Allie has been leading all things brand and marketing for 10+ years at startups, Fortune 500 companies, agencies, investment firms, and nonprofits. Fun fact: She’s also a certified yoga and meditation teacher—with dreams of her own sandwich shop. 🥪
Tango empowers teams to share and scale their knowledge so everyone can be their best at work. And we’re equally passionate about empowering our own team to be their best at work, outside of work, and everywhere in between. This series is all about the people behind the product (the Mangos behind Tango, if you will 🤗) and everything they bring to the team that makes us stronger.
Tango Product Designer Mark Austin has a refreshing perspective on hobbies: Why not just do things that make us happy? 🤯
Mark’s philosophy led him to a hobby-turned-passion. Something that gives him an outlet for creativity that isn’t critiqued and growth that is more tangible than a bar graph—gardening. He claims he’s not an expert in the field, but we think he’s cultivated some fruitful insights and tips worth sharing.
Let’s dig into his story! Who knows, it may just be the seed you need to start your next hobby.
Mark’s 1-pan 5-minute breakfast burrito (scroll to the bottom) 🌯
The smell of fresh dill 🌱
You have an interesting philosophy on hobbies. Tell us about it!
Over the last few years, I began to think more deeply about my life and what brings me happiness. I realized that since I began my career, I had been so determined to prove myself that I had let other aspects of my personality languish. As a designer, you’re often expected to “wow” others with your efforts. I had become so accustomed to receiving praise for my work that I had no patience for anything that I wasn’t great at immediately—including hobbies.
I decided to make a point to explore new interests without the expectation of a particular outcome or level of mastery. Now I take note when something interests me and I look at hobbies as opportunities to make small investments in myself. Over time these small investments have actually started to add up to real knowledge, skills, and results.
What’s your most recent hobby and how did you stumble upon it?
I’ve been getting into gardening lately. My wife and I bought a home a few years ago and I've appreciated the time spent making it our own. At first, it was just small projects. Trying to get some grass to grow in a shady patch, or planting a few boxwoods in an otherwise barren front yard. From there I just kept going. With each new project I learn a little more. It has blossomed into a real passion for me.
What about gardening keeps you coming back?
Beyond a sincere interest in the subject, I think it comes down to two things:
The satisfaction I get from making something dramatically better through a bit of hard work, and
The feeling of peace I get from spending time outside around plants.
Both have been present in my life for a long time. In college, I would detail cars on the side to make a little extra income. Improving a tired landscape gives me the same pleasure as polishing a neglected sedan.
How has your experience with gardening impacted your work mindset?
In digital product design, it can be difficult to appreciate the outcomes of your efforts. At best, you might receive some positive anecdotal feedback or see a KPI improve. But there’s nearly always debate as to how much your work had a direct impact on that outcome. With gardening, I’m able to see tangible results of my efforts which gives me a lot of fulfillment. As long as my wife and I get joy from a pruned tree or a new flower bed, it’s a win—hands down.
Beyond that, I’ve found that having another way for me to express myself creatively helps me stay balanced. Because I don’t get all my self-worth from my contributions as a UX designer, I can take critical feedback at work in stride. I hear it objectively, learn from it, and improve rather than taking it personally.
Any significant moments in your gardening journey?
I just got back from spending a few weeks in western England. There’s a strong culture around landscape design and gardening there that dates back to the 18th century. I took every opportunity I could to soak it in. The most significant for me was a visit to Rosemoor Gardens in Devon. It was huge and consisted of a mixture of formal and informal gardens. I was absolutely floored by the scale and beauty there. I took probably a hundred photos to save ideas for my own garden.
What advice do you have for getting into gardening?
Start small. Don’t expect to have every aspect of your future garden perfectly planned and executed right away. Putting anything into the ground is a success. If it dies, that’s just a lesson you’ll take with you for next season.
How has Tango supported your gardening endeavors?
The biggest benefit would be the headspace and energy I have to pursue interests outside of work. The team is respectful, intentional, and supportive. Most days I’m logging off feeling inspired and motivated rather than drained.
Being fully remote and having flexible schedules also allows me to partake in time sensitive activities when I need to. Gardening is best done when the sun is up. That’s not as important when designing! I also really like how Tango has six volunteer days a year and I’m excited to help out at a small farm near my home that donates fresh products to families in need.
What are you excited to get into next?
I’m hoping to begin reaping the rewards of my efforts from earlier in the year! Our tomato and pepper plants are just beginning to fruit in our vegetable garden. Beyond that, I’m excited to dig a few new beds around some mature arborvitaes on our property that predate our ownership. Inspiration struck recently and I can’t wait to incorporate a few complementary species nearby to make them feel more intentional.
The bottom line
The Tango team comes from a wide range of industries, all with unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives—and we’re stronger for it. Join us.