Coworking, networking and conversating at Tracy Virtual Office

I’m going to premise this blog post by saying I knew nothing about coworking before Mike Pihlman found me on Twitter sometime last summer. It was after I tweeted about living in Tracy that quite a few people sent me friend requests on the social networking site. I remember asking myself: “What is Tracy Virtual Office?”

I visited the Web site and watched the tweets from the downtown Tracy business located at 95 W. 11th Street in Suite 203.

I remember telling Assistant Managing Editor Kevin Parrish there was likely story potential there. It wasn’t until last week, though, when I found out that we were running stories on telecommuting that I gave Pihlman, who I’d met in person at a TweetUp last year, a call and asked if I could come and chat with him about coworking.

I learned about the subject comes from Pihlman, a retired electrical engineer who commuted to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory until 2006. But the members are the ones who, without prompting, easily ran through a long list of benefits being part of a coworking community.

Phil Yale, a business consultant, talked about a free flow exchange of ideas. Joleen Ruffin, who runs, talked about the benefits of meeting cilents there. Both said it was a nice place to work, with good people.

Plus, it’s cozy. Here’s a virtual tour of the virtual office.

The most interesting thing about Tracy Virtual Office, though, is that the members represent very different fields. Pihlman is an intern-ready teacher, an electrical engineer, a tutor and a book reviewer among other things. Ruffin founded and runs the social networking site where I, as a Tracy resident, often find out about things to do on the weekend or community services opportunities. Yale started a coworking Web site,, after discovering the advantages of the practice.

Then there’s the members I didn’t interview. Dave Gardner is an editor with teaching experience in Guam. Tom Gardner has an Web communications consulting business. Jason W. Fell is an experienced drywall consultant. All the member biographies are available on the Tracy Virtual Office Web site.

There is some, but not a lot, of common overlap between these individuals. They likely wouldn’t have crossed paths if not for the common space they share downtown. And, as Yale and Ruffin pointed out, that’s what makes Tracy Virtual Office and the practice of coworking so beneficial.

It’s about working together, yes. But it’s also about conversations and networking.

“Different people toss different ideas around,” said Pihlman last week. “It all becomes interconnected. You come in here and something good will happen.”

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