Your Gen Z Co-Worker Is Hustling More Than You Think | Kanebridge News
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Your Gen Z Co-Worker Is Hustling More Than You Think

Ambitious 20-somethings are trying to knock down the stereotype that they aren’t into hard work

Wed, Apr 12, 2023 8:21amGrey Clock 4 min

Being young and ambitious right now often means proving that you can be both of those things at the same time.

That applies even to 25-year-old Charu Thomas, who earned an engineering degree in 3½ years after completing high school in three years. She founded supply-chain software firm Ox at age 18, raised $3.5 million in funding and, in 2020, made it onto Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list.

Yet in a breakfast with investors in the fall, she said they wanted to discuss “quiet quitting” and the motivation of younger entrepreneurs.

“They had this impression that Gen Z and younger founders were non responsive, were less legitimate, or lazier,” said Ms. Thomas on a recent morning from her Bentonville, Ark., office. She had just spent much of the night in the office to oversee a Fortune 500 client’s software deployment, she said, then attended a 9 a.m. staff meeting still in the T-shirt she’d worn the day before.

Such is life for many ambitious 20-somethings. Barely in the workforce, they are pushing long hours, building businesses, striving for promotions—even for their more-senior co-workers’ jobs. At the same time they are running into perceptions that their age cohort cares more about work-life boundaries and rejecting “hustle” culture than scaling the career ladder.

Like Ms. Thomas, many say they are intent on knocking down the stereotype. “I don’t want to be a representative of that kind of culture,” she says.

Gen Z, typically defined as being born between 1997 and 2012, isn’t the first generation to be typecast as it enters the workforce. Not long ago employers were hand-wringing over what they viewed as entitled millennials who, some bosses joked, wanted trophies just for showing up.

A growing body of survey research echoes the idea that workers in their early to mid-20s want control over how much they work. In a survey of nearly 5,000 adults by Prudential Financial last year, 43% of Gen Z workers said they went above and beyond in their jobs. More than half of millennials said they did, as did 62% of members of Gen X and 69% of baby boomers. A 2022 Gallup survey of about 15,000 U.S. workers shows younger millennials and Gen Z respondents reported declining levels of job engagement and higher rates of stress than other workers.

To show colleagues she works hard, 22-year-old Brianna Chang says she chooses to put in as many as 60 hours a week as a supply-chain planner at Microsoft Corp.

Ms. Chang said her work ethic was forged as a teenager, when she waited tables in her parents’ Chinese restaurant in Bellingham, Wash. She’s driven in part by the goal of making money to one day support her parents and says she’s disheartened when she sees peers on social media saying they don’t work hard.

But, she adds, that makes it easier for her to stand out.

“A lot of people my age, they are just stuck,” she says.

Managers and recruiters say that remote work made it tough for some young workers to find mentors and learn professional norms in the office. As a result, many of these young workers struggle with resourcefulness, professional networking and communications with clients and co-workers, says Julia Lamm, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Workforce Transformation practice. Some also had to navigate layoffs at the start of the pandemic and are now on their second or third job since.

Jorge Tapia, a 26-year-old software engineer in Indianapolis, said he lets his work speak for itself as he wakes up at 6 a.m. to get to work an hour later. He’s given priority to building relationships with colleagues since starting his position last year at a logistics technology and software provider. On his first week of work, he sat down with a man he didn’t know in the office cafeteria.

The man turned out to be the company’s North America chief executive, who told him how he approached his own career.

It was a valuable lesson, Mr. Tapia said: “If I could talk to my CEO, I could talk to my co-workers, my managers, openly.”

Mr. Tapia said he is working hard in hopes of getting a promotion, which would raise his salary and allow him to better help out his mother and three siblings, ages 23, 15 and 8.

Financial security is important to Gen Z workers, according to interviews with and surveys of about 100 Gen Z workers between November and January conducted by the Conference Board. About half of Gen Zers and millennials said in a 2022 Deloitte survey that they live paycheck to paycheck, and about 30% of each group say they don’t feel financially secure.

Last year, Brandi Jones was working as a dance teacher and at the front desk of a dentist’s office, making about $25,000 and living with family, she said. She quit both roles in July to find a job that would cover her health insurance and pay enough for her to move into her own apartment.

To get that job, Ms. Jones, now 26, got certified in Salesforce’s customer-relationship management software, so that she could work at a nonprofit that uses the tool. She studied sometimes 10 hours a day to pass the exam, she said. After passing, she applied for more than 20 jobs over six months.

Aware of common stereotypes about young professionals, she says she asked questions in job interviews about company culture to get a sense of employers’ generational diversity and how they defined a successful employee. She says she eventually found a job at a nonprofit that pays about $100,000 a year.

No longer working weekends, she marvelled at having more free time at first. Then she started studying cybersecurity tools because she is considering a master’s degree. She wants to advance further, she says.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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China’s EV Juggernaut Is a Warning for the West

Competitive pressure and creativity have made Chinese-designed and -built electric cars formidable competitors

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 4 min

China rocked the auto world twice this year. First, its electric vehicles stunned Western rivals at the Shanghai auto show with their quality, features and price. Then came reports that in the first quarter of 2023 it dethroned Japan as the world’s largest auto exporter.

How is China in contention to lead the world’s most lucrative and prestigious consumer goods market, one long dominated by American, European, Japanese and South Korean nameplates? The answer is a unique combination of industrial policy, protectionism and homegrown competitive dynamism. Western policy makers and business leaders are better prepared for the first two than the third.

Start with industrial policy—the use of government resources to help favoured sectors. China has practiced industrial policy for decades. While it’s finding increased favour even in the U.S., the concept remains controversial. Governments have a poor record of identifying winning technologies and often end up subsidising inferior and wasteful capacity, including in China.

But in the case of EVs, Chinese industrial policy had a couple of things going for it. First, governments around the world saw climate change as an enduring threat that would require decade-long interventions to transition away from fossil fuels. China bet correctly that in transportation, the transition would favour electric vehicles.

In 2009, China started handing out generous subsidies to buyers of EVs. Public procurement of taxis and buses was targeted to electric vehicles, rechargers were subsidised, and provincial governments stumped up capital for lithium mining and refining for EV batteries. In 2020 NIO, at the time an aspiring challenger to Tesla, avoided bankruptcy thanks to a government-led bailout.

While industrial policy guaranteed a demand for EVs, protectionism ensured those EVs would be made in China, by Chinese companies. To qualify for subsidies, cars had to be domestically made, although foreign brands did qualify. They also had to have batteries made by Chinese companies, giving Chinese national champions like Contemporary Amperex Technology and BYD an advantage over then-market leaders from Japan and South Korea.

To sell in China, foreign automakers had to abide by conditions intended to upgrade the local industry’s skills. State-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group developed the manufacturing know-how necessary to become a player in EVs thanks to joint ventures with Toyota and Honda, said Gregor Sebastian, an analyst at Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Despite all that government support, sales of EVs remained weak until 2019, when China let Tesla open a wholly owned factory in Shanghai. “It took this catalyst…to boost interest and increase the level of competitiveness of the local Chinese makers,” said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights, a research service specialising in the Chinese auto industry.

Back in 2011 Pony Ma, the founder of Tencent, explained what set Chinese capitalism apart from its American counterpart. “In America, when you bring an idea to market you usually have several months before competition pops up, allowing you to capture significant market share,” he said, according to Fast Company, a technology magazine. “In China, you can have hundreds of competitors within the first hours of going live. Ideas are not important in China—execution is.”

Thanks to that competition and focus on execution, the EV industry went from a niche industrial-policy project to a sprawling ecosystem of predominantly private companies. Much of this happened below the Western radar while China was cut off from the world because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When Western auto executives flew in for April’s Shanghai auto show, “they saw a sea of green plates, a sea of Chinese brands,” said Le, referring to the green license plates assigned to clean-energy vehicles in China. “They hear the sounds of the door closing, sit inside and look at the quality of the materials, the fabric or the plastic on the console, that’s the other holy s— moment—they’ve caught up to us.”

Manufacturers of gasoline cars are product-oriented, whereas EV manufacturers, like tech companies, are user-oriented, Le said. Chinese EVs feature at least two, often three, display screens, one suitable for watching movies from the back seat, multiple lidars (laser-based sensors) for driver assistance, and even a microphone for karaoke (quickly copied by Tesla). Meanwhile, Chinese suppliers such as CATL have gone from laggard to leader.

Chinese dominance of EVs isn’t preordained. The low barriers to entry exploited by Chinese brands also open the door to future non-Chinese competitors. Nor does China’s success in EVs necessarily translate to other sectors where industrial policy matters less and creativity, privacy and deeply woven technological capability—such as software, cloud computing and semiconductors—matter more.

Still, the threat to Western auto market share posed by Chinese EVs is one for which Western policy makers have no obvious answer. “You can shut off your own market and to a certain extent that will shield production for your domestic needs,” said Sebastian. “The question really is, what are you going to do for the global south, countries that are still very happily trading with China?”

Western companies themselves are likely to respond by deepening their presence in China—not to sell cars, but for proximity to the most sophisticated customers and suppliers. Jörg Wuttke, the past president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, calls China a “fitness centre.” Even as conditions there become steadily more difficult, Western multinationals “have to be there. It keeps you fit.”


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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