Let’s Get Real Episode 22: How Gen Z is Influencing the Future of Work
Discussions on the Workplace and Corporate Real Estate Podcast
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Gen Z is the future of work, and they prioritize purpose, autonomy, and flexibility. What does that mean for workplace culture and hybrid working?
- During the job search, what questions should you ask to determine if workplace culture is a good fit? Can we ensure the workplace aligns with our values before accepting a position? How can hiring managers help candidates make the best decisions?
- How have Gen Z’s work preferences and skills impacted the Great Resignation?
- Can you make a difference and have a positive impact on the world if you’re working at a large company? Why does Gen Z feel they can have more of an impact if they work for themselves?
- Blue-collar jobs are being replaced by robotics; what impact does this have on the widening skills gap between generations?
- It’s imperative to shorten the skills gap between universities and organizations, and to teach people how to run their own businesses.
- Why does Gen Z lean more towards contract work than traditional permanent employment?
- Mentorship and learning can take place in hybrid and remote workplaces just a well as in person, as long as their programs are properly developed and prioritized.
- The best learning and mentorship comes from interactions and collaboration with people in different organizations, with different viewpoints and perspectives.
- Sandra Panara on LinkedIn – Director of Workplace Insights at Relogix
- Danielle Farage on LinkedIn – Director of Growth and Marketing at Café
- Café – the social hub for hybrid teams
- Work – digital cluster of future work builders
- Dror Poleg on Twitter
- Dave Mekelberg on LinkedIn
- Todd McLees on LinkedIn
- Purposeful Intent – series of curated Corporate Real Estate and Workplace events to foster thought leadership around the future of work
Hey everyone, welcome to Let’s Get Real with Sandra and Friends, a workplace consortium podcast brought to you by Relogix. I’m excited to be sharing conversational musings about current events and how we envision the ever-changing world of work. I’m Sandra Panara, Director of Workplace Insights at Relogix. With 25 years of hands-on experience, I help value engineer global workplace portfolios and employee experiences by aligning workplace analytics with corporate real estate needs.
Have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future podcasts? Please drop me a line at [email protected].
I’d like to welcome Danielle Farage this week. Danielle is a Gen Z work futurist and Director of Growth at Café. As a global thought leader, community builder and LinkedIn Top Voice, Danielle uses her platform to bridge intergenerational gaps at work and beyond. After spending years building communities and marketing HR tech platforms, at 22, she landed a Head of Growth position at a Y Combinator start-up. She then began her journey as a digital nomad, speaker, and co-lead of the buildthefuture.work community, with the intention of creating more inclusive, equitable, and dynamic work cultures.
Hey, Danielle! Thanks for joining the podcast this week! Welcome.
Thank you! Hi Sandra, it’s so nice to see you and to be here! I’m very excited, it’s Monday, we’re both feeling refreshed, we both got a lot done this weekend. Let’s have a great one.
Exactly. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Big question! I am a work futurist, and a 23-year-old trying to live and thrive in 2022, which is pretty hard sometimes. But really what it means to be a work futurist is I try, in all my facets of life, to foster an elevated consciousness around the intersection of identity, the cultures we create around us, and work. And how we stay—I don’t love the word productive, but how we stay working and challenging ourselves creatively in today’s world. I grew up in New York City where I was exposed very early on to a lot.
Then when I went away to college at USC, I looked around me and I was trying to figure out what to study. I saw my two older siblings going into the corporate world and not really loving their experience there, and I said to myself you know what, I don’t really want that. I want to be happy. I want work to fulfill me. And I want to impact the world in a positive way, rather than just making rich people richer. So I looked around me and said, what is everyone else studying? And a lot of people were just doing what their parents told them or doing what they thought was the right path, based on how much money they would make, or they were told they would make.
What I wanted to do was use my four years at USC to really put them to work, to engage, to take part in the culture of the campus and to take advantage of all that it had to offer, including guest speakers like Kobe Bryant and Ariana Huffington and a lot of people from big companies. So I went to a lot of events and I studied social sciences with a psych emphasis, with the intention of being able to walk into any room and talk to anyone, listen to understand them, and then take what I learn back to the board room to help those leaders make better decisions about people that would impact their lives positively.
Six years ago, when I was trying to decide what to study, we lived in a time where people weren’t the main focus of organizations in terms of happiness at work and workplace wellness—these things weren’t really a thing. So to think, fast forward 5 years, that’s exactly what we’re talking about, it’s pretty crazy. It’s surreal, but it’s really a wonderful thing and I’m very grateful to have found myself in a place where I can speak for and on behalf of my generation, just from my own experience and that of the people around me.
That’s a great introduction! I think that’s what caught my eye. You’re very vocal on LinkedIn, and I started to see more and more of your posts about Gen Z and I loved them. You were talking my language.
I had an experience of working with a group of—not Gen Zs, they were still too young at the time—but Millennials, several years back when they were just graduating from school, and remembering how much of an eye-opener it was for me to learn about how different they were, but in a good way. This is going to be the future of work, the way that the newer generation comes into the workforce and how they approach work and how they think about work and their whole mannerisms.
It’s very different than how I was raised, being a Gen Xer. And then obviously Boomers and even the veterans that were in the workforce at the time, just the way that we were raised was so different. It was all about, “you go to school, study something, and then you get the corporate job, you climb the ladder”. It was like something different was happening, I couldn’t quite understand it. I think that’s why a lot of the criticisms happened about Millennial workers because they’re so different.
I have a Millennial child, and I asked her many times, what is it about the thinking that’s different? It was, we grew up where our parents were never home. The parents worked all the time because that’s what we were raised to do. Go to work, bring home a paycheck, pay the bills, buy the house, do all that stuff. It seemed like the younger generation wasn’t as interested in following that path. I thought to myself, ok, you guys are lost, you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re going to do. But they’re a force to be reckoned with because I think there’s a lot of really interesting change that’s coming forth as a result of the new generation coming into the workforce.
So that leads to the first question that I have for you. Thinking about being a recent grad and graduating in the midst of the pandemic, what was your experience like joining the workforce, coming straight out of school?
I think I’m a little bit of a different case than most people you might meet. But maybe that’s a good thing because I’m an older Gen Z, so I could be used as a good example for more of what’s to come. But specifically, when I was in college, there was still that mentality of: let’s go to the Big 5, let’s get that consulting job, let’s go into finance and law and real estate. It was the dominating culture, and I don’t think that’s really changed yet. I think it’s changing, but it’s still not normalized to go the path that I went, which is the unconventional one.
During my time in college, I saw my siblings go after this corporate job lifestyle and I didn’t want that for myself, so I chose the start-up route. Throughout school I always worked at start-ups from as early as pre-seed to as late as Series A. So, I haven’t yet hit the Series B area, but I think I’ll probably get there.
So, I graduated during the pandemic, in the thick of it. After watching both my siblings graduate from USC and being at their graduations, I graduated remotely, which was pretty tough. Then I was working at a start-up at the time and went full-time during the summer. That was a pretty toxic environment. I was working remotely for someone based out of California and with the time zones and the chaos that was the company, I think it just didn’t really fit.
Eventually I left that job in August and I went on the job search. It was pretty scary at the time because we were still in the thick of the pandemic, and a lot of my friends either didn’t have a job at all, so they were sitting ducks, or they were sitting ducks because they were waiting for their jobs to start the following year because their start dates had been pushed back.
After I quit my job, three weeks later, I got a job at another start-up. And that experience really set the tone for the juxtaposition of a toxic culture and a great culture. It teaches you a lot. You’re able to really understand that culture is the big deal. And it’s surprising that we don’t teach many job-seekers to actually find a good, positive culture. So, when I did find it, I was blown away. I thought, this is where I want to be, I see myself really aligning to the company.
I’d always employed this idea of values-based job searching, but I didn’t really know how to put words to that. I always knew I wanted the company I work for to have a positive impact at the end of the day. So, I always chased that, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, internally. So I went into this job where the culture was in-person, previously. I think they did a really good job of creating this inclusion. My old boss, Dave Mekelberg, is really a phenomenal human who deeply values and appreciates diversity and inclusion. He was named on one of these top inclusive leaders lists. I really felt that, and I think the whole organization really felt that.
At the end of the day, the biggest thing I struggled with was loneliness and isolation. And the way that I combatted that was not to sit back and say, I feel so bad for myself. It was to find my tribe. It was to go on the LinkedIns of the world, to hang out on Clubhouse, and I got involved on Upstream. Upstream is now a Web3 platform focused on creating DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations). I did a lot of networking during that time, and I started writing a book in early 2020. That process was put on the backburner, but I think now I’m actually entering a new phase of life where we can talk more about that but, the book is really about values-based job searching, which is what I employed.
It’s interesting what you said about values-based job searching, because that’s one of the things that I recognized early on in my career. How long did it take you to realize that your values were aligned? Because companies will say, we value these things, and then you start working there, and you realize something’s not right.
Earlier in my career I did an internship at a media company, and I really thought that was a great workplace. That was a culture that I would want to go work at, post-college. And I got an advance offer from that company to come back for a full-time job when I graduated. They don’t usually offer that to people, that’s something that came from my team, from the leaders, and it was really big for me.
Then when the pandemic happened, I never heard from them again. I’ve never told this story before. I never heard from them again, and I reached out to the recruiter, didn’t hear from her, so I reached out to a few contacts I knew. They told me, we’ve put a freeze on hiring but you should definitely reach out, and I did multiple times, never heard from them again. So that was a sort of an internal red flag, where one of the values that I definitely saw in the office was transparency. They had these big all-hands meetings where they talked about revamping the culture and all of this stuff.
But when I was there during my 6 or 8 weeks as an intern, one of the things that stood out was that I didn’t feel motivated to go to the office after the 6-week mark, because I realized that personally, we were just making big companies more money. And I was not intrinsically motivated by that. So that was one for me.
The external red flag was that they said that they would give me an offer for a job but never followed up. Those two were really big because I figured, well I’m going to go to a company that actually wants to not only offer me a promise of a job but will actually put the offer on the table. And will pay me a living wage to work in New York City, which it wasn’t.
No. It’s interesting, you said a couple of times now that working for a company to help them make more money or something that wasn’t of interesting to you. It made me think, you heard about during the pandemic there were those surveys that went out about how people used the time to upskill, to do all kinds of stuff. A lot of people started a side gig or that sort of thing.
It makes you wonder: is the Great Resignation that’s happening right now because this age group, this younger generation is coming to the realization that they have a specific skill that allows them to go off and do their own thing? In my opinion, that’s the biggest differentiator between the generations, the younger generation’s knowledge of technology and ability to use it to do really cool things.
That’s not to say the older generation can’t do it, it’s just much more readily accessible and easy to do for the younger generation. They come out of school, or more so now, come into the world, with technology in their hands. It’s part of living right from the get-go.
Do you think that’s the way Gen Z thinks about work? You hear a lot of people talking about the alignment of the values, you hear about wanting to have purpose. What do you think about purpose, and the younger generation wanting to join the workforce in a way that they can make a difference, and not feeling like you can make a difference by working at a large company?
There are so many great points and intricate details and factors that go into what you’re saying. I’m going to try to break it down.
First, let’s say you graduate and get a job at a big company, and you show up to, let’s say, an Amazon. It’s a technology company and you arrive your first day in person and they give you a desktop computer from 2015, and they give you some old, clunky ATS system that doesn’t really help you do your job. You think, wait a second. Why am I sitting here doing this on old technology with old systems in place, when I could be sitting at home comfortably on my couch doing the same thing but for myself? I’d also be doing it so much faster with my own choice of software, automating most of the processes, and potentially making more money.
My point is, these companies give us physical tools, hardware and software that enable us, or are supposed to enable us, to do our jobs really well. But in reality, who’s making those decisions? We then question, if I’m doing social media for this company, and they’re giving me all these tools, why not also do it for myself at the same time? And then if I do it for myself and it’s working and growing and I build a real business out of it, why am I still working at that job? And I think that’s a lot of what’s going on.
The second thing is to your point about the technology skills and specializations. I listen to and read Dror Poleg, he’s amazing, and he’s pretty big on Twitter. One of the things that he has talked about has been this specialized workforce. I assume that a lot of the specialized workforce will continue to be of the younger generation, just because we learn faster on technology, and we tend to know more of the trends going on. So right now, the specialized talent can go any place they want. They can get a job anywhere, right? So, as time goes on, there will be more competition for this specialized talent. There will also be different areas the specialized talent arrives from. Marketing is different from AI is different from coding. Each of these different avenues will have more specialized workers, but the specializations are going to get so specific and are really getting specific now, that you’re going to have to pay more for that specialized talent. Which means there’s a skills gap that’s widening.
The skills gap is related to the third factor. What we identify as white-collar jobs where I’m sitting at a computer and doing that work, maybe I’m automating it if I’m a specialized worker, those will continue to grow. The blue-collar jobs, however, are rapidly being replaced by robotics. I think in 2021, the purchases for robotics increased 40%.
The fact is that we need more people to be leaving their jobs at these bigger companies, or for these companies, the Microsofts and the Teslas and the Googles of the world, to create their own innovation hubs or academies to teach people these specialized skills. Which they’re doing – Microsoft pledged I think millions of dollars last year to educate people in more of these specialized roles. But the fact is that the education as it is today is not cutting it. And it will not cut it until they take a much more active and integrated approach, hand in hand with organizations who are looking to fill these roles.
So full circle, we need to shorten the gap between universities and organizations. I think that is literally one of the greatest solutions that can happen. I know specific people in the industry like Todd McLees, who are actually doing that work. Or, we need the creators who are leaving their jobs to teach other people how to run a six-figure business from their homes, to help those small business owners continue to grow and also potentially partner internally with companies to help them teach their employees to do that. I think the structure of work will only continue to change internally at organizations.
That was kind of a long-winded answer, but that question was so jam-packed with so many factors. We have to go deep with this one!
When you think about the future of work and along the lines of what you’ve just said—do you think that Gen Z and any generations coming thereafter would lean more towards contracted work versus traditional full-time work? Do you think that’s what the future of work is going to be in 15, 20 years?
I 100% think so. Yes. We’re hiring at Café, I’m hiring for my individual team. There’s been a lot of interest, I got on the phone with someone on Friday and he said, I took this full-time job at a pre-seed company, right before that I was doing sales at a Series B, and now I’m unattached and I don’t really want a full-time job. Not only because I want to travel the country and I want to work and live in different places, but also because I don’t want to feel like I’m attached and like I can’t go beyond this one place.
I think that’s something that a lot of people struggle with, especially with this idea of Gen Z’s job hopping. There’s a lot of talk about that. There’s this one girl who job hopped I think 26 different times in 3 years. She wrote that the goal of doing that was to find the job that she’s passionate about, find the culture that she loves. The fact is, it took her that many times to find that culture. That’s a problem.
So often, we find ourselves being duped or being sold on an experience of work that actually doesn’t match up to reality. One of the things that we really value, if you’re an employer looking to hire Gen Z, is just being super frank. Be upfront about the challenges and the stage of the company. It’s certainly something that I try to do when I’m interviewing people, to say hey, every company has its problems. Here are the challenges that we’re facing. And if you want to hop on the boat, you’re more than welcome to, if you think you’re the right person to do that. But if not, I will help you find the right place for you. We really value that.
The other part of it is that there’s so much opportunity. To go to that other place and to see that the grass isn’t greener—we’re smart enough to know. For those of us who have job-hopped because we thought the grass was greener, we learned. Now we just want that flexibility. Yeah, we might not value health care as much or we might not see the value of 401Ks because no one ever taught us that stuff. But we are making decisions based on what we know is best for us, and I think contract roles are the most appealing to the life that we all want to live now.
I was talking last weekend to someone in the start-up world who’s a community builder. He said yeah, our generation is more awake. We’re trying to find what we’re passionate about now. And if you think about it, a lot of people during the pandemic woke up to the idea that you want to discover what you love, do what you love, or rediscover parts of themselves that they’ve lost. I think that if we find that at 23, 25, 28, that’s a beautiful thing. That means that we’ll be able to carry that and live our truest selves for the most time. And I think typically it’s kind of looked down upon. But I don’t really think that we care.
This is really fascinating.
As I listen to you talk, I think about my career in corporate and everything you say is dead on. It’s exactly what the experience is, and you just accept it. When you were talking about the old technology, I’ll never forget: when I left Nike, I went to work at another company and I was there for a very short period of time. When you interview, nobody gives the rundown of what technology they have, you don’t think to ask the question, you just assume they’re going to have the latest technology, because typically companies update every couple of years, you hope. And this was a big company. I remember walking in, sitting down at my desk, and there was this desktop. Laptops had been around, but you got a desktop. The worst part was, they weren’t even using Outlook, which was what everybody was using. They were using some archaic system.
The impact it had on productivity! You come in raring to go, thinking this is a great opportunity, provided you have the technology to do your job. And suddenly you’re thinking to yourself, how am I actually going to do this job? Because you never thought to ask the question. I think that’s probably more common than people talk about.
Thinking about working in the corporate world and all of the legalities and rules, do you think the whole concept of conflict of interest plays into why the younger generation prefers to be non-committal? That whole “don’t put me in a box”?
Huge. It’s the biggest thing about Gen Z. I remember working at that media agency and they were saying, Gen Z doesn’t want to be put in a box. It’s the biggest thing. And I feel it, when I’m categorized—“she’s an associate,” or even some of these job roles like “junior publicist,” “junior this,” “associate that”. Why label us in a way that makes us feel smaller? Not only for ourselves, but to the world? The reality is, I might be doing the same job as a senior reporter, if I’m a junior reporter. It could be the same workload, and it could be a difference of 3x in salary. And that’s fine. But at the end of the day, why should anyone else know my level of seniority? That’s partially why I created my own job title. Because I don’t want my job to define me. I don’t want someone else’s label or job title that they created for me to define who I am in the world of work. Because guess what, I’m a speaker, I’m a community builder, I’m a futurist, I’m a thinker, I’m a marketer, everything!
It’s okay be a generalist. We talk about the specialized workforce and all that but realistically, I’m a generalist by hard skills. I’m specialized in—I don’t want to say soft skills because I saw a post about that today, saying can we stop calling it soft skills, which I totally agree with—I think the way I would label it is that I’m a specialist in necessary skills. The skills of communication and making other people feel comfortable around me. Those are the most important skills that we need to be teaching Gen Z.
Especially because so many of us worked through the pandemic and graduated into the pandemic. We had two full classes of grads and then on top of that, we have probably 7 years of people doing school remotely, collectively amongst the different classes. That takes a huge toll on your mental health. Poor mental health rates across colleges are at scary highs. I think it’s 1 in 8 students report not being able to leave their beds or their rooms because they’re so depressed. We need to be talking about that versus trying to categorize us as whatever people try to label us as—entitled, blah blah blah. We grew up at a really hard time, and it’s only getting harder.
Also, we need to be teaching people how to manage their relationship with technology, which is something that at 23 I’m only learning now. We need to be teaching people how to breathe, how to meditate, how to create space and create boundaries for themselves, and between themselves and the world and others, versus trying to categorize them for our own benefit or peace of mind.
I think the other part to that is the fact you mentioned earlier that the education system takes you through a path that’s very archaic. If you don’t fit that mould, I can imagine the stress that puts on the generations as they go through it. Because the school system is pretty much the same as it was when I went to school 20, 30 years ago. But the world has changed. You also said in one of our previous conversations about how you’re taught something a certain way in school, then you come out into the world and it’s not what you were expecting. You think, this is nothing like what they taught me in school. And then you’re trying to keep your head above water as you’re trying to figure out what this is.
Let’s talk a little bit about learning. You hear a lot of companies talking about how you need to have a physical workplace for your generation in order to learn. What was your experience, or is your experience, coming in fresh out of school and mentorship? What’s your take on that?
I’m smiling really big because it’s kind of funny to me. That’s the big argument for the pro back-to-office people. I wrote a whole piece about it actually in response to a Wall Street Journal article. Just the concept that you have to be in a certain place to connect with others is ridiculous. It’s been proven probably a billion times over by just Zoom meetings.
A couple months ago I was in a mosh pit with David Grey and he said, I work in a law firm, and I used to love training and mentoring the associates, but now that we’re in a hybrid-remote situation, I just don’t have as much time to do it, it’s harder, blah blah blah. I looked at him and I thought, here’s what remote work did for us. Even if it was forced, as forced remote is very different from choice remote. I said to him, look, if mentorship and mentoring others is important to you, then make it a priority. If you don’t have time, it means you’re not prioritizing it. So, create a Slack channel or an internal program where you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. You can go ask other people who run mentorship programs or even better, community managers, and you can ask them about best practices for mentorship. Then you can create your own program internally and have people sign up who are just like you who really want to mentor others. Maybe it’s office hour Tuesdays, you’re just there for other people, you can indicate that using Café. You can say, I’m in the office, in the mentor room. You can just be there, and people can see that. There’s visibility and transparency and trust, as opposed to saying woe is me, I can’t mentor people anymore. Well, you’re not prioritizing it.
So that’s one example. I think secondly, I’m a great example of not needing to be in an office to grow a career. I’ve just been named as a LinkedIn top voice.
I saw that, congratulations!
Thank you! And I completely grew my network remotely. So, I think that thinking is very archaic. It’s often an argument used by people who want to control others and are fearful of the future and of change. But more and more companies every single day are proving that theory wrong. And it’s likely that the people even bringing that argument to the table are proving them wrong themselves.
I find the whole conversation around being in a physical space in order to learn and connect is really interesting. For me, the biggest “aha” was when I left corporate and did my start-up years ago, and similar to your experience, made lots of connections on Twitter and LinkedIn and other social media platforms. I was never meeting these people in person but building a relationship with them online, and if in some future time you have the opportunity to meet with them, you’d just carry on the friendship as you normally would. There’s no difference to me in the value of the friendship. For example, here we are doing a podcast together.
That’s always been something that’s stuck in my mind the last two years now, working with Relogix: being given permission, or taking the lead, in terms of building a network, openly conversing and discussing topics of interest to me, and learning through other people through discussions you have on social media—which many employers don’t allow their employees to do. Sometimes you have your hands tied a bit in terms of what you can and can’t say on social media. It’s a double-edged sword. You’re saying you want people to learn and collaborate and innovate, but to me, collaboration and innovation happens the most when you’re interacting with people outside of your organization, with different thinking. That’s one of the things that probably holds companies back.
I think I told you the story when we spoke last week, but when you go into the start-up world, people are talking to you and willingly giving you information, which doesn’t happen in the corporate world. Everybody’s standoffish because they’re worried you’re going to take over their job or keep you at arm’s length because they’re not really sure of who you are, and you’re observed as a threat. You would expect to see that more in the start-up world, but that’s where the innovation happens. The sharing of the ideas and knowledge is so different than what it is in a corporate environment.
I’ve been looking at articles from 2010, 2011 about this future of work, and I’m thinking ok, we’ve passed so many years and we’re still here. But do you think that companies can even truly aspire to being more entrepreneurial? Or do you think that that’s just a way of being able to attract the younger generation that now is preferring to go to the start-up seed-stage to be able to really have an impact and find their purpose?
That’s a good question. I’ve seen a lot of articles recently also about upping pay and salary to keep people. And I don’t think that’ll keep them. I think going back to what we were talking about earlier, people are looking for a greater sense of purpose. People are looking for a greater sense of autonomy. Of owning their own thing. And less limitations. More flexibility in how you work and when you work and what you work on will be a huge benefit to these organizations who are trying to retain people. It’s not just about how you show up at the office. It’s more about what you show up to in the world.
I think we should remember to think of other people as not just employees but full humans with lives, who want to be supported. People go after jobs because they want to be supported—they need money to support their lives. I think that this shift that we’re seeing with start-ups, in that most are starting fully remotely these days. They’re not trying to create an office. That’s why flex-space is growing and why WeWork is growing, because they have this on-demand office space that, when we need that time together, we will take it and we’ll use it and we’ll be super intentional with how we use it.
I’m super inspired by some of the companies, like Twitter for example, that are actually going out and talking to their people, and have been thinking about future of work for years and years, when it was not on our radar—because why would we think about the future of work? Until now.
But yes, I think it’s kind of becoming also cool to be working at a start-up, low key. It’s becoming much cooler to be working at a start-up than saying hey, I work at DeLoitte. Cool, good for you. So do so many other people. Uniqueness is really interesting.
Someone said this to me this weekend, which I totally wholeheartedly agree with—people who are honest are often the most interesting people. And if you think about it, what you just said, corporate doesn’t allow you to be honest all the time and I still feel like that’s one of the things I value so much about my job and European culture generally. They’re so honest that sometimes it actually hurts.
But it creates creative tension. Duncan Wordel spoke about that at Purposeful Intent two weeks ago. You feel it when two people disagree about a topic and then come back to the table and say ok, we felt that tension and now: what if we put our ideas together or compromise in some way, or we come up with an even better idea together? And then suddenly, that’s how innovation works. I don’t feel like people have the psychological safety to disagree, in a lot of cultures. It can also totally happen in the start-up world, I’ve been a victim of it myself. But I think that more companies need to be prioritizing that earlier on.
Ok, last question! Let’s talk a little bit about Café. I’ve seen a couple of links, and I’m so jealous because I see you running around in Paris having all those Instagrammable moments. Those meetings, are they scheduled, is there a quarterly plan to get together, are they ad hoc, or are they a combination? How does that work in your organization?
We’re remote-first hybrid, so it depends on your preference/geographical location. For example, I was hired in the US to help us enter the US market. I go to Paris every quarter, which is a time for us to connect, most of all. We go out on outings, we’ve been to cool adventure laser-tag-esque things, we did a cooking class, we’ve done family dinners.
Secondly, we collaborate. We get together more times than we would in a normal week or than the Paris team would, and we collaborate on the things that we think are top of mind, and oftentimes I’m the one leading the charge there.
Three, we get together be creative. My creativity is at its peak when I’m traveling so that’s a really big benefit. And we have these times where some of us will connect, called espresso meetups, where we’ll be matched with each other one-on-one, and we’ll do these in-person walks or chit chats. That helps with creativity, because you get to understand what the other person has been thinking about recently and you get to gather ideas you can bring to the collaboration sessions. So, you not only create by yourself, but also with others. Most of the time is spent there.
I tend to stay for 10 to 15 days and then I go back. The team usually meets once a week, although because we are a flexible-first company, we don’t require everyone to go to the office weekly. So, if you want to go to Singapore (which my co-worker just did), or you want to go to Croatia or Greece, you can go do that and you can work remotely. So that’s how we work at Café.
That’s very cool. You guys are living the dream in the sense of how the future of work should be where you fit work into your life, you live your life, and you work when it’s time to work, but then there’s time to also enjoy the other things around you, be it family, or growing on a personal level.
This has been fantastic! Any final comments?
Yes, I’ll end with one of my favourite quotes that I’ve ever made up, one time a rabbi told me it was profound. Essentially the quote is, “if you imagine beyond the impossible, so much more becomes possible.”
That is pretty profound.
Well, Danielle, thank you very much for your time, this has been fun, really interesting! A great conversation. Thank you again, and we’ll catch up on LinkedIn!
Awesome, thank you so much!