Member Spotlight: Tracy Grogan

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The summer brought several new members to Sandbox Suites Berkeley, one of whom is writing his first murder mystery novel.

Tracy Grogan, former marketing executive and longtime Cisco Systems employee, took a break from killing off characters and sat down for a member interview. Although Tracy assures us that we are not featured in his first novel, we think we’ve made a convincing argument to put a hit out on us in his second 🙂


What do you say when people ask you what do you do for a living?
I tell people that I imagine myself to be a writer. I explain that I took a healthy early retirement incentive that provides me time to consider and execute my next moves. My girlfriend has been incredibly supportive of me taking some time to see if I have what it takes to be a writer. It’s a job that requires diligence and dedication. That’s why I rented office space.

I took the weekend off after my last day of employment and began the writing job at 6am the following Monday. My routine was to work from 6am to 6 or 7pm. Having a fixed routine, and a separate space with other people around, enabled me to avoid the trap of sleeping in a little bit more each day or getting distracted by the stereo or yard work.

Can you tell us anything about this book you are writing?
It’s a mystery that incorporates activities that I have been devoted to for many years: travel and scuba diving.

Have you always longed to pen books?
I’ve had the basic concept for two books kicking around in my brain for about 10 years. I had promised myself to try writing them but never had a solid block of time to dedicate to the task.

How did you first come across the concept of “coworking”?
I have actually been in a coworking environment for over 3 years. My former employer, Cisco Systems, is a pioneer in the concept. They have a number of buildings built for that purpose. They look very much like Sandbox Suites – there are areas for private work, small group interaction, large group meetings, and even areas for chilling out. Based on your needs for the moment or day, you might pick any space you require. Some are on an ad-hoc basis and others are reserved.

I initially resisted the concept, going as far as responding to preliminary surveys that I would work from home every single day if they implemented the system. On my third day of working in the coworking environment, I contacted the survey team to ask if I could change my answer: I was a believer. I experienced a total reversal, commuting almost every day to the office; I found coworking to be energizing and incredibly productive.

So what led you to Sandbox Suites?
I had initially looked at renting a private office, but found them too expensive. Then I found Sandbox Suites. I signed up for a one-day trial and, by the end of the day, had signed up for a monthly plan. Your execution of the concept was exactly what I needed.

Have you interacted much with the other folks coworking at Sandbox Suites?
Yes, absolutely. One of the key concepts in coworking, in my mind, is having a constant degree of activity around you. It becomes white noise and is not at all distracting. But you are aware of what others are doing in the common areas (not so in the more private spaces). So, you end up picking up bits and pieces of conversation. You find commonalities. You and your co-workers share tips, experiences or just shoot the breeze.

What is your favorite thing about Sandbox Suites?
To be honest, after 15 years of working in a Silicon Valley campus where food options were limited, I love the fact that I can walk from either the Berkeley or Union Square office to any of hundreds of great restaurants for lunch.

So which location is your favorite?
I’ve only used the Berkeley and Union Square offices. I prefer Berkeley due to its proximity to BART (and the aforementioned restaurants), the general vibe and, of course, our rocking office managers Sarah and Jacqui (who now each owe me 20$ for the unsolicited plug).

What’s going on in the next 6 months for you?
I spent two months writing the first draft of my book. I’ve now gotten feedback from my nine reviewers and will begin work on the next draft – right after I get back from a scubadiving trip to Indonesia….

As well, my former employer provided a very comprehensive package of “transition consulting” services to help retirees plan for the next step. Although I hope that I have found my new career, I will work in parallel with these consultants as I finish my manuscript, engage an agent, find my publisher, and celebrate the publication of my first book. Then I’ll treat everybody in the Berkeley office to pizza.

We look forward to that!

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