Women’s History Month Employee Profile – Deepthi Menon
Since joining Zynga in 2009, Deepthi Menon has seen the radical growth in mobile gaming and been along for the ride inside Zynga’s ever evolving business. Beginning with Zynga in product development for titles like CityVille, YoVille and FishVille, then transforming Zynga India into a game studio powerhouse, Deepthi is now the Senior Vice President for the iconic social mobile word game, Words With Friends. Deepthi joined us for a Leadership Spotlight to talk about her path through gaming and the future of Words With Friends.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to Zynga.
I am an Engineer by background. Working as an Engineer, I was intrigued by the science behind complex decision making. This led me to Stanford to pursue Management. Out of grad school I was looking for an opportunity where data-based decision making would meet deep understanding of consumer psychology in a fast paced environment. Zynga was then a startup doing just that. To top it all, the job was to make games and have fun along the way. This made the choice to join Zynga a no brainer!
What does it mean to you to be a woman in technology and gaming?
Most games I have worked on at Zynga, from the classics FarmVille, FishVille, YoVille, CityVille to Words With Friends today, have a large female audience. Being a woman helps me represent my audience really well and helps me make the right product for our beloved players. I think this has been an advantage in my career as a Product Manager and later as a General Manager at Zynga. I also think women bring a unique value to creative development teams in the way we approach problems, collaborate, and make decisions. I believe teams with a strong representation of women perform better, and I see the industry slowly but surely recognize this in the world of technology and games.
Do you have any mentors or people you look up to within the industry?
Aside from being a leader in gaming, I am a mother of two young girls. In the last 10 years at Zynga, I also took the journey from being a single professional to a mom. This is a big leap when suddenly the task of doing it all is not simple and you start considering slowing down. I have been extremely fortunate that I have had some great professional mentors along the way who have believed in me, invested in me and most importantly pushed me to go beyond what I thought was possible. I am particularly grateful to Frank Gibeau(Zynga’s CEO) and Matt Bromberg (Zynga’s COO) for creating an environment where it’s not only possible for women like me to dream to be in key leadership positions, but we also get the much needed support and mentorship to break out of molds and excel. Such supportive teams are rare and this is what makes Zynga a dream destination for aspiring women leaders in gaming.
As a female leader, how do you approach developing your female employees? Does it differ from how you approach developing your male employees?
I believe raw talent is an imperative for success no matter who you are. Once we know you are excellent at what you do, each individual needs a different support system to fully realize her or his potential. I have noticed that the needs of men and women are different and it is also very dependent on the stage of life they are in. I believe in providing that space and support to my team.
What role have men played in your career or what role do you think they can play in women’s career equality?
I have had more male mentors than female mentors in my career. It’s a sheer reflection of the ratio of men to women in the industry. I am where I am because a lot of very strong men believed in my potential. I believe it’s very important to work in an environment where you have a team, irrespective of men or women, who believe in equal opportunities based on raw talent. It’s an important part of the decision around where you choose to build your career.
Tell me about the future of Words With Friends.
Right now we are at the 10-year mark of Words With Friends and in front of us is a question, “what does the next 10 years look like?” We know we have a very beloved franchise with some really deep relationships with players for whom our game is so much more than a game. This is where they come to keep in touch with their family, with their friends. This is where they come to intellectually exercise their mind. This is a daily go-to for a lot of our players, and our big goal is to make sure we continue to deliver these experiences to our beloved audience by keeping up with technology and moving with them wherever they go. Today mobile phones are the way they interact. In the next 10 years, that can change. It can be another device. It can be another platform. Our goal is to deliver this very unique experience to our players and have this conversation 10 years from now as one of the most beloved franchises in gaming.
What are you most proud of working on the game?
With Words With Friends, we really touch people’s lives on an everyday basis – from people finding their life partners to moms keeping in touch with kids across the globe to people finding their long-lost friends who they have not spoken to in 10 to 15 years. This is a game that truly connects the world. There is a lot of personal impact this game makes, and when I try to fathom or extrapolate the number of people that we affect every day, I feel like there’s real meaning to what we do. This is what keeps me and the game team ticking, and makes our work matter every day.