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Beneath the glamour…is the reality, and the people

2009 October 29
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The Sonoma Valley is a beautiful place to live and work.

Yesterday was officially my one month anniversary since I started my social media job here in the Sonoma/Napa area. In a previous post, I mentioned all the events leading up to my move to wine country, but I avoided the question everybody’s been asking. Lately, I’ve been getting a similar question from two different sides. From those who aren’t in the industry and think I have an exciting dream job, I get asked the typical, “How’s it going?” or “How’s living in wine country?” From my coworkers or other people doing a similar job, I get a similar, yet different question, “How are you doing?” or more often, “How are you holding up?” because they know how much work it is to do this job…or do they? After all, most of my peers are dealing with one brand while I’m dealing with eight, each trying to be distinct.

Is it everything I thought it would be?

Yes and then some. I learn something new every day about wine which makes me realize how little I really know and how much more there is to learn. Occasionally, I get to taste some really fantatic wine and eat some incredible food. And every once in a while, I meet really nice people whose presence treats me to an enjoyable evening of laughter and camaraderie. That’s the public persona, the social media zoot suit that I must put on to maintain the illusion that a job in the wine and spirits industry is fun, hip and desirable. It’s the part that Dr. David Horowitz wrote about on his blog. It makes for good content.

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Having dinner with Jenna and friends.

Warning: reading beyond this point may shatter your illusion of a social media job, cause irreversible regret or a change in your major.

Nobody is really interested in the reality of what I do and the amount of time I spend doing it. It’s not all wine, food and parties. For every 1 minute video that gets posted to my or my employer’s blog site, I’ll probably spend 4 to 6 hours traveling, shooting, editing, uploading, tagging and publicizing it, often on my own time and expense. For every set of photos I take, I spend several hours scouting, staging, shooting, editing and processing those shots. That’s because I’m a perfectionist. Some people can do an acceptable job in half the time, but I’m striving for more.

Paying my dues

When Gary Vaynerchuk says that pursuing your passion will mean a lot of work from 7pm to 2am, he wasn’t kidding. Since I’ve been here, I’ve visited only three wineries, outside of the ones I work for, for a grand total of just 40 minutes. I’ve eaten at two nicer restaurants. I’ve watched zero television. I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen and I haven’t seen my wife or any of my Seattle friends. In other words, I don’t have much of a life outside of work right now. I consider this the dues I must pay to change careers. It isn’t that different from what I was doing before I got this job, except that now I’m getting paid to do it. But when I figure in the number of hours I’m working each week, I’m actually making about the same salary as I did in the late 80’s and probably less than most recent college grads. Still want a job in social media?

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Hardly a metaphor of my life, my plate is usually full.

My typical day has me spending about 14 hours working—9 of those at the office—5 hours sleeping and the rest of my time, shopping and making meals, cleaning, laundry, personal hygiene and talking on the phone with my wife. I suppose if I wanted more sleep, I could cut out the cleaning, laundry and personal hygiene, but I think that would make it difficult for people to be around me. Luckily for me there’s the Internet. 😉

Speaking of people, according to Myers-Briggs, I’m a borderline introvert and not really a great people person, but I already knew that. Oh sure, I can hang out and go to lots of social functions and be very comfortable with that. What it really means is that being around people uses up my energy—it drains me. To recharge, I need time for myself and a distraction; something that allows me to concentrate on something other than people or work. Something like bike riding, woodworking or sleeping. Yeah, sleeping would be nice.

Is it worth the sacrifice?

I really can’t say just yet. I know I could go back to Seattle tomorrow, find a job again in web UI design and easily make 33% more money while working only half as hard. But it isn’t all about the money. If it were, I would be gone. And it’s not really about the amount of time I spend working. If it weren’t fun in some way, again, I would be gone. What I’ve discovered is that it’s about the one aspect that I have to work at the hardest: people.

What makes being around people tolerable, no, enjoyable, for an introvert like me, is how nice most everyone has been. The wine industry has some of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met (and probably some of the most underpaid). From the people I work with, to the people I meet at parties and dinners, everyone has been genuinely friendly, and extremely generous with their time and their wines. Maybe it’s just that honeymoon period or maybe people don’t know me well enough to treat me any other way. Nonetheless, I know that I’ve made some friends here and that’s what’s keeping me going and making it worthwhile.

Copyright © 2009, Eric Hwang and Bricks of Wine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eric Hwang and Bricks of Wine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. October 29, 2009

    I could see how being a perfectionist would make all of this stuff even more time consuming then it already is.

    I liked how @eaglesnestwine talked about how he’d put on his “social media 40” after spending lots of time on this stuff.

    I agree that it’s fun as long as you’re learning and meeting interesting people!

  2. October 30, 2009

    Hang in there Eric! The work you are putting in is trail blazing. It will pay off in knowledge, social capital, and perhaps most importantly, friends. At the end it should result in value for the wineries too, which trickles down to you in multiple ways.

  3. November 4, 2009

    I love this post! It’s extremely real. Your photos are incredible and its obvious that you put a lot of work into it. Although digital makes things easier, I don’t think everyone realizes how much goes on in the back end. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up when I’m out there with Hardy in a few weeks. Cheers!

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