I work as a programmer in Zynga's With Friends division, so I write code for Words With Friends, Chess With Friends and all the other With Friends games.
Zynga also develops action and strategy games, and I try to keep up with all the parts of gaming that I don't actively participate in.
I've been here about three months. I previously worked at a smaller Toronto company called Uken Games. I thought it would be amazing to work on games that I and the people I know actually play.
I did a bachelor of engineering, specializing in game design, at McMaster University. In addition to my mandatory engineering courses, I got to take courses on the theory of game design, video editing and other interesting classes. After I graduated, I went to the University of Toronto and did a master's of science in applied computing.
I went to undergrad school thinking I would take chemistry. As a science elective, I took an intro to computer science – how to make a website – and it blew my mind. That's when I dropped all my science courses and switched into engineering. During undergrad everyone made fun of me because I'm such a social gamer. Everyone else in my program was super-hardcore.
I knew I wanted to have a career in industry and not in research. A master's seemed like a good way to get a little bit more advanced knowledge and practical experience. Right off the bat I did a practical component, a research project as an intern at Uken Games, and I stayed on full-time. While doing the internship, I had a research faculty member to guide me and help direct my focus.
One of the dedicated courses in my master's program was a technical entrepreneurship course. We came up with ideas for projects and pitched them and met a lot of people who worked in the industry or industries adjacent to gaming.
My worst experience in the industry? The first time I wrote a piece of code with a really bad bug in it that nobody caught, it crashed all the servers. Everybody does it at some point - it's almost like an initiation. These things happen every now and then. I learned not to stress out and that it's much easier to fix something if you're calm. That's a great skill to have in this industry.
U of T is an intense school. The program is very demanding. Your courses have heavy workloads, so you have to be on top of everything and work hard and efficiently.
Zynga now has 25 million daily active users, so it has huge reach. When you're sitting on the streetcar and the person next to you is playing a game that you helped make, it's the best feeling in the world.