Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational individuals from games and tech. For this edition, we collaborated with ESBD – eSport-Bund Deutschland e.V. and talked to Julia Weitzel, Head of Product Management at Freaks 4U Gaming. She speaks about her journey into esports fueled by a passion for gaming, her role as Head of Product Management, the challenges in balancing community, team, and business needs, and offers advice for aspiring individuals to leverage their strengths and seek mentorship. Read more about Julia in this interview:
Hi Julia! Can you share your journey into the esports industry? What initially drew you to gaming, and how did your experiences shape your professional path leading to your current role as the Head of Product Management at Freaks 4U Gaming?

As with many others, my journey into the esports industry began with a deep love for gaming. This passion led me to study Media Informatics with a focus on Game Development. Though my initial career path diverged from gaming, I always maintained side projects related to gaming, which kept my passion alive.

Over the years, I dedicated myself to building local gaming communities by organizing tournaments, viewing parties, and themed meetups. These projects not only strengthened my love and commitment to the gaming community but also enabled me to gather strong skills and connections.

Joining Freaks 4U Gaming was the culmination of the long-held dream to align my career with my passion. My diverse background has been a significant asset in my current role as Head of Product Management. I’ve gained valuable insights from working in small companies, large corporate groups, startups, and even through running my own business. This variety of experiences has equipped me with a broad skill set and an ability to adapt to different environments and challenges. In my previous roles, I’ve consistently held product and project lead positions, which has allowed me to work on a wide range of products, enabling me to effectively collaborate with various professionals within my team. My time as a self-employed individual was particularly impactful, as it required me to manage all aspects of a business independently, fostering rapid learning and continuous adaptation.

At Freaks 4U Gaming, I oversee internally conceptualized, monetized, and operated products like the Prime League (DACH League of Legends Esports League), 99Damage (German CS Channel), and DreamHack (yearly gaming culture event). I leverage all the knowledge and experience I’ve gathered over the years to drive these projects forward. This role allows me to merge my professional expertise with my personal passion, creating a fulfilling and dynamic career in the esports industry.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in product management within the environment of esports, and how do you address them?

One of the biggest challenges in product management within esports is balancing the diverse and sometimes competing needs of the community, esports teams and players, and the business requirements of a product.

The esports market is in constant flux, driven by growing professionalism and rapid technological advancements. Modern esports products require substantial resources and often significant initial investments. While sponsorships, partnerships, and merchandise play critical roles in revenue generation, they don’t always provide a stable income stream, making it challenging to build sustainable business models. These business requirements form the foundation of a successful, long-lasting product and therefore need careful planning and execution.

In tournaments or leagues, esports teams bring specific expectations regarding formats, rules, accessibility, prize money, and the visibility we offer them. These factors are crucial for teams, as running a successful esports organization requires substantial investment, which they need to recoup.

Community expectations are another key consideration. As the esports industry continues to grow and new opportunities emerge, staying ahead of the curve is essential to maintain relevance amid other entertainment and sports options. Meeting these expectations is critical to keeping the community engaged and loyal.

Balancing my own vision with these diverse requirements can also be challenging. On one hand, I see immense opportunities in innovative and creative concepts; on the other hand, my strong dedication to developing esports as a whole sometimes presents alignment challenges.

To address these challenges, I prioritize regular communication and collaboration. I enjoy engaging with different people and encourage open dialogue to find joint solutions. Within the esports ecosystem, we all face similar challenges and can learn from one another. By fostering a culture of collaboration and shared learning, we can develop strategies that address these complex requirements effectively.

What is your vision for the future of esports, and what advice would you give to women and other marginalized voices aspiring to make their mark in this industry?

My vision for the future of esports is to see it evolve into one of the most innovative and influential forms of entertainment and competition, underpinned by a robust and sustainable ecosystem. With its deep connection to technology and the drive of young, ambitious individuals, esports is uniquely positioned to lead the adoption of cutting-edge innovations such as VR/AR, AI, and beyond. By leveraging these assets, we can not only advance the esports industry itself but also influence and inspire adjacent sectors. With the foundation we laid in the past years, esports will transcend traditional boundaries, integrating seamlessly with other entertainment forms and creating immersive, interactive experiences for audiences worldwide. It will be a space where creativity, technology, and competition converge, setting new standards for engagement and community-building.

To everyone who wants to take their first steps in this industry I can fully recommend giving it a try. Understanding your unique strengths and how they can contribute to the esports landscape is a primary step on this way. Set clear, achievable goals that align with your passions and skills. Whether you are interested in playing, coaching, content creation, event management, or another role, having a clear vision will guide your path.If you have trouble starting your first steps, seek out for mentorship from those who have navigated the industry successfully. Engaging with like-minded individuals and learning from their experiences can provide invaluable guidance and support. I’m always up for supporting newcomers and like-minded people, so if you need someone for an exchange, feel free to reach out!

Thanks for this interview, Julia!

Julia’s links: LinkedIn

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Madeleine Egger