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A Story of Discovering Potential

3 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Just over a year ago, Parker Whitney showed up at Indy Hall during our search for an intern.

He was wild-eyed and excited, curious and free-wheeling. He had a psychology degree but no particular aspirations for it. He wanted to design t-shirts and play video games. He wanted to see Indy Hall first hand, experience Indy Hall first hand, and make it part of his home in Philadelphia.

At that point, we needed someone to help take some of Dana’s workload on, and ended up supplementing her with 2 interns, Parker and Michelle. Michelle left us shortly after, having quickly found her way through the community to an opportunity working with artists, what she truly aspired to do. Parker stuck around to continue to find his place.

I’m glad he did.

In the last year, Indy Hall has become more self-sustaining than ever before. Parker took on a role that is more significant than I think either of us expected: while I was away from Indy Hall for the majority of this year, I did so in confidence because Parker was not only capable hands behind the desk, but a strong communicator and he truly understood not just what Indy Hall was, but why it was.

He threw himself in headfirst and on his own terms, he tried, tested, learned, and loved. He also brought his own off-beat humor and care to the details around the hall, and quickly became a crowd favorite at Indy Hall.

Parker’s contributions, along with many of our members, are a large part of what kept Indy Hall growing strong this past year. I’m thankful for that, but most recently, he really made me proud.

A few months ago, Parker teamed up with another Indy Hall member, Jake O’Brien. Jake is an iPhone developer, with a few successful games already in the App Store, and quickly took to loving Indy Hall for his own reasons. He and Parker began kicking around ideas for mobile games, and Jake helped Parker realize that together, they could actually make those ideas real.

Parker had learned some Adobe Illustrator skills from other members at Indy Hall, and when matched with his love for drawing, figured out how to design assets for an iPhone game. Together, he and Jake worked out the game mechanics for a simple but ridiculously addictive game called Brain-a-rang, where you kill a fast-approaching horde of zombies with different kinds of boomerangs. It’s $0.99 and you should probably buy a copy.

Parker’s off-beat style shined through on this game, down to the hilarious voiced sound effects he recorded, and after several weeks and late nights of working together, they launched the app.

In less than 12 months, Parker, who had no idea what he wanted to do, found a way to do something he thought he couldn’t EVER do: make a video game.

But our story doesn’t end there: during a recent routine tour of Indy Hall with a prospective new member, they found out that Parker had experience designing iPhone games. Before they knew it, Parker and Jake were in the throughs of their first contract together as game designers and developers for hire.

Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about where I think jobs come from. While the US economy is still in a rickety state, the story of how Parker came to Indy Hall, explored, tried, made friends, and then created a job for himself is an illustration of why I think places like Indy Hall are important. Parker saw this, and seized this.

This is more than “entrepreneurship”, which I’ve noticed tends to be a self-assigned label. I don’t think Parker would call himself an entrepreneur, though reading the story above, some others might. What I do think is interesting is that this process of self discovery and the realization of potential seems to be at the core of most successful entrepreneurs, though its a story less told.

In Parker’s story, there’s an element of learning from seeing, and there’s an element of learning from doing. Indy Hall allows both kinds of learning to happen simultaneously, complimentary to each other, which I think increases the likelihood of otherwise unlikely happenings to happen.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.