• Joey Lee

Cover Letter

Cover image

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading. I realize you've probably read dozens if not hundreds of applications, so if you're reading this now I appreciate you, your care, and your consideration.

I'm writing this cover letter to highlight my key qualities and experiences that my CV and portfolio projects might only implicitly communicate.

To be clear: I don't have a "traditional" portfolio. My career trajectory has been atypical. Likely you'd be tempted to dismiss my experiences because they are hard to metricize, to categorize, and to quantify into numbers that could help you to place me relative to other candidates who are vying for this role. I don't blame you for dismissing my application. I get it. It's a lot of work to make a case for someone who breaks your system, but I'm writing this so that if you feel like making a case for me, I can help make it easier to the rest of your team to understand why I might be worth hiring.

So, for lack of tact, here's my "top 5 reasons why you should hire me":

  1. You need/your team needs "fresh" perspective:

    • I can confidently speak to my experiences as:

      • a 30-year-old, multi-lingual, first-generation Korean-American
      • a "global citizen" who has lived in over 7 different cities in 5 different countries
      • a scientist and researcher who has been awarded grants and research positions to work at prestigious institutions like UCLA, MIT, UBC, and NYU and published in peer-reviewed academic journals on subject matter issues in the domains of atmospheric science, urban planning, and design.
      • a technologist who has has built projects that have been covered by major publications like WIRED, LA Times, and the Guardian and exhibited and won awards internationally at renowned venues like SxSW, Ars Electronica, and The Japan Media Arts Festival
      • an author who has published books with publishers like Penguin Random House and Princeton Architectural Press and Verlag Herman-Schmidt and whose work is on permanent display at the Library of Congress,
      • an educator who has taught graduate level courses on data, visualization, web development, and mapping and a technical writer who makes tutorials, workshops, and guides on complex topics and makes them easier to approach and understand.
      • a product designer who has raised and secured funding for self-initiated projects and delivered digital products and experiences.
      • a software developer who actively contributes to open source projects on subjects ranging from machine learning to typography.
  2. You need/your team needs a bridge

    • I'm your "T-shaped" person. I am your versatilist/master generalist with topical expertise (I know a lot about CO2 in cities and mapping!). I'm your temporary expert when it comes to learning about something new and your go-to person when it comes to problem solving and approaching a project from concept to delivery. I can speak fluently between design and engineering, communicate my ideas eloquently in writing and in presentation, and articulate the relevance and importance of a mission across groups with varying interests and needs.
  3. You need/your team needs to build something thoughtful

    • One of my favorite quotes is by service designer J.Paul Neeley where he often says, "by not considering everything, you're forgetting something." I draw from the many communities I've been a part of - from media art to atmospheric science - to explore the blank spots on the map and to identify core needs, bottlenecks, pain points, and questions. My process is as much about designing for problem finding as it is for problem solving. I recognize that the complexity of the world - human behavior, environmental change, organizational processes - cannot be reduced to a number or solved through technological interventions alone. If you say, "Let's change the world!" I'll ask, "To whose benefit/loss?" If you ask, "How many people are in New York?", I'll ask, "According to which administrative boundaries?" My craft is about the process of arriving at the right questions and moving towards possible resolutions.
  4. You need/your team needs to build something you've never built before

    • In every institution and organization I've worked in over the last 8 years, I've been focused on delivering new products - from digital experiences to data to knowledge. My approach centers "technology in the service of the concept" and more importantly tries to center the "misrepresented" and the "marginalized." My expertise is to take seemingly simple questions like, "how many taxi trips can be saved if people were willing to go 5 minutes out of their way in a shared cab?" and turn that into something that can be realized holistically. I know when to build tools when they do not exist and when to defer to existing solutions. My process is about making things real, tangible, and experienceable, learning through making to arrive at something unique, and ultimately sharing new perspectives on issues in the most relevant format.
  5. Your product, to the best of your knowledge, is doing more good than harm

    • To be honest, if you've gotten this far, I commend you, but if the work you do or the products you make leave the world worse off than it makes it better, we're probably not a good fit together. I'd really love the job you're offering because I honestly need to pay my bills and having health care and paid vacation sound really lovely, but not if it means your company profits off the detriment of the others or the environment. If you'd like to learn how you can make a more thoughtful, caring, kind, and considerate product, please, hire me, I can help you with that. And if you can't think of one reason why your product is problematic in one way or another, then you definitely should hire me - I can find those blank spots on your map and help you address them.

Thank you again for taking the time to consider my portfolio, my projects, and experiences. I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,


Github: @joeyklee, Twitter: @leejoeyk