Career Explore-Exploit and eSports

I spoke at a large conference in Las Vegas recently. When I arrived in Vegas, on the taxi ride from the Las Vegas airport to my hotel, I noticed something odd about the Luxor hotel. The Luxor is the giant pyramid building at the south end of The Strip.

The Luxor had a huge banner-like sign on it that read, “eSports Arena”. What?

Huge “eSports Arena” banner sign on the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

The term eSports means an organized multiplayer video game competition. One form is where teams or individuals compete against each other. In some scenarios the competition is televised with announcers and analysts describing the action similar to a professional football or basketball game.

I almost never play video games. I just don’t enjoy them very much even though I greatly enjoy games like chess, backgammon, and poker. My initial mental reaction to the existence of the eSports Arena was, “Who on earth would want to do this, and why would anyone want to watch?”

But after a few moments I realized that guys like to watch professionals compete in sports that they played in their younger days. Guys who play golf will watch professional golfers. Guys who played baseball will watch professional baseball. And so on. So it’s not a stretch to imagine that the current generation of young men, who grew up playing video games, would want to watch experts playing these video games.

This may be a large part of the reason why women’s pro basketball (WNBA) has tiny attendance and almost no TV viewers — there just aren’t that many women who played competitive basketball when they were young. Well, that, and the fact that women’s basketball just isn’t very interesting.

Entrance to the eSports Arena inside the Luxor Hotel.

After I checked into my hotel, on a break between my conference sessions, I walked over to the eSports Arena inside the Luxor. I was quite impressed. The eSports area must have cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe more, to construct. There were gaming stations and spectator seats and a big stage and even a bar.

A small part of the interior of the eSports Arena.

The larger picture of this blog post has to do with career explore-exploit. As a person’s career moves along, most of the time you are in exploit mode where you’re basically doing your job or learning how to do your current job better.

But I think it’s important to switch into explore mode every now and then. By this I mean you should investigate areas just outside your comfort zone. The idea is that every now and then a random exploration will reveal a great new career opportunity. This is why I went to check out the eSports Arena.

Now most of the time, explore mode doesn’t lead anywhere. But if you never enter explore mode, the number of opportunities that come your way will be greatly decreased, maybe even zero. I’ve seen young people at my company fail to ever explore and their careers often suffer for it in the long run.

As a final note, there’s an additional factor of being able to recognize an opportunity when it appears (they’re often not obvious) and then having the courage to jump at an opportunity. Not too long ago, the group I work in at my company made a job offer to a woman who had applied for a mid-level management-type position. It was a fantastic opportunity for anyone. Instead of replying with a “yes” or “no”, she asked for a few days to think it over. What?! I was stunned.

This can only mean one of three things, none of them good. Either she really wasn’t excited about the job, or she has an indecisive personality, or she is just using the job offer as bargaining leverage for a different job. If I had been the manager of this position, I would have certainly retracted the job offer.

In the end, managing your career is tricky. A lot depends on being in the right place at the right time. But, as the saying goes, “Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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