From coworker to community member
2011 was an interesting time. It was my first attempt at freelancing, following an interesting year in London. I worked closely with another developer on a few projects, though remotely. Neither of our homes were suitable for a group workspace due to modern definitions of double rooms and the other requirements of such a space.
I had heard of coworking before thanks to a few follows on Twitter. It was a nice idea, but no way would Cardiff have this… London, maybe. But a quick search later revealed indycube was already on the ball.
We popped in for our trial day. There was only one choice of location, within the ITV Wales Media Centre. Tristan met us in reception and took us to the office. It was a large, spacious floor, full of strategically positioned desks with Mark’s facing the entrance. Mark took it from there and showed us around - the sofa area, the TVs for background noise, the table football, the meeting rooms, the kitchen and the huge choice of desks. We introduced ourselves, bantered with regulars then sat down and worked at the most productive rate in months. We only needed it for a few days in order to wrap up a project before Christmas. But, after the holidays, and a few weeks of working from our homes in a fresh new year of optimism and intentions, we decided to become full-time members.
This location was everything we were looking for. The atmosphere provided a very strong work ethic. Lunch times were held in the ITV Wales canteen where we would often be queuing up with news presenters, weather reporters and other somewhat familiar faces. Although we were freelancers, it felt like we had the resources of a large media organisation. We were very welcome amongst ITV, even as far as acquiring Herman-Miller chairs from other parts of the building that were becoming dormant.
Months went by and the membership numbers increased. There were now a few businesses with full-time office setups. From memory, there was a group of Ruby developers, a group selling specialist chocolate gifts, another specialising in social housing placements. There were numerous others, too, working for themselves - which certainly kept the numbers interesting and skillset varied.
This location had one flaw, purely by location. It would have been a difficult commute by bicycle, and after a few months it felt like I lost the freedom that freelancing provided. I had a 9-5 routine, and the issues of rush hour to boot. One traffic jam too many on the A4232 caused me to surrender the full-time membership and work from home, popping in when needed for meetings and otherwise enjoying the time benefits of no commute.
I didn’t feel 100% committed to freelancing at this point. There were other options at the back of my mind. After being contracted in to help another business with a failing project, and getting it back on track, I accepted their offer of being Lead Developer. Though the company grew impressively, three years of this role made freelancing feel the right choice. It turned out being 6ft 7 is bad news for the spine with a role that involves sitting down all day bar half an hour, and a more flexible time schedule became a necessity that the company was unwilling to provide.
Keeping a rough eye on indycube via Twitter during these years, I saw the media centre was closed and demolished, and they had branched out and secured more locations. They held a seminar in Trade Street for the Community Union partnership. I was quite taken aback by the changes. Everyone except for Mark was a new face. The regulars of the media centre had moved on to other ventures, and many more people were actively involved in the progression of indycube. I felt like an outsider in this club I was once a part of, but the welcome and banter from the new faces made me wish I had never left. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being surrounded by like-minded people, all with their own skillsets but essentially tackling the same goal and standard of living. As for the commute, it’s now a gentle bike ride down the river Taff, through woodland and parks.