We call the small area off the lobby at BAVC Media “the Conference Room.” It seems like an odd name for the space because, when I think of a conference room, I think of dark walls and people in suits. This doesn’t describe this space or the people who meet here. The room is compact but its high ceilings lined with vents make it feel breezy and spacious. Walls of windows and sliding glass doors brighten it even on a dreary day. The other walls are painted a happy green apple and crayons sit on the table for doodling. The first time I sat in this room when I interviewed at BAVC Media four years ago, I felt like I was home.
This is where a group of TechSF clients meet every other Friday afternoon. They are visual media and tech workers who are either looking for full-time or freelance work. At different times the group has included a young African American Desktop Support specialist, an Asian American graphic designer, a trans-guy filmmaker, and an award-winning video poet whose parents came from Vietnam. The group represents the diverse workforce that makes up San Francisco. Sometimes the room is packed and sometimes there are just three of us but it’s always a space where people talk about their successes and setbacks, share tips and resources and lift each other up.
The group originally called itself the Job Search Success Team but we changed the name to the Jobs & Gigs Group (or affectionately the JAGG). Over the year people have come and gone as companies and projects snatched them up. But a core group of the freelancers continues to show up. They do this because 1) they are always looking for work and 2) they often work alone in small studios or home offices. The space provides structure and community for people who often fly solo in their work.
On December 16th the JAGG met for the last time in 2016. We ate cookies and drank cider and told stories from the year. Here’s what we heard:
Joe, a motion graphics artist and video producer, joined the JAGG in July. He talked about the “superb set of people” that has cycled through the group and how helpful it has been to share ups and downs in hunting for new clients. He appreciates how the group supports him through the “motions of creating a livelihood” and keeps him on his toes. The year ended “spectacularly” for him when he landed a gig he could only have dreamed about a year ago.
People talked about Keith, an original group member who did ALL the hard work and everything we suggested—mock interviews, multiple resume revisions and attending all his career classes—and how much everyone in the group loved him for his spirit and quiet humility. After a few months in the group, Keith landed a tech support job at AT&T Park. Not only is he is happy and busy, he’s a huge Giant’s fan and he gets to see them every day they play in the park.
Eunice talked about her new job as a Software Quality Analyst for a medical data company. She joined TechSF when she was laid off from a company where she had been for 15 years. Eunice knew after working at one place for so long that she needed to update her skills so she worked hard EVERY day doing all the job search things while completing a Coding for Non-Coders Fast Track certificate in less than 3 months. This was some kind of record, done with grace and resilience.
Jed helped me kick start the group back in February. He believes wholeheartedly in the power of community and connection to make things happen. By mid year, he was crazy busy with work AND about to start an MFA program in film at San Francisco State. By that time he had recruited his friend Andy to join the group. Andy was up to his eyeballs in leather and feathers, creating two promo videos for the Folsom Street Fair. In addition to getting Jed’s help on the project, Andy also snagged Rebecca, Shawn and Melvin from the group to work the set on shoot day, moving props, taking photos and getting actors where they needed to be. Having just moved here from the East Coast, it was Shawn’s initiation to San Francisco and it was perfect.
I thought about a member who wasn’t there. He is middle-aged and has been unemployed for a few years. He often came to the meeting feeling discouraged. In spite of this, others counted on him for his input and encouragement and he always left the room smiling.
Just the act of being together to share successes and setbacks has an impact. The group reminds Andy that progress takes time but it helps people like him persevere through the challenges of finding their place in today’s economy. This little, light-filled room is where it happens every other Friday for as long as people keep showing up.