update: i’m going to pittsburgh!

Last week, I traveled up to San Francisco for a meeting with Smith Bros. Agency. SBA is a Pittsburgh based ad agency, with a SF office, and fortunately, the hiring manager for the position happened to be on the West Coast in time for me to interview in September. The job is for a Social Media Manager, with an emphasis on strategic social media development. I’m psyched about it because it gives me a chance to work on more high profile, branded social media again.

But also, I’m excited about finding a job in Pittsburgh. Paul is from the western suburbs of PGH, and his family is still there. If we moved there, we would be moving to a city with a built-in support network for us…including grandparents. Proximity to family is a major factor in our relocation plans, so being in the same city as Paul’s parents, not to mention his brother and his aunts and uncles, would be wonderful for our little family unit. Also, PGH is only a few hours drive from Toronto, and my sister may be returning out there, with her husband, her daughter, and our mom. We could go from having no family in town, to being able to constantly see our loved ones…and have Ben grow up with a lot of relatives who love him. Also, we would finally have free grandparent babysitting!

Pittsburgh is also an up-and-coming city, an example of post-industrial revitalization, with a new focus on knowledge – specifically R&D – as an industry. It’s sort of like a Rust Belt version of Portland! I actually like visiting there a lot. I like going out to America’s longest street of bars in the South Side, or taking Ben to the Children’s Museum. I like seeing the re-gentrification of the North Shore, or seeing parks emerge from the industrial zones along the rivers. Seattle did much the same thing in the 1980s and 1990s, turning blighted industrial zones (Gasworks Park) and abandoned railway lines (the Burke-Gilman Trail) into green spaces and bike paths. That sort of well thought out urban development really appeals to me; L.A. drives me crazy because it’s so terribly planned. And thanks to all this urban re-development, Pittsburgh was voted America’s most Livable City by Forbes in 2010, and the Economist in 2011.

The job is not yet permanent though. Right now, it’s a five week freelance job. I’m fine with that, for several reasons. First and foremost, this is a BIG STEP, and a major commitment – more so in PGH than it would be in NYC. In NYC, if I didn’t like a job, I would have far more options than I would in Pittsburgh. A five-week trial gives me time to decide whether or not I’m a good fit for Smith Brothers, in terms of both work ability and personality. I will likely spend at least another five years at my next agency, and I’d prefer to spend ten, so this is a big decision.

Second, I still have other, well, irons in the fire. I’m still talking to other agencies that I don’t want to rule out just yet. If I like the work at Smith Brothers, and I like the environment, and I see room for growth in the role, it’ll meet my needs and I will be happy to settle in. If not, a five-week trial gives me time to work through these other options, and determine whether or not they’re going to go anywhere.

Finally, this gives me a chance to decide whether I want to live in Pittsburgh. Our other options were all in NYC, and I KNOW I love New York City. I’ve loved visiting Pittsburgh for the last five years, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready to give up on that whole big-city dream. On the other hand, a nice house, in a good neighborhood, near a top-rated public school in Pittsburgh is under $300K. A starter home, in a good neighborhood, in a top rated school district commuter suburb upstate, in NJ or on Long Island, is twice as much. It made us almost giddy last weekend to realize that we could walk into Pittsburgh now and BUY A HOUSE.

It’ll be a few weeks before we know all the answers, but I start work in six days. I leave for Pittsburgh on 10/9, and I’ll be back the next weekend. Then, a week later, Paul and Ben will fly in. Paul will drop off Ben, spend the weekend with his parents, and then leave our son with me for a couple weeks (so I don’t have to be away from my baby for TOO long). Ben will stay with Mama, Grandma and Grandpa for two weeks, including Hallowe’en (where he will trick-or-treat on the same streets Paul did growing up), and then I’ll fly him back to L.A. I’ll return, finish my last week of work…and fly back for my friend Kelly’s wedding on November 12th. It’s going to be a crazy couple of months, but hopefully, at the end of it, we’ll know where it is we’ll be moving to in 2012.

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