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What We Learned from Entering the Seattle Tech Scene

This past March I moved from Chicago to Seattle. While our earthly possessions traversed the Rockies, my wife Lauren and I corralled our two cats into airline-approved carriers, stuffed them under the seats, and crossed our fingers in hope that the spunky Southwest flight attendants wouldn't incorporate our situation into their pre-flight comedy routine.

Thankfully we arrived unscathed and our moving truck arrived (sort of) on time with (most of) our property. After several weeks of relearning the supermarket aisles, trying out several local transit apps, and learning to walk in the rain without an umbrella, we fell into our rhythm and routines.

So, why did we go through all of this? Why uproot from Chicago, our home for the previous 10 years? The first reason was a combination of our attraction to the natural beauty and associated lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest and the novelty factor of living somewhere new (insert your favorite millennial cliche of craving novel experiences here). The second reason was that Narrative Science wanted to open a second office focused on software development, and Seattle arose as a top contender given its proximity to our tech partners including Tableau and Microsoft. The timing of those two reasons aligned, seemingly along with the stars, and made our dream a reality.

Welcome to Seattle

After accepting Narrative Science’s offer to launch the new office, I traveled to Seattle with a few decision-makers in late winter to scout for office space. Our Chicago office, in which more than 100 Narrative Scientists work across different initiatives, occupies half a floor in a downtown high-rise. Given that for the remainder of 2017 the Seattle office would consist of only myself and a few other Chicago transplants, we knew it wouldn't be wise to isolate our work environment.

We visited nearly a dozen coworking spaces, ranging from WeWork to the Pioneer Collective. When Galvanize finished our tour with a visit to their roof deck we were instantly sold. Its location in Pioneer Square is convenient for out-of-town guests, while also steering clear of the craziness that is Amazon's HQ in South Lake Union. The space is beautiful, spacious, and functional.narrative science seattle

After unpacking and setting up shop, I spent the spring flying solo from my desk in the Galvanize co-working space. I primarily focused on getting acclimated to my new city and figuring out how to work remotely with the team in Chicago. Not having a local team yet pushed me to connect with other tech workers in Galvanize and around Seattle.

I attended several meetups, including Seattle Node.js and SeattleJS. It was a great chance to meet people from all different types of companies -- freelancers, startups, established companies, and the Big 4. My favorite experience was hearing about a new JavaScript module loading library from John-David Dalton (of Lodash fame) that had yet to be released. Having engineers from companies like Amazon and Microsoft (and their alumni) in the area provides a strong source of high-quality speakers. Besides the existing players, a ton of tech companies either expanded their presence or set up shop in Seattle during the past few years.

How is the Tech Scene different than Chicago

Chicago is a growing tech scene with lots of software engineers, but they are a minority of the overall workforce and typically embedded within traditional financial, consulting, or retail companies. Comparatively, I've yet to visit a coffeeshop in Seattle without seeing at least a half a dozen terminal screens open on laptops. Software developers proliferate the city and impact the culture (positively or negatively, depending on whom you ask).

Our Future in Seattle

Besides the space itself, Galvanize also has a leg-up on regular co-working spaces thanks to its on-site, immersive data science and web development bootcamps, most of whom are looking for employment with local tech companies following graduation. I gave a talk during one of the web development cohorts this past summer and received a lot of great questions about the software industry from students. It's a big perk to have potential new hires so close and be able to coordinate with the Galvanize program staff when we have a new job opening.narrative science seattle

It also helps to not go it alone! Since the move, my team of 3 has joined me in the Galvanize space. We rely on each other, figure things out collaboratively, and enjoy exploring the Pioneer Square lunch and happy hour scenes. We're now expanding our team and can't wait to see how that leads us to more deeply integrate with the Seattle tech scene. Although transitions are hard, I couldn't be happier with Narrative Science's Seattle office, team, and prospects for the future.


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