Success Stories in STEAM: Atticus Tsai-McCarthy ’12
“I was seeking a profession that would still allow for playfulness in my life, and I’m not too far off from that.” As a product designer at LEGO headquarters in Billund, Denmark, Atticus gets to put his lifelong artistic talents to work and pursue his dream job designing for a company whose toys he has played with since he was a child.
“I applied to LEGO multiple times since graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2016,” Atticus recalled. “In September 2019, I was invited to continue the interview process.” For his extensive evaluation, Atticus spent weeks creating a new play set guided by a series of prompts, completed set designs, and developed a comprehensive presentation that won him a seat at a LEGO workshop in Denmark. For the final stage of his interview process, Atticus competed with 24 others for a job with the company. “My Friends Select upbringing was very helpful in my final interview stages, as I never felt any negative feelings toward the others I was competing with,” said Atticus, who was a Friends Select “lifer.” “By conducting myself in a positive and open manner, I was able to show LEGO leadership that I could be a beneficial part of design discourse.”
Atticus is a member of a team that designs LEGO sets corresponding with popular movie releases; two of his completed projects are scheduled for release in late 2021 and 2022, and one is currently in the early stages of planning. His assignments require him to use years of experience in art and design-thinking to conceptualize and ideate while working collaboratively with others. Although his job is intense, he reserves spare time for his personal sketching—preferably cartoons and comics—at home. “I like to revisit and draw from my nostalgia,” he said. “It provides a sense of comfort, and I like that art is something I still do for fun, outside of work.”
Atticus cites his Friends Select teachers in helping him cultivate his artistic talents and hone the skills necessary for college and professional success. “Fred Kogan [in middle school] and Lynda Greenwade P’03, ’12 [in upper school] engaged my interest in the arts through their passion for the subjects they taught,” Atticus said. “They are both influential in the direction I took.” He also notes the skills he developed at Friends Select that set him apart from his college peers. “John Colgan-Davis instilled in me proper note-taking skills that were vital for my CIA classes,” he said. “My CIA classmates frequently asked me to share my notes so they could study for the finals. Suffice it to say, I think they were helpful because most of us finished the tests pretty quickly.”
Atticus’s lifelong connection to Quakerism has also been helpful in living abroad and starting a new job. “Friends Select’s emphasis on openness and being understanding of others has been so pivotal for my experiences,” he said. “Being an accepting person, which has been cultivated since my early days in Friends Select’s Quaker atmosphere, has helped in connecting with peers within the LEGO company and meeting new people in Denmark.”