Nicole Vasquez ’07 sees her innovative coworking space The Shift as the future of collaboration and productivity.
“Get Shift Done.” That’s the tongue-in-cheek tagline for Nicole Vasquez’s ’07 innovative coworking space The Shift, located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. As technology empowers people to work wherever they can take their laptops, The Shift offers the perfect balance between downtown offices and work-from-home spaces. For a monthly fee, members have access to private meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, group work tables, a community kitchen (with free gourmet coffee) and all the inspiration and support that accompanies working alongside other creative, productive people. As founder and resident “Jill of all trades,” Vasquez sees The Shift as the future of the workplace. In fact, she plans on opening a second location in the Logan Square neighborhood by the end of 2016.
You transferred to Columbia College Chicago from Illinois State University. What attracted you to Columbia?
Proximity to the city and everything that’s happening right in Chicago. I originally went to [Illinois State University] to do the whole “getting away from your parents” [thing]. What I found was there was absolutely a lack of culture and cultural activities that I craved. I wanted to be back in the city so I could go to museums and art exhibits and concerts and festivals.
What inspired The Shift?
My passion for bringing people together from all different backgrounds and creating environments that allow people to share ideas and opinions with each other. I am a firm believer in cross-industry collaborations. I first walked into a coworking space about four years ago, and I stopped in my tracks and I was mesmerized. I knew that this was the happy medium between working in a cubicle, in a grey 9-to-5 office where you’re not very energized, and then the opposite side of the spectrum where you’re working from home and even though you have a flexible schedule you’re still very much alone.
How would you describe The Shift to someone who’s never been there before?
We are redefining the concept of a workspace by providing a professional environment outside of the home or other public settings like Starbucks. In addition to providing workspace, we cultivate an environment where people are able to meet each other, collaborate, partner on projects, hire each other and learn from each other. So we are a hub of entrepreneurial activity, as well as professional support and development.
Do you think that coworking spaces are going to get more common?
I absolutely do. More and more people are working remotely, or they have the capability of working anywhere as long as they have their computer. I believe that these places are necessary because [they’re not just] allowing people to get out of the house. They’re incubators and they’re accelerators for boosting the neighborhood. That’s why my model is in the [Uptown] neighborhood, outside of the downtown area. My goal is to create a hub in all the different neighborhoods so more and more people have access to innovative spaces like these.
Having people from different industries working together and influencing each other sounds very Columbia.
The one thing I tell everybody about Columbia was that I loved the creative environment that I was in. I loved being around people of all different creative backgrounds. I think it’s really helped to diversify my thinking.
Every day at [The Shift] I’m like, “This reminds me of being back in school. There are artists over there, there’s a video editor over here, there’s a musician over here.”