Interview with Vladyslava Zakhliеbina: about career, hobbies and OG Esports
Interview with Vladyslava Zakhliеbina: about career, hobbies and OG Esports ⚡⚡⚡ Esports news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
Vladyslava Zakhliebina is a person who went through esports fire, water, and the first amateur tournaments in Kyiv. Now she represents one of the most influential esports organizations in the world, being the manager of OG Esports. We’ve managed to have a conversation with Vlada in between her daily duties and talk about her childhood, newsman career, manager’s responsibilities, and much more.
Hi, Vlada! Glad to hear and meet you, finally. Let's start from the beginning. Tell us about your childhood and youth.
Hi! As a child, I was an absolute daredevil and a very active kid. It’s good that my parents didn’t try to limit me and gave me the freedom of choice. Since childhood, it helped me make decisions on my own, cope with difficulties, and learn from mistakes.
I wasn’t a typical little girl due to my temperament: I didn’t even wear dresses, because I was always running and jumping. I remember my parents bought me a gorgeous dress that I tore in about half an hour during the next run around on my birthday. My parents tried to get me to a dance class but then realized that Wushu and athletics are better for me [laughs].
What about your education?
You know, I was always attracted to the exact sciences: I'm fond of mathematics and always loved solving math problems. Therefore, I have two university degrees - Computer Control of Hydro and Pneumatic Systems, which I graduated in French and Foreign Economic Activity. It just happened [laughs]. At the same time, I continued to workout at the stadium, to be a trade-union organizer, and managed to participate in KVN [ed. - Klub Vesyólykh i Nakhódchivykh or Ka-Ve-En, "Club of the Funny and Inventive People" - Russian humor TV show] and many other activities.
First kiss with esports
If we separate gaming and esports, then I knew CS since the first grades of the school. I played with my friends and classmates in various computer clubs back then. At that time, there was no sign of esports, you just ran around the map, killed someone here and there, and then discussed it like: “Wow, did you see it? Did you see my frags?”
My serious relationship with Counter-Strike began in the second year of university: I ended my athletics career, but since I couldn’t sit idle since childhood, another challenge came into my life - CS. Just at that time, csc.Arena was recruiting to the female lineup, and I’ve decided to try, even though before that, I had no professional CS:GO experience.
I began to train hard. They didn’t take me to the team, but I decided not to despair and worked on. As a result, I gathered my squad, where I was the captain, and a little later, we beat csc.Arena, where I didn’t qualify.
It was all harder to do then, right? Demos downloaded longer, and you had to search through all sorts of gaming websites.
Right, now everything is much simpler, you can buy a course from a pro-player, and he will explain every detail to you, not to mention the numerous guides on the Internet and esports academies.
But at one point, you stopped playing professionally. Why?
Firstly, I’ve already achieved certain results, and, unfortunately, at that time, I didn’t see the potential in female esports. Although, it seems to me that during the time of Counter-Strike 1.6, the female part of our beloved industry was more developed than now. There were a lot of female teams then. Although they didn’t play at the Tier-1 level, you could see at least 16 women's teams at ESWC, and now it’s hard to find such a number.
Yes, the level of training in esports has grown, but during the CS:GO formation, no one cared about female pro-gaming for some reason, and because of this, a large fissure formed between the male and female pro-scenes.
This gap is enormous, and it feels that few people want and can reduce it.
In fact, many do want to change something for the better. It's like a marathon, and not everyone will be able to run to the finish line. Many try to keep motivation, but when you see how some girl has downed everything she has achieved and moved to another team, while her ex-squad was preparing for the tournament. This action has resulted in the whole team losing their only chance to participate and the next tournament will take place in half a year...
Also, there used to be a “computer club school” in which you were preparing for all the difficulties in LAN tournaments. But modern players (boys and girls) begin their careers from home and to play in the crowded arena is a huge stress for many of them.
Therefore, for girls, the opportunity to participate in only 2-3 tournaments per year creates a problem for raising the level of competitive play.
Let's get back to your job. In addition to being a player, you’ve worked at many tournaments as a journalist. Tell us about this period of your life.
My first step in esports when a hobby became a profession began with the CyberFight.ru portal, which had previously held ASUS Cup tournaments. It was then that I first flew abroad to the ESWC in Paris.
By the way, I recently talked with my parents about this, and they were surprised by how they let me do it alone then. I always had my feet on the ground, and if you’re not that type of person you can get into trouble everywhere.
I was provided with a flight and a proper accommodation, but transfers and meals were on me. I had to save a lot because I tried to live on my scholarship, but this time my parents helped a little. The tournament itself turned out to be very interesting, just then I got a CS:GO key and was able to try it at home, but the new version didn’t impress me.
How did you get to esports?
When I graduated from university, I fell out of esports for a while, but not for long. In spring 2013, I decided to spend the weekend in Kyiv and meet my friends at CyberArena, and there I got an offer to work with them to which I replied, "Why not."
I returned to Donetsk, and a couple of days later, they sent me a job offer, so I moved to Kyiv to live and work a few days after.
I took the position of the newsmaker, but at the same time performed a massive number of other functions. At that time, the industry had a lack of employees, so you had to go beyond your responsibilities: helping organize tournaments and activities, work with players and talents, monitor the implementation of sponsorship obligations, create content, and many other things. Versatility, energy, sociability, and altruism were the main among various qualities for this work.
HellRaisers. Why are you called one of those who were at the origins of this organization?
Even when I was younger, it was easy for me to communicate with people and explain what I need from them, so the motto "there is a question - there is a solution" is for me. And when the HellRaisers roster assembled, they needed a manager, and I met their criteria.
The team consisted of five players and me. We had to start from scratch: creating a structure and schedule, communicating with tournament operators, arranging trips and bootcamps, obtaining visas, developing a uniform and merchandise, creating a website, social networks, and content, etc.
Now, let's multiply this by the CS:GO hype and the fact that many tournament operators began to announce their events actively, but did not coordinate the schedule with each other. Because of this, we often had to play in different tournaments at the same time and solve these inconsistencies on our own. In case of LAN-events trips, the full organization of everything fell on my shoulders: the necessary documents, visas, selection and purchase of tickets, booking the best-priced hotel and location, transfer, and players' meals.
Do you keep in touch with the guys from that HellRaisers roster?
We used to communicate very well with AdreN, now a bit less, he's a busy man [laughs], markeloff is lost somewhere. Dosia is cool, but we live in different countries. In general, people in the esports community know many people and communicate well with many people, we have no problems with this. By the way, I remember NiKo as a young modest boy who came to Kyiv for tournaments, and now he is a superstar in fashionable sneakers and a cool watch! Oh, and I was s1mple's first manager.
Wow, that's interesting, tell me more!
HellRaisers was the first professional team for Sasha. I remember how he participated in amateur tournaments 1x1 and easily won them [smiles]. It was then that he was noticed and invited into a lineup. I remember him as a young, hot guy who sometimes couldn't control his emotions. And now he has grown into a real man, a professional, and I'm very happy for him. I know that he warmly treats his relatives and appreciates them. Of course, I understand that it is difficult for him to filter those who really treat him well and those who are with him because he is s1mple.
Back to your story: you were an ambassador for Razer. What did you start doing after leaving HR?
I became one of the first hosts of the Russian-speaking studio. It turned out, frankly, so-so [smiles]. I had no experience in studio broadcasts, and I don't count interviews for HR and streams. I wanted to do everything correctly and professionally - because of this, I simply suppressed myself and didn't reveal my potential. Nevertheless, I decided to deal with it and went to a professional teacher of oratory. It turned out that I have good skills for working in the studio, but I'm hiding my voice because of psychological pressure. I started to work on it.
At some point, I thought that I wanted to reveal myself more in the commercial environment of esports, and then I received an offer to become a Razer ambassador in CIS. It seemed to many that I had gone into the shadows, but esports didn't let me leave. I was still one of the 300 people followed by the official Valve CS:GO account on Twitter [laughs].
Even though I was off from cameras, this stage of my career gave me a lot of knowledge from the business part: negotiation skills, correspondence, presentations, speaker skills in forums, conducting training, and much more. However, I felt it was time to step out of the shadows. During a trip to DreamHack Malmo last October, I received an offer from OG Esports to become their manager.
Do you find your way into OG Esports symbolic? After all, the values of the guys are based on family, trust, and kind, warm relations, and you've said more than once that this is very important for you.
Indeed, the company's policy is based on a model of mutual respect. Here we matched wholly: I believe that one cannot contradict one's principles not only in life but also in work. OG Esports and I found each other.
OG Seed. How did you get the idea to create a second roster?
Well, look, the guys have a unique vision of the game, the formation of team relations, and many more unique features, so they decided to "grow" another team under their leadership.
What is your position in OG?
I am a team manager, but since the organization is small, I also try to help with what I'm good at. Initially, I was the manager of our three squads - Dota 2, Dota 2 Seed and CS:GO, but this is physically impossible to balance, so we decided to focus my forces more on one squad. It was the CS lineup, as OG Esports have high hopes for this discipline. We've already walked through Dota 2 twice [laughs]
I wanted to talk a little about the psychologist - Mia Stellberg. Is she still working with you?
As far as I heard, she was involved just before TI. I would be interested in looking at her methods, learn something new for myself. In general, I think that everyone needs to turn to psychologists, not just the pro-players to win tournaments. This is an essential doctor for mental health, which often dramatically affects our lives.
How do you relax?
Before the quarantine, I usually met with friends, traveled. I also like to draw, dance, learn something new and exciting - I want to try skydiving in the future! Recently I was diving in Mexico and received an "Open Water" certificate. I like to drive a car with music and wind in my hair. Well, I really enjoy it.
Are you traveling alone or with friends?
It depends. I like to travel with friends and family, because we have the same vibe, but there is a charm in solo travel. You can hear yourself more, do what you want, don't need to adapt to anyone. Also, you are more open to new acquaintances alone: you go on an excursion, chatting with someone for 5-7 minutes, and now you have a new friend. I am also grateful to esports, which gave me friends from different parts of the world.
What are your three favorite places you've been to in the last five years?
The Maldives, where I first tried diving and saw the rich underwater world, and also met manta ray (a species of sea stingrays). Next, probably a trip to California for only two days, but I drove 260 miles by car to the most beautiful places and enjoyed the incredible colors of the sunset. I celebrated this New Year in Mexico, where it is impressively entertaining. In general, you can find something unique everywhere. It all depends on what you are looking for. I want to see the whole world. I hope to go to Alaska, Portugal, Cuba, New Zealand soon and also get to South Korea, where you can hug otters, judging by the social networks, and I'm crazy about them.
Do you have enough time for hobbies? Books, movies?
I have had a complicated story with books since childhood. It's hard for me to start reading something, but if a book catches me, I can't be stopped! I listen to music all the time, it sets the tone and rhythm for me throughout the day. I don't watch movies and TV shows often, there's too much information now, I'd better go outside and take a walk, but at least one meter away from people [laughs].
If we talk about flights, and you probably have a lot of them, what is the most productive thing to do in the air?
Sleeping is ideal, of course [laughs]. Sometimes I enjoy the views from the window, and I think a lot, write, summarize, or make plans.
Well, in general, that's all I wanted to know today, thank you very much for your time and interview!
Thank you and good luck!
Vladyslava's social networks: