I had an invigorating experience today involving Basecamp, two cool people, and a client challenge.
But first, a lot of backstory:
The Ideal Workplace Days
Take a time machine back to visit my workplace in the first half of this decade:
A cute fluffy Australian shepherd rushes up to you, begging you to pet him. A large German shepherd playfully runs up after him, focused on fitting the aussie’s head into her mouth. The shared office suite houses not only me and my coworkers but a smattering of CPAs and other business folks. The company owners have their own “real” offices; an open room called the “war room” houses the interns, part-timers, and old computer parts, while the rest of us full-time young-people types have taken over the former conference room, painted it bright yellow, and have our L-shaped desks lined up in a row. A comfy couch on the other wall (facing the X-box and large monitor dedicated to said X-box) is perfect for tired executives to collapse into after a meeting.
The three of us in the Yellow Room were great pals; we could all type just about as fast as we could talk, and despite being in the same room, would often end up IMing each other in a completely geeky way. Keyboards clattering would be followed by snorts of laughter as we IMed customer haikus or witty commentary back and forth.
I was very lucky to fall into this nearly ideal work experience straight out of college. I could bring my dog to work, I could set my own hours, I had four weeks of paid vacation the first year I worked there (because no one really kept track). Perks aside, I was working with smart, friendly people in a supportive and relaxed environment.
The “Grand Central” Days
After leaving full-time employment, my husband and I went through a tumultuous time which involved some big life direction changes, the beginning of paying self-employment taxes, and living with a family of four. Although I was working “at home,” I didn’t feel lonely because there were usually people around; the family we lived with included a stay-at-home mom with two young children and had an open-door policy with lots of different people coming by all the time, so I could always work out in the living room and be fully entertained.
The Working-Home-Alone Days
When we moved out into our own apartment, I noticed that with Steve being gone all day, there would be some days when I wouldn’t step outside at all or see anyone else at all. When Steve came home, my voice would be rusty with disuse. I became even worse at small talk than I usually am. To combat the onset of social awkwardness, I had to plan time to get together with friends during my “workday” or invite people over for dinner. I’m lucky that I have good friends from college still in-town and also have other close friends from church.
Now: The Beginning-to-Network-Online Days
One thing I’ve missed is having a community of people that I can “talk shop” with; where I can talk about clients and customers and CSS without having to go into a lot of backstory and technical jargon deciphering, where I can get commiserating commentary, different perspectives, and advice. This is one of the reasons why I started this blog and installed Tweetbar.
My forays into social networking have been positive so far. I still feel like a small, invisible fish in a very large pond (I’m still shocked when any stranger starts following me on Twitter), but there have been a few other fish that have bumped into me and kindly swam along for a little while, including one bigger fish who then hired me for some production work on a project!
Finally, back to today…
Today, I had an experience with two people that I’ve only interacted with “online” through blogs, Twitter, and a Basecamp collaboration site in the past couple of months since I’ve started my blog. (I’m not sure what etiquette is right now — do I name them? I won’t, for now.) I was in the midst of a Client Communication Challenge and took a break to vent via a Basecamp message. Over the span of just a few hours, a flurry of commenting sprung up. Sympathy, wry jokes, and “how I work with client” anecdotes were passed back and forth. In the middle of it all, simply because I was analyzing the situation instead of just being frustrated by it, an insight appeared about why communication was so difficult with the client. It was awesome.
I live on the other side of the continent from these two fine folks, we’ve never met in person, but a polite yet exuberant camaraderie seems to be developing. (From my limited perspective, at least; maybe they feel the same way.)
One new thought that I’m having now is to make it a priority to attend an “industry event” next year, and to squeeze money from my budget starting now to try to make it happen. Any suggestions?