February 2023 | Black History Month | Employee Spotlight – Christian Simpson
It is a privilege to honor Black History Month.
Rooted in an event that began as a week-long celebration in February 1926 by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), the celebration inspired schools and communities across the country to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures. The mission of the organization (later known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), founded by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, is to promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history, and culture to the global community.
In the mid-1960s, it was extended to a month-long event — and in 1976, the first official, federal observance began with President Gerald Ford.
This year, we celebrate Black History Month in a myriad of ways, through the lens of what Black History Month means to our employees.
One way that we amplify Black voices is through our Employee Spotlight series. This week, you’ll get to know Christian Simpson, our Diversity and Learning Specialist; Alex Chaney, a Principal Cloud Engineer; and Amelia Avery-Bradley, our Senior Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They discuss how they landed at Zynga, what their role really means, what it means to be a person of color in technology and gaming, their thoughts on what we need to create positive change for the future — and so much more.
Thank you to Christian, Alex, and Amelia for being a part of this series.
Christian Simpson, Zynga Diversity and Learning Specialist
Tell us how you came to Join Zynga.
Katie Morris, the fantastic People Ops guru, brought me to Zynga! We previously worked at Apple together, and she reached out to me back in 2020 and said, “Hey, there’s this cool job you would be amazing for here at Zynga, and I think you should apply since I know you want to do more work in the Diversey, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and Learning & Development (L&D) space.”
I applied and have now been at Zynga for 2 years.
Please describe your role here at Zynga.
I am the Diversity and Learning Specialist and split my time between those two disciplines. On the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) side, I am the champion for 12 global ZERGs (Zynga Employee Resource Groups) spanning across North America, EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and India. I focus on ZERG topics and interactions, maintaining operational best practices, consulting, and supporting ZERG strategies, cross-ERG collaboration, and helping connect ZERG priorities to Zynga’s company-wide DE&I strategy.
On the Learning & Development (L&D) side, I manage a virtual leadership coaching program that provides employees with a personalized, safe, and confidential environment that fosters accountability, commitment to action, and a growth mindset to help them live up to their fullest potential.
What do you appreciate most about the culture at Zynga?
There are two things I especially appreciate about Zynga’s culture.
One is its ability to create environments for people to show up as their authentic selves. The ZERG community — the heartbeat of Zynga — continues cultivating communities that foster belonging!
And two, Zynga inspires me to be my whole self and not hide nor shy away from who I am.
What does it mean to you to be a person of color in technology and gaming?
Being black in tech makes me more aware of everything, including every interaction I have with anyone, everything I say, and how I am perceived. I have felt the “loneliness” or “onlyness” that comes with being in this field, or from being one of x number of employees of color — which is usually a tiny percentage compared to the overall population of the tech and gaming industry.
There have been times that my confidence has been shaken, where I had to sit down with myself and ask why I dimmed my light or didn’t show up as my true self, which is a disservice to my peers and me. Realizing it stems from the interesting journey I have experienced since jumping into tech years ago — a lot of unlearning and relearning to be comfortable in the tech space.
My purpose is to make a positive change, especially regarding social responsibility in tech, by holding the tech industry and the people within it accountable!
How have you seen the gaming industry change?
In my two years working in gaming, I’ve noticed an overall push to be socially responsible for ensuring the integrity of the industry — while also celebrating diversity more, which includes embracing inclusiveness and belonging.
What do you feel is needed to create positive change for the future?
The gaming and tech space needs more changemakers to influence, inspire others, be thought leaders, and be the overall catalyst for the betterment of the industry.
Who is a change agent you are inspired by and why? i.e. Dr Martin Luther King or Marcus Garvey
The change agent I am inspired by would be the Atlanta native Tyler Perry, a black actor, filmmaker, playwright, and entrepreneur! I know you’re probably reading this with a side eye (lol). However, in college, I first studied mass media to work in the film and TV industry, as I wanted to be known as a cinematic innovator like the greats. I started to take notice of Tyler in high school, as his onstage plays were the place to be on any given weekend in Atlanta. I admired how he always stayed true to himself and created a seat at the table in an industry where most people are not known to be quadruple threats, e.g., being an actor, director, writer, and producer. He has built a massive media empire that has attracted audiences and communities worldwide but has not forgotten about the Atlanta community. He created Tyler Perry Studios, a 330-acre studio that has brought over 400 jobs to the heart of Atlanta, and continues to donate his billions to address homelessness, civil rights, and natural disasters.
A fun part of cultural history months is celebrating what food means to culture. What is the food that best reflects you and your culture?
The foods that best reflect me and my culture are black-eyed peas and collard greens (ham hock included). I’m originally from Georgia, so this may be a southern thing, but my family would ALWAYS (still do) eat black-eyed peas and collard greens at the end of the year, as it was a way to usher in good luck for the new year ahead.