Tech About Town pays a homage to Ways We Work and scours the knobby corners of Waterloo Region to bring you stories of tech professionals who work remotely.
Jamieson Cox is an entertainment reporter at the The Verge, a New York-based online news-and-media network covering technology, science, art, and culture. He also does it from Waterloo. Alex Kinsella and I talked to him about workspace, how he stays connected to coworkers and community, and the electronic alt-beauty of Charlotte Day Wilson’s music.
Q – How did you get started at The Verge? And what are you doing in Waterloo Region?
A – I came here in 2009 to study engineering at the University of Waterloo . . . I graduated in 2014 with a degree in chemical engineering. And I had been freelancing while I was in undergrad from 2011 onwards for sites like Pitchfork, Billboard and Times, so mostly music sites. And that’s still the bulk of my work for The Verge — writing music criticism. I worked on contract at the University of Waterloo. I knew the editor of the Verge entertainment section and I was a big fan of hers and was curious about writing full-time.
The reason I had wanted to stay after graduating was because my boyfriend was studying to be an optometrist. And I came to really like Waterloo. It has all the amenities of a larger city; but I live in Uptown Waterloo and it feels like my little village. I can walk to everything within fifteen minutes. I grew up in Timmins, which means that I don’t take KW’s size for granted.
Q – So where do you work? Is it a mix of home and shared space, or a coffee shop?
A – I work almost entirely from my home in Uptown Waterloo; but that’s something I’m trying to change as I become more comfortable with the whole idea of working from home in the first place.
In August 2015, I had only been working from home for about two months, so I’d mostly been too driven by “new job fear” (or whatever you want to call it) to notice the quiet in my apartment.
When I started I had desk separation anxiety and didn’t want to be far from Slack at anytime in case someone needed me.
But as the weeks went by, and I became more comfortable in my position, I started to realize just how silent it can be in here. There are days where I go from 7:30 a.m. to around 5:00 p.m. without saying a word out loud, which seems — insane!
So I’m trying to make more of an effort to get out in the afternoons, even if it’s just to order a coffee and feel some sort of a social buzz around me.
My favourite spots so far are all within a few minutes’ walk of my apartment: Settlement Co., Seven Shores, the Princess Café, DVLB, Starbucks, Honey Bake Shop, and the Jane Bond (if it’s a Friday afternoon and I’m feeling relaxed). I live right at King and Erb, so it’s just a few blocks down the street.
Q – What’s your day-to-day like?
A – I wake up at 7:30 a.m./8 a.m., preparing myself to be a person and do email triage. For the rest of the day, I chip away at my docket. My office is in my living room. Our east coast news shift is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and by 5 p.m. I’m starting to get dinner ready and puttering around the house. It’s a very conventional schedule. I think routine fosters good work.
Q – How do you stay connected with your coworkers?
A – I work for a media company that’s still close to its start-up days, so we have a whole portfolio of online tools we use to stay connected.
Slack is the most important, as that’s where we process all of our news on a daily basis, organize ourselves into our pods, and chat with . . . anyone we need to talk to within the whole company.
We use Zoom for our teleconferencing, and Google Hangouts. We edit longer pieces using Google Docs and organize ourselves using Trello. I’m sure there are a few other things I’m missing, but those are the big ones.
Q – How do you connect with the tech community here in Waterloo Region?
A – I’m not part of the tech community here as much as I’m community-adjacent. So I stay connected in low-level ways: through people I follow on Twitter, through articles in the Record, through lurking the Waterloo Region Connected forums.
Other than friends I have working in the tech community, my interest in it has to do with how it’s making the region more vital and exciting, more of a place people want to be than a place people end up in.
A strong tech community means more restaurants for me to visit, more fun and unexpected stuff for me to do on a weekend night, more people to meet. I guess that might sound a little selfish, but that’s the bulk of my interest in the bustling world of tech here.
I might not be directly involved, but it’s making my community a better place. Find your places. Hang out at places and you’ll fall into conversations.
Q – You mention you’re a music critic. Quick, what’s your current jam?
A – Charlotte Day Wilson’s “After All,” which you can hear here. So I like this song because it reminds me of people like Jessie Ware and Rhye, artists who have really mastered this kind of refined, gentle soul. It’s sensual music, but it’s not aggressive in any way. And this song doesn’t really have much to do with love or sex — it’s about taking time to take care of yourself when you need it. It’s reflective. She has a lovely voice and she’s just starting her solo career, so I’m looking forward to seeing where her career takes her.
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What’s happening around town? We see and hear that . . . April 21-26 is More Mosh Less Macho Fest, hosted by the Friendzone Collective. Check out this two-day, hard-core fest centered around breaking the masculinity complex. Musical talent includes Halifax pop-core, KW queer punk and more. ($10/PWYC | Open Sesame, 220 King St. W., Kitchener.) . . . Winner of multiple Sundance Film Festival awards, Watchers of the Sky is a documentary about lawyer Raphael Lemkin, and his efforts to establish the Genocide Convention. The Centre for international Governance (CIGI) hosts this free cinema experience April 25 at 7 p.m. (CIGI Campus Auditorium, 67 Erb St. W., Waterloo.) . . . Nerd Nite KW is April 27, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Speaker sessions include The Epidemiology of Infectious Optimism. Be there and be square. ($5 | 46 King St. N., Waterloo.) . . . Few things in tech last a decade; so we’re uber-excited for our friends at The Accelerator Centre as the AC celebrates its 10th anniversary with an open house May 17, noon-2 p.m. (Accelerator Centre, 295 Hagey Blvd., Waterloo.)