Posts Tagged ‘In the Breakroom’

How We Will Work: Stories from Wisconsin

Our Working Lives Project, Voices from the Field | October 6, 2016 | By:


Here on Humanities Booyah, we curate a mix of voices and ideas. Our interests are eclectic. We are just as interested in hearing from museum directors with tips for reaching out to new audiences as we are in learning about nearly-forgotten Wisconsin authors and their once-famous books.

Our all-time most popular article, however, stands out for being different. “In My Experience: The Work of a Medical Transcriptionist” is a personal story shared with us by a woman named Sue in Menomonee Falls. We had just launched our Working Lives Project when Sue contacted us in response to hearing our director, Dena Wortzel, challenge us to reflect on the unseen work — and workers — all around us.  Sue knew too well what being unseen can mean. Read More

In the Breakroom with Michelle Wildgen

Our Working Lives Project | March 4, 2015 | By:

Michelle Wildgen is the author of three novels, including “You’re Not You,” recently made into a film starring Hilary Swank and Emmy Rossum. She grew up in the midwest, attended UW-Madison and got an MFA at Sarah Lawrence. She is also the executive editor at Tin House magazine and, along with Susanna Daniel, runs the Madison Writers’ Studio. She is working on a fourth novel. WorkingLivesHeader

Describe your first job and what you remember most about it.

I waited tables and worked in the carry-out section of an Italian chain restaurant  in Stow, Ohio. It was a pretty terrible restaurant–there was a wine spigot; the pizza crusts were frozen pre-made rounds we basically ran through a giant toaster oven–which is why it was an extremely fun place to work. It was stocked with teenagers and college students planning their next party or getting started on one on the clock. There was no pretense toward good food or, say, standards. Well, not among the staff, there wasn’t. 

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In the Breakroom with Brad Lichtenstein

Our Working Lives Project | February 18, 2015 | By:

Brad Lichtenstein is an award winning filmmaker and president of 371 Productions. 371 makes documentaries, technology projects and engagement campaigns that contribute to our common good. You can find their work on PBS and other networks, in movie theaters, on the radio, and online. His film, “As Goes Janesville,” follows the lives of workers laid off from well-paying jobs at the GM plant and explores questions about the future of the American middle class.


Brad Lichtensteins workspace

Describe your first job and what you remember most about it.

My first job was probably working in the warehouse in my father’s company. It was a family business selling industrial packaging supplies, bubble wrap, boxes and the like. I picked inventory for orders and loaded it onto trucks. What I remember most is the day I tried to unionize the shop then got promoted to the front office. Co-opted!  

Tell us about a moment that changed the direction you took in your working life.

Without a doubt it was 1986. I was a senior in high school and worked for the civil rights legend John Lewis’ congressional campaign. I was the “body man” so I traveled day and night with Mr. Lewis on the campaign trail. I heard the civil rights stories firsthand and got to know him. He changed my life, put me on a path to doing work engaged with social justice. Years later I’m still in touch and we are making a film together, in fact.

What do you do on a regular day?

A million things. Each of our producers or staff is focused on one or two projects. I touch them all. I raise some money, offer advice, produce shoots, develop story lines, build relationships with the subjects of our films, network with my industry, give talks or presentations of our films or our work, build partnerships, lay out strategy and vision, cultivate a workplace where people are happy and contributing to the common good. Everyday — I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round. 

What does the future of your work look like?

Like the past. Finding projects we care about, finding the money to do them, finding a way for them to have in impact. I continue to expand what we do to technology, different forms of media, new platforms,  and to support it with new income streams. I think about the future 24/7, to be honest. 

When you think of making a living and making a life, what comes to mind?

My old boss at Southern Regional Council, a non-profit in my home town of Atlanta, told me when he visited me once in NY when I was living there: “make your vocation and avocation one and the same.” Great advice. I think I’ve done it. Basically, if you can make a living doing what you love then you win. And so does the world. That’s what I try to provide for the people who work at 371, that opportunity. We say we are a triple bottom line company: common good, happiness, and sustainability. 

This interview with Brad Lichtenstein is part of a series. We hope you’ll keep reading, and learn more about our Working Lives Project: Making a Living and Making a Life in Wisconsin. 

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Nickolas ButlerPenelope Trunk-mudbath-blogsizeJessie at Superbowl trailerBrad Lichtensteins workspace
Making a Living and Making a Life in WisconsinIn the Breakroom with Nickolas ButlerIn the Breakroom with Penelope TrunkIn the Breakroom with Jessie GarciaIn the Breakroom with Michelle Wildgen (coming March 4)


In the Breakroom with Jessie Garcia

Our Working Lives Project | February 4, 2015 | By:

Jessie Garcia, author of “My Life with the Green & Gold: Tales from 20 Years of Sportscasting,” was one of the first female TV sportscasters in the Midwest. She has covered Wisconsin teams for more than 20 years, including at WISC-TV in Madison and at WTMJ in Milwaukee, where she hosted The Mike McCarthy Show. She also teaches journalism at UW-Milwaukee. She is available to speak in your community through our ShopTalk program!


Jessie Garcia w Holmgren 

Describe your first job and what you remember most about it.

My first job (other than babysitting) was being a camp counselor at Camp Shalom in Madison. It was a terrific first experience– lots of responsibility with younger kids, outdoor work all summer and of course, my first paycheck– way cool. I was a bus counselor and I recall singing tons of songs on the way to and from camp every day. But really, the part that stands out for me the most was the camaraderie with other counselors and feeling like I was a part of the adult working world. I was only 14 when I started as a junior counselor but continued for about the next five summers, working up to senior counselor. I knew from that first summer that I loved working, being a part of something and giving back to the community and I have held at least one job ever since.

Tell us about a moment that influenced your work history.  

I guess I would choose the first time I was allowed to anchor a sportscast. Read More

In the Breakroom with Penelope Trunk

Our Working Lives Project | January 22, 2015 | By:

Penelope Trunk is the co-founder of Quistic, an online company that offers courses about how to manage your career. It is her fourth startup. She is also a writer and her career advice has run in 200 newspapers. She says, “My own career path has had twists and turns,” which she documents on her blog. She lives on a farm in Wisconsin with her family. 


Describe your first job and what you remember most about it.

I was an ice cream scooper at 31 Flavors. Peanut butter and chocolate is too hard to scoop because the peanut butter gets too hard. Dacqueri Ice doesn’t freeze and customers always complain that it’s melty. Mint chip has too many chunks and malts take took long to make. I quit, but right before I quit I gave away free cones for a whole shift. It made the customers so happy. I realized then that I wanted to do work that made people happy. 

Tell us about a moment that influenced your work history.

I was unemployed and I didn’t have rent money. I had been telling myself if I ever ran out of money it would be okay because I could be a nude model. So finally the time came and I knocked on the photographers door, and he answers and right away he said, “Nah. You’re too uptight.” I don’t know how he knew it, but he was right. And then I started really thinking about how to make money reliably.  Read More

In the Breakroom with Nickolas Butler

Our Working Lives Project | January 7, 2015 | By:

Nickolas Butler is the author of the novel “Shotgun Lovesongs” and a forthcoming collection of short stories entitled, “Beneath the Bonfire.” Along the way, he has worked as: a Burger King maintenance man, a tutor, a telemarketer, a hot-dog vendor, an innkeeper (twice), an office manager, a coffee roaster, a liquor store clerk, and an author escort. His itinerant work includes: potato harvester, grape picker, and Christmas tree axe-man. He lives on sixteen acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married and has two children.

Describe your first job and what you remember most about it.

My parents owned a warehousing and distribution business during all of my teenage years, so my first job was probably working for them, packing pallets full of fluorescent lights destined for various Menards stores across the upper-Midwest. That job sometimes paid. My first *real* job was working as a Burger King maintenance man. I remember feeling very clueless, struggling to pack the right tools, learning how to drive a stick-shift, waking up way before sunrise to work on the machines inside restaurants before breakfast started. Smelling like fast-food. Grease in my arm-hair. Calibrating the soda-machines so that the ratio of sugar and water was correct. Being stranded on the roof of a Burger King in wintertime because while I was working on an HVAC system someone closed the roof-hatch and left me up there, freezing. That sort of thing.

I’ve had a lot of memorable and bizarre vocations. The Burger King job was definitely one of the strangest.

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