Golden Guardians assistant general manager Ji Eun Shin has come a long way since she first joined the organization as a Korean translator in 2018. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in chemistry, Shin was considering dental school, but her interest in League of Legends drew her to the League Championship Series (LCS).
“I saw that the Golden Guardians were bringing in [Son "Mickey" Young-min], a Korean mid laner,” Shin told Nerd Street. “And I noticed on the staff that there weren't any other Korean coaches that I could see or any other staff, so out of curiosity, I sent them an email stating I would love to volunteer some of my time to help this Korean mid laner adjust to your environment.”
Shin has always had a knack for seeing a need within the organization and filing it. Since first joining Golden Guardians as a translator, she has taken on several different roles with the organization, from team operations associate to marketing project manager to team operations specialist. When Nick “Inero” Smith was named Golden Guardians general manager after a career in coaching, Shin knew she could provide some assistance.
Image credit: Golden Guardians
Shin is currently the only woman in a managerial position as GM or assistant GM on any of the 10 teams in the top-flight North American League of Legends circuit, though Huang "Kristine" Chien-Yu was until recently a manager for TSM's LCS team. The LCS, like esports as a whole, has been a male-dominated industry throughout its history with few women in leadership positions, but that's been slowly changing in recent years.
In 2019, Nicole LaPointe Jameson joined Evil Geniuses as CEO, and in 2020, Tricia Sugita was named FlyQuest CEO and is now Cloud9's chief marketing officer. Last year, Jackie Felling became the LCS commissioner and Kelsey Moser was named Evil Geniuses’ head of coaching staff.
Shin said it makes her sad knowing she’s one of the few women in a position of power in such a male-dominated industry.
“I would have hoped that there's more, at least in 2023,” she said. “Like Tricia, for example, is someone I look up to.”
Cultivating a winning environment at Golden Guardians
In her leadership role with Golden Guardians, Shin has helped build a winning team that is currently competing in the LCS spring playoffs.
“A lot of the day to day is basically observing and overseeing how to actively make the competitive team better in different ways,” Shin said. “I think there's a lot more to building a great team than just having great players. And just as a business as a whole, it's important to have different factors that can attract talent to have them want to come to our team.”
The team has been a lot more competitive than usual this spring. Win or lose their next match, Golden Guardians are guaranteed a top four finish, which will be the best finish in organization history.
Photo credit: Riot Games
With the team doing so much winning this spring, Shin felt it was a golden opportunity to help build a bigger fan base for a team that isn’t as popular as some of the other LCS teams.
“A lot of people are wondering, ‘Hey, where do we interact? I don't know where to talk with people about all of these games we're winning?’ And with that, I kind of took the leadership on trying to revamp our Discord server because I felt like that was lacking,” Shin said.
Being a leader
Despite her prominent role as a woman in a leadership position in the LCS, Shin doesn’t see herself as a role model just yet, but hopes to get to that point someday.
“I never, at least until recently, I never tried to be front-facing,” she said. “Because this goes into a whole deeper conversation of kind of double standards where sometimes, if women in esports try to kind of stand out more, they're labeled as clout-seeking, they're only here to get Twitter fame, etc. So I always kind of hid myself in the background …
“But now I want to be empowered to just put myself out there -- tell the world, ‘Hey, this is possible for women too. We can be on the leadership side of the competitive team and run things,’ and hopefully we can get to a point where I can be a role model for other women.”
After attending Counter Logic Gaming’s CLG Red Carpet event earlier this month in honor of Women’s History Month, Shin said she felt more hopeful about the future of women in esports.
“It was absolutely beautiful and heartwarming seeing all the women just kind of in person,” she said. “So once I went to the event, it kind of sunk in that there are a lot of women out there in esports that are working and are just kind of hidden behind the curtains.”
With her leadership role at Golden Guardians, Shin hopes to have a positive impact not only within the organization but on the industry as a whole to help make esports a more welcoming place for women.
Shin recently has felt inspired by the work being done by Frenzy Studio, a production company that’s working to improve diversity and inclusion in esports. Frenzy was co-founded by Golden Guardians’ former creative director, Crystal Au, whom Shin called her “an unstoppable force.” She credited Au with helping her step outside her comfort zone and speak up for what she believes is right.
“Starting internally working with the coaches and different competitive staff and the players, kind of actively catching when they might say something that might come off as a joke to them but doesn't necessarily feel the same as a woman and can sound negative,” she said. “Just trying to make that small impact internally in hopes that it would have a bit of a domino effect.”
Lead photo credit: Golden Guardians