Coronavirus Q&A:
Kyle Hagler

About Coronavirus Q&A

When the COVID-19 crisis reached us in Gainesville, our instinct was to publish a leadership article about the pandemic. But the truth is, we’re in the same position as everybody else. We’re not medical professionals or global leaders. It’s not our place to tell you how to respond to lockdown measures or how to create a work-from-home routine. We’re a branding agency with clients and a team to protect. And right now, our team is understandably on edge. In just a few days, many of us have seen our partners and friends lose their jobs. Our streets are lined with restaurants and bars that are now closed. Given the enormity of these changes, we decided the most appropriate action was to give everyone at Parisleaf a voice, a creative outlet, an acknowledgment of their feelings, a safety valve for fear, and a record of our agency as we overcome our biggest challenge to date. This is the most honest action we knew how to take. During this eight-part series, you’ll hear from Parisleaf employees on how they’re coping with the ongoing pandemic, both at work and in life, and how they’re finding hope and gratitude during this time of unprecedented unknowns.

Kyle Hagler – Web Developer
When did you realize things were about to radically change?

It seems like it happened overnight. I feel like the NBA took the first official public initiative in the United States, so it began setting in for me when the NBA announced its hiatus. Around that time, I was looking forward to an upcoming Las Vegas vacation I had planned with my brothers. It was a huge disappointment when we had to cancel it because I don’t get to spend much time with them. 

I still remember the day Chad and Ali held a meeting with the team to tell us we were going to try working from home the following Monday, but I think we all knew this was going to be longer-term. It felt like a goodbye when everyone left for the day. I remember Chad giving me a solid goodbye hug, and we all had a melancholic vibe. It’s like we parted ways that day and have been adapting to the new situation ever since. We’re all adjusting to our new realities.

I do miss my old way of life. It’s the old, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but it still feels like a loss. I’ve been going out in my backyard just to get outside and read. Sometimes I’ll go for a drive at the end of the day as a way to get out of the house; I might listen to a podcast. I’m thankful for the luxuries I have in spite of the situation, but at the same time, my appreciation has magnified for the things that were recently taken away. Little things that I didn’t think twice about before. 

We’ve lost sports, going to the movie theater, and music festivals. What are you doing instead?

I have dozens and dozens of unread books on my shelves that I’ve been working through. I recently finished a book called Uncanny Valley, which was recommended to me by Kendyl. It’s a memoir by Anna Wiener, and it covers her story of working in Silicon Valley for tech companies during the tech boom in San Francisco. It sheds light on the whole startup culture in the Bay Area. I’m enjoying reading nonfiction right now, maybe because I want to hear a human perspective and feel feelings. Now I’m reading The Victory Machine by Ethan Strauss, who was a beat writer covering the Golden State Warriors when they were winning all their championships. It’s a tell-all book about the rise and fall of the Warriors’ dynasty. It’s a very interesting look at the business side of basketball and the harsh realities that come with success on that level. It’s made me realize how much I miss basketball and is helping to fill the void, though it’s also a stark reminder that most good things inevitably come to an end. 

I’m also learning to play the piano. It’s very slow-rolling, very hard. I found a guy on YouTube named Michael New, and his videos have been helping me learn all about music theory, chord progressions, and all that. I’m working on the fundamentals for now. I usually sit down at the piano once the workday has ended, and it’s been a great way to unwind. It’s very relaxing and therapeutic. I feel like I’m able to lose myself in the music. 

It’s nice to have a challenge outside of work too. It’s such a challenge that I’m able to push everything else out. It’s complex enough that it can take over and command my undivided attention. It reminds me of when I first started learning to code. I think that’s another reason I’m so drawn to web development; no matter how much you learn, there’s always more to discover. New doorways will always appear. I feel comfortable with the uncertainty and the endless possibilities that lie within that. Music and code are very similar in that way. 

I’m also taking a motion graphics course online, through School of Motion. The focus of this particular course is logo animation. I’m learning how to animate logos in a more interesting way. There’s actually a psychology behind it. There are very subtle things you can do with motion that the viewer might not consciously notice, but it gives the animation more substance and a human feel. It’s been a good way for me to keep my chops sharp and learn some new technologies.

I’m able to do all of these activities alone, but at the same time, I’ve found that I’m missing the ability to have shared experiences. I hope that when this is all over I’m able to cherish that more. I’d love to hang out and watch movies with Carlos (Elisa’s husband) like the days of old or be able to go out for a drink with my friends after work or take off to Savannah for a weekend on a whim. Those things have gone by the wayside and it’s something I’m yearning for. It’s something that I didn’t realize the value of before. 

You recently composed our demo reel music. What was it like to create music for Parisleaf from scratch?

It was my first experience doing something like this. If you’d told me even a few weeks ago I was going to get paid to make songs, I would’ve said you were crazy. It was an interesting challenge, not only because it was new to me, but because it was for our brand. I would normally just create music that is a reflection of myself and how I’m feeling at that time, but this was different because it was for a public-facing project and needed to represent Parisleaf. There was this conceptual framework around it, and I had to think about how things were going to sound to someone other than myself.

I knew the general aesthetic that Chad had in mind for the demo reel, which was “organized chaos.” At the end of the day, we wanted the song to be a celebratory, upbeat vibe. I came up with a few choices and let the team vote. Surprisingly, the song that I thought was most outside the box is the one that actually won the vote. Hopefully, by the end of quarantine, we’ll have a full Percy mixtape.

What have you been doing to stay inspired during this time?

I’ve found what’s really helpful for me is trying to make anything whenever I can. Whether it’s making a cake or a web application or a piece of music or a scarf for your dog. Anything. The process of creation is cathartic, and at the end of the day, I can feel like I’ve created something original, even if it’s just for myself. It’s in the universe. There’s only so much you can do inside, but I’m learning a lot by being “trapped” with my internet connection.

There’s a writer I follow on Twitter, Shea Serrano. He writes about sports and pop culture, and he actually has three New York Times Bestsellers. The books are respectively about rap music, basketball, and movies, so this guy is obviously right in my wheelhouse. A couple of weeks ago, I’d see him pop up on Twitter and announce he was giving away $10K (or another amount) to people in need; they just had to send him a direct message and he would send them a Venmo. He started doing this almost every night, and then other people started offering money for him to give out through his platform. It’s been really nice to see people helping their neighbors out even from across the world. 

How are you staying connected with your friends and family? 

We stay in pretty constant contact via text messages. My coworkers are some of my best friends, and it’s nice that we’re still in touch throughout the day whether it’s through Slack or Zoom meetings. We’re still in touch outside of work too, sending each other funny memes and videos. I also have a long-standing Slack channel with some of my old college friends, and will Facetime with other close friends. I was able, for the first time since this all began, to see my family recently. I went to my parents’ house for dinner and got to see their dogs and my brother. It was really nice, and I realized I took things like that for granted before. I’m fortunate to have my parents so close because I know a lot of the team doesn’t.

As a developer, how have you adjusted to working from home?

I have a great home office setup, stocked with the finest Apple products. It also doubles as my music studio, so it’s quickly becoming my sanctuary. It’s nice to have a space in my house that I can really call my own. It’s my technical oasis. I’m still in the process of fully fleshing out the vibe that I want, so one of my projects has been building this room into something that doesn’t just look like a “dad office.” 

The nature of my work can be very solitary at times, so in that respect, I haven’t had a hard time adjusting. On the other hand, there’s just as much need for collaboration. Through all of this, I have been very proud of our team and how we’ve withstood this curveball. As you said, when it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be so much stronger for having endured this. We’ve proven to each other that we have each other’s backs and are able to adapt. As hard as it has been for all of us, I do feel like everyone has really stepped up to the plate and earned a new kind of trust. 

I really want to shout out Kendyl, Elisa, and Matt. They’re the best designers I’ve ever worked with, all in their own way. Kendyl has a similar mind to me when it comes to user experience. She has this ability to think two (or ten) steps ahead and consider problems with a great level of empathy. We both like to figure out the best way to create a product that’s ultimately helpful and a joy to use, and there’s a shared language in that where we’re often able to quickly manifest practical ideas together. Her weird mind and selfless nature are inspiring and infectious. Elisa is very detail-oriented and thinks outside of the box. She forces me to look at a problem from many different angles, and when you do that, you inevitably start to see things in a different light and discover what you might not have seen upon first glance. She’s such a great friend to me, and I look at the world a lot differently now having worked with and known her. Matt has this wealth of experience and is able to peel back the layers to reveal what makes a company who they are, and ultimately reach deep down to bring to the surface what was always there, both visually and verbally. The end result winds up feeling “surprisingly inevitable,” which is an amazing moment to behold when it happens. He has a great way of encouraging me to constantly look within myself and bring stories forth. Working with this creative team has forced me to be a lot more thoughtful and strategic, and it surely makes me better at building the products that I do. They make me look good.

As our resident cinephile, who do you think should direct the future pandemic movie?

The Coen Brothers. I think they have a very unique way of chronicling the human plight, and they do it subversively and with a lot of wit. I would love to see their take on all of this. They are really good at handling situations with gravity while also injecting their own worldview with an ironic spin. There’s a lot that shouldn’t be laughed at right now, but I think when we look back on this time, we’ll know a lot more about ourselves as humans, and inherently there will be something funny about it. Like people hoarding toilet paper. 

What do you hope “new normal” looks like when this is over?

First and foremost, I am concerned about the movie theater model. With the emergence of streaming platforms, the box office’s days were already seemingly numbered. I hope this isn’t the final nail in the coffin for that experience because going to the cinema has always been a big thing for me, whether it be with fellow cinephile friends or even going alone. It’s like therapy.

Realistically, I hope that when it’s all said and done that people will cherish the little ways in which they are able to experience the world together and make the most of our time. I hope people will appreciate community and value one another’s safety and health, respect our healthcare professionals, do what they can to stay safe and thriving, and treat one another like kings and queens.

What are three questions you don’t have the answers for?

Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?

Is reality a simulation?

Will there ever be another month as long as March of 2020?

I think, collectively, this whole year has been nuts. It’ll be interesting to see how the remaining ¾ of the year plays out. I can’t really even see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d like to know when and how this will end, but I’m here for the ride, and I’ll tell everybody all about it. 

Rest in peace, Kobe and Gigi Bryant. 💜💛

Find more COVID-19 reads and resources here.