Where did you grow up? Where else have you lived? Where do you currently live?
I grew up in the south, spending the first ten years of my life in Georgia and the next eight in Clover, South Carolina. I’d like to say my roots are in the south, but in fact I spent a tremendous portion of my childhood traveling to different parts of the world with my family. In fact, none of my close family are from the US! My parents are from South Africa and New Zealand, and the further you go up the family tree the more countries you see.
I loved the measured pace of South Carolina and there’s a lot to like about small towns like Clover, but when I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be in a major city. I decided to study cognitive science and music industry at USC in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived here ever since.
How would your family and friends describe you (in one word)?
I would hope my family would choose “loving” or “loyal” or another positive trait, but if you ask my sister you might get “annoying”!
The word I hear most is “dedicated”.
How would you describe your family?
I have an eclectic family. We’re more different than similar in most areas of our lives, but the neighborhood calls us the “McGuinness clan” for a reason -- we spend inordinate amounts of time together traveling or feasting. Three generations of us live in California now, and no matter how much we drift away from each other in our habits, ideas, political ideologies, or anything else, we always find satisfaction in visiting new countries as a family or coming together to cook enough food for eight families and struggle, valiantly but futilely, to actually finish it.
What are the values that drive you (to succeed, in life, as a person, etc.)?
I want to live a good life and help provide a better life for those around me.
All sorts of values are wrapped up in that statement, from empathy and compassion in relationships to dedication and discipline in my professional life and more. How I interpret that statement changes as I do, but it nicely focuses the simple goal I’d like to spend my life working toward.
What is the most random thing you’ve ever watched all the way through on Netflix?
Unfortunately I don’t have a Netflix account — or even a TV! But I just watched Planet Earth for the first time, on Netflix, and it blew my mind. Remind me to stay away from the ocean floor.
Shark diving, bungee jumping, or sky diving?
Sky diving, though I’ve yet to work up the courage to actually do it.
Where would you like to go on vacation if you had a month off and money was no object?
Fortunately for us, SimpleTiger is built in a way that lets us travel without having to take a month off, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I haven’t seen Europe since I was a kid, so this spring I’m spending three months there just exploring the wonders of that ancient place.
What is your favorite tech tool and why?
After a long career of binging on tech tools, I now spend most of my time trying to use less of them! I cannot be separated from my laptop for more than a few hours, but it’s not my favorite tool.
My favorite tools are Python and Haskell, the programming languages, because they’re basically magic: by typing words, I can make my own hammer, screwdriver, table saw, Learjet…the limit to what tools you can create for yourself is your personal point of exhaustion. This helps me live a good life — by saving me time on frustrating, difficult, or tedious tasks — and also helps those around me live better lives as they can use these tools as well.
Where is your favorite place to go on a weekday afternoon when you have no plans or obligations?
I live right next to Ballona Creek, a nature preserve in Los Angeles that used to be old Howard Hughes land. A walking path runs from my apartment to the creek, and the creek itself contains a bike path to the Pacific Ocean. On a weekday afternoon, with no plans or obligations, I’ll wander along this path and down the creek to the ocean for a while.
What is your secret to remote-work success?
Structure. For all the wonderful things about remote work, I find I am my own worst enemy. To prevent myself from working at all hours of the day and night, working none of the hours of the day and night, missing tasks, or otherwise flailing around, I keep fairly tight control over my daily schedule.
The closest parallel is to creative work like writing music or writing words; no matter what, you have to sit down every day for your allotted time and just do the work. And the corollary: when work is over, work is over — don’t let it creep into all parts of your life. This is easier said than done.
What is the weirdest scar you have and how did you get it?
I have a thin scar on the surface of my eye from an intensive retina surgery. In high school, my retina spontaneously detached and nearly ripped apart; it took several surgeries — including an experimental one some doctor in Japan had used as a hail mary procedure on a Tokyo patient — to get my eye back in reasonable working order. To this day, my vision is horrible in my right eye.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
When Thomas was just a few years old, he visited China with his mother and father. In the Beijing Ghost Market, he let go of his mother's hand. He was found by his panicked mother an hour later, in a crowded stall, haggling with a merchant over a little abacus . He got a fantastic deal.