A few weeks ago, as a part of our ongoing Ypsilanti Immigration Interview project, I spoke with a young woman named Gillian Ream, who had just recently moved to Ypsilanti from Ann Arbor with her software-developer boyfriend. Well, today’s interview is with said boyfriend, Adam Gainsley. Please join me in welcoming him to Ypsilanti.
MARK: A few weeks ago, I interviewed your girlfriend, Gillian Ream, and she mentioned that you worked from home, as a programmer, for a company headquartered somewhere else. I found this of interest as, not too long ago, I’d interviewed someone else who had a significant other that was working from their home in Ypsilanti, as a telecommuting programmer. It made me wonder how many people we had out there, in the community, doing the same thing, and if there might not be some value in bringing them together. Does that already happen? And, if not, do you think there would be any value in doing that?
ADAM: There are businesses that sort of serve that purpose such as the Workantile and Tech Brewery, both of which are in Ann Arbor. These are places where you can rent a desk on a short term or ongoing basis. The Tech Brewery is more geared toward small companies that want to avoid the overhead of renting a real office, but still need somewhere to work. The Workantile is more for people who don’t have an office of their own but need somewhere a little more formal than their living room for meetings. There are definitely some benefits to working from home, but, even so, a change of scenery is nice every once in a while. Not to mention the Tech Brewery has “Beer Thirty” every Friday at 4:30, which is when everyone drops what they’re doing and chats over drinks. It’s a fun opportunity for networking or hearing about what interesting projects people are working on.
In general, I don’t work outside of my home office a lot. My old boss and I would meet up once or twice a month and work from a cafe or restaurant. This was always fun and a nice break from routine. On the other hand, programming tends to require a lot of concentration, so noisy public places aren’t always conducive to productivity. To my mind there’s a balance to be achieved between working in the quiet solitude of my home office and adding variety to my routine by getting out of the house. I try to make a point of working away from home at least once a week and probably succeed in that more like once every two weeks.
Another thing I’ve started hearing about more recently are meet-up groups. These usually revolve around a particular programming language or tool and have periodic meetings of people in the area who use that tool. I’ve recently signed up with one based in Detroit though I missed their latest meeting. These groups tend to be informal and will have a meet up at a local bar or restaurant as much to socialize as to talk shop from what I understand. I’ll have to report back with more details once I go to my first meet up.
MARK: I’m aware of Tech Brewery and Workantile, and I think what they do is awesome, but I wasn’t really talking about leased office/desk space. I was wondering more about social events. It might be a bit of a reach, but I was thinking that, if we indeed have a large number of programmers living here in Ypsi, doing work for companies elsewhere, maybe there’s a possibility that, through bringing them together, new ventures could be created. I don’t know how realistic that is, but I was thinking that it would be cool if connections could be made that would lead to new, local entrepreneurial and/or creative projects.
ADAM: These are great ideas and I think you’re spot on that there is much room for community-building among local programmers, and that this is a great way to encourage local projects. Wired magazine just ran an article about hackathons, which are two to three day events where programmers bang out rough versions of programs in marathon programming sessions. Many startups have been formed around software created at these events. This type of event tends to be as much about socializing and networking as it is about actually writing code.
I don’t know that there’s much like this going on around town, either in the way of clubs or events. A brief look on the internet doesn’t reveal anything pertinent in the area. I know U of M hosts a hackathon every year but that’s for students only and I wouldn’t be surprised if EMU has something similar. Both schools do have clubs that revolve around programming, but, again, those are for students. Now that you have me thinking about it, I think this could be a truly valuable resource both for local programmers, and for the area in general. I’m not making any promises yet but this sounds like it could be an interesting next project.
MARK: If memory serves, both you and Gillian grew up in Ann Arbor. I was wondering if you could share with us your earliest memory of Ypsilanti.
ADAM: My parents and I actually lived in Ypsi until I was two, so I have some very fleeting memories from then but they moved back to Ann Arbor before I could form any real memories. After that, I have two memories as a young child visiting Ypsi. One is that my mom and I would come out to the Chick-Inn diner at Holmes and Prospect. I don’t remember much about the food. The real reason we went were the peanut butter chocolate milk shakes. I’ve only visited the Chick Inn once since moving out here and it was just for one of those shakes.
The other Ypsi memory I have from back in those days is going to the Frog Island Music Festival with my dad. I don’t remember exactly how old I was the first time we went but I was definitely less than ten years old. I always had a blast and remember adventures ranging from chasing frisbees into the river, to dancing on stage during the big grand finale each year, to being evacuated from the park due to lightening. There was always tasty food, and the music was something that my dad and I looked forward to all year. I still have a love of Zydeco music born at that festival.
MARK: What brought your parents to Ypsi in the first place? Were they attending EMU? Did they meet here? And, I’m curious as to why your family moved to Ann Arbor when you were two. Was the decision motivated by a desire to get you into Ann Arbor public schools?
ADAM: The truth of it is that my folks were pretty broke when I was born. They needed the balance between affordable housing and proximity to their families both of which lived in Ann Arbor at the time. The best solution to present itself was a move to Ypsi. I believe they lived off of Holmes Road, near Ridge. When I was two, my folks split up. My dad moved back into Ann Arbor to live with his mom and brother. They lived in the Burns Park neighborhood, and that was a big part of the reason we continued to live there through my early school years. My mom soon followed back into Ann Arbor, getting an apartment downtown.
MARK: Were you at all apprehensive about the move to Ypsi?
ADAM: I like Ypsi and I always have. Before moving to Ypsi, I would get out here fairly regularly frequenting Pub 13, Sidetrack, Beezy’s when it opened, the disc golf shop and course at Lakeshore, or just visiting friends. Having grown up in Ann Arbor, and, having lived on the East Side of Ann Arbor for a couple years recently, I found myself out here quite a bit. I had also gotten involved with Bike Ypsi, and loved that they existed, and that there is such a friendly and accessible bike community here.
On the other hand, I had just moved back into downtown Ann Arbor several months before. As I tend to do, I was getting involved in local politics, making friends, and, of course, enjoying the dense population of restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor. So, when it became clear that we were going to be able to find significantly more bang for our rent buck in Ypsi, a small part of me was disappointed. My apprehension wasn’t so much about moving to Ypsi, as it was about moving away from Ann Arbor. My concerns turned out to be unfounded though, as moving here has come to feel like one big homecoming.
MARK: You mention an interest in politics, and I’m wondering how that manifests itself.
ADAM: In general I make a point of being informed specifically of local politics. While it is of course important to understand what is going on at the national level state and local politics are what truly shapes our day to day lives. I attend as many City Council meetings as I can, and try to keep up to date with the Ypsilanti DDA and the Planning Commission. I’ve also been appointed to the Non-Motorized Advisory Committee (NMAC) which is a sub-committee of the Planning Commission. Our job is to advise the commission in their implementation of the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Plan.
My overarching goal is to build a cohesive and accessible community. I support things like making town more walkable and bike friendly, growing park and forest space, and increasing resources for local art, music and theatre. Anything that brings people together in town is great in my mind. My idea of a perfect day involves a bike ride, ending up downtown, walking from a great meal to a couple of neat shops, and then on to see a local band or art show. I enjoy spending time making sure these kinds of things are available for everyone.
The majority of my advocacy effort lately has revolved around helping organizations build and improve their communications plans both in terms of their outreach, and their internal communications. I am especially interested in how social media can be used as an effective tool in social marketing. The groups I’m working with currently, in addition to the NMAC and Bike Ypsi, are the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition, which is a county wide effort to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and the Save Ypsi Yes campaign, which is working to get the city income tax and water street debt relief millage passed on the May 8 ballot.
MARK: Do you share your girlfriend’s love of Hidden Dragon?
ADAM: Absolutely! Even though she introduced me to it, I think I suggest it for dinner as often as she does now.
MARK: How did your association with Bike Ypsi come about? As I recall from my interview with Gillian, you were involved with them before you actually moved here, right?
ADAM: My main connection to Bike Ypsi was through my friend Aubrey, who had already been working with them, helping to organize and publicize rides. I’ve always been into biking, and always jump at the opportunity to go on group rides. Aubrey invited me to come along on one of their rides, and I was instantly hooked. I found out there are great places to ride all around Ypsi, and discovered a very cool community of people. That was their fall ride in 2009, and I’ve helped out in some capacity with most of their rides since.
MARK: What do you find yourself going back to Ann Arbor for the most, other than to see your family?
ADAM: My family and Gillian’s family do account for many of our trips to Ann Arbor. Between the two of us, though, we have many other reasons to go back. We went to high school together in Ann Arbor, and both recently graduated from U of M, so we have lots of friends around town. There are lots of great place to meet friends, listen to music, or grab a bite to eat. A couple of my favorites on that list are Arbor Brewing Co, The Blind Pig, Scott’s Coffee Break, and Hill Auditorium. Just last week we saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Hill which was an amazing show.
There are also disc golf courses, parks and mountain bike trails in Ann Arbor that are worth the trek back. Brown Park reopened as Mary Beth Doyle Park a few years ago, and is an excellent disc golf course that’s easily accessible form both Ann Arbor and Ypsi. Bandemer is another nice park with a disc golf course right downtown. Bird Hills is an awesome place to hike, and, from there, it’s easy to get to Barton Park which runs along the Huron River. It’s absolutely beautiful out there year round. I also love the bike ride along the Border to Border trail. I’ll ride into Ann Arbor that way just for the sake of the ride.
MARK: What’s surprised you the most about Ypsilanti?
ADAM: Far and away my biggest surprise was the sense of community here in town. Before moving here I only knew a small handful of townies, mostly through Bike Ypsi. As I settled in, it was amazing how easy it was for me to meet new people and find friends. I’m not necessarily the most social or outgoing person, but it was still an easy process integrating myself into the community that is Ypsilanti.
This doesn’t only apply to the social scene either. The local political climate here in town is a strange combination of contentious and welcoming. I have relatively strong, liberal, progressive political views, which not everyone agrees with. Regardless, I’ve found myself welcomed into the discourse around a variety of topics including the local income tax, the Water Street project, the Border to Border Trail, and our relationship with the township. Not only that, but I was recently appointed to the Ypsilanti Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, which is a nice compliment to my role with Bike Ypsi.