WHO: Margaret Ng, General Manager, Zynga
WHERE: San Francisco
SUCCESS STORY: Becoming General Manager @ Zynga; Life/Success Coach; being my true self and being amazed by the sheer power of it!
WORK SCHEDULE: Monday to Friday, 10:30 am to 7:30pm on most days.
KIDS: Sassy girl Brooklyn age 2+.
SANITY VICE: Bon Appetit magazine, grilled cheese sandwiches with a slice of tomato, a good bowl of noodle soup such as ramen, wonton noodle soup, etc.
RECENT SMART READ: “Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life,” by Wayne Dyer
BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: I have two: (1) Dress in your workout clothes to go to bed so when you get up, you have one less excuse. AND, you’re already dressed to go to the gym or run or do a quick home morning routine; (2) Write down your 3 goals for the next day. When you get into work in the morning, you can hit the ground running.
BETTER WAY TO SAY WORK-LIFE BALANCE? How about just “Life.”? (Smile.) I love my work life and I love my non-work life. I love my time with friends and I love my alone time. I love food (so much) and I love being fit and strong. All of this meshes together and intertwines to create the rich tapestry that I call my “Life.” It’s like a chocolate chip cookie. You should taste it when you put some sea salt on top. Sweet is good but juxtaposed against a little salty… it is another dimension of tasty!
5 Questions for “Mags”
1. You recently took the lead as General Manager of a mobile game for Zynga due out next year, which means you’re running the show. Congratulations and how is it going?
It is an incredible experience on so many levels. It is hard but I’m having a blast. I stayed too long in my last role thinking it would be good to be on familiar ground as I juggled a new baby and a demanding job. Not true! When you step into very big challenge, you are making a commitment to change. This is both scary and exhilarating. When you are challenged and your work is aligned with your core values (very important), you have so much more energy. You become focused and excited which makes you more efficient. When you are bored, uninspired, things drag on. It actually takes you more energy and time to complete tasks and goals. Ironically, taking on a challenging new role has given me a more balanced life.
2. Do you think it’s fair to say that stepping up your career has in fact afforded you more flexibility? It’s an interesting point for women when considering career options post children.
Yes, I think that is somewhat fair. If you’re more senior, you leverage to negotiate work schedules. However, my flexibility is not seniority-based. My company trusts me to make good decisions. I have a reputation as a hard worker with high standards. With that as a foundation, I’m afforded flexibility. I pay it forward with the teams. Our culture is based on trust. If anyone on my team needs a flexible schedule now and then, that is OK. It is unrelated to seniority. I also want to acknowledge that things are different in Silicon Valley. We have more flexible work schedules than traditional industries. I purposely sought out companies that trust employees to be results-oriented and not primarily schedule-oriented. Not everyone has this option.
3. You mentioned this phase of your career is called “Mags 3.0.” I love that Mags 3.0 has an accountability partner of sorts — your friend Jean who is working on her own personal growth, which she calls, “The Year of Jean.” What kinds of things do you all support each other on and how often do you check in together?
Jean works on another team at my company. She is in a different discipline than I, wicked smart and has been in the workforce many fewer years. She invited me to have coffee for a bit of coaching and advice. While talking about her situation, I shared with her that she was not alone and that I was going through something similar. Sometimes your learning doesn’t come from a mentor or a manager. If you keep your mind and heart open, you learnings from anyone. It is really fun to have a friend that you tell. We’ll see each other at the gym and I’ll ask her, “How’s the Year of Jean?” She’ll laugh and ask me about Mags 3.0. It is no different than, say, a commitment to stay fit. If we made a pact to do that, I would probably check out what she put on her lunch plate and haze her a bit if she had fried chicken.
4. What are you doing to “work smarter” these days?
I get very, very clear about what my objectives are and in what timeframe. The night before, I write down the 3 things I want to achieve the next day. I come in the next morning ready to go. Prior to that, I’ve already decided what I want to get done that week, and prior to that, the quarter. Do you see how you are paving your own path? My CEO, Don Mattrick, gave me great advice. He said if you want to focus on something, look at your calendar and make sure the amount of time you spend on your goal is commensurate with your goal. Change your calendar, change your focus.
5. What advice do you live by as a working mom?
My kid has taught me more than anyone else. When my little girl was about 6 months old, I watched her as she stared out the window. She was just taking it all in. At that moment, I decided to be more like her. Take it all in; don’t be jaded. I have a picture of her playing with a balloon with unbridled glee. It reminds me to laugh out loud. Working and having kids can be so stressful. But, that is just one perspective. I choose to have a different perspective. Life is actually pretty awesome, especially when blessed with family. All those stressful, hard challenges at work or at home don’t make my life. They are presents wrapped in funny wrapping paper. They are opportunities for me to grow into who I am.
5+ Is there anything else you would like to mention?
If there was one message I could get out there, it is this. You can create your own path. In fact, you must create your own path because no one else will do it. How? You make a declaration to do so and then be curious and be bold. My daughter’s name is Brooklyn. People ask me all the time how I decided on that name. My husband and I love New York City. On one trip, a friend of mine who lived there for years said you should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and see Manhattan from there. We did.We saw Manhattan from a whole new perspective. And we were introduced to a quirky, fun neighborhood full of up-and-coming restaurants and traditional old-school eateries. What an adventure. We named our beauty Brooklyn to remind us to always travel and to cross the bridge when given the chance. You’ll never know what is on the other side and in fact, you might be very pleasantly surprised. Be open, curious and bold.
Also, if you are going to take up a challenge, small or large, consider building a support team. I ask anyone and everyone for advice and help. It takes a village of support. I actively seek out mentors to be on the “Mags Board of Directors.” Treat yourself like an entity worthy of investment.