6. Facilities, Security, and all the departments that have kept HQ running smoothly.
As a person who likes things clean and organized, I have much respect for the women and men who keep the place pleasant to be and work in. They are the true unsung heroes in making things run as smoothly as possible at HQ.
At the start of every morning, I already see the cleaning staff working hard, doing their routine tasks before most of the employees show up. They continue to keep the place looking good throughout the day, regardless of it being a regular workday or after a company party. It constantly makes me much more conscious to do my part to keep the place clean and leave as little extra work for the crew to do as possible.
Even though I don’t know the reach of Facilities’ operations in the building, I know that there are countless behind-the-scenes decisions and actions every day that make our work life more comfortable, allowing us to do our job. On just the things that we could see, thank you for coordinating all the massive desk moves over the years (and doing it efficiently), for responding to our fancy requests for standing desks, keyboard tray attachments, and “Never mind I don’t like it” keyboard tray detachment, for our seemingly conflicting requests to turn up the AC or turn up the heater, and for making possible big (and small) events that we host from time to time (or every other day).
And the security team, the group of people who are often seen quietly doing rounds around the office. I don’t know what you actually do during rounds, but I shouldn’t know anyway, except that I know it has kept the company, the building, the employees, and the equipment safe.
These departments make up the foundation of our awesome HQ. For these and many more reasons, thank you.
5. The culture to experiement
Whether it is experimenting with our products, with our process, or for myself, I have come to embrace the spirit to experiment, to fail fast and learn. As much as I prefer to develop habits, establish routines, and do things a particular way, I have learned that in order to grow and adapt to change, one must experiment and try new things, at least from time to time.
It is well known that we test the heck out of a lot of things in our products. If the cost was cheaper, we would have tested every single pixel and second of our players’ experience. But the fact that we don’t also taught me to be smart about what we test, to recognize that some things in life are more important than others, and I/we have the power to choose what those things are for ourselves.
At work, there is always something new happening. It may be an org change or a new production process or a shift in happy hour scheduling. I’m sure this happens at other companies as well, but, even though this is my first corporate job, I feel that this happens a lot more frequently than other companies. It took me two or three years to catch on; I had learned that at Zynga, practically everything is temporary. In a way, I see everything as an experiment, and if it doesn’t perform well with the employees, they’ll change it up and try something else until something sticks. It lets everyone in the company be more innovative in finding solutions that work best. It taught me be more open to new ideas and be less set in my ways. It’s the Zynga way, and we’re constantly getting better and better at it.
Similarly, on a smaller scale, I have my own experiments with the way I work. Over the years, I have developed and refined a routine and process that work with my work schedule and with my team (This personal routine that I’ve spent years piecing together is actually one of the things I will terribly miss after I leave.) And when my routine or process stop working and start affecting my performance, I experiment with other methods or schedules or apps to find a better way to work. And I feel that the way Zynga is run allows me to do these little experiments on my own so I can get the most out of myself.
It’s this spirit of not being afraid to experiment that has kept Zynga going, that has made working at Zynga infinitely interesting, and that I will carry with me in my personal life and hopefully in my next career adventure. For these and many other more reasons, thank you.
4. The gym
I must recognize the little family from the Zynga gym and mention how much I owe my health to this place and the people who run it.
I was already exercising regularly before the Zynga gym, but I was mainly doing my own thing, piecing together what little I learned in elective PE classes in college and from articles I found online. Through the classes I took with Jodi, JP, Dan, and a few others at the Zynga gym, I added so many new exercises and stretches into my repertoire. Specifically, the care they took to correct my stance and position in class led me to become more aware of my body posture, and effectively make me feel more confident. I still experiment and put together my own program, but the things I learned from them gave me a much better understanding of what is important, correct, and safe.
During the three-month Tough Mudder-themed competition at the gym, I adopted a particular diet that they recommended, and I have been on it ever since. Even though I am still experimenting with parts of it and making it work for my health goals, the basic philosophy of the diet is solid and genuine putting me on the right path to a healthier life.
The availability and access to massages, reflexology, and acupuncture were also great. Having these services reminds me how stressed out we often get and how important it is to take care of our health.
Finally, I had the opportunity to 1) travel to Nicaragua and 2) stayed in a “boutique hotel” near the beach for 3) a weeklong surf trip with Derek, JP and a few other Zyngites. It was a taste of a different lifestyle that I never thought I could experience. It was also one of the catalysts for my world trip a few years later.
Since many of my coworkers casually pointed out my dedication and consistent workout schedule, I often ask myself whether I spend too much time at the gym, potentially feeling guilty about being away from the office. But I would often reason (with myself) that 1) I care for and am actively taking responsibility for my health, 2) exercising definitely helps me relieve stress for the day, allowing me to come back refreshed and do better work, and 3) stepping away from my desk and from the problem of the day often unlock the solution while I’m running or doing sets. So with both personal and professional benefits, I would say my time at the gym is actually a good investment.
The Zynga gym has helped me grow for the past few years, both physically and mentally. For these and many more reasons, thank you.
3. The food
Zynga Culinary has done an amazing job providing food for the people at HQ. I am always impressed by both the variety and the amount of food it produces every day, not just for regular meals, but also for catering special meetings and events.
I have yet to consider myself a foodie, but I am really picky about what I eat, especially after I adopted the diet from the Zynga Tough competition. But that is totally okay, because Culinary offers the awesome Nirvana line, where the dishes are simple, nutritious, and clean. It’s my default line at lunch; I rarely have to look at the daily menu email because the Nirvana line’s weekly menu is more or less the same, just the way I like it.
It’s a little ironic/unusual that when people rave about the food at Zynga, they’re referring to the fancy or hearty dishes at the Expo line or the main line, or the dangerously good desserts they bring out from time to time, but I love the food at Zynga because of the healthy choices that they offer. I’m even more impressed that they are able to offer the healthy choices along with the “foodie” choices. They could easily and exclusively cater to people’s cravings and sweet tooth by making just deliciously heavy dishes and desserts, but they have people’s health-conscious lifestyles in mind and decided to provide for both, and I admire and appreciate that.
Like the regular meals, the food stocked in the kitchens near the offices is also wonderful. Again, there’s a wide variety of guilty foods along with healthier snacks, with me naturally gravitating toward the healthy stuff. And even then, it was mainly just one item for breakfast: first, it was greek yogurt, and after I began my diet, it was hard-boiled eggs. I feel so fortunate to have breakfast consistently taken care of and provided every day, that even when the batch of hard-boiled eggs that week turned out to be less than peelable, I remind myself of this first world problem and am grateful that there’s even food at all to begin with.
Making all this food and coordinating the operation of it all is not an easy or simple task. I don’t know what and how much they do behind the scenes (a lot, I’m sure), but from what I’ve seen at front of house, where I see the cooks dodge the smoke from the grill of sizzling salmon filets or gourmet burgers, or the servers pace around the floor carrying large trays of hot food, or the staff push shelves of plates and silverware or heavy machines to different spots across the always-rearranging cafe floor, these folks are just incredible, incredible people.
And even though the scale of the Friday brunch service has been reduced over the years, it remains to be something I look forward to every week. After I leave Zynga, I will continue to think about it and miss it, along with all the free food I would have every week. So Culinary, for these and many more reasons, thank you.
2. My managers and the creative teams
I came to Zynga as a graphic/web designer working on UI, became an asset manager, then worked my way from associate user experience designer to senior user experience designer. Every step of the way, I had the support and guidance of my direct managers all in their uniquely wonderful ways.
JC is the most positive, zen, and nurturing person I have ever met. Combined with his expertise in user experience and games, a brief chat with him would make me feel optimistic and motivated for the rest of the day.
Walter is a very creative guy, always coming up with ideas and helping to make my job easier. Very friendly and approachable, he would often crack jokes (and plenty of puns), keeping the mood in the office light and easy-going.
Gunthar’s energetic presence often gave me the motivation and confidence I needed to get the best ideas out of my brain and make them real. Along with the rest of the design team, he welcomed me into the world of professional design and set me up for significant growth and experience in a short amount of time, thanks to the numerous hands-on firefighting exercises that was ZDC.
In addition to already being a talented designer, Spencer was a thoughtful and dedicated manager. He cared a lot about the success and happiness of his designers, and worked with each one of us to take advantage of our strengths and offered practical advice to tackle our weaknesses.
Rhi, Rhi, Rhi. She has done so much for me, so much so that I cannot describe in a few sentences. I am so lucky that she saw potential in me as a designer when I joined the ZDC team, and had since assigned me multiple features and projects that she knew I could both handle and challenge myself with, essentially training me to become an ever better designer.
Nick M. and I share a sharp eye for pixel precision, and it made me feel more normal to have someone as detail-oriented (or more!) as I am. As both my colleague and then manager, Mr. Linens inspired me every day to always stay on my toes and keep fighting the good (design) fight.
Nick G. has only been my manager for less than two months, but in that short time, he’s managed to light up something inside everyone on the design team, motivating us to continue the success of our work and bring more delight to our players. I wish I had met him earlier so I could learn more from him.
Along with these great managers were the teams of truly talented and creatively diverse artists and designers that I had the privilege of working with. Having coworkers in the same discipline just made the entire experience much more valuable, educational, enjoyable. There were so many whom I admire, adore, and wish I could have worked with more. I earnestly hope our paths will cross in the future.
For these and many more reasons, thank you.
1. Everyone who has ever worked for Zynga.
Whether you were my managers, fellow designers, squad mates, teammates, division mates, or fellow Zyngites at HQ or around the world, thank you. Even if we have never met, there’s probably two or three degrees of separation where your good work has influenced my job, and vice versa.
As I mentioned in my letter of resignation, it honestly never ceases to amaze me how many talented people have worked at this company. And I have been fortunate enough to work with so many of them. I learned so much about business, tech, culture, processes, etc. from everyone over the years that it inevitably made me a more well-rounded and thoughtful designer.
In addition, practically all of the people I’ve worked with have been incredibly kind and generous, both with their hearts and with their time. I was taught to do things I would not have thought I would do in my career, like running stats queries, pushing code on Hudson, and working with outsourced vendors. I was also taught things that helped me become a better designer, like preparing specs and assets for delivery, owning the design for many projects and features, and drawing flows and wireframes that everyone could understand.
And specifically, I am extremely grateful that so many people have been patient with me and putting up with my neuroses and special ways of doing things. I love working in an environment where everyone’s unique quirks are embraced as strengths and used to the advantage of the team and the product.
One of the reasons I look forward to work every morning is to be in the company of such great people. To sneak a semi-pun, it is pretty much working with friends. But with my departure, all I could do is to cherish the unbelievable experience and think about all the amazing friends I’ve made along the way.
For these and endlessly more reasons, thank you.
After more than six years at Zynga, I have decided that it is time for me to move on and pursue other interests. Please accept this message as my resignation from Zynga as a Senior Experience Designer. My last day of employment is Friday, December 18, 2015. I plan to spend a period of time after my departure to explore my options and career paths.
I want to thank you for the support you have given me already in the short time that we got to work together. I am also grateful for the guidance you have provided to the design team to continue to be motivated and inspired in doing our best work and delivering the best experience for our players.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Zynga for the incredible experience I have had for the past six years. During this time, I have learned an unbelievable amount, not just for my skill set as a designer, but also with product management, data analysis, game design, engineering frameworks, market research, business strategies, teamwork and collaboration, production processes, culture building, vision- and goal-setting, startup mentality, work-life balance, and so on. I am leaving this company with a lot more life and career experience than I could have ever imagined.
I am also thankful and amazed every day by the amount of talented people who work at this company. I have witnessed many times that when the right talents come together with a clear, common vision, greatness and success follow. I’m immensely honored to have worked with so many of these talented individuals in my journey through PetVille, Studio Platinum, ZDC, MSC, and the With Friends division. But I think I am most grateful, fortunate, and inspired to have the privilege to work for and with my direct managers throughout the years, all of whom have been unbelievably kind, approachable, smart, and enlightening, a combination of which I believe is rare.
For the remainder of my time here, I plan to continue my role and workload while preparing for a knowledge transfer with the design team. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to ensure the smoothest transition.
It has been an honor, a privilege, and a thrill to work at Zynga.
With endless gratitude,
Ivan W. Lam
Senior Experience Designer, Words With Friends
I rarely get cryptic anymore, but:
- It’s sort of a big news in my life.
- I’m a sucker for countdowns (and count-ups).
- I also happened to have made a purchase today related to this news.
Lots of progress this weekend (and this week).
- Still a lot of things I feel like I need to get, but my bag is practically full already. So I need to decide which will make the cut.
- I did finally got the two pairs of shoes I’m bringing to the trip (one hike/walking and one nice/night out) that I have started breaking in.
Tours and Accommodations
These things kind of go hand-in-hand. I had to figure what I’m going to do at these destinations to figure out where I should stay. And some of these activities I’m purchasing tours for and they need to know where I’m staying so they can pick me up. I had already booked the Machu Picchu and safari trip, but they were multi-day and took care of accommodations.
So this weekend I’ve finally started looking at the three day trips that I needed to do: Get admission to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, going out to “chase” the Northern Lights and visiting the Great Wall. It’s also when I finally began relying on TripAdvisor, however confusing to navigate. After hours of shopping and agonizing over price and tour features, I’ve:
- (Albuquerque) bought the tickets and confirmed an Airbnb request to stay near the event pickup/dropoff location
- (Tromsø): booked a tour that should be a good deal and started looking at Airbnb spots near the pickup spot.
- (Beijing): booked a tour for the Great Wall and reserved a spot at a hostel near city center and public transit.
If it wasn’t for my “Advanced To-Do List” I wouldn’t have been this organized to finally just suck it up and do it.
I thought it was about time I select the seats on all my flights before all the good ones are taken. Well, the bad news is that because I made the reservation through the airline alliance and not individual airlines, I was only able to select seats for United and Lufthansa, which sort of heads the alliance. And also, I’m beginning to realize that more airlines are only allowing you to select your seats 1) if you pay extra, or 2) when you check-in. This is going to take more pre-planning and looking up Seatguru to make sure I get good enough seats for me to sleep on the longer flights. So for now, that’s almost everything I can do.
This coming week, I have many things I need to tackle:
- Apply for the China visa now I have an address for where I’m staying to put on the application
- Really buy as much of the stuff I need as I can online so they arrive on time; otherwise, I’d have to go out and buy potentially inferior and unreviewed products in person.
- Start looking at places I want to say for the rest of the places. I heard Europe has more options and can be done later but still.
- Start figuring out how much money I need in each country and go get at least some of that money before my trip.
(I heard recently that Lufthansa’s worker’s having a strike.)
(Hodor and Bran won’t be in Season 5.)