Alternative Today – and Beyond
Alternative Technologies occupies a beloved place in the hearts – and in the wiring closets and on the desks – of thousands of people who work at Bay Area nonprofits and progressive businesses. We provide telephone systems and IT services and support. Our company operates out of our funky offices in the historic Heinz building in west Berkeley, though many of our staff save gas, time and headache by working remotely from home offices. Many of our staff still meet our customers the old-fashioned way – face to face – by visiting our customers’ offices and facilities in person for meetings, technical support, installations, or cabling jobs.
Our staff of 35 is made up of a diverse bunch with a wide range of experience. Alternative is known for the longevity of its staff, with 10 of us having worked here for more than 15 years each! Everyone in the company has nonprofits somewhere in their background, and we are all gratified by the opportunity to support organizations and causes that we believe in.
In 2022, Alternative employees purchased the company from long-time founder Jerry Skomer and formed a worker-owned cooperative. A culmination of Jerry’s vision for the company, the cooperative will sustain the business long into the future, allowing us to continue serving our progressive Bay Area client base, support our community, and provide stability for our dedicated employees.
Alternative Technologies was started in 1989 by Jerry Skomer, the former executive director of CalPIRG. With technology slowly beginning to gain significance in the workplace, nonprofits needed a trusted ally to help them navigate and negotiate to take advantage of the incredible productivity advances that were about to come. Remember when voicemail didn’t exist, much less email? Jerry does.
By the early 2000s, computer networks were ubiquitous in offices, but most were not efficient, secure or managed. Maintaining and protecting customers’ data, hardware and work processes became an entire industry, and Alternative was there, keeping it all connected.
Our business solidified around providing hardware and installation of computers, network equipment, phone systems, and voice and data wiring. In recent years, we have taken full responsibility for IT and telecom systems for our customers, allowing them to leave that up to us so that they can focus on their programs. For mission-driven organizations, the peace of mind this provides is priceless.
Since the beginning and all along the way, our cabling department has provided the connectivity that underpins everything. Thousands of Bay Area buildings are full of cables – or wireless signals – that we have installed.
Our staff gradually formed several teams to serve our customers: telecom field technicians, telecom project managers and remote support technicians, IT field technicians, IT account managers and remote support technicians, cabling technicians, and our back office administrative team. We are not so big to allow this to separate us, as we spend a lot of time cross-training and learning new technology from each other. This integration is one of our company’s greatest strengths.
From the beginning and for more than 30 years, Alternative has been inspired by the work of our clients. From the ACLU to the YMCA, we are proud to be able to provide the support they need to change our world for the better.
Jen Queen of Masks
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, no one knew how events would take shape. That didn’t stop our very own Jen Senlio, Senior Project Manager. As soon as she heard there was a mask shortage, a deep concern verified by her friend who worked as a nurse at Riker’s prison facility in New York City, she got to work, cutting fabric and sewing masks.
By now, Jen has sent hundreds of masks to New York and elsewhere around the country. She has also outfitted all of our Alternative field technicians with a supply of washable masks.
As you can imagine, we’re all very proud to work with Jen!