“You're not going to get asked certain questions twice. Life is a lot more interesting if you say yes.”

This is...

Emily Olman

Emily Olman has been an adventurous traveller and lover of learning all her life. Emily has worked in various industries including gaming, anime, and is now working on a business of her own, Hopscotch Interactive. Emily is an excellent example of how to follow your passion in the professional world, even if that means embracing uncomfortable or ambiguous opportunities like she did. You never know where it might take you or who you may meet.

Interview #13 with Emily Olman

BETWEEN CYBORGS AND MINNESOTA

Emily Olman has been an adventurous traveller and lover of learning all her life. Fascinated by German art, language and culture, she went to Scripps College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in German Studies. 
Emily spent her last year of college developing her thesis project, “German Modernism, the Cyborg Genesis, and Ambivalence about Mechanization”. Her project had many ties to the famous film from 1927, Metropolis. Soon after graduating a recruiter noticed Emily’s interest in cyborg studies and invited her to interview with Ziff Davis Media. Emily made a personal and synchronous connection with the interviewer and she was hired and began to work for a division of the company called the Game Group, which included Electronic Gaming Monthly, Computer Gaming World, the Official US PlayStation Magazine, and Expert Gamer.
“You don't know how what you are doing right now might lead you to an opportunity in the future.”

GAMING INDUSTRY ON THE RISE

Similar to our situation with COVID-19, after the September 11th attack on US soil, many people didn’t leave their homes for a period of time. Whether it was out of fear, or taking time to grieve, many families didn’t go on vacation or leave their homes whenever possible for an extended period of time.
During this same time period, the gaming industry was on the rise. Gaming became a lot more popular and accessible as more people were staying in their homes. Dreamcast, Playstation, and more innovative gaming consoles were being released during this period of time.
Because gaming was on the rise, it meant a lot more business for Emily and the Game Group team. Also, on a personal level, Emily had to make a decision: should she continue to work on advertising sales due to the increasing demand, or switch over to working as an editor. Emily decided to remain in sales where she saw progressive opportunities for promotion and saw a more lucrative path forward.
“The things that make you good at sales are not coursework. It's connecting with people.”

ANIME

Soon after, Emily was recruited to work for Newtype USA, one of the largest Anime magazines in Japan at the time. She had been recruited to work again with sales and advertising and to lead the new publication’s foray into the US market. 
Her department was on the smaller side which gave her a lot of responsibility and independence at 27. She traveled a lot to both New York and Japan building her resume and gaining more important experience everywhere she went. She helped to launch a TV network and various websites, and Newtype USA’s parent company A.D. Vision was the first ever to provide an on demand network for anime content with its new Anime Network. The small but nimble team, especially her Producer counterpart Stacy Slanina Dodson, gave her flexibility, freedom, and a lot of leadership opportunities. Oftentimes she had to improv all that she did not know.. It was certainly an exciting and intense time in Emily’s life. 
“I didn’t know what i was doing but I also knew that nobody else knew what they were doing either.”
Recalling all that she learned within the anime industry, Emily feels that sales training is the most important training and skill that one should develop. She explains that selling teaches you how to connect with people quickly and effectively. The next biggest skill she obtained was proposal writing. Emily quickly became an expert in writing proposals and this niche skill was an incredibly advantageous asset to be used to any industry moving forward. Emily was able to craft and articulate to clients in a way that is most suitable and digestible to each unique client/situation.
Another area that Emily was able to bring to her company was experience in the corporate world. Emily was able to communicate effectively with larger companies who, Emily said, were often wary of having their brands associated with anime at that time because they saw it as so niche. 

BETTER MENTORSHIP AND MORE DISCIPLINE

An area that Emily realized that she was lacking was in terms of mentorship. In response to this, Emily made the decision to obtain a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). While maintaining her 9-5 day job, Emily attended her business courses at night and on the weekends. It was one of the most busy and intense periods of her young life, yet, she found the like-minded individuals that she longed for in her MBA program, as well as a solid sense of discipline and direction for her next professional move. Emily still remembers something her accounting professor at the time that she hasn’t forgotten:
“The evening and weekend students understand the concept of opportunity cost the best.”

BERLIN SCHOOL OF CREATIVE LEADERSHIP

One dream of Emily’s was to work in Europe as a Bosch Fellow. Having applied in the past and been rejected before by the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship program in 2002, Emily knew having a master’s degree would help her get into the program.
“I did the MBA and just three years later all the doors opened.”

After achieving her goal of participating on the fellowship, she remained in Germany and became the Admissions Director at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership Working within recruitment. There she still relied heavily on many of her sales skills as she worked to find the best talent and fit of students for the business school.

BACK TO THE BAY

In 2014, a close friend of Emily’s called her up and tried to recruit Emily to start a business with him. Being across the globe when she got the call, and having just had her second child, she told him no. Yet he was persistent and when her husband wanted to move back to the Bay Area for his career, she had found the right time to join her friend with his start-up, Butter, a proptech company for the residential real estate. 
It was within Butter that Emily was introduced to 3D Matterport Photography.
Although Emily eventually left Butter, she took with her a newfound passion for 3D photography. At the time, Emily wanted to help her mother-in-law sell her house and so she used Virtual Reality (VR) technology to capture the image of the property. Long story short, Emily was the first person to introduce virtual reality within the real estate world in that area. What began as just a favor to her family and their realtor, quickly became a business with dozens of phone calls from realtors asking Emily to capture their property with her nascent technology. 

TAKING MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS

Emily ordered herself her own 3D camera with the mindset of, “Lets just see where it goes,” This is where Emily founded her first start-up, Hopscotch Interactive. Even though the virtual reality (VR) space was new to Emily, it was incredibly familiar as it related to her past experiences with gaming and anime. With scanning, 3D and VR there is a common link between the industries gaming, anime, and now property management. Emily found a niche: the crossover between virtual reality and the understanding of real property.

HELEN WILL MEET YOU (IN CHINA)

Emily started attending VR meetups in order to get more involved and educated within this new community. Many of the people Emily met at those meetups  are still some of her closest friends today. 
An opportunity for female tech founders to travel to China and speak at a VR convention appeared next. Emily felt passionate about empowering other women to get involved with tech and her passport “lives on her night stand” so with only a week’s notice, she accepted the offer despite some of the ambiguity attached to it.
“You're not going to get asked certain questions twice. Life is a lot more interesting if you say yes.”
So Emily went with very little instruction other than “Claire will meet you.” Emily ended up giving a phenomenal talk about Matterport technology and as a result she built new relationships with many leaders of the VR space as well as cultivating her confidence and leadership abilities.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE. THEN OWN IT.

As one of the few female founders in the VR space, Emily has learned quite a few lessons about bias. She described to me that she knew that female leaders were missing from that space but she felt herself waiting for someone else to do the work and be that strong inspiring leader that girls in STEM need to see. She eventually realized she needed to stop waiting for someone else and BE that person instead.
“If not me, then who? If not now then when?”
Emily ended our call with some parting questions and advice to myself and other young professionals.
“Make a niche for yourself!! What do you want to be an expert in?” 
Although, obviously, there’s merit and truth to being a generalist, there’s also huge advantages and credibility that come with being an expert in something. For Emily, she wove together her passions in gaming, tech, anime, and VR, and what emerged was her niche talent for creating an experience that people understand and connect to.
Emily explains the importance in knowing what kind of lifestyle you want to have and if the startup life and environment is right for you. Understand your own biases and behaviors of society - especially if you are a woman in STEM. 
Understand and recognize bias and use it to your advantage. Emily explained how there aren’t enough female founders in tech. Women often will join a team, but Emily wants to see more women as the shareholders, the playmakers, the CEOS. By making this choice for herself, Emily created a life filled with independence, freedom, creativity and flexibility. 
Let’s not forget, Emily never went to school for software engineering or computer science. But what she did do, was work hard and let her passion drive her decisions for her life and career.
“I have a technical aptitude but I never had the training.”
If you aren’t a technical co-founder, capitalize on the other skills that you do have, and do the work to be able to have technical literacy and you can communicate to your team. You can teach yourself! Audit classes, online courses, youtube, you name it! While we are in our 20’s we have more time now than we ever will to learn something new like that.
“Make your education relevant for you! You have time that you don't even realize that you have.”


Reflecting on Emily's experiences, we can clearly see how one never really knows how the efforts that we make today can and will impact our futures. Emily is an excellent example of seeing how one can follow your passion in the professional world, even if it means embracing uncomfortable or ambiguous opportunities. Be open to the mystery of the future and know that what you experience today and who you meet might impact the rest of your lifetime.

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