Old Office, New Office

Summer Sojourn’s End

Joey's car (Black Honda CR-V), packed to the gills, with a red bike in the rear-mounted bike rack.

My summer immersion term at Shopify ended on Friday. I’d found my niche within the company, gotten to know the team and was ready to continue working remotely. It was time to return to Accordion City.

I moved out of the furnished apartment they provided me for the summer – affectionately dubbed the “Swank Tank” – a day early because I had a business trip to Montreal and packed everything I’d brought with me and picked up over the summer into my car. I tucked my car into Edward’s driveway for the couple of days I was away, far enough out of sight of the kind of people who break into cars to help themselves to the loot inside.

Between not knowing how much kitchen stuff would be provided by the Swank Tank’s proprietors, wanting to have a good chunk of my home office material handy over the summer and just being be ready for anything, I overpacked when I left for Ottawa in May. I’d also picked up a couple of large items over the summer, including a new monitor and bike. Looking at my car, you’d think that I’d made a permanent move and not just gone somewhere else for the summer.

I decided to wait out the Labour Day Friday cottager traffic and make the five-hour road trip from Ottawa to Toronto in the evening. I had dinner at the Smoque Shack with my coworkers Liz, Julie, Nick and Brian, picked up my car at Edward’s and went into the Shopify office one more time to get the last of my stuff.

Old Office

Here’s the entrance stairway to the current office. This won’t be our current office for too much longer; we’re moving into a newer, larger space a couple of blocks down the street later this fall:

The entry stairway to the Shopify offices

Here’s the reception area and lobby, as it appeared at 9:30-ish on Friday night:

The reception desk and lobby at Shopify

Offices take on an eerie, haunted sort of vibe late at night, so I decided to snap a couple of pictures. Here’s the “Fishtank”, the glass-enclosed room where Shopify’s design team works:

The empty desks of Shopify's design team room

The Fishtank has a big glass wall that looks out onto the main “bullpen”:

The big glass wall in the Shopify Fishtank looking out onto the main office

Right across the hall from the Fishtank is the boardroom, which you may remember from the Epic Meal Time video that was shot at our offices; this is where the final tasting scene was shot:

Shopify's boardroom, with cardboard animal "trophies" hanging on the far wall

By some strange coincidence, whenever I get an assigned space at an office – something that hasn’t happened since I left Tucows in late 2007 –- I usually get the “Keanu Reeves Location”: a desk situated in the dead centre of the mass of desks (just like his character in The Matrix had). I had that spot in the Shopify office:

Two rows of empty desks in the centre aisle of Shopify's main office

Here’s my old desk, all clear and ready for the next person to occupy it. I took the Shopify standard-issue 15” MacBook Pro, Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard with me, but left the Cinema Display and Aeron chair behind. It would’ve been nice to take both back to the home office with me, if I’d had the room in the car:

A desk that is empty except for an Apple monitor

New Office

This year’s been a bit of a weird one. Between being in the hospital, several trips (two of which lasted nearly two weeks each) and being in Ottawa for the summer, home wasn’t where I lived; it had become a nice place to visit. The (not so) recent change in the domestic situation also meant a few changes in the layout of my apartment, including a chance to reclaim the home office. I got the basics done before I left and did some serious setup over the Labour Day weekend. The results are shown below.

Here’s what you see as you enter the new home office:

Carpeted apartment bedroom converted into a home office, showing a long desk with computers and a window looking out onto treetops

Here’s a closer look at the desk. I bought it at Cooper’s old Queen Street location back in 1997 for what seemed like a lot of money back then, and it’s served me well over the years. It was originally L-shaped, but over the years, I’ve reconfigured it in all sorts of ways: L-shaped, split into two desks and finally, as a single long workstation:

Joey's workstation, as seen from the left

Here’s the desk from the other side:

Joey's workstation, as seen from the right

Opposite the desk: a set of matching shelves and a lot of organizers I’ve picked up over the years. I used to have more programming books – they used to eat up shelves – but in the age of PDFs and the iPad (plus the fact that the half-life of a tech book seems to be nine months these days), most of my tech library is in electronic form now:

Bookshelves packed with books, plus photo boxes of files and many plastic bins full of wiring and other tech equipment

Here’s another view of the whole office. The window looks west out onto the courtyard behind my building, and beyond that, the tree-lined Gothic Avenue:

Joey's home office as seen from the desks, showing a windows overlooking treetops and the bookshelves and organizers

The left side is the Windows half of the desk. My main Windows machine is the Dell 15” laptop I got as one of my fabulous parting gifts from Microsoft. The monitor is one I bought as a present to myself shortly after joining The Empire just before my birthday in 1998. And hey, who wouldn’t want to have an Xbox in their office?

The left side of Joey's workstation, with a Dell 15" laptop, 25" Samsung monitor, Wacom drawing tablet, Xbox and wireless controller and office chair

On the right side of the desk: the Mac side. That’s a 15” MacBook Pro driving a 24” LED Cinema Display that I bought from my coworker Nick just before heading back home. Note the Avenue Q “The Internet is for Porn” mousepad just to the left of the keyboard.

The right side of Joey's workstation, showing a 15" Mackbook Pro, 24" Apple monitor, several organizing containers and a "The Internet is for Porn" mousepad

The New Old Routine

Today’s my first day back at my old routine as a mobile worker. I’ll get a fair bit of work done at the home office, but I’ll also be mixing it up by being on the road, plus working at some alternate locations because I don’t like being a shut-in.

The view from the front of Cafe Novo, a cafe that opens out onto Bloor Street

I’m a member of the Hacklab, which gives me 24/7 access to their Kensington Market space; it’s often empty during the day. There are also a number of work-friendly wifi-equipped cafes where I hang out, both close to home in High Park (I’ll write about them soon) as well as closer downtown. And finally, I’ve got a fair bit of travel in my future – so much that I’m getting my Nexus card next month – which means I’ll be working from hotels, cafes, airport lounges, BarCamps, other people’s offices and so on.

It’s going to be an interesting fall.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


The Swank Tank

Facade of the 126 Sparks building

“Sure, I’d love to come up to Ottawa for a couple of months to immerse myself in Shopify,” I told Tobi and Harley when they were pitching the tech evangelist job to me, “but I can’t pay two rents.”

“No worries,” replied Harley. “We’ll get you a place.”

That place turned out to be 126 Sparks, the front entrance of which is pictured above. It’s a short walk away from Shopify’s office in ByWard Market — not even ten minutes — and it’s around the corner from this place:

Peace Tower and Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings

(For those of you not familiar with Canada, it’s the Canadian equivalent of living around the corner from the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C..)

Sparks Street was the first street in North America to be converted into a pedestrians-only route; all but two of its blocks are closed off to most vehicles. Here’s Sparks as seen looking westward, as it appeared last night:

02 west

Here’s Sparks as seen looking eastward (also last night):

Sparks Street, as seen looking eastward

Sparks is pretty quiet after working hours. Many of the fast food places on the street close their doors at 6 p.m. on weeknights, and the sushi place doesn’t even bother opening on weekends.

Once I checked in with building management and got my welcome package — a folder with some information, keys to the apartment and mailbox, magnetic passkey for access to the lobby, elevator and garage and even a Starbucks gift card (there’s a Starbucks next door) — it was time to move my stuff inside. I drove into the garage and starting hauling stuff to the elevator lobby, which looked like it belonged in an upscale mall:

Elevator lobby for 126 Sparks, featuring a couch

When I first saw the site for 126 Sparks, I was impressed, but I also had to keep in mind that it was real estate photography — the biggest apartments in the building, all best-foot-forward, perhaps a little Photoshoppery and some fish-eye lens treatment that covers a multitude of sins. However, when I entered the apartment, I found it to be a pretty nice place. Here’s the kitchen:

Kitchen in my apartment

Here are the living room and dining room, as seen from one of the barstools at the kitchen counter:

View into the living and dining room in my apartment

A view from behind the dining table:

View from the dining room

I haven’t given the stereo a proper cranking just yet.

In MTV Cribs, there’s always a point when taking a tour of a rapper’s house where the host says “An’ dis here be da baby-makin’ area.” (Hip-hoppers never call them rooms on MTV Cribs; they’re always areas.) This is that part of the tour of my apartment:

The bedroom in my apartment

It’s cosy, and should I get the urge, I can very easily moon the passers-by on Sparks Street from the comfort of my own bed.

The place also has a nice big bathroom and in-suite washer and dryer. All in all, it’s nicer than most Residence Inns and it should be a pretty nice place to spend the next four months.

I decided to give the place a name: The Swank Tank. Other possible names that I briefly considered were:

  1. Chateau Tabernac
  2. jPad
  3. La Maison de Fromage
  4. Da Baby-Makin’ Area
  5. Pants-Optional Palazzo

I think I’m going to like staying here.

Next: Professional Perquisites