6 Lessons For My Career That I've Learned From Being A Gamer Kenny Soto

6 Lessons For My Career That I’ve Learned From Being A Gamer

This article was written with contributions from Malik Christopher.

Video games are more than entertainment

It’s been over six months since I’ve found the time to play video games. I used to be obsessed, sometimes playing until 2:00 AM on weekdays. I find it hard to believe that I’ve entered a stage in my life where games are slowly leaving my schedule. As I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from playing them, perhaps one of these will resonate with you too.

No matter what you do to level up, books are your best friend

Taking a page (pun intended) out of The Elder Scrolls: SKYRIM, one of the most important lessons I’ve gained was learning how to level up faster by using books found throughout the world. In the game, there are various skills that you level up to create a fully customized character. An easy way to level up a skill tree is by finding the hidden books across the land. When you acquire a book, your character automatically goes to the next level of that related skill.

The importance of this is that even in video games, education is stressed. Learning how you learn and setting up a way to control your education so that you can level up your skills will always be relevant.

Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

When you accept too many side-missions, you can get off track

Among other challenges, time management in games is critical to your success. Now, gamers define success differently when it comes to specific games. Not all games have an end point, one can play an open world/sandbox game such as Grand Theft Auto and never progress through the main narrative. Time management in video games is important because it determines how fast you beat the game, what achievements or trophies you want to acquire, and how much can you brag to your other friends who play the game. Also, there’s the conundrum of having to decide how to split your time up if you want to play online or not.

The challenge of time management and the lessons I started to gather myself, became readily apparent when I encountered the particular issue of having to play games that have endless side quests & missions. Open world (or sandbox) games are distinct in that they allow the player to step outside of the main story and interact with the world freely. As players, we have the control to do whatever we want for hours on end. The benefit of doing side-missions is that the player gets rewarded with bonus content, prizes, and they most likely help to create a richer gaming experience.

What I took away from playing side missions specifically from Grand Theft Auto is that there are both pros and cons. The negative aspect of side missions is that they can pile on if you’re not too careful and if you’re like me, you get frustrated because one of your main goals is to complete the game. This observation has prompted me to think about the number of projects I take on in real life and how I decide which ones are worth my time. Sure, there could be some list of benefits for taking on new projects, but one must ask themselves, “Does this take away from my primary objectives?” In addition to time management, video games certainly help with creating better decision-making skills if you’re consciously auditing what you do while playing.

Don’t chase money, chase skills

There are video games designed to let the player win if there is certain amount cash to acquire as the main objective. However, most of the games I’ve played require you to focus on your character’s base attributes or if you’re playing online — you need to incorporate talent and skills to be the best. There tends to be a currency system in most role-playing games as an example, but the goal isn’t only to acquire virtual wealth.

Putting a focus on actually developing your character so that they strike terror in the face of the enemy is usually your best bet. This maps on well to life in general. Often, we think about gathering short term gains. Even if it’s relatively short in real life, there is still a considerable amount of time that one has to commit to growing your character’s skills. The skills are what make the game easier, even if you have the best “gear” or items Having a character with a skillset that allows you to adapt to any scenario is what actually matters. It’s the same with who you are in your life. Skills acquisition will always be more important than money.

Related: Accelerating Your Professional Growth By Working For Free

There are no cheat codes in life

If there is one thing that I’ve noticed for both video games and my personal life is that: I’m usually heading in the right direction if things start getting harder. Especially if I start getting more haters/enemies over time. There’s a natural progression in video games, as your character grows in power and skill, so do the enemies you encounter. Life is the same, and if you try to circumvent that by thinking you can game the system, you’re sadly mistaken. Using “cheat codes” in videos games makes them boring over time. When you do it in real life, it can damage your reputation and hurt you in the long term (even if there are short-term benefits).

An example of a cheat code in real life is lying on your resume. Sure it’s a faster way for you to get your foot in the door but, you will be found out eventually. No one ever got bragging rights by using cheat codes to beat a hard game. You only get the right to be proud of yourself when you tackle your challenges head on and when you’re patient with your growth.

There will always be someone better than you

Lastly, the most important lesson I’ve ever gained from video games (specifically playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3), is that there will always be someone better than you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t consistently try to be the best at what you do, more so that you should be aware that surrounding yourself with people that are more knowledgeable and skilled than you is more than ok — it’s essential to your personal and professional growth.

There is no way you can grow to your fullest potential in whatever you decide to do in life if you don’t have other people to put your current skillset into perspective. I personally want to be a great blogger, so I’m constantly comparing myself to others at the top (like Seth Godin). Not out of envy, but out of admiration and for study. I’m a big believer that imitation is one easy way to test new things and see what’s successful.

Being beaten by people better than you is how you learn how to play the game. It’s how you get better, especially if the competition is significantly past you in years of experience. And most importantly, it keeps things enjoyable. Because who wants to have a boring experience playing video games let alone in life? Competition breeds growth and constant challenges.

Playing with a team is the “name of the game”

In competitive games such as League of Legends or Overwatch, each member of your team is assigned a certain role that has specific objectives that they need to be accomplished during every match. When a mistake is made in one of these roles, whether big or small, it becomes detrimental to the entire team with the potential losing the match. It isn’t as costly if one plays on their own (casual gamers do this), but in the professional atmosphere (eSports) such as the Championship Series for League of Legends, a prize pool of millions of in-game dollars have easily been taken out of a team’s reach because of one mistake.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, rings true in situations like these. If one person falls behind, you’ll easily be outclassed by a team that’s more on top of things. What usually follows is frustration, blame, and a decrease in skill overall. The ability to help those you work with by providing constructive criticism is crucial. A concern for their weaknesses, should be tackled with the appropriate feedback. Slowly, you’ll notice not only improvement in them, but also in yourself as a leader and team player. And in the professional world, we all work in teams.

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How Landed My First Paid Account as a Consultant at 22 Kenny Soto

My 1st Client as a Digital Marketing Consultant at 22

Believe it or not, I was able to convince my college to hire me. I’m not talking about work study, being a bookstore stockboy, or being a research assistant for a professor. I’m talking about closing a deal for thousands of dollars. In this post, I’ll provide some back story as to how I was able to have the opportunity to even come up with the pitch, the pitch itself, and the lessons learned from the work. As a small disclaimer, as a student I respect my university tremendously—as a consultant, I learned from them what it means when people say large organizations are “slow.”

It all starts with finding a need.

How did I come up with the idea of even pursuing this pitch? It all started with accessing the problem my college had—we had severe budget cuts during the fiscal year. The only reason I was privy to this information was due to my role as student body president. During the first few meetings with school administration during my last academic year in college, I learned that our college, along with other CUNYs, hadn’t met their goal that the Board of Trustees set for getting more students.

The lack of increase in tuition was one of four factors that contributed to the millions in budget cuts that we’re going to occur. After sitting down and actually contemplating on why this particular problem was occurring, it dawned on me that I should check out the college’s social media & paid search marketing efforts. Low and behold, they weren’t launching any paid ads or producing content of any value to potential students or the parents of those students. This was my in, the opportunity I was looking for.

Devising the pitch.

Coming up with something of real worth to present to school administration wasn’t easy. It took me two weeks just to have the stones even to share this idea with my Fraternity brothers for feedback. After carefully thinking about what I learned from both my internship and doing pro bono digital marketing for a bar near campus (I still got something out of it, free food and free beer which wasn’t a bad deal if I do say so myself) I came up with a 43-slide deck for my presentation.

The reason why this deck was so long, and by all means I don’t recommend doing something this long for any presentation, was because I knew I wouldn’t have been taken seriously (at the end of the day, I’m too young to be taken seriously for anything right now). If I didn’t make sure I showed both school admin and the marketing department that not only I knew what I was talking about—but, that I also put it into the context of their specific needs, none of this would have worked. Also, I had already assembled a small team of two other student government members that would help me in my efforts; this increased their confidence in my ability to not only create a sound project but, also execute on it.

Negotiating the price.

The two most important lessons I gained from the overall experience was:

  1. Always write the service contract yourself.
  2. Bid high for a high price.

If it weren’t for a close friend of mine, I would have left a considerable amount of money on the table. I believe the main reason why the college administration agreed to pay my team and me as much as they did, was because the labor was relatively cheap in terms of industry standards and we wrote the whole contract ourselves. It also helps that they didn’t go through the hassle of signing it but, that’s beside the point. If a client is willing to pay you without signing a contract for whatever reason you still want them to do so, it puts both of you in a position where each party is fully committed to each other’s success. I believe this was the first sign that there was only going to be so much we could have done for them.

The challenge I’m glad I faced early on.

The biggest challenge with working for any big client as a digital markeitng consultant is this—the internal communications process is slow as hell, meaning that you’re going to have to plan at least two weeks ahead to get anything approved for launch. I lacked experience in this one aspect of doing digital marketing consulting; I didn’t anticipate that the one deterrent to my success would be not preparing for slow communication in between tasks. Although, I wasn’t successful in fully executing on the marketing plan I was at the very least, able to show the importance of why their efforts should be focused primarily on social and search advertising and not on subway or television ads.

Other lessons I learned were:

Your client, regardless of their size, will want all reports on a consistent basis. It’s important to let them know early on that marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Metrics don’t improve overnight. You want to at least report on new ideas you’re working on so they can add their insight into the mix.
Have a dedicated team member to set up phone calls for Q & A whenever needed. If you’re this person, you have the hardest job. Client retention is key to recurring income. My biggest regret is not giving enough attention to thinking about building a long term relationship with my college so I could have had them as a client after I graduated.* Your team’s size should reflect the size of the account.

This is something I’ve debated with my colleagues for quite some time now. I still believe that we could have done a better job if we had at least three to four more students on our team. A team of three college students wasn’t enough to solve the problems a big institution like my college had.

Moving forward.

In the end, although I wasn’t successful in the execution of my first account, I at least learned how to get one. That experience has proved invaluable as I continue getting new clients and building my team at digiquation.com, the startup I work at now. Whether it’s in digital marketing or any other consulting practice, it never hurts to start early. Regardless of your age, there is something that you know; that is intrinsic in the experiences you’ve had that can be of value to a client. You just have to figure out how to successfully communicate that—and then have the team and knowledge to execute the plan you’re being paid to do.

*The experience gained from this one part of my collegiate career was the most valuable by far, and I am forever indebted to the City College of New York for giving me a chance to help them. If you check their Facebook page now, you can see the ads they are launching to get more attention. A special thanks to Tammie and Safiyyah, without your help, none of this would have been accomplished.


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CCNY USG Career Building

4 Career Building Lessons I Learned From My Team

This article was originally posted on April 6th, 2016.


Anything worth something can not be done without a great team of people, period. The following are a list of career-building lessons I gained from my team at CCNY.

Regardless of your profession,whatever your goals and aspirations in life may be in they cannot be achieved without a great team of people by your side. After some time of self-reflection and  reminiscing on the experiences I’ve had for the past three years attending college, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of things.

Recruitment is the first thing you need to do.

You can’t do anything without a team. The objective doesn’t matter, if you can’t sell your ideas you won’t get people to join you. The biggest hurdle all leaders will face is recruiting team members. I learned this when I began conducting interviews for potential candidates for my fraternity. When a candidate is being interviewed, they are not only selling themselves to you, but you are also selling your company to them. I’ll admit, during the first couple of interviews that I was directly involved in, I found myself negligent when it came to making the candidates feel like they were a part of the team. This is why it is so important to follow up with accepted candidates immediately after their interviews and get them acclimated with the team’s mission and vision. A great resource I used to help with my hiring skills is “How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt, I cannot recommend this book enough.

You won’t get anything done if you can’t motivate people.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that my team members in student government seem to have a constant sense of urgency and purpose in everything they do. Whether it relates to our weekly meetings, daily tasks regarding student outreach, office management, reporting on tasks, or just general office maintenance, everyone seems to have found where they “fit.” This certainly didn’t happen overnight. Since the beginning of my tenure as President of this wonderful organization, I made it abundantly clear that I would be open to any communication from my team as well as constructive dialogue. Transparency is the pillar that our team stands on. I have observed in the past that important information that is given to the leadership of an organization usually becomes diluted (almost to the point where it’s completely vague) when it is relayed to the entire team. Being completely open with your teammates about all issues and objectives the organization is dealing with is essential for “team-buy-in.” If your team members don’t feel like they can be trusted with company information (especially any failures the leadership has committed) then they won’t be motivated to tackle challenges when they present themselves. There are numerous techniques today that can help you get started on initiatives to increase team motivation. As a team leader, it should be something that is on your radar at all times.

When it comes to getting things done, follow the “Four D’s.” 

The best article I’ve stumbled upon on this topic is here. I won’t go over all four D’s, what I will do, is go over the importance of delegation. Delegating tasks is by far the greatest and most important skill a leader must have if they want to get anything done. Once you have a team, and they’ve become motivated, the next step should be how well can you prepare them to execute a task. How effective is your organization right now? What can you do to increase your productivity tenfold? Are there any mitigating factors that are stopping your team from getting there right now? These are questions I ask myself on a weekly basis as I plan my goals for the week. The hardest part of managing a team is understanding which team member can handle a certain set of tasks. It always helps when team members ask for specific tasks without you having to announce them; these team members have a natural instinct for detecting the needs of the organization as a whole as well as understanding what they are capable of completing. Delegation for me is quite simple, I follow two basic rules:

 

  • Delegate tasks to people who want to do them.

  • Never set the deadline yourself.

 

Always make sure the tasks you assign people are something they actually want to do. This takes a tremendous amount of time requiring you to sit  down and listen to your team members. What do they complain about? Why are they a part of the team in the first place? Everyone has a goal in mind when they are working with you, there is a reason you were able to convince them to join you in your endeavors. Make sure you keep your ears on the ground, a great leader listens to all of their teammates. In addition, when giving a task to someone, make sure they set their deadlines. It took me a while to see the upside to this. When you set the deadline you don’t give your team room to breath (in the context of my work I find that whenever I give deadlines there are 1,000 other things going in their life). When you have them set their own deadlines it relieves stress on their part and if they honor their own commitments, they hold themselves accountable.

Meetings don’t equal productivity.

This is the most important lesson I have learned. No matter what happens, I have always made it a requirement  to follow this simple rule: always have an agenda for every meeting you attend. There should be absolutely no reason why you should meet with team members just to meet. If your team cannot produce actionable tasks after a meeting is conducted, then why was the meeting conducted in the first place? Meetings shouldn’t become part of the routine – there needs to be a reason for it to happen. You risk losing valuable working hours when conducting meetings that do not contribute to the vision of the company, tackle specific challenges that the team is currently facing, or addresses any internal conflicts the team may have.

Every team is different, but I do know that sticking to principles that your team defines as its priority, help steer it to success. Hopefully, one of these lessons resonates with you. Talk and share this article with your team, see what they think.

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