Meet Tabby, our Senior Software Engineer, based at our NaturalMotion Studio in London. Tabby’s role consists of a combination of release management and software engineering tasks, ensuring that apps are developed and released smoothly. With the support and help of the NaturalMotion team, Tabby has achieved a vast number of opportunities including becoming a Women at Zynga ambassador and a Mental Health First Aider.
Continue reading to learn more about Tabby’s journey with NaturalMotion so far!
What is your role within NaturalMotion and how did you get here?
I am a Senior Software Engineer on the Release Operations team, based in the London studio. I joined NaturalMotion just over 1.5 years ago (mid-global pandemic!). This is my first role in the gaming industry. I got here via a BA in Politics and English Literature degree, a year spent completing an MSc Computer Science degree, followed by a role in website management/dev for a computer hardware company. Then I moved to London and found a position as a software engineer for a start-up payroll SaaS company. I was made redundant from the start-up at the start of the pandemic, which led me to apply for my current role at NaturalMotion (which I LOVE!).
What is your role and what does it entail?
I describe my role as 1/3 release management and 2/3 software engineering. The Release Ops team covers all Zynga studios, and all platforms, globally.
Release management tasks may include staging a release, managing build binaries, handling metadata, granting user/tester access, and any other platform task that falls under our ‘Release umbrella’ to ensure apps are developed and released smoothly. Each member of the Release Ops team has primary teams that are the first point of contact to support their releases. Building these relationships is important, as is having the additional insight into a game. One of my primaries is the FarmVille3 team- which launched worldwide last year, my first experience of the launch process and was very exciting (if a little stressful- the Google Play console indicates several users that will be affected by any changes, seeing actual user numbers makes you double-check your release staging…).
My software engineering tasks involve a lot of juggling! We always have a Release Ops project and sprint ongoing- currently, this involves a frontend internal tool for the new Google data privacy requirements that we must roll out for all our games that are live on Google Play. I also pick up a lot of ad hoc mini-projects, such as coding tools that help teams with a successful soft/worldwide launch or automating the monitoring of internal Zynga requirements in app binaries. Having access to the platform APIs, and an understanding of release processes works well in creating automated systems to support our game teams! I also interact with and get support from, a lot of our internal tech teams.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
Sometimes it can be challenging to plan and follow a long-term roadmap. If a release is rejected, or something major comes up for a game team, we are often required to suddenly jump on a new task or change direction. Equally, we are often at the mercy of external platform (Apple/Google, etc.) decisions. Since I started, I have had to work with a lot of new tech and languages. I love learning so this is enjoyable but also challenging as it is often the first time it has been implemented.
Since starting with NaturalMotion, how has your growth and development progressed?
Since starting at the company, I’ve been given numerous opportunities to grow and develop. Such opportunities include a career coaching program (Torch), Women at Zynga mentorship, engineering mentorship, Mental Health First Aider training, attending the Women of Silicon Roundabout conference, becoming a Women at Zynga ambassador, and utilising my learning and development budget to purchase further training materials.
I also learn a lot from the people I work with every day. My immediate Release Ops teammates have an impressive amount of expert knowledge regarding release processes, platforms, and game development. Other teams schedule tech talks which I always try to attend. If I ever have further questions, there are numerous pathways to finding an answer- whether it be slack, the Zynga documentation wiki, or lately the internal stack overflow. Reaching out to a colleague directly for support often leads to a discussion/zoom call where I always manage to gain awareness of further tech, or practices, we can leverage in our Release Ops code! Whilst I keep talking to colleagues, reading through ongoing discussions, attending talks, and seizing opportunities offered- I am continuously learning and discovering new, and valuable, understanding.
What is the best career advice someone has given you?
I have two, imparted by mentors:
1) You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) restrict yourself to one mentor (I would add to this that it is helpful to have a mentor outside of your company too!).
2) Take a few minutes each day/week to write down your achievements or keep a list of your ongoing tasks as you complete them. This proves helpful (as I discovered!) for things like the end-of-year reviews, such a time saver if you already have a list as a reference point (shout out to Adrian Hardjono for that insight!).