Coworking Saved My Ass and Can Probably Save This Country
I was fired once about three years ago. Easily, the lowest point of my life at the time but it turned out to be one of the biggest learning experiences of my career.
I didn’t get fired because I had a lack of work ethic or because I didn’t follow specific instructions on a task. I think it boiled down to two things: (1) I didn’t have enough experience at the time and, (2) I didn’t have any support to learn and grow from.
I was the only developer in a small agency of 4 at the time. There was another developer who had long gone off to do his own thing that I could have reached out to but he was at a distance and didn’t provide the mentorship I needed to grow.
So after a few months of struggling to do the best I could, what I’d done, unfortunately, wasn’t good enough. I was back on the road with no job and the clock winding down to find another one before I had to pack up and come back home to The Bahamas. I had a college degree, but when you’re international, most American employers are concerned about what it costs to hire you by getting an H-1B. This led to a lot of interviews but an equal amount of letdowns — It was depressing, to say the least, knowing you did everything in your power to do what you were trained to do but it wasn’t good enough. Thinking back on that moment of my life, I’m not bitter about it at all. I learned from it and, after a few days, I decided to shake out of the funk and get back on my feet to find something new.
While searching around for a new gig, I decided to brand myself in the process. I started studying the other freelancers and independent developers in the industry and from there attempted to build my own brand. I made a logo (not very flattering, I must say), a blog, redesigned my website and even set up a Facebook page — the whole package. As I did my research and my homework to get better in areas that I was lacking, there was still one big problem — I was still doing it all by myself!
After stumbling over a few more blogs in my quest for self-improvement and sustainability, I came across a local tech event that was happening in the area discussing a new platform for mobile app development. What made this event even more worthwhile is that it was sponsored by a larger organization called Tampa Bay WAVE, a coworking space in Tampa, Florida.
At the time, “coworking” was a completely new concept to me. I was intrigued to find out more about how it worked. After networking with a couple of colleagues at the event, I got invited to check out the space the following week. After one visit, I was sold.
“You mean I can just come in and work without anyone asking me if I was international or required a visa?”
It blew my mind, but it also created a level of comfortability that I had gotten used to. I started to get used to the idea that I don’t need a lot of fancy things to do what I need to do. So I proceeded to frequently visit the space and I continued to work on my own project there.
During my time there, I met tons of developers who were willing to share with me their experiences, gotchas and pro-tips. I also met some business and marketing professionals that helped me build my brand and showed me how to sell and promote my work. I came across an accountant who talked to me about the basics of what I should (and should not!) be doing financially.
So after my newly acquired skills from the coworking community, I had a few more interviews and I eventually landed what would be the biggest step in my career by a supportive and talented agency (SPARK I see you!) and the rest is history.
Even though I’ve only probably spent a month in that space, it felt like a whole year! I kept visiting the space more and more and the amount of knowledge helped me to focus on my work, my goals, and helped me regain my confidence and become better at what I do.
Coworking isn’t a brand new concept. Coworking spaces are popping up around the world and changing the way people and countries approach problems. Since visiting and spending time in Tampa Bay WAVE, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit a few more spaces around the country like CoworkJax in Jacksonville and Parisoma in San Francisco.
The most important essence of any coworking space is community. Any coworking space you go to in the world has one thing in common — a strong sense of community with it’s members. Luckily for us, we are tackling this first by growing a community of Bahamian creatives.
Shift The Culture, or STC, is an active and growing community of entrepreneurs experienced in design, development, finance, art, media, environmental conservation, agriculture, business, and many more fields of interest.
We get together to do weekly meetups at local coffee shops where we discuss trends, new ideas, share experiences, work ‘til the crack of dawn on projects and research, and even put our ideas out to the public at our monthly Pitch Nights to get them vetted and potentially funded.
What Shift The Culture has accomplished over the last year is amazing! We’ve learned how to share ideas, empower ourselves, and work together to achieve and create great results.
Our country has its own unique challenges when it comes to innovation and working together here in our hometown. I believe a way that we can begin to make an impact on solving these problems are by tackling them from the inside and working together, smarter, and more efficiently.
I wonder what The Bahamas could achieve if we had a coworking space here in our community…a place (or collection of places) where like-minded individuals could come together to collaborate and share ideas. The biggest missing piece is “a place of our own.” — A space that will bring creatives to build their dreams in a place where events like Meetups, After Hours and Pitch Nights can be hosted along with seminars, workshops, and networking events.
Coworking has opened up a world of opportunities for me and coworking and collaborating with Shift The Culture has shown me what great potential we can have with little effort.
Is there a market for coworking here? A year ago I probably would have said “not really”. However, this past year, building the STC community has shown me that there are enough of us inside and outside of the group that desire something different and want to express our ideas and creativity through our God-given talents.
I think it’s worth a shot, and we’ll do all that we can to take it!
If you are interested in getting involved or keeping up with what we’re doing you can check us out at Shift The Culture’s Facebook Page and our partner Venture Coworking’s Facebook Page