WeWork is the network of office spaces that look more like the plush surroundings of a heavily funded Silicon Valley tech startup than the rather drab spaces many of us have experienced at a hired meeting room.
For this ‘day in the life’, we speak to WeWork’s UK and Ireland MD, Leni Zneimer. Here’s what she gets up day-to-day…
(If you’re looking for a new role, swing by the Econsultancy jobs board)
Econsultancy: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Leni Zneimer: I’m the General Manager for UK and Ireland for WeWork, the space and services provider that fosters collaboration. I manage our community teams whilst also overseeing WeWork’s growth and expansion in these regions. Within my regions, we have 27 open locations across London, Manchester and Dublin, and a community of over 26,000 members.
I report to Eugen Miropolski, the Managing Director for Europe, Israel, Australia and the Pacific.
One of WeWork’s London offices
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
LZ: As the company is moving at a fast pace, I think it’s important to be able to work quickly, but efficiently. We’re constantly launching new locations and growing our community, so it’s essential to be on the ball.
I also think being able to work in a team is just as important. One of WeWork’s core values is ‘Together’ and that sticks with me as we really do leave our titles at the door and work as a team for our common goal.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
LZ: During my commute to work, I make sure I listen to a podcast. I like listening to news snippets, or topics that make me think outside the box, like tech or wellness approaches.
I tend not to check my emails right away. I get a tea and some breakfast before I’ve even opened my laptop. Then, I look at my calendar and assess the day, making sure I’ve prepared everything for the meetings ahead. I also pinpoint the top things that need to be done that day.
Once a week, I make sure I connect with the team at a different WeWork location around London. I love spending time talking to our members, connecting with enterprise companies and visiting new sites. For example, I loved visiting Citibank’s new innovation centre at our WeWork Moorgate location – super inspiring!
I also spend a lot of my time interviewing – I’m constantly meeting new people who want to join our journey.
A lot of my time consists of working on larger scale projects, like our acquisition of Devonshire Square and our new building, WeWork Waterloo which will be opening next year. I work with different departments in our HQ to make sure we’re building the best communities for our members at these new sites.
Other projects that are big priorities include the planning of Summer Camp – our all-company weekend away, where we connect with employees from around the world over food, fun and inspirational talks by our founders and executives.
E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?
LZ: I really enjoy taking time out of my every day work to meet with our members, hear what they’re working on and how their businesses are growing. It’s really inspiring to hear from our community – it helps me realise why we do what we do.
I am also constantly being inspired by the company itself. WeWork is just one of our business lines. We launched Flatiron School (a coding school) in the States – which is now opening in London this year – and we’re offering £1 million in scholarship to ensure access and diversity for people who want to learn to code. It really matters to me that we get women in coding. I’m thrilled we’re expanding the school to London and are able to give more people the opportunity to learn to code.
We also launched the Creator Awards last year, an initiative that last year saw WeWork give over £1 million to UK businesses and entrepreneurs. The Creator Awards furnishes individuals/startups/SMEs with the extra funding they need to take their ideas to the next stage, and is returning to London in the autumn.
These impactful initiatives help me realise why we do what we do and how much of a difference we are making in people’s lives.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
LZ: We’re really focused on our growth and we are looking to expand our community of over 248,000 members. Whilst I see WeWork opening in new cities (and countries) around the world, I also see our business lines expanding, too. For example, we recently bought Flatiron School (a coding bootcamp whose mission is to enable a better life through education) from the States to London, and I’m excited to see this grow and potentially expand to other regions.
In 2017, we doubled the size of our membership from 2016, as we closed the year with 175,000 members, and our outlook for 2018 looks equally positive.
E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
LZ: We’ve actually built a WeWork app, where members collaborate, events are listed and meeting rooms can be booked. This app not only helps me source members to meet, but also helps when scheduling meetings. The app automatically updates when you are in a different location, so you can always see what’s going on.
I also use Slack, which is a great way of forming groups to talk about relevant projects, and it’s also useful to reach someone instead of emailing for anything urgent.
Some of the features of the WeWork app
E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?
LZ: Before moving to London to run WeWork’s community team in 2015, I headed up the community teams across NYC and was responsible for supporting the company’s rapid growth in the US. When I first came over to London, I set up our Community Operations for two months and ended up staying for 2.5 years!
I have always worked to support community, and volunteering has been an important part of my life. I graduated from Boston University and worked for Brigham and Women’s Hospital before joining WeWork in NYC in 2013.
It’s inspiring to see how much my role has changed within the company, due to our growth and community – I’m constantly learning new things every day. For example, when we started out, we saw lots of smaller companies and entrepreneurs join our community, and what’s really exciting to see now is that all sorts of different kinds of companies, from HSBC to Samsung and Barclays to Microsoft are joining our community.
E: Which companies are leading the way with flexible working and progressive culture?
LZ: Like WeWork, there are companies providing services to support the fact that there is a shift toward a new way of work happening – one that’s focused on a movement toward meaning. It’s not going away any time soon and our only concern is being able to keep up with demand.
I will say that when we started out, there were just a handful of collaborative workspaces. The fact that the sector is expanding means there’s demand, which validates what we’re doing.
We’ve seen all kinds of companies embrace working at WeWork – from law firms to banks and fashion designers to software developers, so it really is a new way of working that anyone can enjoy.
E: Do you have any advice for HR departments coping with a changing workforce?
LZ: I think it’s important for HR teams to be recognised as a business partner, and an agent, not a gatekeeper. There’s a lot of value in accelerating business change and being a partner in doing so, so it helps when the department is as open as they can be.
It’s also important, of course, to make sure you hire the right people. A company’s culture is, I think, the most important aspect of a business. Choosing the right people to fit with the culture automatically means you’re creating an amazing pool of employees. Then, of course, onboarding is just as important. Making sure they are connected to the business, and in our case, our members, is incredibly crucial. Finally, make sure you translate that culture around the world, so have people travel to meet other team members/spend time in new and established markets.