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Getting to Know: Oka Tai-Lee

The Happy Cog team is composed of many different people with unique backgrounds, experiences, and skills. In this “Getting to Know” series of blog posts, we hope to let our readers get to know our very talented team as well as we do. From what they do outside of their day jobs to their tastes in music to what inspires them, these posts offer a little glimpse into the lives and personalities of our amazing team.

Meet Oka Tai-Lee: Web Developer – Plant collector, aspiring zookeeper, Star Trek enthusiast 🖖🏻

Q: Hey Oka! Where are you from and where are you currently located? What do you love most about where you reside?  

A: I’m originally from Pittsburgh and after about 15 years away I am back in my childhood neighborhood. I love that I am super close to my family (they live 3 blocks away!). Pittsburgh has a lot to offer – the benefits of a big city like restaurants, bars, museums and shows, but with a more intimate connection to your community. I will, however, always miss living in NYC. I try to visit as often as possible. 

Q: What qualities make a great web developer? 

A: There are many things that make a great dev, but over time I’ve realized that the ability to recognize that you don’t know everything and that it is ok to ask for help is a really important skill. It’s intimidating to raise your hand and ask for help, but if you do – you and your team will only benefit. I had the privilege of being an intern mentor here at HC and this was one of the “skills” I emphasized. 

Q: How did you become interested in web development? What were you doing before Happy Cog and what led you here? 

A: I kind of fell into it! I’ve always been interested in computers and technology and had built a few websites with Dreamweaver (lol, soooo long ago) as a teen. I enjoyed that but in the late 90s, “web development” as we know it now just didn’t seem like a career option, and so I went on with my life with the intention of becoming an elementary school teacher. But, then, about 15 years ago, I started working for Greentech Media (one of HC’s earliest clients!) and got thrown into doing front-end dev for the site and just loved it. That really set my career path as a dev – I’ve worked for the Wall Street Journal, HBO, full-time freelance and for other agencies along the way. I had always wanted to work with Matt again after working with him via Greentech – the stars aligned about 2 years ago and here I am!

Professionally, I’m really inspired by my colleagues at HC. Everyone is so innovative and always trying new things!

Q: Where do you seek inspiration from, both personally and professionally? 

A: Is it corny to say Instagram?? I do a lot of crafting, plant collecting, and baking so I am constantly using Instagram for inspiration on what to make/grow/bake next. There are some really incredible makers out there and I love to follow along and get their tips and tricks.

Professionally, I’m really inspired by my colleagues at HC. Everyone is so innovative and always trying new things! I’m also inspired by shows/movies like Star Trek – I love how many pieces of tech these shows came up with that are part of lives now – like the communicators, touch screens, etc! (Still waiting on that damn transporter though). 

Q: What are you currently reading and watching? 

A: I’ve been on a real Thriller novel kick recently. I just finished Karen McManus’ One of Us is Lying series (and watched the TV show). One of my best friends writes YA thrillers, so besides her books (kitfrick.com – check her out!) – she has been giving me tons of recommendations.

As far as watching – I am really all over the place! But currently, my husband and I can’t get enough of the cheesy and terrible (but also amazing) show from the mid-2000s called Warehouse 13. I’ve also been re-watching a lot of old “comfort tv” aka 90s/early aughts  tv, like Designing Women, Charmed, and Cybil among others.  

Q: What’s one project you’re most proud of and why? 

A: Halo.com – it was the first project I was a tech lead on and it was a fun project with a great client. I would also bring West Monroe in as a close second. It was my first greenfield after being at HC for a month or so. It was on a CMS that I was completely unfamiliar with, but because of the awesome team here I learned so much and felt like I was really successful and an asset to the project.

I think my favorite part is the company culture. Everyone is so genuine here and there are no egos, which is often a huge problem in this industry. Folks at Happy Cog are so supportive and understand that to be successful we all have to work together. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about working at Happy Cog and why? 

A: I think my favorite part is the company culture. Everyone is so genuine here and there are no egos, which is often a huge problem in this industry. Folks at Happy Cog are so supportive and understand that to be successful we all have to work together. 

Q: If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing instead? 

A: Archaeology. I went to college for Classics and I just love ancient history and innovation. I would love to spend my time on digs in interesting places.

Q: What are some interesting facts about yourself that others might not know? 

A: Not well-known for keeping facts about myself to myself, ha!