Career Transition Stories: The Workplace Architect


This is the first installment of a new series called Career Transition Stories that will tell tales of how people make significant changes in their careers.

When he was younger, Nick Stocking dreamed of being an architect, but he could have never guessed his path would lead him to designing a new way to work. He is the founder of a truly one-of-a-kind workplace called Design Cloud in Chicago’s West Loop where he attracts and selects freelance workers who come together to do work for corporate clients, while getting support for their own projects.  Currently, the Design Cloud team; include independent professionals with a variety of backgrounds who share a passion for great design.

After focusing on sports, girls, and being liked in high school, Nick became serious about his academics in college where he studied real estate development and urban planning. After college he progressed rapidly through the ranks at a real estate development company, eventually landing as a junior partner. He enjoyed the challenge of collaborating with architects, contractors, and financiers to execute very large and complex deals.  Then in 2008, the global financial crisis led to the real estate market crash. Nick was let go from his dream job and describes this time of his life as if he was standing on bedrock to then being forced to step into quick sand. 

He was determined to find a new dream, which is always easier said than done.  Developing the idea of Design Cloud and committing to it, full time, took over two years of Nick’s life.  He knew he wanted to be connected to people who were creative while expanding his own skills, but transitioning from a traditional career to being a pioneer was daunting.  This process included exploring his own real estate venture, deep personal exploration into what he really wanted from his life and work, and then, attracting a small band of people who wanted to create the dream with him.

This search culminated with finding and building the perfect location for his new invention, which combines design studio/work areas, an art gallery and a community building meeting place. Design Cloud opened its doors in November of 2011. Fortunately, the first client signed one month later, proving Nick’s theory that independent people doing work they loved could attract top-tier clients.

Nick reports that the most surprising and rewarding part of this leap of faith was how easy it was to find talented people who share the same values.  One of his team mates, Justine Tan describes it this way, “Design Cloud’s respect for our individual lifestyle(s) and its ability to harness our talent without dictating our process allow for the essential things in my life to coexist. And who doesn’t love that?”

Nick’s biggest challenge in this new chapter is changing the measuring stick he uses to track success to include human capital, creative capital and social capital as well as financial metrics. He continues to struggle with this new paradigm, which is a big change from the real estate business where success was measured in purely financial terms.

Future plans include providing his team with more perks like personal and business financial planning, and support for launching their own businesses, if that is their dream.  Nick would like to grow Design Cloud by expanding to other cities, once he is more established in Chicago. Learn more about Nick Stocking, Design Cloud and their intriguing events here:

 Laurel Donnellan

 Founder and CEO


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