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Co-Working Campuses Help Professionals Find Their Niche and Community

By Ryan MacDonald

Say goodbye to the days of cramped cubicles and fluorescent lighting.

Co-working and maker spaces have emerged as popular (and aesthetically pleasing) alternatives to traditional offices for freelancers, tech startups and budding entrepreneurs who are looking to improve their portfolio or create the next big disruption.

So whether you’re chipping away at the next big tech idea or searching for a community that will keep you inspired, these “campus” environments offer a lot — spacious offices, industry specific classes and educational workshops, “members only” perks and benefits, and extra resources that can help bring your career and work life into the 21st century.

BUNKER LABS

Created by and for military veterans, Bunker Labs is a not for profit organization that connects Seattle’s community of veterans (and their spouses) to existing resources within the tech and startup community.

[Our] main goal is the initial inspiration,” said Jake Tozier, Program Director of the Seattle chapter. “To give soldiers a vision of, ‘Oh I can do this.’”

With a prime location inside the incubating hub at Co-Motion Labs at Startup Hall, Bunker Labs is positioned alongside other tech startups and student projects in this collaborative environment on the campus of the University of Washington.

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Their monthly networking event Bunker Brews, hosted in conjunction with Operation Code, covers topics like augmented reality, virtual reality or basic coding, and is aimed to tackle challenging topics and to “to demystify the possibility of being an entrepreneur,” says Tozier.

Since opening its doors this May, Bunker Labs has seen an increase in attendance from their entrepreneurs who are interested in expanding their ideas through workshops and classes or, simply, by introducing them to bigger opportunities.

“We’ve identified nationally that the lack of network and resources is the number one reason why veterans failed at entrepreneurship.”

Coming this January, the organization will begin a new national series titled “Launch Lab” that’s intended to lead entrepreneurs step by step through the process of creating their own start up.

Partnering with UW Tacoma, who will provide the classrooms and learning materials, and VIBE (Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship), “Launch Labwill run like a capstone certificate program where entrepreneurs will be prepared to pitch their ideas when the course is complete.

And it’s not just for veterans, says Tozier. Everyday civilians are also encouraged to join the open enrollment portion of the program, which will help veterans with their transition.

“We want veterans to get out there and network and communicate with other individuals in the startup community other than veterans.”

GALVANIZE

With eight modern tech campuses across the US, including one located in the heart of Pioneer Square, Galvanize is home to students, tech startups, and established companies, who believe in making education and growth accessible to anyone.

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Bringing together entrepreneurs, programmers, and data scientists from varying backgrounds, Galvanize hosts monthly events aimed at underrepresented groups like women in tech and the LGBTQ community. They also put on workshops like Alexa Skills, where attendees learn how to build apps for the notorious device, and more accessible classes like the Basics of HTML.

Members work alongside one another in co-working spaces and can enjoy amenities like happy hours, community lunches, and locally sourced beverages from Umbria Coffee and a rotating tap of craft beer.

Each quarter, all of the campuses participate in their signature event, Pitchers & Pitches, where startup founders are encouraged to pitch their company to a panel of local judges where the winner receives free membership, as well as feedback and advice from a local entrepreneur.

BLACK DOT

By providing entrepreneurs of color with vital tools and resources they need to gain traction and exposure in the competitive marketplace, Black Dot is a business incubator comprised of creatives and techies who are looking to support and encourage their community.

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Located in the Central District, Black Dot recently opened a new facility where they host classes on topics like marketing, social media and financial education, as well as authors readings, group yoga and art openings. Members are provided co-working office spaces and conference rooms.

Since opening in 2015, Black Dot hopes to be a support system to the artists, business owners and young professionals who have called this neighborhood home for many decades.

School of Visual Concepts

For the more creatively minded, the School of Visual Concepts (SVC) intends to push forward working professionals (and new graduates) in their respective fields of marketing, branding, UX, UI and content writing through a more hands on approach.

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We think that hands on learning is where you actually do learning,” said Jessica Lyons, Marketing Manager for SVC, who added that the school emphasizes in-class learning, as opposed to online courses.

You can’t press pause on an in-person class and you can’t tune out and check Facebook when you’re in class.”

SVC was founded on the principals that top working professionals should teach all the classes. And they still do. “It’s not just a teacher, but it’s an expert in the field,” said Lyons.

Every teacher comes with at least five years of professional experience and knows the field quite well. This year instructors come from major companies, like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as the design and brand agency Hornall Anderson.

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Located in South Lake Union, SVC has five classrooms, plus an old school letterpress shop, where students can attend full or half day workshops. They also offer a 40-week certificate program in the fields of UX, UI and content writing, which includes a personalized mentor, professional development workshops and real life work experience on a project with a client.

But it’s the community aspect that is the biggest selling point for prospective students, said Lyons.

Most of the people who take classes here come back again and again, so it’s people who are really passionate about the school and want to be here.”

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