Welcoming Startup Meeting Spaces and How to Create Them

marydavisforhomepolish.jpegOver the past few years, I’ve played host or guest in startup offices here in New York City surely a hundred times or more. In that time I’ve begun to notice some bothersome patterns that I thought I’d share with you along with suggestions of best practices in startup office meeting space design.

The lights are on but….

The latest in startup hospitality seems to be to let people emerge from the elevators and have absolutely no one great them. The guest stands there awkwardly scanning the walls and listening for some sound of life until they catch the eye of whatever (usually female) employee is nearest to entrance and that person sets forth the chain reaction that connects host to guest.

In the absence of this interaction, the guest is prompted to type in  their information into an iPad, take a seat, and wait eagerly for the footsteps of someone who will come and retrieve them.

Screen Shot 2018-04-16 at 5.47.49 AM

People, can we stop the madness?!

Offices have receptionists because there is warmth and kindness in being received. Trust me, I have worked as a receptionist. It is not a great job, but humans welcoming and directing other humans is the right way to treat people. If you don’t want to have someone’s sole job be receptionist at your company, then making it a rotating duty amongst the team, but someone must be there to great and direct guests so:

Tip #1: Hire/be a receptionist.

Catch a signal

The first thing I usually need when I get to a new office is access to their wi-fi. Unfortunately, this is almost always the one thing the host never has. I’ve seen people run clear around their office trying to hunt down the password. Time is wasted, silliness ensues.

Tip #2: Just post the wi-fi password prominently in every meeting space. 

Tour de l’office

From confusing directions to elaborate lock, key, passcode systems, so many things have stood between me and getting into the bathroom when I am in a new office. Again, time is wasted and awkwardness ensues as I wind my way around people’s desks to get to the facilities. This is a toughie since this is likely one of the things that is hardest to control, but whenever possible…

Tip #3 Minimize the distance between the bathroom and the meeting room(s). 

Can you hear/see me now?

How much time have we all spent trying to get our screens mirrored or locating the right dongle for the office television. I’ve often had hosts ask me to send along my login or presentation so they could just present from their laptops which had already undergone to elaborate configuration to work with the company’s A/V setup. Then of course,  everything falls over when we add the confusing, laggy, and altogether bugginess of video conferences. While so much is still so wonky with modern, digital meetings, there is still a little within our control.

Tip #4 Leave clear A/V instructions and keep all necessary cables and adapters in every meeting room. 


So those are the top 4 things that drive me up the wall in startup offices. What about you?

Gratitude February 2018

A few things I have been grateful for as I get into this month.

For some reason, I missed it when Beck dropped his latest album Colors in October of last year. I am glad I stumbled upon it recently. It is JAMMIN!

#Rojava playlist. In northern Syria, women are leading (and literally fighting for!) an all-encompassing revolution. This playlist is a beautiful tribute to them and the continuing struggle.

biglittle

I was on a flight the other day and with time to kill, I finally sat down and watched Big Little Lies. I seriously thought I would hate it, but it gripped me from the first episode. The formation of this sisterhood of mothers was really moving to me. I love my mamafriends!

Some Stuff I Would Do If I Didn’t Have to Work for a Living

  1. Travel and spend time with my family (immediate travel list: Barcelona, Stockholm, Dakar, Sarajevo, Tokyo, Melbourne, and back to HK and Berlin)
  2. Sew
  3. Garden
  4. Spend more time in Slovenia
  5. Start an ice cream business in New Orleans (and find out how to make it not be work)
  6. Cook elaborate meals
  7. Learn to code
  8. Hardware hacking
  9. Write and blog more
  10. Learn to sing
  11. Learn to DJ
  12. Go dancing a lot – classes and clubs
  13. Study languages (German, Arabic, Mandarin, Ewe )
  14. Volunteer with or start/run community service groups
  15. Podcast or create some other sort of media
  16. Learn to sculpt
  17. Mentor people

Fund What You Love

I’ll be honest: I don’t love my job and I don’t think I’ve ever truly loved any job I’ve ever had since I began my working life in earnest. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had several lovely work environments in beautiful offices with truly fantastic co-workers — many of whom I still count as my closest friends — but I’d still not call that loving my job.

No, I’ve had jobs from unbearable to perfectly survivable, and the older I get, the more I realize that here in late-stage capitalism, a job I love is not the goal, –being able to put time and money and resources into things I want to see flourish is. I don’t do what I love, I fund what I love.

By this I mean, I am a donor of my money and time and skills. I currently do unpaid work for at least five different groups and give money and/or advice to dozens more. I don’t work on the front lines of any efforts to cure the sick or free the encaged or smash the empire, but I do my best to give to groups that do. And I’m finally coming around to realizing that funds and funders matter.

I recently facilitated a dinner event attended by people from both the commercial and nonprofit spaces, and I noted a distinct snootiness towards people who hadn’t committed their lives to radical struggle defined as working in a cooperative or a foundation-funded NGO. I’ve encountered this sensibility throughout my journey as an independent activist/organizer and it’s lame and wrong. The “revolution” will no more be funded by large non-profit donors than it will by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

The truth is that the struggle has and will always require a diversity of tactics, as well as a diversity of funding and energy sources. The more we radicals understand and accept that, the easier it will be to start building cultures and structures of support that help us better share responsibilities and promote self/mutual care.

Activist guilt, that feeling that you constantly should be doing more for the movement, is real. Survivor/thriver guilt is real, but so is activist/organizer burnout and illness. If we embrace a model of funding what we love rather than doing what we love to death, we just might move our lives and efforts into balance, and begin modelling that new world we seek.

Gratitude: December 2017

A few things that have been making me happy recently.

The Improbable Dome Builders

charascover

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the brilliant thinker and architect R. Buckminster Fuller fell in with a ragtag group of Puerto Rican teenagers on the Lower East Side that came to be known by the name of CHARAS (a nonsense word combining the first initial of each member). Fuller would come down to the neighborhood and teach the young people geometry and how to build his geodesic domes.

They went on to revolutionize the neighborhood with a community-empowering eco-minded project of build renovation and self-education.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the soft release gathering for the re-release of this magical project here in Brooklyn at Pioneer Works where many of the original members spoke about this magical experience. You can read more about and buy the book here.

Build An Ark – “Dawn” (2007)


I’m revisiting the beautiful Build An Ark 2007 album “Dawn”. Good 70s jazz vibe. Highly recommended! Just click play above.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer 

Laugh if you want, but this old white man is saving my life daily. I heard about this book I think from Russell Brand, and I got it on audiobook. It first felt like a gut punch, but then I woman’d up and felt such relief. I’ve been recommending it to people left and right.

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to make a serious run for president. She was underfunded and underappreciated but courageous and brilliant. Watch this document to learn your history and be reminded of the long history of liberal and Democratic “lesser evil”-ism that continues to lead people nowhere.

Gratitude: September 2017

A few things I was grateful for this month:

1) Sydette Harry’s AffectConf Talk


Finally! A talk at a tech conference by a black woman about *us* and how *we* survive and what *we* need.

2) Orphan Black

Orphan_Black_S5_Poster (1)

I realized I was a season behind so I raced through season 4 and am just rounding the corner on the final season. This show is amazing and its star Tatiana Maslany is the shit. No spoilers please!

3) The CoLET website

This summer I co-founded CoLET: The Collective for Liberation, Ecology, and Technology. It’s a much-needed space for politically radical technologists. We finally got our website to a good place. I am excited to make a radical intervention in tech spaces and a tech intervention in radical spaces. Our time is SO now. Check it out when you get a moment!

4) Bookchin on Streetfighting with Nazis back in the day

I’m still on a Bookchin kick and someone in the social ecology community sent along this timely clip. Know your history, people!

5) Jazmine Sullivan’s piece on The Outline about chat as a lifeline for black women.

outline

The piece is beautifully written and I love all the fancy animations and interactive Javascript they did.

6) In Flames radio show on NTS Live

These two women have gotten me through many a tough day and given me my whole life with their groovy, funky, punky selections on this monthly independent radio show brought to us live from the streets of London. I love you, Ruby and Josephine!!