Three years ago we started posting interviews with new employees here on our blog. The exercise stuck, and it's become quite a delightful tradition as we all get the chance to learn more about our newest team member. As time has passed, we realized we've missed out on hearing from a number of employees who've been around long enough that they didn't have the chance to participate in this right of passage, so to speak. Until today.
It is my GREAT honor to kick off this REINTRODUCTION SERIES where we get to "introduce" some Foster Made old timers. First up is Adam Tsai, talented web developer and Foster Made's photogenic poster boy. He and I can both be quite verbose, so without further ado — I hope you enjoy.
A: Hello! I am great, how are you?
A: I was born and raised in Lynchburg, Virginia. It’s a very conservative town that is worthy of the resentment that all kids growing up in it invariably feel.
A: If you had asked 10 year old me, I would have had a fun glamorous answer like Bayside High or 90210 or wherever Doogie Howser lived. But now that I’m old and wise, I recognize that growing up in my crappy little town that I always hated has contributed to who I am today, and that means I wouldn’t change a thing.
A: It feels great! The things I like about working at Foster Made today are the same things that attracted me to the company in the first place. My previous jobs were very old-fashioned. They had dress codes (I never met with clients) and strict working hours, and they didn’t like letting their people work remotely because they didn’t trust their employees to get their jobs done without the watchful gaze of management ever fixated on them. To me that says a lot about how hyper-focused they were on the things that didn’t matter when they should have been directing all of that energy toward the quality of the work. Foster Made understands that the things that don’t matter don’t matter, and the things that do matter matter a lot. Seems obvious, right?
A: I wish I could take all the credit for this, but our office is so filled with strange and wonderful personalities to the point where it’s basically impossible for fun topics not to happen on their own. I suppose I can say that for my part, asking the right questions can lead to interesting or weird conversations if the participants are willing to let it be interesting and weird.
A: You might remember that not long after we moved to the new office, Steve Bishop and I started opting to work in the front room. It was just a matter of wanting sunlight in our lives (from outside and from one another) and being able to observe outside activity. Eventually I realized that the one thing I was really missing from that situation was a surface to arrange all of my personal items, snacks, coffee cups, etc. on. Hence the mezzanine table. I never intended for it to be “mine”, but shortly thereafter, people started treating me like I was some kind of Don Corleone or something. Asking permission to sit, begging my pardon, requesting personal favors on my daughter’s wedding day. And when people treat you with that kind of reverence, you would be a fool to try to stop them. So do I miss being somebody now that I’m stuck at home all day long? Well let’s just say our 2 cats could learn a thing or two about respect.
A: The enjoyability of a project for me often has a lot to do with how easy the client is to get along with. For many projects, the work is just the work, but if the client is cool then it makes all the difference! I will say that probably the most interesting project from a technology stack perspective has to be Pearson’s learning interactives. It’s a learning tool that teachers use in the classroom with digital whiteboards, and it runs on some fun technologies like canvas that I hadn’t had much exposure to before. The folks at Pearson also happen to be unbelievably friendly, so that’s a big bonus.
A: Oh man! I never did put that much thought into it, but since your theory paints such a positive outcome for me, I will choose to buy in, no questions asked. But as I’m sure you can imagine, the uniform life was born less out of a desire to subtly influence people’s opinions about me and more out of sheer laziness. My closet is a FIFO system (first in, first out — I learned that in business school y’aaaaall!), which allows me to not have to make any major decisions with respect to my wardrobe. I can then refocus that energy on figuring out ways to get people to like me. Additionally, whenever I wear a long sleeve shirt with cuffs to work, the buttons clink against the keyboard while I’m typing and it annoys the crap out of me.
A: Maybe cooking? It’s not old-fashioned in the sense that in the olden days, a real man wouldn’t have made his own food unless it was a slab of meat cooked outdoors over an open fire. It’s more old-fashioned in the sense that it’s creating something from scratch, and to me there’s something very satisfying about that. I’m not saying I churn my own butter or anything, but you get the idea.
A: Not at all! True, it is an organization of ill repute inhabited by nothing but thieves and scoundrels, but it’s where I feel I belong.
A: I would like to know what the other sentient life in the universe looks like. I say “what” and not “if” because in my mind, with the universe being as unfathomably vast as it is, it seems virtually impossible that we’re the only sentient life in existence. How could we be?? Also I need to know definitively what David Chase intended with the finale of The Sopranos. Is Tony dead or not?
A: One that sticks out in my mind because it’s the last live event I attended before the COVID lockdown was Michelle Wolf at the DC Improv (which is also one of the best ones I’ve ever seen). Talk of COVID had only just started and we were like “Are we even supposed to be worried about this?” Like not even thinking twice about sitting in a packed room with 300 other people. Oh simpler times. ANYWAY some of my favorites are John Mulaney, Patton Oswalt, the aforementioned Michelle Wolf, Tig Notaro, Ron Funches, Jim Jefferies, Natasha Leggero, Nate Bargatze, Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, Mike Birbiglia, TO NAME A FEW. I have also been loving Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer on every comedy podcast ever (and have you seen Nicole Byer’s “Nailed It!” show on Netflix? It’s like if the Great British Baking Show featured sub-par bakers and gave them intentionally complicated challenges. So funny!). Oh and my all time favorite still has to be Mitch Hedberg. Ok let’s move on.
A: Yes, let’s get this one on the record. I like to take breaks to get up and walk around during work because it’s bad for your body to sit hunched at a desk staring at a screen for 8 hours straight. This habit would probably have gone unnoticed/unremarked upon but for one fortuitous set of circumstances that led to what we’ll call “a merry mix-up”. One day during my first week at Visual Chefs, I went out for a walk. Shawn and Paul were outside discussing whatever business-y things they like to talk about with one another. To understand this story, you need to know that the old office was in the back of a building, and near the entrance was a big alleyway/walkway that led out to a highly-trafficked street. So I walk past Shawn and Paul, wave hello, and proceed through the alleyway. The moment I reach the street, a big unmarked white van pulls up and the driver leans over to ask for directions through the window. We have a brief exchange, he drives off, and I go about my business. What I didn’t realize was that Shawn and Paul were witness to the whole sequence of events, and to them it must have seemed like I was engaging in some illicit affairs. Ever since then, ANYTIME I AM WITHIN 20 FEET OF A DOOR someone asks if I’m going out for a “drug walk”. The end.
A: One thing I try to remember in my day to day life is to not take things personally, because chances are that whatever that thing is, it’s not about me. I think it’s in our nature as people to interpret events through that filter and make everything about ourselves. Once I started making an effort to stop worrying about that, life became a lot less complicated. One caveat, though, is that sometimes it is about you, and if it’s about you in a bad way, you need to fix it. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no way to be sure you’re doing anything right, ever.
A: Thanks Nina! It is a pleasure being your co-worker as well!