always help you get ahead

Kindness and empathy encourage people to work with you; How people perceive you is important

Leading a team is about support, removing obstacles to success

How it started.

My career started as a media planner at an ad agency.  Then, I switched to sales for a tech startup that sold during the first internet bubble; in other words, I experienced my first layoff with a decent payout.  After serving a few years in advertising and a few years in sales, I was ready for my next step: a career in marketing.  I put my head down, pissed a bunch of people off, and before I knew it I was running a marketing department.

How I broke into the industry.

With a background in advertising for the automotive industry, I didn’t think working in gaming was in the cards for me.  But in the very early 2000s the gaming industry was incredibly fun, it was a very tight-knit community and I wanted to be a part of it.  My big break came from being in the right place at the right time.  I helped a friend of mine move a JukeBox into his apartment.  He happened to be a marketing director of a gaming company, and after I badgered him with a million and one questions, he helped set me up with an interview.  Twenty-one years later, I’m eternally grateful. Thank you, J.

That’s how you do it: find a mentor, show them you’re interested and will work hard, be kind and maybe help them move something really heavy.

Photo by Blitzmaerker via Pixabay

How did you build your career?

If you put your head down, work hard and show results, you’ll be rewarded.  At least, that’s what I initially thought. It worked, but while I got promotions and raises, there was more to it than that.  Personally, I think doing what’s in the best interest for the business is most important.  But working in games is a fine balance of egos.  You have to remember you work in a team setting, where it’s important to get people to see your vision and master the art of conflict resolution.

Mythic Quest photograph courtesy Apple

How have you stayed so long in this industry?

The key is the ability to evolve.  There was a period in my career where I thought I was done with gaming.  I walked away, but couldn’t seem to land a job anywhere.  Then I realized why: I was desperate, which caused me to subconsciously lower my value.  With my confidence at an all time low, I had to dig deep and realize my worth: I’m creative, analytical and I think big.

But my drawback was my tone; I was very direct and came off arrogant.  I learned empathy and began down the path of “servant leadership.”  That’s when doors really started to open up, because people actually wanted to work with me.  Companies wanted me to lead their teams.  This worked for me because I inverted the org chart. I learned a lot from this guy.

Photo credit: Sameer Dholakia former CEO SendGrid. Image found on Glassdoor.

Leadership is about supporting your team, removing obstacles to give them the ability to succeed and make a name for themselves.  I evolved from someone who thought – and sometimes said – “move out of my way because I can do it better” to someone who said “tell me what I can do to help you achieve your vision and I’ll help you.”  Before, I was focused on myself.  Now, my goal is to elevate the people on my team, inspiring and helping them do their best work. Which person would you rather work for?

My advice to anyone reading this…

Show that you’ve done your homework. Nobody wants to work with a person who is just hoping everyone else did the work for them.

Be a valuable member by contributing in a meaningful way. I remember there was a guy who could command a room, use lots of really big words, and say absolutely nothing. Don’t be that guy.

Be open to every and any idea. Most of them are dumb, but hear them out.

Show empathy. If you are authentic and show empathy towards your teammates, you will rise to the top – Trust me. I stayed on that bottom rung for a long time before I figured this one out.

Understand the power of turning the subjective into the objective. For instance, the game that sold the most units is not always touted as the most successful marketing campaign. The stronger campaign is the one that sold a larger percentage of sales over the forecast (especially for a sequel).


Reality Bytes is written and curated by the gaming community. If you’d like to submit your own blog from one of the given topics below, simply click on one of the links below, fill it out, and submit. Our team will review just to make sure the content is suitable for our audience. We do not tolerate any hate speech or disparaging remarks against individuals or groups.