Ade sits down with community builder and career/life coach Tim Salau to talk about what it means to take ownership of your career. They also discuss the future of the workforce and what shape it will take in the next 5-10 years.
Ade: Hi. Welcome back to the show. If you’re listening, this is Living Corporate. My name is Ade. I’m one of your hosts for the show, and with me today we have one of our favs here on this show, Tim Salau. Tim, you want to say hello?
Tim: Yeah. Hey, y’all. It’s Tim Salau.
Ade: How are you doing? How are you doing, man?
Tim: I’m doing well, Ade. I’m doing good.
Ade: Welcome back. How have you been all of these days? Like, you just dipped off, left Living Corporate Land, haven’t, like, shown your face back around these parts.
Tim: I’ve been doing well. Some big, great things have been happening since then. I’ve recently started working with WeWork, leading product marketing management and focusing on really unleashing the future of work.
Tim: Yeah, and I continue to grow the Mentors & Mentees community and have onboarded a few brand partners since then, including Living Corporate as one of them. So a lot of great things have been happening.
Ade: That’s amazing. That was a perfect segue into the conversation that we’re having today. When you say the future of work, could you talk a little bit more about that?
Tim: Absolutely. So the future of work is this really general, broad view of how, in the next 5-10 years, we’re no longer gonna be working in a workforce where things are static, where you only see salaried employees. More so you’ll see a mix of freelancers, salaried employees, and even contract workers in the workforce. So it’s this very broad view with most of–you know, that looks at how the organizations of the future are gonna look, that thinks about how the gig economy is gonna affect, you know, what the workforce is gonna look like in the future, and most importantly, how will workers have to adapt in this future. And when I think about the future of work, I often define it as, from a worker perspective and a professional prospective, you being able to take control of your career as a worker, as a professional, and I think there are other elements of it where you can look at it from a gig economy perspective, you can look at it from an organizational design perspective and a more business perspective. How do organizations adopt and adopt a leveraging AI and all of these different tools that will allow them to stay digital in an ever-changing digital landscape? But my definition of it is more so taking control of your career as a worker and pursuing the opportunities that are tailor-fit for you.
Ade: That’s awesome. So question for you, then, to follow up on that. What does taking control of your career look like as an individual? I want to come back to what it means for organizations to make this kind of [C-?] change into the workforce of the future, but as an individual, as someone who’s gonna be working for a few years, I want to know what it’s like–what taking ownership of my career looks like and what that means for an individual.
Tim: Well, you know, there’s a lot of elements to that, Ade. I believe that taking control of your career, first and foremost, is starting to invest in what you can control. I think I often talk to professionals, and they don’t realize that the future of work you have to be pushing yourself towards being an asset, not a commodity. So really starting to outline what are the strengths, the skills, the unique aspects of you that are fit for a role that you’re interested in, right? For example, if you are someone looking to get into product management, right, and potentially work for a media podcast company, you would have to take control of the opportunities or the platforms that allow you to put yourself out there, whether it be a LinkedIn, you’re having a website or networking the right circles that give you visibility to that network of media podcast professionals and product managers who are working within that industry, right? So I think that, for a long time, there’s been traditional expectations, traditional behavior, that workers have adopted in which we no longer see our careers as in our control, as being proactive and really working towards where we want to be by doing the right things. Instead it’s always been you wait to climb the corporate ladder, you wait until your manager says you can get promoted. You wait until, you know, you see the opportunity that comes to you instead of really taking that self-agency and pursuing the right opportunity. So I think that’s one element of, you know, you taking control of your career. And I think another element of it is being very clear at investing in your personal brand. I do believe, from a worker’s perspective, that personal brands are gonna matter in the future, ’cause your personal brand is what differentiates you. It’s what allows people to start seeing you as an asset.
Ade: Right. Okay, well, now I have to put some thought into my personal brand beyond, like, jokes and talking about food. Okay, thank you. I’m gonna put that on my to-do list. So you mentioned earlier the Mentors & Mentees community. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. What are the top three tips that you give within Mentors & Mentees about the intentionality that you put into your career?
Tim: Yeah. I think, first and foremost, it starts with introspection. I don’t believe that, you know, you have to force your personal brand. I don’t believe that you have to start investing in things, whether it be courses or coaches, who tell you that this is your personal brand, yet it’s not. It’s not something that you feel is true to you. I believe that one of the best ways, and what I often tell my community, is that you start realizing your strengths, what your gifts are, by really going deep, going deep and evaluating “What are prior roles that I’ve had that have led me to this point in my career?” “What do people that I spend my time with intimately–family, friends, coworkers–what do they think are some of the unique strengths of me? Let me ask them those questions,” and then from there you get to a point where you start–and then you soul-search and say, “Okay, what am I great at? What do I want to be great at? What do I want to be known for?” And then when you take all of those different factors–what your coworkers say about you, your prior experiences, and then you dig deep, you start to see–you start to see some patterns, and you, more importantly, start defining what is it that makes you unique. Is it your cultural background? Is it certain industry experiences that no one else in your domain has? Are there certain skills that no one else wants to do or has acquired that you bring to the table when it comes to being, you know, an employee for a company? You really get that holistic perspective. So I always tell my members of my community and my friends that look, dig deep, right? And then from there, start being a giver. Start finding opportunities where you can give your strengths away, where you can really stand out because you’re playing in your zone of greatness. So that’s really when your personal brand starts unlocking for you. I’ll give you an example. For me, I realized my purpose and kind of what I wanted to kind of be uniquely known for and that I wanted to kind of live day in and day out two years ago when I was at UT Austin pursuing my grad degree. And, you know, I had deep moments of reflection, and I realized, “You know what? If there’s anything I want to be great at, it’s to strengthen the bonds that people share through compassion and empathic action,” and, you know, I eventually found a title for it in kind of an area that I really, really love, which is community building. From that point on, I created a community. I’ve invested myself in that community day in and day out, and to a degree now people know me as that. That’s my brand because people know how great I am at it, right? So I’ve uniquely differentiated myself, and I also operate within this overlap where I do product management work and I’m in tech, so now I have this really unique characteristic of me where I stand out. I’m not only a community builder, but I’m somebody that can talk to you about product management. I’m someone that can talk to you about how to get into tech, so I get hit up about that a lot. So that’s really how you go about saying, “Okay, how do I stand out in such a competitive job market so I can thrive in the future of work?”
Ade: Right, and I love the phrase that you used earlier, “zone of greatness.” I’m probably gonna–I’m gonna co-op that for my own use a little bit later on. Thank you. Snatched. [both laugh] All right, so before we go–those were some really great points that we’re gonna take forward, and I’m probably gonna start sending, like, surveys around to my friends and my family members, like, “Hey, take this three to five question quiz about what I’m good at, ’cause I’m trying to develop my personal brand.”
Tim: Yeah, and you should. You should.
Ade: So if you are my friend and you’re listening, please note that you will be receiving a survey within the next three to five business days.
Tim: And you know what? The ones that do, Ade, the ones that answer that survey, they care about you. They want you to be great. The ones that don’t, you gotta question that relationship. [laughs]
Ade: My woes. Listen, if you receive a survey from me and you do not respond to my survey, our friendship is dead. DEAD. [both laugh] All right. So before we go, let’s talk about WeWork really quickly. You mentioned at the beginning of this interview that you now have a position or relationship with WeWork. I personally attend a ton of events at WeWork, especially at Flatiron School.
Tim: [woos excitedly]
Ade: Yeah, I’m a huge fan. So talk to me. What attracted you to WeWork? What are you doing there? How can I get a membership for the low-low? [Tim laughs] Tell me all about it.
Tim: So I’ll see what I can do about the membership, but to give you a little bit of clarity as to, you know, why I’m really excited to be working with WeWork is that what WeWork does in the community space in terms of their core business, which is, you know, obviously selling space to entrepreneurs and creators who want to, you know, do the best work of their lives and build their business and connect with others. The fact that WeWork is really just a framework for creating community, that’s what attracted me to the company, and as a community builder, someone that is obsessed with community and someone that does it day in and day out as my life purpose–it is what I’m building my legacy around, ’cause that’s what drives me, I saw that there was a unique opportunity for me to contribute my value, contribute my perspective as a black man in tech, and as someone who’s an avid community builder and understands there’s strength in numbers, there was great potential in me, I believe, working with a company like WeWork that’s really building that next generation of what community will look like, right? Whether it be at work, in cities, and at a global level too, because we work as a multi-national company, and I felt as if, you know, I’m at a point in my career where I want to be able to do the best work of my life, and I know what my strengths are, I know what my gifts are, so the opportunity now for me to really lead the future of work, something I talk about often online with my community, with my friends, and what people know me of, it was a perfect fit. And, you know, that’s why I encourage people to think about too–when you think about the future of work and you think about how you want to build what you’re known for, you have to think about what are companies, what are the opportunities that are a unique fit for you? Because I could say working with WeWork is a unique fit for me. This role that I’m in, I’m gonna be doing a lot of community building. I’m gonna be doing a lot of evangelizing about the future of work. I’m going to be doing all of the things that really unleash all of the best aspects of me. So when you find that fit, you know, you become on another level.
Ade: Right, right. That’s awesome. I think an additional thing that I love about WeWork is that as a space it’s almost inclined to support interaction, right? Like, you come in, and there are a lot of open spaces. Like, yes, you can find your privacy, and there’s some really interesting areas and nooks and crannies that you can hide yourself if you are, like me, not interested in extended human interaction, but there are also times where you walk into WeWork and there are a bunch of people there who are complete strangers, or were complete strangers 20 minutes ago, and they’re now talking about their interests and their companies and “Oh, I formed Such-and-such LLC, and I can help you form an LLC,” and all of these really amazing conversations, particularly with young professionals in tech, many of whom are transitioning, many of whom aren’t even sure what the vastness of the possibilities exist within tech. So yeah, I’m gonna wax poetic about WeWork a little bit more later on, but yeah, thank you so much for sharing that experience and sharing your purpose in that manner. And I especially think, for those of us who are underrepresented in tech in general, no one who wants longevity out of their career goes at it alone. It’s one of the things that I discovered when I started self-teaching, is that isolation will hurt you more than it will help. There’s some times where you need to shut the entire world off and really, like, buckle down and focus, but more often than not somebody has done what you’re doing. They–
Tim: Someone has done it.
Ade: Right, you’re not the first person in the world to be stuck on binary search trees or hash tables. [both laugh] And it’s probably a better use of your time to seek out the wisdom of those who have done it before than to kind of bang your head at it for six months at a time, not because there’s no utility in teaching yourself those things, but because you’re joining a community, you’re joining a community of learners and teachers, and there’s no better place to be than people who are eager to share their experiences within their understanding with you, which does not minimize your experience as a learner. Again, waxing poetic. All of that to say that WeWork is such an important space, and building a community for yourself is such an important aspect of your career.
Tim: I couldn’t agree more. You need to come work with us at WeWork. [both laugh]
Ade: Is that how I get a space?
Tim: That’s it.
Ade: Because, I mean, I’m down.
Tim: You got the job. You got the job! [Tim laughs]
Ade: Just like that. See? 2019, getting jobs I didn’t even interview for. Look at me. Shout-out to God. Okay. Before we go, Tim, is there anything else that you’d like to add, anything that you’d like to touch on that we haven’t spoken about?
Tim: Absolutely. For all of y’all listening right now, join the Mentors & Mentees community if you want to take control of your career and achieve career fulfillment. That is the focus of our community. We are in growth mode, and, you know, we are booming. As a community builder, I will welcome you, I will show you love, and our members will do the same. And I also want to share that if you’ve got a friend that needs a career coach, let them know I am a career coach as well. Aside from all of the things I do–I do a lot of things ’cause I’m living in the future of work literally as I speak about it–so if you need a coach that will take care of your career and help you, position you to thrive in the future of work, that is moi. So, you know, hit me up on LinkedIn. For y’all who are following me on LinkedIn, thank y’all. For y’all who are not, please get to it. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook as well if those are your preferred channels. But connect with me. I would love to continue to carry this conversation with you all.
Ade: I just want to add that your hustle is unreal, because, like, I think I’ve counted–I think I’ve counted, like, the three positions just now. [Tim laughs] I think the only–like, the only people who work harder than Tim are, like, Jamaicans and Beyonce.
Tim: I’ve gotten that before. “Are you Jamaican?” I said “No, I’m Nigerian. I’m Nigerian-American.”
Ade: [laughs] That’s hilarious, and know you’re doing Nigerians proud. Very happy to have you in your corner.
Tim: I am happy to be a part of the Living Corporate family.
Ade: Thank you so very much for joining us, yeah. So happy to have you. Please don’t be a stranger.
Tim: Oh, of course not.
Ade: That’s it from us, guys. We’re signing off. Remember, per usual, you can catch us on pretty much, you know, everywhere. If you’re on Facebook, if you’re on LinkedIn, if you’re on Twitter, if you’re on Instagram. We are Living Corporate everywhere. You can also catch us at www.living-corporate.com. Tell Australia to free livingcorporate.com for our use. That’s it for us today. I was so happy to speak to you today. Thank you so much for joining us, Tim, and until next time, Living Corporate family, go out and be great.
Tim: Be great!