May 30, 2024

API | Employee Spotlight: Ahindrila Das

Ahindrila Das
Senior Producer

Ahindrila Das went from Electrical Design Engineer to eco-friendly product designer and business owner, to Senior Producer right here at Zynga. Read on to hear Ahindrila’s advice for those just starting out in their careers, how she learned to navigate gender bias, how important it is that our teams at Zynga reflect our global audiences in order to connect the world through games – and how her fellow Zappies (members of Zynga’s ERG for Asian and Pacific Islanders) helped with her big move from Benglaru to Toronto.

What was your career path to Zynga?

My journey to Zynga was a circuitous one. I studied to be an Electrical Engineer and started my career in Switchgear Design and Development. It was my dream job then. My experience there gave me the yearning to venture into industrial design, so I did a post graduation in product and industrial design.

Upon graduating, I worked as a toy designer for a company building educational toys, and later I worked as a designer working on integrating hydroponics with household furniture. I developed a knack for design and business development, and I moved on to start my own business venture of eco-friendly pet products like dog collars, harnesses, and leashes. I worked end-to-end, from designing the product, sourcing materials and manufacturing, to sales. After a year and a half, we developed a good product, onboarded a reliable manufacturer and our products were generating a healthy market interest – but we required a lot more investment and support infrastructure to penetrate the saturated and contentious pet care industry. My business partner and I mutually decided to dissolve our business – that’s when I was at the crossroads of making a career change. I was trying to figure out what line of work would be most interesting to me and allow me to exercise the learnings from my varied experiences. I sought a lot of professional career counseling which pointed me towards project management. It combined all my interests and strengths, and I knew immediately that would be the obvious option for me. I applied for similar roles in several software development companies, including Zynga. I was quite unfamiliar with the video game development industry, but I had heard a great deal of wonderful things about Zynga. As a huge fan of Poker and Mafia Wars, I took my chances. In August of 2017, I interviewed for the role at the Bengaluru studio and was offered an internship, which I immediately accepted, and that was my step into the world of game development and the start of my career at Zynga.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone who just started their career?

Be curious and trust your gut! Your experience will be different than those around you – embrace that and don’t let it falter your confidence.

As an individual in the tech industry, what are some difficulties or obstacles that you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?

Gender bias has been a hurdle I’ve grappled with. It hit my self confidence, but I found great mentors and coaches at Zynga who helped me navigate these challenges. I learned never to doubt myself and that being authentic and bold is the best way forward. I have seen it work for myself and others, and I highly recommend it.

Are there any games or products that you’ve been involved with that hold a special place in your heart?

Willy Wonka Slots holds a special place in my heart. My horizons expanded the most during the time I spent on that team. It was a lean team going through management changes and was under pressure to deliver results. I earned the trust of my team and forged friendships and mutual professional respect with my colleagues and leads as we navigated difficult terrain. It was then I became a WAZ (Women at Zynga) ambassador and got to meet and be mentored by several amazing people while taking up very interesting projects. I started punching way above my level and developed a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities.

How does Zynga’s mission – to connect the world through games – shape the company culture?

To create products for a global audience we need to understand this audience, and for that we need to be composed of this audience. Zynga’s commitment to DE&I ensures very diverse teams in the company. Our zERGS (Zynga Employee Resource Groups) have been doing a fantastic job of facilitating learning, fostering a supportive community, and sharing values across different streams of diversity. zERGs have become safe spaces for teams to consult on the creation of accessible and relatable products.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

I have met some amazing individuals here at Zynga. They’re friendly, insightful, talented and inspiring, and my life is certainly enriched through my association with them. The other aspect I truly appreciate is the value the company places on individual development, the coaching and resources given to us for this endeavour. And last and most important, Zynga enables us to have a balanced work-life. We keep hearing of crunch culture in the video game industry, and I’m glad that’s not true for our teams.

Have you had any mentors or role models who have played a significant role in your career development?

There are so many people who are instrumental in shaping who I am today, on both professional and personal fronts. They know who they are, both here at Zynga and outside. I ensure to always pay it forward and keep the wheel of goodwill and kindness rolling!

How has your cultural background influenced your career journey?

One of my strengths is agency. I credit it to my heritage and upbringing. I am from Mumbai, a city famously known for its vada pavs, film industry, and hustle culture. I believe growing up in Mumbai made me a very resilient and confident person. The people I have interacted with gave me the tools to become a person who gets the job done. There is an Indian term called “Jugaad” – very briefly, it means to innovate frugally. Being able to jugaad makes me a quick thinker and fast problem solver.

Tell us about joining ZAPI (Zynga Asians & Pacific Islanders) and what the group has brought to you and your career?

My career at Zynga started in our Bengaluru studio, where almost everyone is South Asian. Joining this zERG seemed like a natural choice. India is a very diverse country, and cultures change considerably within and across neighbouring states. I found ZAPI a great place to celebrate and share my heritage with our global team.

When I moved to Toronto last year, that is when I experienced the true significance of this zERG. Moving can be extremely challenging and a supremely stressful event. We moved across the world, and the people I had connected with through ZAPI made life easier and better. They’ve been our strongest allies and support, helping us get oriented to this new environment, giving us the scoop on where and how to get the things we need, and comforting us with the pleasure of their company. It was a treat to meet the friends I had made over Zoom, in person! Having familiar faces and tastes in a new world made the transition a smooth one. I truly treasure the connections I have made with the members of this group! And I take great pride in working on a game team alongside ZAPI leads such as AJ Mortega and Basu  Inamdar.

How do you recognize and celebrate this heritage month?

I enjoy immersing myself in learning about different cultures, cuisines, and the experience of my fellow ZAPIs. It’s amazing how different cultures sometimes have such similarities and how we value the same ideals in different ways. It shows us so many expressions of our shared humanity. And through the celebration of our culture, we enrich and better ourselves.

And – I am so honoured to be part of the Employee Spotlights this year. This is one of my favourite segments. I hope my experiences help others stay true to themselves and their dreams.

Can you share a meaningful tradition or celebration from your heritage that you hold dear?

Being Bengali, we are an ostentatious people. Bengal has been a rich state for centuries in terms of trade, food, culture, art and literature. We celebrate our festivals with a lot of indulgent cooking, music, dance and dressing up – there are no half measures. A celebration, however small, is always done with sharing of good food, exchanging gifts and best wishes. And there’s room for a lot of creativity. Look up Durga Puja Pandal designs and you’ll know what I mean.