Cause and Effect and IKEA

With the fervor surrounding the grand opening of IKEA’s Winnipeg store (their first new market in Canada since 1982, btw), the media, Twitter, bloggers, internet-trolls, your mom are all giving IKEA way to much credit.  They are confusing cause and effect.

IKEA this year and The Jets return last year are not revitalizing our fair city. They are proof that we are once again a thriving “world class” city. A city Winnipeggers can be proud of, a city that is once again One Great City.

Obviously IKEA and The Jets are two huge milestones. But there is a lot of other developments underway. Almost 2 years ago I wrote a post on /r/Winnipeg about how great I thought 2013 would be. As examples of the city’s progress I listed:

  • IKEA
  • 5 Target stores
  • An NHL team (cross your fingers)
  • Canadian Human rights museum
  • At least, two more awesome buildings downtown (Avenue building and Royal Bank renovations)
  • New Airport
  • A bunch of completed infrastructure projects (Disraeli, Osborne St Bridge, West Perimeter upgrades)
  • Phase 1 of BRT
  • alcohol in grocery stores (hopefully)
  • New Bombers stadium at the U of M
  • Renovated Children’s Museum
  • New area code (431)

I’m sure there are tonnes and tonnes of smaller projects that could be added to the list.

The classic Winnipeg apathy and self-loathing that has been such a part of the Winnipeg zeitgeist for as long as I can remember is no longer relevant.  The proof is in the lingonberry pudding.


Winnipeg is a Freelance Town

After being laid-off from my job as an interaction designer at Think Shift earlier this year, I exchanged some emo IMs with a good friend and former-Winnipegger. I told him that I was looking at getting into freelance full-time, to which he replied “Winnipeg is a freelance town.”

He was right.

I’ve spent the majority of my 10+ year career working as a remote freelancer. I’ve spent less time at “real jobs” in “real offices” than I have spent working in my “home office.” I took the interaction design job at Think Shift partially to see what I had been missing and partially because I believed the myth of job security.

I’m sure some people would be unhappy working from home without co-workers or face-to-face interaction; and others would be inherently unhappy working for a boss in an office. I’m not one of those people. I don’t know whether I prefer one to the other. There are pros and cons to each. But most of these factors could be lumped into a “soft” category: offices have face-to-face interaction, group collaboration. Home offices have more time with families, optional clothing, shorter commutes, better coffee. With the exception of health benefits and different tax rules, none of major differences have much of an affect my bottom line. They don’t affect my ability to pay the bills, which after-all is the whole point of a job.

When it comes to salary, “real jobs” in Winnipeg cannot compete with freelance. Based on my limited experience most Winnipeg employers live in a stereotypical Winnipeg bubble. They seem to worry endlessly about dealing with stereotypically “cheap” Winnipeg clients. They’re more likely to try to compete on price than quality and seek out clients who are more interested in price than quality (or vice versa, maybe it’s chicken and egg). Even the larger web shops seem hesitant (with typical Winnipeg insecurity) to compete for work nationally, let alone internationally. For all these reasons, Winnipeg web shops are completely unable to compete for salaries nationally.

(And for the most part that’s seems to be OK with Winnipeggers.)

The hourly rates I’m able to charge are completely unreasonable for any full-time salaried position in town – I know because I’ve had job placement agents (that’s the PC name for “headhunters” right?) tell me as much. At the same time, my rates are entirely acceptable to clients in larger markets. Local businesses are also willing to pay my rates because they are still significantly lower than the hourly rates a full on web shops needs to charge to pay the bills.

Some of the most talented designers and developers I know run successful freelance businesses or work remotely for companies like Automattic,  Shopify (I believe Shopify has a local office now) and Black Pixel.


Winnipeg’s underground tech scene

It’s becoming apparent to me that Winnipeg has a very high-profile “tech” scene, it’s just kind of underground.

I haven’t really drawn any conclusions about this yet, but I thought it was something interesting to note.

Culture Winnipeg

TransMilenio: Bogotá’s sexy BRT.

I hope the team designing Winnipeg’s rapid transit has at visited Bogotá, because this looks really great.