Be a WIMP: Interview with Joshua Simmons

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For those of us located in the North Bay who are in the digital and online media professions, it can feel rather lonely at times. In the past, a sense of camaraderie and vibrant community felt missing in this area — but, thankfully, a number of groups have sprung up in recent times to bring people together and provide opportunities for education, networking, and just plain fun.

One such group is the Web & Interactive Media Professionals group, otherwise known as WIMP. We caught up with one of the founders of WIMP, Joshua Simmons, to ask him more about how it got started and where it’s headed.

Thanks for joining us at North Bay Startup! So, what exactly is Web & Interactive Media Professionals (WIMP)?

WIMP is, for now, a highly interdisciplinary group of media pros concentrated in Sonoma County. We have monthly meetings and a podcast that supports those meetings. Each meeting centers around a discussion topic.

We have a lot of big ideas, but the theme is education, networking, and economic vitality, all under the banner of, “Ask a person, not a search engine.”

How did it get started?

Shortly before the 2011 North Bay Web Design Conference, Melissa and I got together for a meet’n'greet at Aroma’s. It was then that we agreed there was a need for interdisciplinary industry groups that meet regularly. Later that day, I set up the MeetUp group!

Our very first meeting had 23 attendees, and we’ve only grown since then. The whole experience has been highlighted by serendipity; we now have a strong leadership team and our group is growing faster than anything I’ve previously been involved in!

[NOTE: WIMP was originally named North Bay Web Professionals, but we wanted to attract a broader audience and prepare ourselves for the possibility of geographic expansion.]

What is the target audience of the group and the podcast? Who should join?

We really emphasize web, so our focus is on the designers, developers, and marketers that make it happen. That said, we welcome anyone who deals in media, including photographers, musicians, videographers, and 3d and FX artists.

Basically, anyone whose work might end up online stands to gain a lot. Joining the group will help you find gigs, become a better businessperson, and learn about other media types.

How do you feel about the state of the tech and digital media community in the North Bay?

To be honest, I think we live in a digital backwater, with a few exceptions (O’Reilly, for one!). The North Bay is just itching for an entrepreneurial revolution, and SMBC, SEP, ShareExchange, and the New Arts Project are preparing for it.

But it’ll take more than better tools and a slew of incubators. Bridging the gap is going to require cultural change, a shift toward freer exchange of information and more mentorship.

That is, after all, what makes Silicon Valley such fertile ground. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to affect with WIMP.

What’s next for WIMP?

Competitions, certifications, group insurance, time banking, more events, franchising, and greater integration with other local organizations. We’re dreaming big, but taking it slow.

Sounds awesome. Wrapping up, tell us a bit about yourself and how people can get in touch.

Over 10 years in the industry, working as a developer, designer, marketer, and everything in between, I’ve had the great fortune to be exposed to brilliant people and a wide range of industries. It’s that experience that took me from freelancing to moving and shaking with WIMP, Bluebird, and the North Bay Skeptics.

I see technology as a liberator, as a way to democratize the top-heavy business models of old and empower individuals to make a living doing what they love. And I think that’s something the entire WIMP leadership believes strongly … it’s something we experienced!

As ambitious as we may be, we’re very in touch with the here and now and do everything we can to be accessible and personable… so please, if you haven’t checked us out yet, do! I promise, we don’t bite!

Links (Facebook page) (podcast feed)
Joshua’s Facebook Page | Bluebird Interactive

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