If you get to know Tim Quirino, you come to realize he likes precision. He’s a designer in the modern sense: web minded and urban, focused on the details, fashionable and committed to making art with a plan for utility.
That might help you understand why he describes the next stage of his life in the context of how it follows the pattern before it. He was born in the Philippines in 1984. Ten years later, his family moved to northern New Jersey. Ten years after that, he arrived in University City to attend Drexel University.
Now, after a decade of calling Philadelphia home, he’ll be moving to San Francisco, where he’ll join the bus-bound Internet company set as he prepares for a job on the product design team at Facebook in Palo Alto.
Quirino, 30, well-dressed in a professional meets punk rock kind of way, is leaving Friday, having already quit after nearly two years with South Philly web dev firm P’unk Ave. Through his eagerness to talk shop and flaunt his client portfolio, Quirino’s passion for good design is clear, just look at the intricacies of his tattoos if you get the chance.
But among the new creative class of 20 and 30-somethings who have started relationships since the city’s brain drain stopped leaking and forged them during meetups at chic gastropubs, Quirino is best known as the cofounder of Geekadelphia.
He never wrote often on the geek culture blog he launched with high school band friend Eric Smith, that wasn’t his job. Instead, he made sure the site conveyed how he felt the web should be: clean and modern and full of big images. Six years after launching the blog in 2007, he wrote a farewell last month that featured a special extra-wide style (and a Tron metaphor). It’s clear he thought it an important moment to his community.
“The things Philadelphia’s bright young minds are doing will continue to define how the entire world sees this city,” he wrote in an email. “Philadelphia’s ideas should resonate as its own because we are fiercely independent thinkers.”
It was through Geekadelphia, started as a place for him and Smith to share news about geeky things they loved, and their ensuing events, like the Philly Geek Awards, that Quirino first found a connection to Philadelphia.
“I had trouble finding employment in [design] right out of school so my first two jobs out of college depended on commuting to King of Prussia, and then to West Chester,” he said. “I didn’t really feel a connection to the city until later.”
Then, like so many others of his age, he found and helped build the kind of stronger, more dynamic and vibrant social networks that make successful cities sticky for young people. It’s something Philadelphia had lacked but has done so much better during Quirino’s time.
So, of course, this is exactly the kind of person who should choose to stay stuck here. He’s freshly 30, a college-educated, highly skilled immigrant with a well-paying technology job, a fiancee, a bowling league, an apartment in a cool neighborhood and social capital in excess. He teared up while speaking at his own awards show last August when talking about his friends and finding Philadelphia.
But on Friday he’ll leave.
To be clear, Quirino isn’t leaving because of something this city did or didn’t do. He’s leaving for some of the core tenets of the Millennial generation, ones that threaten all the economic development planning aiming to attract and retain them: they’re professionally minded, cosmopolitan and mobile.
“My leaving is not a result of Philadelphia’s shortcomings. It is simply a matter of timing and opportunity with a company where I can make a definitive impact in the way human connections are fostered worldwide,” he said. “Philadelphia as a city didn’t do anything wrong. In fact the community is on its way to serious recognition and it just has to stick to its roots.”
When pressed about whether he’d return to Philadelphia in the future, two familiar threads come up.
First, he talks about the variety and quality of in-city professional opportunities.
Quirino lauded his ability to develop at P’unk and credited its founder Geoff Di Masi but wondered how many jobs like his Philadelphia had and how many fewer there must be that would allow someone to work crafting a single product, like he will do within a big consumer software company like Facebook.
"Philadelphia’s bright young minds will continue to define how the entire world sees this city."
“Local businesses are doing a good amount of work hiring newly graduated designers but I think that more startups and more small businesses should be taking a shot at hiring these young [graduates],” he said, conveying that a city’s revival can have a social core but needs jobs to grow any further. “I can’t tell you enough how much design talent leaves this city because businesses don’t value design enough.”
The very point just may be that Quirino, like any other professional brought here by college, really doesn’t owe Philadelphia anything. He’s built meaningful friendships that social media and cheap air travel will make sure stay relevant for as long as he wants them to be.
The second reason you can be sure he’ll be back is if it’s the best place for him and his soon-to-be-wife Melissa. He wants a fully funded transit system — talk to Harrisburg about that — and, yes, you guessed it, he wants faith in a public school school system that would convey this is a place to build a family.
“If it can support the future generation well then that will definitely be a reason for me to come back to the city I love,” he said.
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