Meet The Heroes: Operations Director, Nayef Zarrour
What motivated you to pursue a career in the video games industry?
I got into the video game industry because I think it’s where future tech — namely blockchain and AI — will be incubated and shaped. I believe that the symbiosis between gaming life and real life is coming together and merging. Being in gaming and working at a studio where we focus on building these tools and creating a game in a sustainable way, including environmentally, financially, and ethically, is very exciting to me. If we can create a hit game using these tools and be among the first to do it, then we have the ability to really help set the direction and culture of monetization of Web3 across the industry.
Whoever wins this game first has the power to shape the industry, and I’m all in for the ride!
What is one thing that people don’t know about you?
I am currently in the process of writing the story of my childhood and teenage years, which I hope to have written by the end of the year. I have had a unique upbringing, living in Ohio, Lebanon, and Brazil, and I have seen things that most people will never see — and hopefully never have to. I grew up in Youngstown, OH, also known as “Mob Town, USA,” because the city was heavily controlled by the Italian mob. Positioned halfway between the mob strongholds of New York and Chicago as well as Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Youngstown became notorious for its deadly violence and corruption. From a sitting U.S. Congressman who was indicted on ten federal charges for corruption to the county representatives, courthouses, police forces, and more, the mob was king. It’s something that has had a profound impact on my life and has shaped who I am today. That’s why I’m excited to share my story with the world.
How do you approach the challenge of balancing the need for cost-effective operations with the need to constantly invest in new technologies and infrastructure for Nyan Heroes?
As a startup, we can leverage cost-effective tools and solutions that are readily available in the market, without the need for expensive enterprise-level development tools. However, as we scale and identify the need for more robust solutions, we will then find the right tools for those needs and make the right investments.
My role is to listen to the team’s needs and find the perfect tools that fit our budget, while also ensuring that the ROI justifies the cost and implementation time. We’re always on the lookout for new tech and infrastructure to improve our operations and deliver value to our players.
Our goal is to strike a balance between investing in the right tools and ensuring that our team members are happier and more productive while delivering excellent products and services to our players.
What metrics do you use to measure success within the team and to track delivery and quality?
We use a variety of metrics to measure success within our team and track delivery and quality. Our first metric is the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) and the dashboard we have set up. We set objectives and key results at the studio level for the entire year, and really hone in on the focus of the quarter. We also help each prospective department set its own objectives and key results that tie into the studio OKRs. We review our OKRs every week and have a dashboard and a tool we built internally to track our progress against them, which we also present to the teams.
If there is a gap between expectations and reality, whether it’s in the financial budget or OKRs and performance, we use key tools to ask the right questions to figure out what happened and how we can improve. Sometimes something didn’t happen, or we just estimated the time wrong. We always assess and learn where we were accurate and where we were not, and then make our tools better.
What unique challenges do you face in managing operations for Nyan Heroes?
I face unique challenges due to the fact that we are a remote gaming studio. Being globally distributed across almost 30 countries, we have to deal with 30 time zones, cultures, societal values, and cultural norms. Integrating all these factors into a single room can be quite challenging, especially when communication styles vary greatly among different regions. We’ve got direct and passive communicators, notable and quiet voices, and we’re all about finding that sweet spot of understanding each other, even if we’ve never met face-to-face.
Another challenge we face is working across time zones. For instance, hiring people based on their locality can be quite challenging because we have to ensure that they can work in the time zones of the team they will be working with. Also, we have to ensure that teams can hand off their work products to other teams in different time zones, while still maintaining a near 24-hour development cycle. This can be quite difficult to achieve, especially when the team needs change, and teams switch.
Navigating remote work and cultural diversity might be one of our biggest challenges for Nyan Heroes, but it’s also what makes us truly unique!
In a rapidly evolving industry, what is your approach to deciding on the most effective integration of new technologies into the studio’s infrastructure?
My approach to deciding on the most effective integration of new technologies into a studio’s infrastructure would be to focus on identifying the studio’s specific needs first. With so many new technologies emerging every day, it’s important to cut out the noise and really listen to what the studio requires. From there, it’s about researching and identifying the companies that are currently solving those specific needs.
In my experience, it’s important to take into consideration the development lifecycle of a technology. For example, some newer technologies like Web 3 and AI may not have a long list of well-known clients yet. This doesn’t mean they’re not effective or valuable, but rather that they’re still in the early stages of development. It’s essential to assess where a product or service is in its lifecycle and ensure that it meets the studio’s current requirements.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that it’s important to be wary of companies that overpromise and underdeliver. Even with demo accounts, it’s important to test the product thoroughly to ensure it meets the studio’s specific needs. Being aware of a product’s development stage can help to avoid any misunderstandings and save time and resources in the long run. This is the lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way.
Who has inspired you to keep following your dreams and why?
My mom! She grew up in Lebanon and only received a fifth-grade education because the schools closed down due to the civil war that had taken over the country. As one of the oldest females in her family, she took care of her four younger siblings. Additionally, when soldiers returned from battle, she was tasked with field-stripping and cleaning the weapons and preparing them for the next day’s battle. She moved to America after marrying my dad, who is also Lebanese. At the time, she didn’t speak English and still only had a fifth-grade education. Driven to gain her education, she earned her GED and received a diploma. From there, she started working various jobs and even started her own business. Now, she’s a caretaker for the elderly and has found her calling and happiness. The people she takes care of adore her! She couldn’t imagine doing anything else in life. Life threw challenges at her, but her resilience and will to rise carried her through. She worked hard every step of the way and always figured things out. What a boss!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
One of my favorite quotes that always comes to mind is “Be the person that you needed when you were a kid.” Even though it’s not something someone specifically told me, it really resonates with me. As an adult, I try to be the person that I needed when I was younger, and do the things that I wished someone had done for me. I know that if I needed it, chances are other people do too.
This advice has really impacted how I approach leadership. In my early days as a CPA, my managers were not kind to their employees. They were successful, but they were also jerks. They didn’t treat people with respect, and it made work miserable. I didn’t want to be like them. Once I rose in my career and started working in leadership positions, I made a conscious effort to be the kind of leader that people actually liked. I wanted to get things done, but I also wanted to make sure that people felt happy and supported while doing it.
Over time, my leadership style has evolved to prioritize kindness and respect, while still achieving quality work. I know that people work better when they’re happy and motivated, so I try to be the kind of leader that inspires those feelings in others. For me, it’s all about showing up as the person that I needed when I was just starting out in my career. I had to learn the hard way — clearly, I have a pattern — and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.
What is your favorite video game to unwind and relax with?
Wait, what? Video games are relaxing? I only play ones that stress me out. I suck at most games. I get into a game like Apex Legends or Fortnite and get annihilated instantly. I haven’t reached a stage where it’s relaxing yet. But even though I get wrecked in these games, I enjoy the challenge. I also stay away from mobile games because I get too addicted to my phone, and the last thing I want on my phone is a game. That is why I have zero mobile games on my phone and stick with PC gaming.
About Nyan Heroes
Nyan Heroes is a free-to-play hero shooter that combines fast-paced, competitive gameplay with a real-world impact. Developed by a remote team of seasoned game developers and powered by Unreal Engine 5 and blockchain technology, Nyan Heroes pays homage to cats and offers a AAA multiplayer experience with epic mech character classes, thrilling cat-like movements, and unique gameplay abilities.
Learn More: nyanheroes.com