Welcome to Tako People--a mini series giving you a closer look at the individuals that make Tako tick.
Editor's Note: Tako Agency is and always will be a 100% remote agency. For us, it’s a no brainer and the future of e-commerce related businesses. COVID-19 has thrown the importance of remote work into even sharper relief.
The benefits we enjoy are plentiful: healthy work-life balance, flexible schedule, geographic freedom, minimal pants. But, like anything in life, there are downsides too--one of the biggest being that we can’t invite clients to our offices to hang out! As a result, we miss out on some of the elements of getting to know each other. (If I had my way and we had a “real” office, my title would be Creative Director + Chief Cocktail Party Planner.)
So, we’ve decided to do the next best thing: pull back the curtain and put a face (and backstory) to the name you see on all our emails. The imbibing of cocktails is optional but highly recommended.
Grace, Creative Director
Writer’s note: Mallory is Tako’s Designated Emotional Support Canadian, so I must insist that you read all of her answers in a Canadian accent.
OK, Mal, please introduce yourself to our peeps hanging out at the Stand!
Oh dear. Uhhh. OK! I’m Mallory. I hate talking about myself. I’m Tako’s Technical Director, Senior Developer, Computer Wrangler--all those tech-like things.
Crazy cat lady, crazy horse lady.
That about sums it up.
We are all crazy pet people. Can we have a quick rundown of your professional history?
Right out of university*, I got a job working in customer support as a Guru at Shopify. I did some theme support there, and then moved into [Shopify] Plus doing account management. I tried to go out in the “real world” after that and I hated it, so I went back into tech within a year. I’ve been doing that ever since. I’ve been coding since I was about 12, so development is natural for me.
*Writer’s note: Mallory is an intolerable showoff who double majored in Biology and Biological Anthropology at Trent University. In case that was not enough, she also has an undeclared computer science minor and a diploma in photojournalism from Loyalist College (which is the same as an Associate’s Degree here in the States).
What do you mean when you say you went out into “the real world”?
I mean I got a job that makes you put on pants and leave the house every day. They don’t like it when you smell like horses*, which is weird. That “real life job” was as a Data Quality Analyst at a Children’s Aid Society.
Despite the dress code I did some really good, impactful work. Particularly important to me was the contribution I made to improving outcomes for indigenous youth. The structure of the job, though, just wasn’t for me. There are only so many hours a day I can look at Excel and not want to jump off a building.
*This will make sense later; just stay with us.
So, you’d been really entrenched in the tech world [at Shopify] before jumping into that “real world” job. Did you have any reservations about that transition beforehand?
No, actually. Mainly because the job I took provided a pension and other benefits. Pensions are really uncommon in the tech industry, but Children’s Aid could offer them because the job I took was a unionized one.
Also, I just thought I should try [a “real world” job] because, “This is the way the rest of the world is, so I’d better get my shit together and give it an attempt.” And I did! I had just worked so long in the tech sphere where things are a lot more flexible, it was hard to make that switch.
Our parents’ generation was like, “Find a job and stick with it for 40 years and then get a pension.” I literally can’t picture doing a job I hate for decades just to get a pension. That’s not really the way the world works anymore.
Do you consider yourself to be creative?
Alright...you’ve gotta give me more than that, lol. Tell me about how you are creative.
[sigh] I’m a classically trained pianist and vocalist. I’ve been musical since I was a kid. I’ve always been involved in art somehow, whether that be drawing, painting, music, or acting. I did a fair amount of musical theater. Hated it, but whatever. I did it.
I also see development as sort of an art form. Like, the way I approach a problem is completely unique compared to how someone else might.
I also have an intrinsic creative ability to see a project from the 30,000-foot view, so I’m not just focusing on how to develop something--I’m seeing how the development impacts other parts of the business or application. I ask things like, “How does this add value--or complications--to the business?” Then I come up with creative solutions for that stuff. In the world of development, this “big picture thinking” is less common.
When do you feel the most creative?
Right now, with coronavirus*, I’m really struggling. I’ve been having a hard time feeling creative. I have to force it a little bit for my job [at Tako], but it’s been rough. I traditionally spend a lot of time on the road during the summer--I love to travel in the summertime, but I haven’t been able to get out at all this year. [sigh] Aside from that...music is really helpful for me creativity-wise.
*Mallory has not contracted COVID-19, but its consequent restrictions have taken their toll.
What kind of music?
Oh everything--absolutely everything. When I’m really hard-coding, I’ll listen to video game soundtracks, classical music...that sort of stuff. When I’m just day-to-day focusing, it changes all the time.
My favorite band is Barenaked Ladies. People don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s true. But I can go from that to Rammstein--which is, ya know, angry German metal--in like, half a second. From there, I could go back to classical, or to country, or to f*ckin weird proto-European reconstructed language music. I just love exploring music.
I was supposed to go to the symphony a bunch this year; I bought a season pass to the Toronto Symphony, but that, obviously, went the way of everything else fun in 2020.
Editor’s Note: Mallory LOVES Rammstein. Like, really REALLY loves Rammstein.
What made you decide to pursue a remote career?
My first job [at Shopify] was remote, actually. I’ve gone back to working in an office a couple of times between remote jobs. As much as I’d enjoy that a couple of times a week, I really hated doing it all the time; mainly because it’s hard to run a farm and go to work every day. The flexibility just isn’t there. Also, I find that I get a lot more done from home because I don’t have fifty people coming up to me to talk or whatever.
So, I’d say what keeps me in remote jobs is the flexibility...and the ability to wear track pants. Very important.
OK, so I know what you mean when you say “run a farm,” but can you expound on that a bit for our readers? How long have you been at the farm, what does your day-to-day look like, and what’s your favorite part of owning it?
Ah, yeah. I, along with my family, bought a farm in October 2016, so have been here just over 4 years. I'm lucky to have parents who continue to support a child who never grew out of her horse-craziness.
Day-to-day depends on the season because summer tasks and winter tasks look very different. Generally speaking, I get up around 7 or 7:30 and feed horses by 8:30. In the summer, they live outside on hay 24/7 so they're less grumpy if I'm late. In winter, though, they're in at night so if I'm late for breakfast...I have angry ponies. [laughs]
I'll also clean the stalls either first thing or just before I bring them in. In the summer, spring, and fall, I spend the evenings riding and training. In winter--not so much, due to the dark, cold crap [outside]. In winter I send my show horse, Sam, to another farm, which has an indoor arena, and I’ll go over there to see him and ride.
Favorite things? Having total control over the care of my animals. Being able to just walk outside and hang out with them, or go for a ride, is the best experience. I dreamed about this as a kid and I'm so lucky to have had it happen by the time I was 25. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. My mental health is in such a good place because [the farm] keeps me busy, grounded, and on a schedule.
OK--thanks for making sense of that for us! Back to remote work...what’s the most challenging thing about working remotely?
Definitely making sure that you have good work-life balance. I’ve always been bad at that, but recently I’ve been doing better. Like, I very rarely work outside my office because this is the space I’ve set aside for work and the rest of my home is space I’ve set aside for living.
I also make it a point to keep a consistent daily schedule. “This is when I take lunch”--that sort of thing.
Do you have a “favorite project” you’ve ever worked on at Tako?
Tako’s such a big part of my life, we don’t spell “taco” with a ‘c’ in [my family’s] house anymore. I honestly have my hands in so many different things, it’s impossible to choose. Even if I could pick favorites, I’d try not to. I do have clients that I really click with and enjoy doing work with, though.
OK, give me one of those!
Doug at Orenda is my homeboy. He followed me on Instagram, so we’re friends now. He’s a super dude.
Who are three professionals, mentors, or other people you admire?
My [riding] coach, Briannon Johnson, is unreal. She works so hard. It’s incredible what she’s accomplished as a rider and a trainer, and she’s such a good human. It’s nearly impossible to become an international rider without a lot of money, and she’s done it. She’s so f*cking inspirational. I am very privileged to ride with her.
Creatively, I’m a really big fan of people who are willing to push boundaries and take risks. That’s why I love Rammstein so much. Their singer, Till Lindemann, who does all their lyrics, is f*cking crazy, but man, I admire that guy for a lot of the work he’s done. He’s not afraid of anything and it works out for them, you know? To sell out stadiums in North America and not even sing in English is a really big deal.
Third would be George f*ckin Lucas. That guy created Star Wars and Indiana Jones. That came out of his f*ckin head. George Lucas, I don’t know what you’re smokin’, but I want some of it because where the f*ck did that come from? He created a whole world of space politics.
Editor’s Note: Who needs real politics when you have space politics?
What do you do in your spare time?
What is “spare time”?
Well, I ride horses and train other riders and do stuff around the farm and house. I’m a certified saddle-fitter, so I do that.
[Pre-COVID] I saw a lot of live music. I love live music. I’m so bummed out that I don’t get any of that right now. I like to eat...and road-tripping. I f*cking miss going places.
What’s your favorite place you’ve road tripped to in the last several years?
I’d say Kentucky. I worked there for a while and it’s such a neat place for horse people. It’s also beautiful.
Nice. OK...last question. What’s your favorite taco filling?
Oh dear. Cheese.
Any particular kind of cheese?
I’m not particular about cheese. I just like cheese. This is the most American thing I could say, but you can put cheese on anything and serve it to me. I’ll be a happy lady.
Wait, why is that an American thing to say? Is cheese not a big deal in Canada?
Well, Europeans just have this joke that Americans put melted cheese on everything. But I guess [Canadians] do it too. I mean, we invented poutine.
Er...“Poo-teen” for you bastard non-French speakers.
Yeah, that has always looked so gross to me.
[frustrated breathing] Why do Americans say this?? It’s literally fries with gravy and melted cheese.
I think it’s the gravy that throws me off.
You’ve never had gravy on fries?
Then you haven’t lived.
This debate went on for another 9 minutes. No, I am not exaggerating. I will spare you the rest. Thanks Mallory for opening up an hour in your airtight schedule to talk to us. :)
We’re taking a little break for the holidays here at the Tako Stand, but we’ll be back in the New Year for an interview with Tako's Ops Wizard, Emma. (It me!) Hopefully, Grace (our Creative Director and my interviewer) does not spill too many of my secrets. Happy holidays, ya’ll!