Co-founder and CEO of The Esports Observer (the world’s leading source for esports business news), Chris Hana is a motivated individual who perfectly demonstrates the impact of personal development during the WHU MBA Program. Acquired by Advance Publications in 2018 and receiving investments from BITKRAFT Esports Ventures and American City Business Journals, The Esports Observer is going from strength to strength. Chris also supports the MBA Program as a personal growth coach and is a firm believer in making positive career decisions based on personal values. We catch up with him to find out more.
What was your motivation for joining the WHU MBA Program?
I had been with Vodafone for almost ten years. I started my apprenticeship as an IT specialist for system integration and spend the majority of my career with IT project and program management. At the peak of my career, I led programs across more than 20 countries. When I felt I needed to gain more business knowledge, I completed a Bachelor's degree in International Management on Friday nights and Saturdays. I was able to use what I had learned until I had scaled up my career in program management to a point that I was ready to take the next step.
“I originally just wanted to change my career – I just didn’t know what or how.”
While I didn’t realize it back then, I was actually unhappy with my job. I was looking for a change. Vodafone offered to sponsor me to complete the Part-Time MBA Program with WHU, and I was convinced this was the right decision and the next logical step. The interviews at WHU were a positive experience and left a good impression on me. I knew then the MBA was something I really wanted to do. I eventually decided to leave Vodafone and switched to the full-time format. I was hoping that the MBA would be the catalyst for the change I wanted, and I remember how scary this decision was for me at the time.
How did the WHU MBA Program influence your career change?
What really changed me was the focus on personal development during the MBA. When I first joined, I thought I would carve a path for myself in consulting. However, the Birkman Method (a personality assessment tool) and the coaching I got with it, was truly transformational - I discovered more about my core values and what I really wanted to do. I realized that actually, I wanted to do something I really cared about.
“For me, it was the deeper knowledge, the network, and personal growth. I don’t think there’s any other program out there that could have helped me better.”
During the interview process at WHU, my interviewer looked at me and commented that it was strange my CV said I was an IT program manager when I was clearly a salesperson. I was surprised – clearly, he saw something in me that I did not at the time. He was already one step ahead of me when I didn’t even realize what I wanted myself. This left a lot of food for thought.
How did your interest in the esports industry develop?
One consistent theme in my life was video games, but I never considered it a career path. I gave myself a year to break into the industry and if it didn’t work out, I could still go back to consulting as I had the skills from the MBA. As I’m very competitive, I thought esports was the right industry for me – even though it was not that mainstream or well-known back then.
“I fell into this career and now I cannot imagine doing anything else.”
It was a frustrating time at first. I applied and was rejected so many times! ESL, one of the largest companies in the esports industry, initially rejected me but after contacting the CEO, Ralf Reichert, directly via LinkedIn, we met at Gamescom and it spiraled into a job offer. While I eventually joined an esports team, Fnatic, as a director in London, I was grateful for the offer. My final decision was something I also discussed with my personal growth coach at WHU. From there, I stumbled into what I believed was the evolution for the team back then, an agency set up with friends in Berlin, where I also met my later investor, Jens Hilgers. From there things moved fast and I was able to combine my interest in business and data with my passion for esports, in building The Esports Observer. What changed for me this time was that I just decided to take the leap and do it.
Are there any skills you took from the program that still help you today?
To work on real-life case studies, pitch results to companies, and receive real feedback was invaluable. I never really considered myself an entrepreneur before, but there is so much knowledge compressed into the program that is taught in a way you can understand, it empowers you to do anything you want. For example, I always had issues with accounting, but it was explained in a way that I could digest. Of course, you might not remember everything from your studies, but you know the network is there and who to reach out to, to find what you are looking for.
What do you feel are the most important qualities/skills someone needs when considering a big career/industry change?
Sit down and think about what is important to you, what you are good at, the environment you want to work in and see how you can tie it all together. If you really want it then make it happen – the differentiator for success is that many people give up when it gets hard. The people who are successful are those who pull through and keep going.