Alumni Spotlight: This Successful Management Consultant Turned
His Childhood Passion Into an Esports Career
Erik Bleitz began an adventure of a lifetime when he was
just 15, a kid obsessed with Lego, Star Wars and video
games — a proud, self-described “geek” who then
parlayed his interests into a rich, unique career path that
recently took a turn back to his roots.
Bleitz loved playing at a local laser tag park, so much so
that the owner offered him a job when an employee
abruptly quit. After all, he was there constantly, and the
boss said he knew the job better than most of the
employees. Besides that, he knew Bleitz truly loved the
place. Soon he was pulling tokens at the video arcade
and running the go-kart track.
“Why does this matter now, so many years later? I think
back on my first work experiences and the thing that
stands out most is passion,” Bleitz said. “I was hired at those
jobs because the managers had seen me there countless
times, demonstrating how passionate I was about what
they did. I enjoyed my first jobs because I loved what I
Bleitz went on to earn an MBA and work as a conflict
resolution specialist, management consultant, and entrepreneur.
But his love of gaming never left, and it eventually
won out. Today he serves as a consultant for UC Irvine's
championship-winning esports program. He's also a recent
graduate of the Division of Continuing Education's Esports
Management program, his first step into this booming,
His new mission is helping interactive entertainment
companies solve complex problems and “grow and
develop the heroes who are creating the world's most
legendary entertainment experiences.”
It's a career move straight from the heart. And those first
jobs at 15 paved the way.
“They taught me the value of hard work. You can't show up
and say, ‘I like games. I like esports. Give me a job.’ Everyone
in esports is a super-passionate geek, so you have to
distinguish yourself. Don't tell people you love games. Show
them you love games by demonstrating what you can do
for them. Take action — and work your butt off.”
The engaging 35-year-old lives in Hollywood with his wife
Layla, soon to be joined by their first child due in May. He
recently took time to field questions about his new career
path and experience with the DCE program.
Let's go back to the early days. Elaborate on how those first
jobs at 15 helped prepare you for your new career path.
Those jobs taught me a lot of basic, important lessons,
but the main thing — and it took me a long time to realize
this — is that I enjoyed them because I loved what I was
doing. When I finally decided to leave the world of professional
services and follow my passion in esports, I thought
back to my early days and how excited I was to work on
something I was genuinely passionate about.
Your original career plan was to join the Marines – as a
lifelong gamer, what drove you to join an ROTC Unit?
I wasn't into sports as a kid, but I've always loved working
with a team — especially on really tough problems. I like a
challenge. A lot of the skills you learn playing online games
are transferable to the high-intensity, team-oriented military
environment. While an injury sent me to grad school
instead of the Marines, my five years of ROTC in high
school and college prepared me to be a leader more
than any other life experience. My best friends are also
still in the service – and we connect almost daily through
video games, even though they're stationed overseas.
You've had plenty of success as a management
consultant. What motivated you to take a risk and pursue
a career in esports?
About a year ago, I decided it was time for a career
change. I had a successful consulting practice, but I just
wasn't passionate about the industry I was working in. I
couldn't imagine devoting another year, not to mention
30-plus years of my creative energy, to a field I didn't love.
Around the same time, I started playing video games
again, after taking a long break. I tried very hard to ‘grow
up’ in my 20s and had told myself at the time, despite
being a huge geek and lifelong gamer, that ‘games were
for kids.’ I realized within about a week of playing that
gamers are my tribe, and that I wanted to devote my
career to making an impact on the gaming community.
What led you to choose the Division of Continuing
Education's certificate program?
Long story short, I was introduced to it by Henry Ngo, who
manages business programs for DCE. Henry's a gamer and
esports fan who spent three-plus years working to design
the program. He was so passionate about the curriculum
that I was ready to sign up within five minutes of talking
to him. And the fact that every instructor was currently
working in an esports role at a major organization was a
huge selling point. I wanted to learn from people who
were doing the jobs I wanted to have.
How has it prepared you to launch a career in esports
It's an incredible way to network and meet others with the
same passions and professional ambitions. Your fellow
students are the people you'll be working with in a few
years. In fact, in my current role at UCI Esports, I'm already
interacting with two of my former classmates who were
hired at major gaming/esports companies. Then there's
the portfolio. The practical assignments I created in my
courses are now part of my professional portfolio. I have
actual work to show potential employers and clients.
Finally, it's simply the knowledge and background.
Despite my love for games, I really didn't know a ton
about the esports industry when I started looking at new
job opportunities. Through my courses and conversations
with classmates, I feel I now have a pretty good understanding
of the general landscape.
Tell me about your involvement with the main campus
UCI esports program.
I'm working with the UCI Esports team on a long-term
strategic plan that will foster innovation and inclusivity,
generate sustainable revenue for growth, and develop
students for future careers. I'm also working with UCI's
Esports Industry Board, where our academic leaders are
collaborating with industry leaders to create a global hub
for esports here at the university.
Sounds like your business acumen is paying off for the
Yeah, I've discovered my background in strategic planning,
operations, and organizational effectiveness has a lot of
application in the world of collegiate esports. It's so new
and cutting-edge. Every program, including UCI's, is
essentially a startup business.
So why do you consider it to be the premiere collegiate
esports program in the country?
UCI's esports program is the best for a few reasons. First,
UCI had the courage to innovate — and launch the first
program of its kind at a public research university. Second,
UCI is one of the few universities to embrace a holistic
approach — encompassing competition, academics
and research, community, entertainment, and careers.
Finally, our teams are the best. Our League of Legends
team won the 2018 national championship – and our
Overwatch team had a perfect record last year until the
finals. While the 2019 season hasn't started yet, our
Overwatch team has already won both the NorCal and
SoCal California Cups – it's going to be a good year.
Learn more about Esports Management at ce.uci.edu/esports.