May 27, 2024

API | Employee Spotlight: Stephanie Rattanachane

Stephanie Rattanachane
Animation Lead

Animation Lead Stephanie Rattanachane never thought she’d be a game developer, but we’re so glad she’s here. Read on to hear what it means to be a part of ZAPI (Zynga’s ERG for Asians and Pacific Islanders), the advice she’d give to those just starting out – and what it means to have the “ladder left down” for you.

What was your career path to Zynga?

A series of surprising events! I went to school for Media Arts & Animation – which was a sort of ‘jack of all trades’ path between 2d and 3d animation – modeling, compositing, editing, and vfx. For a time, I mostly focused on 2D TV animation..but it never really felt like the right fit.

It wasn’t until I accidentally fell into casino games, and then – subsequently – fell into mobile games soon after that I felt like I’d found ‘it’. If you asked me in high school or college if I ever wanted to be a game dev, you would have gotten a ‘heck no!’ from me. Now, I can’t think of any other place I’d want to be, and I feel like I have become the strongest, most confident version of myself because of an environment that gave me room to build all that up for myself.

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

Be kinder to yourself. Be proud of your successes and, in turn, know the value you bring to the industry you’re passionate about. And, let your failures be your motivating force and drive you. We are equal parts a product of our successes and failures; these experiences both are the source of our growth. At the end of day, we are all, always, works in progress.

What advice would you give to others who may be navigating challenges related to diversity in their careers?

Know the worth and value of you and your experiences. Also know when you are being devalued – and find something better for yourself. Life is ebbs and flows; you may find places that stifle your beautiful voice rather than allow it to grow, and you owe it to yourself not to feel tied to that sort of environment. Don’t be scared to keep walking until you find that place that lets you shine.

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

Probably the first game I was on at Zynga, The Princess Bride Slots. It marked my big shift from tv animation and floor-slot games to the mobile market, and my first time working on a story well beloved from my childhood; it felt a little magical being able to be part of sharing that story with more people around the world.

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

We design our games around that community experience; just because we’re far apart doesn’t mean we have to be islands, so to speak. There have been so many heartwarming stories from people that have met best friends and partners through our games, and it really shapes the sort of games we want to design in the future. Fostering those community relationships between people on opposite ends of the globe really makes the world feel so much more intimate and connected.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

Both the company and team culture. This is the first company I’ve worked for that really gave me room to grow and shine, and also gives me the opportunity to learn from things that didn’t go so well. Getting started on your path to a professional in your industry of choice is difficult, especially when the ladder isn’t left down for you. Here, not only is it left down, but you have a hand waiting to help you climb the next step.

How has your cultural background influenced your career journey?

Seeing the world coming to celebrate not only our unique, varied cultures but each others cultures, as well, has encouraged me to start applying those experiences to my work, both personal and professional. I’ve started to apply Lao traditions in storytelling for my personal works; comics, animations, and even game pitches are now unapologetically representative of my experiences growing up, in some way or another. It’s almost surreal to think I ever used to be so shy or reserved about it when I was in high school and college. It shows the importance of us talking about our cultures, openly and proudly. You never know who else you’ll encourage to do the same.

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

As a person of mixed-race, there were times where I often felt like a sort of tourist in my own culture. ZAPI has given me a platform to not only share that unique experience, but be proud of it.

How do you recognize and celebrate this heritage month?

Reaching out to my community; finding opportunities both alongside Zynga and beyond to give them a platform to share their culture with the world through intimate moments; a cooking class, a culture share, supporting community-based charities, and so on. Because while we connect the world through games, it doesn’t mean we should stop there.

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

My favorite Lao holiday, Loy Krathong, the floating lanterns festival. My family and I would go to our local temple every year in November to send our hand-made lotus floats into the water. The lotus floats usually are decorated with incense, flowers, candles, and coins. My grandma would always tell me that this was a time to wish for good tidings, and set adrift both my worries and my hopes along with the float.

I found it a quiet, contemplative, and relaxing experience. The bright, vivid colors from our floats, the candle light, and the open water surrounded by deep night is an image that hugely plays an influence on my color works. I would describe them as moody and dreamy.