Meet Siva – NM Spotlight!

16th November 2020

Since joining our London studio in 2015, Siva Ganesamoorthy has been an integral part of the Action-Strategy Group as an Engineering Manager leading the Server team while solving complex technical problems. His commitment to the players’ needs has led to him being a problem-solving hero whose contribution and opinion is continuously respected and appreciated, including in Recruitment matters. While he sees himself as an introvert, his expertise in managing team members has been able to showcase the multi-functional leadership skills that he has acquired in various industries, stemming from working at startups to mobile content industry. 

Keep on reading to find out more about his story.  

What is your role within the team?

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been an Engineering Manager within the Action Strategy Group. I lead the server team that run the Live operations for Dawn of Titans and until recently, Star Wars Commander. 

How did you come to work at NM?

I’ve been at the company for just over four and a half years after joining the Core Games Technology team (CGT) as a Senior Software Engineer in November 2015, supporting both CSR2 and DOT. Within a few months I moved on to DOT and joined the back-end team there. I was promoted to Engineering Manager and became the Lead on the Server Team in January 2018. I decided I wanted to go down the management path instead of being an individual contributor, as I had a lot of experience in managing people through my previous roles at other companies. The promotion represented a good overlap between my technical background and people management skills.

 Tell us a little bit about your background.

“It is your Attitude, not your Aptitude that determines your Altitude in life” – Zig Ziglar

I was born in Newcastle, England, grew up in Singapore, flew my first Solo in a Piper Warrior at the age of 18, did National Service in the Singapore Civil Defence force, went to University in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia and eventually settled back in England where I proceeded to carve out my path as a backend engineer. The above quote by Zig Ziglar sums me up in a lot of ways and I believe has got me where I am today. My industrial journey spans about 20 years, but NaturalMotion is the first Games company that I’ve worked for. Prior to joining the company, I’ve worked in food tech, domains, and mobile content, but mostly in a start-up environment. I like challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone and so in 2011 I took a break from engineering and went into a marketing and commercial role. I decided that I preferred Engineering and came back to it in 2013. Having been in the games industry for some time now, I’ve come to realise that I do really enjoy being part of it. It was one of the items on my bucket list to work for a games company, and I’m happy to have ticked it off. While I have changed industries multiple times in the past, I’ve always used a similar approach; I treat the games I’m working on now as any other application when it comes to ensuring they run smoothly and securely on the servers.

What does your average day look like?

My average day consists of  providing leadership to the Server Team, making sure our team deals with incoming requests, and providing support to other crafts within ASG. I am also involved in high-level strategic thinking for the group. As the Infrastructure Team, we ensure that our servers scale sufficiently in line with concurrents  and are able to handle our in-game events. One of the interesting things about working on games is the continuous cadence of weekly events that affect the type of scale you might get. Depending on the player engagement for a specific event poses questions for how well our infrastructure might cope. We are also an on-call team, so we collaborate with our Live Operations and Site Reliability Engineering teams to ensure all our services run without issues. We also cooperate with our Central Tech partners at Zynga to manage shared services that some of our games use. Finally, we work closely with our QA team to ensure that changes to the services we maintain are tested in isolation.  

What is the overall mission of your team?

Ultimately, anything that we do is risky. What we’re very good at doing, however, is de-risking and thinking ahead of time by going through the planning and analysis phases for anything we try to implement. This involves preparing a plan on how to combat potential problems and evaluating the pros and cons of our actions. Our entire team will always think of how we can all come together to implement features safely and securely while preparing the right tools to support the process.

 How does the mission shape the company culture?

At ASG, we have a very good social vibe. We would usually play darts or in-office golf before the lockdown hit. Even on a leadership level, we always engage with our team members, consider people’s viewpoints and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. We also come in with a lot of strength. We work hard and usually have a lot of tasks to complete, but we allow ourselves the necessary time off to recharge our batteries. It can get tricky when dealing with multiple games as a single team, but we still continue to deliver. This also affects how we treat our players. If a player is blocked by something, we go out of our way to deal with anything that is blocking their in-game journey. 

What would someone be surprised to learn about your company or profession?

We make very high-fidelity games that never fail to wow you. Making games that wow people was a motto created by Torsten Reil, founder of NaturalMotion, and that translates to making them visually stunning. As server engineers, we may not always get as much recognition because of our almost invisible contribution, but as long as no one complains about the unavailability of services, we’re happy. It means that the game is playable, everyone’s enjoying themselves and it satisfies the players’ needs. We pride ourselves in being able to achieve that. 

 How did the company support your growth?

During the first couple of years at the company, I expressed to my line-manager(s) that I wanted to have more leadership responsibilities. I was quite happy to get recognised for my abilities and be appointed as an Engineering Manager, as I was also able to bring in the skills that I’ve gained in my previous management roles. As a leader, I’m also involved in recruiting for my team and the ASG. The company is now looking for an Infrastructure Lead and I am part of that process. It’s always a huge compliment for me when someone asks for my opinion on a candidate who’s being considered for another team, as it shows the company trusts my decision. I’m very introverted, so my leadership role pushes me out of my comfort zone. If I had a more traditional role, I think I would mostly stick to working behind-the-scenes. But working at NaturalMotion has definitely helped expand my boundaries. My own manager also gives me freedom to think about what else I can do in my particular role and how else I can support the business and the larger team in my free time.

 What is it like being diverse in gaming?

Racism was a very big part of my growing up, you could even say I was bullied. In March 2019, Singapore’s Finance Minister, Heng Swee Kiat was quoted in an interview by Today Online as saying that the older generation of Singaporeans were not ready to receive a non-chinese Prime Minister; the very generation in which I grew up struggling with racism. I’ve never observed or experienced racism in any of the companies I’ve worked at in the UK, and especially at NaturalMotion. The colour of my skin doesn’t affect the kind of work I’m doing, which has definitely allowed me to progress at the company. People don’t show micro/macro – aggressions when I’m speaking and I feel I’m being listened to. At the company, we recognise that diversity comes in various forms, from gender to religion, but at the end of the day there is only one  race – the human race.

 What advice would you give to someone who is trying to break into the industry?

As a server engineer, you don’t have to be into gaming. I’m not and to be honest, I’d say I’m bad at it. However, playing the games that are owned by the company you’re applying for is definitely essential. There are definitely key differences between the games when it comes to game play, mechanics, methodologies and the meta. As an engineer, you will want to have some understanding of the sort of game you might be working on one day. Whether you’re trying to break into the industry as a young person or switch from another industry, speaking to the people who are already in the industry is really useful for establishing a network of connections, and platforms such as LinkedIn are there to help you with that. Writing a small game, for example, can also demonstrate your interest, even if the game doesn’t do wonders.