Tag Archives: motivation

Six Things I’m Grateful For For My Six Years at Zynga

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.

Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend

9/16/15 9:53pm

Just found out from an email that Scott Dinsmore of LYL just died.

He died from falling rocks on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The email was sent yesterday 9/15.

It’s quite ironic that I learned about this the day I am considering pausing on reading the LYL posts to work on my LBT blog. I don’t think I’m going to unpause it, because my priorities haven’t changed. In fact, it may magnified them. I want to get the LBT blog posts out as a way to make a difference in the world.

I just feel really sad for this young man and his young wife, who had so much left to do.

I requested to join the closed Facebook group and saw that there are already 4000+ people in the group. This suddenly made me realize the impact this person has made.

I hope this motivates every one of them in the group (and more who have probably yet to hear the news) to carry on Scott’s message and live their legends and change the world. If anything positive that can come out of this, I hope it’s that.

9/17/15 7:41am

It seems too much like a movie that he died so young, motivating his Living Legends to continue their passion. I still have to ask myself if it’s real or if I just dreamt it.

I’m a Living Legend beginner, and I haven’t met Scott, like so many people.

I can’t imagine how Chelsea, his wife, feels. I want to know how it actually happen, but I kind of don’t, and it doesn’t matter. Part of me hopes Chelsea knows the impact Scott has had and could somehow find peace and comfort through this, maybe by continuing and expanding his work to reach more people.

In a few days, then weeks, and months, the sting will ease, and life will be back to normal for most of us. The drive in us from this incident will still be there, and to use that drive is the best way we can do to honor him. At the end of the day, or at the end of time, with no intent at all on being morbid, death is inevitable. I remind myself through Neil deGrasse Tyson that we’re just star dust, and none of this really matters.

Ira Glass on Creativity for Beginners

Got this quote from somebody who got it from somebody who got it from somebody who heard it on This American Life with Ira Glass. It’s sort of motivational for creative people.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

“But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

“It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

There’s also a video.

Flush.

What Am I Doing? (Mar 2009)

Freelance

Things are going well with my freelance project. We’re pretty much wrapping up with the foundation of the site, with a few more adjustments and fixes. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to present it here with some process work.

GTD

I finally had some time to revamp my GTD system, and it seems to be working better than before. I basically digitized my projects list and actions so that they’re easier to look through (and therefore, less intimidating for me to review and organize). There are still parts of the system that I need to streamline, but things are definitely more efficient already.

Twitter

I recently started using a public Twitter account. My username is ivanwlam, and you’re welcome to follow me if you want. So far, some of the “famous” people I’ve followed include David Allen (the GTD Guy), Ze Frank, swissmiss, Armin and Bryony at Under Consideration, and TED.

Cut&Paste;

Me. Me. Me. The fact that I forgot to mention that I went to watch my friend Sam Sellers talentedly compete at the SF stop of the Cut&Paste; Competition Tour is unacceptable. Long story short, Sam did a great job and was robbed of his first prize. I love the piece he did for the first round, which was (and will be again) my Facebook profile photo.

Motivation

Something happened in the past week that retriggered and intensified my motivation to advance my career and my life as soon as possible. I can’t go into the details, but I now have a stronger desire to be independent and self-sufficient and to take control of my own life. So hopefully, in the coming months, I will have more exciting things to report.

Really Simple Designer Web Comic

Within the past month, I ended one blog and started another. Really Simple Designer Web Comic was an experiment to create a daily web comic starring Point, Line, and Plane. Every start of the day, I take about half an hour coming up with a concept and quickly draw a comic for the next day on my Wacom tablet. The idea of this project was to become more comfortable with my tablet, and I definitely am now. I ended it after two months because it was taking too much time of my day and the creative juices just weren’t flowing as fluidly as I’d like.

One Per Day

One Per Day is a much simpler project. Every day, I post about the day before, using only one word or phrase as the title of the post, and only one sentence describing the day. This keeps my post lengths short and to the point. It’s sort of a practice for me to pack as much content and meaning into one word and one sentence as I could, instead of dragging on and on about an incident (which I tend to do quite often… like right now).

The idea for One Per Day originated from a revisit to Ze Frank’s The Show, which indirectly kept a record of Ze’s personal life and experiences behind the scenes during its running. I have tried to keep a record of my life ever since I could write and had self-awareness. I used to write by hand with special notebooks and special pencils, and then switched to LiveJournals for a while, then to design blogs with monthly reviews (like this one).

But all these posts were taking too much time of my life to sustain, as I write really long posts, usually about now-apparently trivial things, and I wouldn’t want to return to them if I wanted to recall events of my life at the time.

One Per Day reaches a compromise between wanting to document every experience of my life and cutting down the number of words that I would have to read later on. One year from now, the individual events that happen every day will mean very little to me. In the end, a day is just a day, even on special occasions. What’s more important is the overall mood.

I just started blogging on One Per Day on WordPress (my new friend, perhaps my fortune cookie best friend?), and I haven’t gotten to redesigning it. But the presentation is going to be more streamlined and intuitive. Subscribe to the feed, and stay tuned.

Quotes I Go By Lately

“A day is a day. Every event, however trivial, will, by definition, influence and change the rest of my life.”

“Keep it simple (and easy), stupid.”

Flush.

About Flush

(Hide/Show omitted text.)

“Number One”/Quick Overview

Flush is a dumping ground for notes, thoughts, and ideas related to design. The point is to get everything worth consideration pondering about out of the head and down onto the literal and metaphorical paper. Put in perspective, these ideas can either marinate and brew to deliciousness or shrivel up and die ironically in the recycling bin. This way, the mind is always fresh and never stale, and creativity can stream out without hesitation. Ivan W. Lam writes this design blog as a way for him to think, explore, and learn about everything design without feeling like he has to constantly be correct and perfect about his design decisions. In other words, this blog prevents Ivan from going crazy ca-ca.

Origin of Concept

While it was not the spark that motivated the birth of this blog, The original idea of unloading the mind of static data was conceived arrived a year before the birth of Flush this blog, in Fall 2006. Ivan had probably heard or read something from some well-known designer’s lecture online, that ideas are not good staying in the head, because 1) ideas in the head only are useless without execution, and 2) they may be perceived as the “greatest” or “perfect” “the most awesome” solution, when in fact, they may be are darn right straight up crappy, usually realized when those ideas they materialize into actions the world of real people where that follows laws of practicality are followed. This concept quickly became the subtitle of Ivan’s previous design blog, IWIL Blog on Design: Get Those Crappy Ideas Out of Your Head (with “IWIL” being Ivan’s full name initials).

Fast forward to Summer of 2007, when Ivan had heard a SXSW 2007 podcast (more about this in a later entry) where a panelist mentioned the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. In a desperate need for life organization at the time, Ivan actually spent money on a book, a medium where their which the appearance extremely fascinated him while the content usually did not. However, this book was the opposite. A concept that Allen mentioned in the book was very similar to the advice Ivan had heard the previous fall. Allen further explained that the mind can only hold so many thoughts at once, and we’re bound to forget something sooner or later, leaving us that “Something’s missing” feeling. So in an attempt to capture all worthwhile thoughts, Ivan has begun to implement the “GTD” method and applied it to this blog Flush.

The Motivation

Then, in early October 2007, Ivan had come across an entry on the design blog SpeakUp by Armin Vit (More about this entry in a later post). As this incident will be extrapolated in a later post, Ivan had become inspired by Armin’s story anecdote about his current place in his life and his career right before his announcement of starting a design service through his now-company UnderConsideration LLC. Seeing it as a sign, Ivan felt that he needed to carpe diem and do something to start his career, in hopes that he could at least be as accomplished as Armin someday. Besides completing the portfolio on which he was three months late on completing, he decides that he needs to get out there and be heard. What more appropriate way to express for personality and stability project demonstrate determination on an ongoing project than a blog?

A Little Warning

As mentioned above, Flush is basically stuff (both good and crappy) that comes out of Ivan’s head. So most of what he says on here are opinions. Do not eat them up as facts, because 1) they’re opinions, and 2) he doesn’t know everything and he may be wrong. In which case, corrections to any of the few factual statements, as well as all grammar, typos, and punctuation mistakes, put on here this blog are always encouraged.

Shortage of Fiber

While Ivan may not be swamped by a sh*tload endless amount of design work or have a family to support, he may take a while to crap pump out these posts. Even though he had already admitted it was already mentioned that this blog will have a lot of opinions, and crap, and opinionated crap, Ivan is still striving to put together well-composed, thoughtful entries that may be of use for the readers. And for a non-professional writer, that takes time. As you can probably tell, he’s not that good at writing, but he’s trying to improve that, by constantly practicing, because he also believes that designers still need to know how to writeverbally communicate well. And to make something good will require more editing than the typical writer. So please excuse him if he doesn’t get out posts as quickly as other design blogs. The best way to know when he has a new post is to subscribe to this blog.

Why “Flush”?

  • Flush it down.
  • Flush it out.
  • Flush left.
  • Flushed.
  • Because it’s sanitary.

Pick your favorite reason(s).

About Ivan

A newbie graphic designer (if you let him call himself that a graphic designer), Ivan W. Lam had studied graphic design at UC Davis in California. He is/will be a graduate of UCD and is considering a grad program in graphic design or design with a business curriculum in a few years. Currently in his early twenties, he has been an AIGA member, SF Chapter since June 2006 and currently lives in the Bay Area, and enjoys naps. His favorite design blogs at the moment (October 2007) are swissmiss and Balla Dóra Typo-Graphika, followed by the classics SpeakUp and Design Observer.

Last edited 31 October 2007.

Flush.