Meet: Mike Pai

Animation/3D Visualization Specialist, NOAA Coastal Services Center

In my job as an animation/3D visualization specialist for NOAA's Coastal Services Center, I create visualizations through animation and graphic design. NOAA is a huge agency that shoulders enormous responsibilities. By building relationships with partners and communities, I strive, through my art, to help others understand and appreciate all of the great work that NOAA does.

Mike Pai

What do you like most about working at NOS?

Everyone here is so down to earth and really cares about the work they do. I don't come from a science background, so I feel like I'm growing and learning new things every day. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is not obsessing over the details. As an artist, I feel that there's always something more to add, some minor detail to make a composition pop. The hard part is balancing artistic goals against deadlines. 

What is your educational background?

I went to Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu for new media arts, and studied animation and visual effects at California's Lightfoot Ltd. Animation Academy.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

I've always loved the ocean, especially in Hawaii where the beach is 15 minutes away from anywhere. My parents owned a sandwich shop right on Waikiki Beach, so I spent my childhood in the water. The one thing I would notice every year is how the beach kept shrinking; so much so that they'd have to close off sections to do beach restorations. This happened every few years, and over time I noticed that the sand had started to change. The fine, soft sand that I grew up with was increasingly turning coarser, pebbly-looking sand. My work today draws heavy inspiration from experiences like these that I had as a kid, and I hope I've captured some of that passion in my work.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I worked with a NOAA partner to produce visualizations for NOAA's Science on a Sphere exhibit, and I really enjoyed the type of work I was producing. It was fun and educational, but even more so, it felt like I was part of something big and positive. I inquired about producing visualizations through an associate at NOAA's Pacific Services Center, and as it happened, they were looking to fill just such a position. I applied, got hired, and the rest is history.

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

To quote the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, "Find a job that you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." I always tell people that happiness is key. If you truly enjoy the work you are doing, not only will you be passionate about it, but that passion and dedication will show through in your work.

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