We are always delighted when our International School of Lausanne alumni take the time to reach out to us and let us know what they are up to – most recently, Erdem Arda, of the Class of 2015, got in touch to tell us a little bit about how his job at Twitch, the world’s biggest live streaming service, and to share some words of wisdom with the Year 13s about the transition journey from school to university and career life. Keep reading to discover Erdem’s story.

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” so spake the great Mark Twain…

 The dream for many of us, of course, is to turn our passion into our profession – a quick straw poll of the International School of Lausanne Year 7s, for example, revealed that about a third of the room wanted to be basketball or football players “one day…”. However, for most adults, while we may be fortunate enough to find a job that we enjoy, this usually needs to be balanced around the time outside of work when we get to ski or hike, paint watercolour or play piano, or whatever the pursuit that brings us the most peace or fulfilment happens to be.

But for International School of Lausanne alumni, Edem Arda (Class of 2015), that dream is his everyday reality…

Erdem first attended the International School of Lausanne Primary from Years 2 to 4, returning later in Year 11, and going on to study for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in Years 12 and 13. He achieved qualifications in Higher Level Physics, Chemistry and Economics, and Standard Level Mathematics, French and English.

While he was successful in his academic work, Erdem recalls that perhaps his most memorable times at ISL were those spent as part of the football team, with our annual International Day celebrations also getting a special shout-out: “My favourite moments were probably the football tournaments that we went to. The Lugano and Milan tournaments were especially fun – staying there for a few nights, going for dinners, and playing football with my friends; it was amazing. In terms of in-school events, I quite enjoyed International Day for all the different food!”

ISL’s International Day is one of the highlights of our school calendar; the whole community comes together to create a vibrant festival – a feast for all the senses, with around 50 food stalls for every nationality represented in the school, music and dancing.

He also particularly appreciated the school’s international environment: “Meeting so many people from different backgrounds was great, and everyone is generally super welcoming. As a graduate, I really like having friends in different countries around the world.”

For Erdem, his time as an International School of Lausanne student also played an important part in instilling in him a strong sense of his own capabilities, even in the face of natural self-doubt: “My learning experiences at ISL taught me that I will always do what needs to be done, even when I don’t believe I can.”

After graduating from ISL, Erdem attended the University of Kent in Canterbury, and then went on to do a Masters at City University of London.

“University, especially the last year of university, was amazing for me after I had gotten to know the campus and people as best as I could. I would highly recommend going to a campus university because that’s where you get truly unique uni experiences.”

Another highlight of Erdem’s time as a university student was launching his own YouTube channel:

“This has probably become my favorite hobby because I love gaming, and having a YouTube channel is like keeping a diary.”

Erdem’s YouTube channel started as a way for him to enjoy his favourite pastime; however, the decision to start his own channel also ended up changing his life – as Erdem reveals, “This hobby was actually essential in leading to me getting me my current job at Twitch.” And so, Erdem is one of the fortunate few who have succeeded in translating a craze into a career…

For the uninitiated, Twitch describes itself as “the world’s biggest live streaming service, with global communities built around gaming, entertainment, music, sports, cooking, and more. It’s where millions of people come together to chat, interact, and make their own entertainment.”

Successful streamers Ellum (far right) and Harrie (far left) deliver a presentation, curated by a member of the Twitch team (centre)

In a fascinating 2019 feature for The Guardian on the streaming service, Trigger happy: the amazing rise of Twitch, Joel Golby explores the allure behind Twitch’s explosive success.

“Where this differs from other online video platforms is the sheer aliveness of it. If YouTube is for the jump-cut blockbuster movie versions of reality, then Twitch revels in the mediocrity, in the burble of half- conversation. It’s reality without all the boring bits edited out… And that’s how Twitch elevates from something that, on paper, should be entirely mediocre, but in practice becomes something that’s half-entertainment, half-therapeutic.”

What is perhaps most striking about Golby’s analysis of Twitch’s appeal is the insights he reaches about this concept of its “therapeutic” benefits. Scroll down about half-way through the article to where Golby quotes streamer Chris “Sacriel” Ball describing the supportive community ethos of Twitch, before going on to personally reflect on the restorative benefits of gaming, with a lyricism that elevates his prose to the poetic:

“And that’s when I realised I’d been watching Twitch streams all my life. When I was a teenager, there was a quiet, soothing peace that came with slumping on a sofa in my friends’ houses and watching them… (play) …video games. There, in the half-attention and bathing glow of a screen after midnight, conversations can spool away into something deeper. It’s possible to talk about sharp feelings and hard emotions better when the person you’re talking to isn’t making eye contact…

“And that semi-attentive hypnotic state is useful in my life even now, getting hammered 4-0 on the sofa over FIFA while opening up about a break-up – and my theory is that Twitch taps into that grey, liminal area of half-chat. If you haven’t got someone to listen to you burble on while you both play through the first Metal Gear Solid game, again – or, worse, you’re having one of those days where the sheer idea of actual, by-your-side human company is A Bit Much for you – Twitch is there to fill the void.”

When your passion is your profession…Erdem (dark green jumper) and some of his colleagues at Twitch enjoying a gaming tournament at the office.

A recent Statista survey revealed that, in the 16 – 24 age range, there is a closely even (87.3% to 89.7%) split between female and male gamers respectively. However, Golby’s observation about how it is easier to open up on an emotional level while gaming – and there are many additional studies exploring the benefits of gaming on mental health – illuminates that being a part of the Twitch community could prove particularly valuable in supporting the mental wellbeing of its male members: we are striving to create a culture in which men and boys feel comfortable talking about feelings and problems, but this still remains one of the biggest challenges facing male mental health.

Twitch itself states that this collaborative ethos is the fundamental basis of its way of thinking:

“We’re about community, inside and out…Twitch has a positive, diverse, and supportive culture— Our global team is constantly iterating, solving problems, and working together to empower people around the world to better the Twitch community and connect in meaningful ways.”

Erdem’s position at Twitch is Creator Experience Specialist, a role that he explains can essentially be split into two parts:

 “The first and my favourite part is brainstorming ideas on how we can improve our platform for our creators as well as our viewers. Once I settle on a good idea, I present it to a colleague. They then lead the department that the idea would affect; and, from there, if the idea is plausible, then we start working on it as a project.

“The other more routine part of my job is talking to creators on our platform and listening to their concerns. The concerns are typically revenue related so I try to find the most efficient way for our creators to earn an income from streaming either video games (which is mainly what is streamed on our platform) or any other type of content within our guidelines.”

So what are the personal highlights for Erdem about being a member of the Twitch team?

“Working at Twitch is getting to be a part of a community that I love. Twitch is a very diverse platform, but for me, the community on the platform that I love being a part of the most is the gaming community, which is also the largest among our users.

“For me, getting to build and improve our services every day, especially for gamers like myself, is the best experience; being a part of an industry leader in an industry that I’ve always admired, and contributing as it becomes even better as a company, is what is the most rewarding.”

Community spirit…Twitch staff taking part in a Bob Ross Painting Workshop – head to bobross.uk/about/ to learn more about this charismatic painter, whose soothing, intimate voice led him to be seen by many as the “Father of ASMR” (autonomous sensory meridian response), and found him work in the early days of MTV.

Working for a streaming service has not dampened Erdem’s enthusiasm for gaming – in his free time, he continues to play video games for entertainment, and also enjoys going for walks with his girlfriend.

Reflecting on the advice that he would give the current Year 13 students at the International School of Lausanne about the shift from school life to university and, ultimately, career life, Erdem shares an engagingly relaxed approach to coping with the transition, and an enlightened personal philosophy…

“Just don’t stress that much about where you’re going to end up for uni or what you want to do in life. ISL does a really good job at preparing you for university work. So just do what feels right and things will work out. Work hard, but don’t go crazy – there are more important things in life. To me, ‘success’ means being content in who I am, and the people I surround myself with.”

The International School of Lausanne would like to say a big thank you to Erdem Arda for taking the time to catch up with us, and wish him all the best for his continued success and happiness!

Further reading:

How to recognize video games that engage kids of all ages in learning (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Twitch Says It Will Bar Chronic Spreaders of Misinformation (New York Times, March 2022)

Video Game Based On Bob Ross’ ‘Joy Of Painting’ In The Works (MTV, 2006)