24 October 2012

Sharing vs Making Money

This week I started a full-time job at Dolby, the famed audio company, as a project manager in the sound research department (update 2013: moved to Human Resources doing professional development). Though I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with smart people in a well-established and respected tech company, my move to full-time employment was not completely by choice.

For the past year or so I have been hashing out a living as a sharing micropreneur, sharing my car, rides, services, skills, and stuff, as well as doing contract work (bookkeeping, editing, research, translations) and I would have preferred to keep doing that. I love connecting with strangers, introducing them to collaborative consumption and the excellent city of San Francisco. I love sharing resources to reduce our environmental impact, and building community both in my immediate neighborhood and online. I'm thrilled to discover new tech sharing solutions that avoid waste and extend the life of our stuff. And I thrive in the schedule flexibility and variety of contract work.

But a few months ago our building was sold and the new owners moved themselves in and us out. After 8 years of living in Potrero Hill in a rent-controlled apartment, we were forced to find a new place in the toughest rental market SF has seen since the last tech boom. And with the increase in expenses came my need to have a steady and higher income. Thus, my move to Dolby for a temporary position (6 months) replacing an employee on maternity leave.

I feel quite lucky to have found this job so quickly, and to have the organizational skills and experience to be able to step easily into the position. I'm determined to make the best of it - to learn as much as I can, do a good job supporting the research department, and to save as much money as possible. And in keeping with my sharing evangelism, I am going to take this opportunity to see what kinds of sharing initiatives already exist at Dolby and, if the corporate environment is receptive to it, what kinds of sharing programs I might be able to introduce.

A quick brainstorm with the generous folks at Shareable (thanks Millicent, Neal, and Seth!) netted these ideas:
  • ride sharing
  • Scoot station
  • meal sharing
  • CSA box distribution point (a carryover from my Share | Kitchen plans)
  • media/book exchange. 
What are some other possibilities? (Please leave suggestions in the comments.)

I may track this effort on my website, and try to balance my enthusiasm with an honest description of the results, be they successful or not. There are some interesting questions to be answered along the way: what factors motivate a corporation to institute sharing initiatives? How can we best elucidate the benefits? Is it all about the financial bottom line?  How does sharing improve employee morale and how can we measure that? Within the corporate structure, who is responsible for bringing a sharing initiative to life?