After four years at Zynga, I am moving on. My last day is october 16th, 2013. My next destination is Juniper Networks.
But enough about me and why I am leaving and where I am going to, this is a moment to reflect on the past.
Zynga has been an amazing professional experience. I am very proud of the high performance teams I had helped build and lead. When I look back i am proud of the fact that my last quarter on Cafe World we hit all three of our KR’s (the only team at Zynga that did that that quarter ). I am proud that a brand new team established centralized application infrastructure management as a core competency and built out an amazing set of tools and processes to manage Zynga games. And I am very proud that in my third year we transformed Zynga’s back end from a monolithic architecture to a more conventional SOA architecture. Three high performance teams that delivered amazing value and were recognized multiple times for their contributions.
I knew Zynga was different in my first week. The first change I made brought CafeWorld down for 15 minutes, and friends and relatives who never spoke to me … pinged me on Facebook asking why was the game down..
What made the experience amazing, at the end of the day, was the people I had the privilege of working with. And the list of people is too long to get it right, but I’ll still try.
Hardik Kheskani who was the first person at Zynga that helped me navigate the new crazy world of consumer web. And who learned the hard way that telling your boss that you’re bored is dangerous especially if you are unfamiliar with the word No.
Roy Sehgal who my first week on the job told me I was failing … Sometimes you need a kick in the ass to succeed.
Josh Wickham who was the original architect of the Cafe World back-end. My first day at Zynga he said that if he didn’t get home on time, his wife would divorce him, and my answer was ” I know lawyers”…
Jason Fox who helped me land safely in the world of 24×7 web services. One of the most incredibly talented engineers and engineering leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with.
Michael Luxton who recruited me to Zynga. His continuous perspective kept me sane in the insanity.
Tim Sullivan who took over Ops in Cafe World and without whom so much of my future professional at Zynga would have been lamer. Tim was never freaked out. Except once when he walked into my office and said: Kostadis this is me freaked out. He had discovered how much work was needed to launch CityVille. That day Tim and I pivoted all of SEG to help him launch that game forever changing the destiny of Zynga.
Dorion Carrol who talked me out of leaving Zynga in 2009. I was so fed up with how broken every thing was that I wanted to quit because I didn’t know if I was supposed to fix them or live with them. I had never worked in this kind of industry and was worried this was the norm. Dorion had no clue I was quitting when he told me that my job was to fix things and of course it was all broken….
All the ex-NetApp guys who joined and help build out the team at Zynga. Folks like Steve Klinkner, David LaFrance, Kartik Ayyar, Sahn Lam, Maya Palem, Shyam Desirazu, Tanay Tayal, Manik, David Grunwald, without you guys this place would have been a lot less successful.
And I really want to thank Mo Hagan who convinced me to let Sahn go to Poker instead of Cafe World. Not.
Shan Kadavil who was this amazing force of nature who helped create one of the most amazing technical teams on the planet. SEG India was a small team of miracle workers. Folks that built zperfmon and zbase were great engineers who did great work.
Prashun who was my partner in crime in SEG.
The entire SEG US team. I can’t remember everyone but folks like Lokesh Dave, Bernard Nguyen, Wei-jing Li, Jun Feng, Shajan Dasan, China. Katherine Zhou, Pierre Dumas, Sunil, Their original manager Simon Chesney who took over the team, and helped lead them…
To the SEG team what we did was incredible… we took over a non-existent app management infrastructure and built it out in 12 months. When we launched cityville it took 24 man weeks to build out production. When we accidentally deleted cityville, our tools let us re-build production in 24 hours. And that is only one of the many many great things the team did…
Mark Stockford who lead our build out of zcloud. And was one of the good guys who demonstrated an amazing ability to give me insight and wisdom when I was tired and exhausted.
Allan Leinwand who was the architect of zcloud. And no S3 is not a file system 🙂
Blunt Jackson who was my partner in crime in the build out of our SOA environment. Without him there is no Zynga API.
To Kajal Kamdar who heroically worked with me as we wrangled all of central services during the major architectural shift to SOA.
Richard Rabbat who was the smartest guy in the room in every room he was in… The destiny of STG changed the minute you joined.
How can I forget Lee Thomason who was only here for a brief moment but with Icer Addis and David Grunwald showed how revenue and performance were tied to each other…
Dan McCaffrey who built out our stats infrastructure and who could be guaranteed to respond to an email if you ever questioned the power of Zynga’s stats infrastructure…
Kevin Lee who lead the effort to cross the finish line for project Darwin. Thank you Mr. Lee…
Tim Catlin who tried valiantly to make our platform a reality.
To Tim LeTourneau, Steve Chiang, Steve Parkis, Jon Tien, Jesse Janosov, Travis Boatman who all tried to make great games and made me humbly realize the gap between what I thought gaming was about and what it is about. When Tim asked me if I wanted to work on a game with him and I said no, I realized I didn’t want to be in the gaming business, for now. Tim is a great game maker and a great leader, and if you don’t want to work with him, well then you need to look at what you really want to do carefully. It’s your fault Tim that I am leaving 🙂
To Mark Skaggs who helped me internalize the challenge of building a great game and allowed me to be part of something as incredible as CityVille.
To Nick Tornow who is going to make a great CTO. Good luck!
To Ben Cooley who is leading the effort on Playscript. How cool is that? I got to cause a whole frigging new language for gaming to be built…
To Andre Bremer who forgot more about gaming than I learned about gaming at Zynga.
To Bruce Sherrod whom never I always agreed with but from whom I always learned from.
To Pablo Panaguia who was the best damn product manager I ever worked with. Now he’s trying to save the world one drop of clean water at a time.
To Alexi Chialtas and the Bride. Someday there will be a bride in your life… just remember to have the wedding cake look like our Bride’s
To Bilal who was determined to make Cafe World make money and pulled it off. An asset release kept us alive until we invented spices…
To Inigo without whom SEG never happens …
To the countless other engineers who left Zynga or whose time intersected with me at Zynga that I have forgotten to mention, please forgive me. I hope you were enriched by your time at Zynga. I hope that you have fond memories of the place.
To Brian Reynolds with whom I once was in a brain storming session about mobile and gaming and he said that I had the only great idea. I quickly texted my wife that I was quitting Zynga because it was all downhill from there…
To the amazing program managers thank you for all of your efforts to make this place somewhat organized.
To the amazing Product Management culture, thank you for bringing the power of science to the art of gaming.
To Louis Selincourt who was the best damn manager and friend a man could ask for. CentOps, and CPO… two amazing ideas.
To Dani Dudeck and the amazing marketing team that gave me an opportunity to talk at Zynga Live and to meet a whole slew of reporters share our incredibly great story.
To Don Mattrick who zynga is extraordinarily lucky to have come on board and lead.
To Mark Pincus, keep on dreaming sir! Without your bold dreams this place never happened.
To Colleen McCreary who tried to create an amazing culture at Zynga … she did.
And lastly to the incomparably great Cadir Lee who was as great a tech visionary as I ever met. How close we were to never working together you will never know. That stupid question about monkeys turned me off the place…
This isn’t goodbye, of course … As an old friend once said: We all work for the valley, each company just happens to be a division that pays our bills. Til the next adventure!