WHM Spotlights – Keisha Krainer
Zynga’s Women’s History Month celebrations continue as we spotlight some of the talented and inspiring women that work at our studios across the globe. This week we are featuring Keisha Krainer, a Talent Operations Manager on the Global Recruiting team who joined our Toronto studio in 2019.
Throughout the interview process, Keisha expressed that she was drawn to the human aspects of Zynga and the realization that this was a career with purpose and no limits to growth. Besides building an employer brand and streamlining recruiting operations and processes, Keisha is passionate about mentorship, workplace culture, and advocating for others. She is a board member of BZU (Black Zynga Union) and is also an active WAZ (Women at Zynga) member.
Continue reading to learn more about Keisha’s career journey, how WAZ has helped her embrace her authentic self, and her advice on how to embrace your differences, own your career path, and more.
Tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Zynga.
Before joining Zynga, I was working for a game company undergoing layoffs, and my role was affected. As a black woman of a certain age without a college degree and the breadwinner of my family with three kids under the age of 10, I went into full panic mode when I learned I would be laid off.
I sat in my car and realized I could cry about my loss or make the best of the situation and just keep swimming. I then read Maya Angelou’s “I Rise” and decided I would not live in the ashes of my so-called defeat but rise up to meet the day and be the best me I could be.
When I came across the position at Zynga, I applied, thinking they wouldn’t contact me. I was living in California, the role was based in Canada, and I didn’t feel I had enough to offer for a company to take a chance on me. To my absolute shock, the recruiter contacted me within minutes of applying and wanted to schedule an interview. My recruiter was amazing and didn’t sell me on my role, but the human aspects of Zynga.
My interview panel was full of strong female leaders that were happy and thriving. I joined Zynga because it wasn’t just a job; it was a career with purpose and no limits on how much I could grow. They saw potential in me that I could not see in myself.
What is your current role and responsibilities at Zynga?
I am a Talent Operations Manager for the Global Recruiting team. The best description of my role is that I am a “Jack of all trades, master of none,” and I LOVE it. People tend to dislike that description as they want to be a master of all. However, I believe it gives me space to learn and improve. I continue to build on my projects which allows me to grow and adapt. I also get to work with amazing people and learn new things every day.
My role includes building employer brand as well as implementing recruiting technology, operations, and processes. One day I can be creating content for our career site, and the next day, creating process documents, fixing a technology bug, or working on marketing for our employee resource groups (ZERGs). Sometimes I’m completely out of my comfort zone doing things that I never thought I would be given an opportunity to do, but my team has always been supportive. I may feel unease about the task, but I am never alone. I am surrounded by my mentors, managers, and team members who have my back and support me and help me succeed.
Tell us about joining WAZ (Women at Zynga) and what the group has brought to you & your career.
I will never forget how I learned about WAZ. I was working from home feeling a little disconnected, and I received an invite for a WAZ session led by Phuong Phillips, Chief Legal Officer. She featured a keynote speaker, Syren Jordan, who spoke about gender and equality. She explained how issues are not always black or white; there are so many shades of gray, and we should find ways to embrace that. After that session, I felt like I could climb Mount Everest. I was so excited and inspired to be a part of the fantastic WAZ group.
A few months later, I had the chance to meet Phuong Phillips, Krystal Bowen, Trisha Yearwood (my hero), and some other inspiring female leaders at a WAZ panel for women’s equality within the entertainment industry. Phuong and Krystal Bowen were simply amazing. They both found ways as female leaders to own their strengths, make meaningful change, and inspire others. I walked away with a passion for doing more and being involved.
Being a part of this group inspires me in my career every day. I learned an important lesson from that talk: having a voice is not a negative trait. Being involved in Women at Zynga has helped me own the fact that I’m loud and opinionated; I would instead be fighting for what I believe in rather than sitting quietly, waiting for change. It has also taught me to know when to use my voice; sometimes sitting, listening, and a whisper in the right ear at the right time will get you more than a hundred loud voices. I think this lesson has helped me be successful at Zynga.
How have mentors/leaders helped or inspired you throughout your career?
My mentor is my mom. She was a postal worker in East Los Angeles and was a single mother who did everything to support her family and coworkers. She raised me to accept every culture, race, faith, and gender and take the time to learn from others’ differences rather than judge them. She taught me to work hard and never care about the limits the world set on me.
My mom was a natural leader; her team loved her and called her for years after she had retired to seek advice and guidance. Six years ago, my mom lost her battle with cancer, and every day she inspires me to work hard, be open-minded and be brave.
I am so fortunate to be surrounded by great mentors and leaders at Zynga who have inspired me in different ways. To name a few, Kate Huber, my boss, inspires me to believe in myself. Paul Evans inspires me to look at all angles. Krystal Bowen reminds me that anything is possible. Phuong Phillips reminds me that no matter where you start, there is no limit to how far you can go. Jeff Ryan reminds me that every voice matters. Their guidance makes me a better person, mother, and a valued member of the Zynga family.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t let fear be your decision-maker. I feel that I let many opportunities pass me by because I was afraid to fail, be alone, be judged, be seen, or not be enough. When you let fear make your decisions, you let regrets take your future. Regretting not being stronger, louder, quieter, being too black, or not being black enough.
I have spent too much time living in fear and regretting letting my fear control my life. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that life will never be easy, and falling on your face will happen, but you can and will get up.
The only limits you have are the ones you set on yourself, and if someone doesn’t see potential in you, it’s not because you are flawed, broken, or imperfect; they just have a narrow view. Wrap yourself in love and confidence and walk in faith. Own your career path — you’ve got this!
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is #ChooseToChallenge (collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge). How have you chosen to challenge? Or have you been inspired by a leader or mentor in your life who has chosen to challenge?
As a WAZ member and BZU board member, I challenge myself every day to advocate for all and use my voice to mentor and advocate for those around me.
I use my role to celebrate Zynga’s diverse talent by sharing their stories and perspectives in our blogs and LinkedIn channel. In my humble opinion, Zynga is more than the games we make; we are an amazing, diverse group of people whose passion is making games that can connect the world. Sharing employees’ stories not only amplifies their voices but also lets other diverse folks know that they too can be whatever they choose to be. If people feel inspired and empowered, we can make a real difference and tear down the walls that prevent us from being united.
What is your favorite Zynga game (past or present) and why?
My favorite Zynga game is Crazy Kitchen. It’s such a fun game. I love it! I started playing it long before I joined Zynga, and I loved that I could add my kids’ pictures to the characters in the game. I remember sitting with a coworker during lunch when I first started working at Zynga and chatting while playing Crazy Kitchen. I still play it today and love looking at my kids’ sweet young faces. It just instantly makes me feel happy.
Tell us a surprising fact about yourself.
I once was in a girl’s band. I love music and singing and secretly wanted to be the first black country female artist, so when I got the chance to meet Trisha Yearwood, it was a dream come true. “Walkaway Joe,” “She’s in Love with the Boy,” and “How do I Live” will live in my playlist FOREVER.