How I Made It

Heather Anne Ritchie, eSports Entrepreneur

FLARE #HowIMadeIt celebrates 100+ talented, ambitious and driven Canadian women with cool jobs. Want what Heather has? Here's how she did it

Heather Anne Ritchie posing with dark hair

Heather Anne Ritchie; Toronto; @heatheranne

Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?

I’m the co-founder of a company focused on understanding live-streaming of games with analytics. We monitor the traffic of people watching other people play video games, and we do the data around the audience, viewership and the performers themselves.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I have a business degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)

My first job was with the municipality of Moncton in New Brunswick in the community development division, not related to IT.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

The most significant one is the decision to leave government; making the leap to leave a “safe” job. But I decided I could achieve my own sense of security if I believed in myself. It was definitely a groundbreaking moment and my mother and father were not happy with it. But it’s been 15 years and I haven’t looked back.

Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?

I think you realize things are going to work out when you’re comfortably uncomfortable. That’s what I love about tech, one year we’re talking about one thing and the next we’re onto another creation. I am antsy but I don’t need to change it, it changes on its own.

What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

There are so many things. While shaking up things has been positive, I realize that I’ve lost the opportunity for consistency along the way. One of the unfortunate byproducts of change, like moving to Toronto to start a company, is that you walk away from the past; the people you met and the work you did. To be successful in this industry is to be polarizing, you have to be opinionated, and when you lack opinion you are not able to rally and motivate people around you. There have been moments where being opinionated hasn’t been good for my personal life, but it has been great for business.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

The things that i constantly tell young people, because they are in a beautiful moment in their lives where they don’t have too much responsibility, is forget “safe.” Safety is found in yourself. I’m the co-founder of my own company and I’m not safe. I would argue that nothing we do is safe. Invest in your skills, and as an extension of your skills, think about what you like doing and what you want to be known for. If you keep doing that, no matter what happens, you’ll always be able to take care of yourself.

What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?

To worry about things like a pension plan. You need to do something that makes you get out of bed. Find what you love and enjoy.

Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?

I’m really positive about my challenges and I make an effort to not let them bother me. When I’m at an event and I tell someone what I do, I’ll usually get two responses. One is positive: ‘That’s cool.’ But some people say, ‘That’s cool, you don’t look like ‘blank.’’ That blank could be “a gamer” or “a founder.” I’m 5’3” and I apparently don’t look like someone who has started a video game company. So I started the hashtag #ilooklikeafounder, which has been really popular.

Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it.

My former company was paying me more but I left that company to co-found Repable. Here I’m being paid equally to my male co-founder and I have nothing to complain about. He has made a very deliberate point in saying that we’re going to get paid the same. If anyone deserves credit, it’s definitely him.

What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?

The cliché that we’re lazy. Millennials are dedicated, loyal and love their jobs.

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