The virtual world of gaming connects millions of people around the planet. Indian-born game developer JILANI SYED helps building the world – a passion that has taken him from India all the way to Hamburg, a city he now considers his second home.
- What’s your company’s business?
InnoGames develops and publishes mobile and browser games. We currently have nine in our portfolio across different genres. Our focus is on strategy games, though. What may still seem odd to many who are not familiar with the games industry and our business model: Our players do not have to pay to play our games. If they pay, they do so voluntarily, for example to gain access to certain advantages.
- What is your role at InnoGames?
My job title is “Team Lead Software Development”. In that role, I manage a team of six software developers. Together, we are working on InnoGames most recent mobile game, Sunrise Village. Since it has already launched, most of our work now goes into adding fresh content to the game.
- What do you value most in your team members?
Aside from strong programming skills, what I value most is a good social fit. InnoGames has eight core values, which are taken quite seriously, such as open information sharing and a willingness to give and receive honest feedback to achieve continuous improvement. My ideal team member not only accepts those core values, but actually lives them in his or her daily work – and inspires others to do so as well.
- If you have friends visiting you in Hamburg: Where do you like to take them?
If it’s their first time in Hamburg, I would take them to the Alster Lake, to Planten un Blomen, and to the Elbphilharmonie.
- How do you recruit and maintain the right people?
I believe there are three main factors of success: The first is a competitive salary. If you want the best talents, you need to pay them properly. According to Kienbaum Consultants, InnoGames’ salaries are in the top third of the German market. However, salary is not everything, of course. We also offer a true hybrid work model, our own institute for advanced training called InnoVersity, a 24-hour gym, and many other perks. Thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – we put a lot of effort in creating a work atmosphere 2 characterized by openness, fun and fairness.
- How did you get into your current career path?
Even as a child, I was already fascinated by video games. I would sneak out to the video game store and play games every chance I got. That fascination stuck with me and eventually drove me to pursue a Masters in Game Programming at the University of Hull. After graduation, I started working at a small UK games studio, which greatly improved my programming skills. Later I moved to Poland, where I worked at a mobile games studio for two and a half years. This gave me exposure to an international work culture. Before joining InnoGames, I spent two years working for Bigpoint, one of our local competitors.
- Is there anything that has truly scared you?
Fortunately, I can say that none of my experiences so far have truly scared me. Nevertheless, I have gone through some very challenging times in the past. Leaving a small town in India to move to the UK for my postgraduate education was one of them. As exciting as it might sound, the sudden shift in outlook and perspective, the exposure to a modern Western culture, and the adjustment to the weather really were a lot to tackle all at once. But I learned the only way to overcome such challenges is to face them and fight through.
- Are there any differences between the working life in Germany and that in your home country?
The work cultures of India and Germany are, indeed, very different. Most notably, in Germany, companies put a lot of effort into creating a good worklife balance. Indian work culture has been improving in that regard, but the change is rather slow-paced.
- Where do you like to spend your vacations?
One of the best vacations I have ever had was in Grand Paradiso, in Italy. It’s surrounded by gorgeous mountains and lakes. I really do enjoy going on hikes in the mountains. The feeling of reaching the mountain peak and admiring the beauty of nature from the top is truly amazing. I would love to visit Gran Paradiso again. However, on my next holiday, I‘m planning to visit the Black Forest. I‘ve been hearing a lot of good things about it.
- Where do you consider home?
I consider India my true home, but Hamburg has already become my second home. I have only been here for about two years, but the wonderful people I have met here have already rooted me deeply in this city. Not to forget: It‘s beautiful here. The Elbe River, the Alster Lake, the lush parks – there’s so much nature around. At the same time, there are a lot of events and opportunities to meet new people and to make new connections from different countries. This provides many great opportunities to learn a lot about other cultures.
- Apart from Hamburg, which are your two favourite cities worldwide?
I would say London and Hyderabad. I really appreciate London for its diversity. In Hyderabad, I have spent a great portion of my life. Accordingly, I have many fond memories of it. Plus, it’s a fascinating city as such, with a lot of history, culture and great food.
- What’s your favorite restaurant in Hamburg?
I love vegan food, so I visit the Vegan Eagle whenever I can.
- Your job is very time-consuming. What is your idea of a perfect weekend without work?
For me, the weekend is a time to relax and restore my energy by spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy going on long nature walks and spending time on exploring the city. There are so many hidden gems that surprise you and tell you about the history of the city. I also like to try out all the different cuisines available here.
- Which management tools or methods have you found particularly useful for your work?
We rely heavily on Scrum agile methodologies for our project management. It helps us to organize and plan our production and to react quickly to any challenges that impact our roadmap. The games industry is highly dynamic, hence anything that makes us more flexible is extremely valuable to us.
- Do you have any advice for people embarking on a career while in their twenties?
I always advise young people to find their passion and follow it. As Jim Carrey said, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing whatyou love.” The trick is in figuring out what you love. To do
that, follow your curiosity and let it lead you to a passion.
Born in 1985 in a small town in Kadapa, India, Jilani Syed graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru Technology University, Hyderabad, in Computer Science Engineering and then gained a M.Sc from the University of Hull, UK. After leaving university, he has been developing games for several leading studios.