Should I join Zynga?

Someone asked the question of whether they should accept a job offer at Zynga, here’s my response.

Good question. I am biased. Very biased. I work at Zynga. Have worked at the place for 3+ years.

The first thing to realize is that the press is the press. When they love you, you can do nothing wrong, and when they hate you, you can do nothing right. Things are never as good or as bad as the press would like you to believe.

The press isn’t a good way to pick your next job.

What you should instead focus on is; what is the macro opportunity, who am I going to be working with, and what problems will I be working on?

In terms of your job after Zynga, what people will evaluate is not how successful your last company was (there are far more failures than successes in the world), but rather what did you do while you were there. I have hired a great many great people from companies that no longer exist.

I won’t speak to the macro business opportunity.

Let me just state something that is not obvious to many people. We ship 100+ releases a day, sometimes 1000 in a week. Each of these releases is a carefully designed shot on goal. Not everyone scores, but enough do. We ship many many games. And each game is an opportunity to revisit every element of our stack all over again. As a technologist, that should be exciting.

What I can speak to is the technology challenges we have. Our challenge isn’t where we invest our precious technology resources, but where we don’t. We have to innovate on all layers. From the core data center, to the infrastructure management, to database technologies, to API layers, to using client technology in new and novel ways, to core 3D. We have to innovate on mechanics (how people play games) and on channels (how we reach players).

We are, especially around games, a content company. As such we have to continue to navigate disruptive platform changes to continue to deliver the content our players want.

We have to continue to surf technology disruptions that break our plans. On the back-end when we started we built the world’s largest No-SQL database out of memcache, PHP and mysql. Then we helped build early versions of couchbase and now we are investing in our own versions of couchbase and we’re looking at scale SQL engines like memsql. On the front end we started with PHP and web games, became big users of flash for games and on mobile are looking at a wide variety of technology platforms. Each of these changes creates challenges and opportunities and I believe that although there exist great answers today, there are better ones out there.

One of the things I am most intensely proud of is that Farm 2 is possibly the biggest 3D game of all time. Having been associated with 3D graphics either directly or indirectly, the idea that eight million people everyday that are not hard core gamers would interact with a 3D interface is mind-blowing. It might be the most main-stream 3D app out-there…

So…

I know that if you want to work on back-end, scalable systems, at Zynga the future is bigger than the past. If you want to work on the bleeding edge of building games that are social and accessible this is also a great place to work.

So we have good hard problems to work on, and you will get a chance to work on them. But what about the near term future?

Nothing in life is guaranteed. I joined SGI in 1996, which was the last profitable quarter they had. I joined NetApp in 1999, and in 2000 we almost went out of business. Who would have guessed in 1999 when they were growing 100% year over year.

First of all we’re living in this disruptive world. In 2009 when folks had bugs on Safari we ignored them because nobody had a Mac. In 2013 we have OS-x+windows+tablet+mobile+ios+android+win8? Different platforms with different interaction patterns. That disruption creates opportunities and challenges.

When you look at other opportunities out there, ask yourself how many of them have an opportunity to become an internet treasure? Zynga is certainly on any short list. We have a large audience, we have games that people love to play and we have a great team.

If you living in a disruptive world you want to bet on the right team. Zynga, in my opinion, has a great team.

Hope this helped.

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