Fifteen years ago, I had a corner office overlooking Times Square in New York, a secretary, a VP title and a fat monthly salary. I was a young single female advertising executive on top of my game. Life was good and things were looking up as my career was on the upswing. Today, I don’t have an office, my view is whomever decides to sit next to me that day, I manage my own schedule, I do my own expenses, my superlative title has been replaced by a minimalist “Director” designation and my compensation plan is directly tied to my performance and that of my company whose stock goes up and down daily. What happened?
In Ulrich Beck’s book The Brave New World of Work, Beck argues that the work society as we’ve known it is coming to an end. He talks about how working is changing radically under our very noses with little serious discussion in media or political communities. He states that more and more people are ousted from their jobs by smart technologies, that the highest-level workers are now unsure of their jobs and incomes and that the idea of middle-class security is eroding.
Reflecting upon my own work metamorphosis, I started to think about how “downward mobility” can also describe a social transformation born from mobile technology, which (contrary to the economic standard definition) results in positive work dynamics and unforseen social opportunities. Mobile technology has had a downward effect at work by shrinking down time, space, and other social barriers between workers, which has in turn spurred organic leveling across incomes, class, nationality and gender.
The Great Downshift
Downward tenure – With mobile technology, our careers are sliding on an inverted pathway. A talent consultant told me that today’s bosses no longer promote people based on past performance – work hard at it for a few years and get ahead. Nah. Now you must promote forward – put people in roles they’re not ready for and see who can perform. Data from the Current Population Survey, the primary source of U.S. labor-force statistics, found that the average job tenure among men slid from 8.3 years in 1983 to 7.4 years in 2012 — an 11 percent decline. If you think time is on your side for your next promotion, think again.
Downward ego – Can you summarize your job in 140 characters? Last December, Zappos’s stunned the business world by giving job titles the boot – entirely. During a four-hour company meeting, CEO Tony Hsieh announced that they were moving to a “self-governing” system aimed at making employees more entrepreneurial and productive. With its 1,500 employees, Zappos will create approximately 400 “circles” made up of groups of employees that will be tasked with projects. The system known as “Holacracy” removes all job titles and managers leaving every employee on equal footage. Forget the initials on your business card and start managing your circles on your Google account and those at work.
Downward space – Work has taken on the attributes of mobile technology with “live” “conversational” and “public” spaces rather than private, quiet, exclusive corner offices. Today, people want spaces to collaborate, co-innovate and harness gossip as raw material for insights and business ideas. With start-up and beta culture, creative chaos and sharable ideas are the new currency. Communal work areas known as “hoteling” result in unforeseen collaborations and a mixing of people of all ages, levels, backgrounds, styles and provides a greater spectrum of work hours possible with night owls and early risers. Individual corner offices with self-congratulatory paraphernalia such as posed family photos; university degrees and awards are gone. I’ve made the cafeteria my new ideas lab.
Downward fashion – With mobile technology, communication styles have loosened, shortened, and become visual icons. Similary, dress codes at work have completely changed in a mere decade. From casual Fridays, to casual everydays, people now dress down as a matter of choice and comfort.
So how does it feel?
With no suits, no lumpy titles or dedicated workspace, work is no longer a destination but a state of mind. You never know who you will meet, where an idea will come from, or if the 20 year old besides you is a CEO. You can’t focus on yourself because you’re only as good as your team or “circle”.
Yes, it’s a headspin; an unexpected kind of mobility; the downward kind which results in the downsizing of egos, status, and privileges. But I’ll contend that this new work society may actually be good for us creating a new kind of civil mobility at large. Upwards!
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By Frederique Covington-Corbett @Freddie_covi
Catalyst of the now @Twitter
Born in France and raised in the UK, Frederique (who goes by ‘Freddie’) joined Twitter in January 2014 as the Marketing Director for the International markets covering APAC, India, Middle East & Africa.
Previously, Freddie was a Senior Director at Microsoft where she was the Central Marketing Organization Lead for Asia-Pacific. In this role, she developed the regional marketing strategies for all of the company’s offerings across commercial and consumer audiences. In her role, she headed up the Asia-Pacific community of CMOs in the region providing region-wide marketing talent management, marketing campaigns, governance, marketing excellence, and marketing planning, execution and measurement supporting Microsoft devices and services. Prior to this role, Freddie held a position as the Director of Marketing Communications within Microsoft’s Consumer & Online (C&O) business where she developed marketing communications strategy and programs to build perception and market share for Microsoft Consumer and Online properties (e.g. MSN, Bing, Hotmail, Windows Live, IE, etc.).
Prior to joining Microsoft, Freddie was with the Ogilvy Group, where she held numerous leadership positions, most recently running its operations in Asia as Managing Partner of Bates141. Leading a 30-strong strategic planning community, Freddie successfully strengthened the agency’s credentials and thought leadership profile across the region. As a core member of the management team, she oversaw all of the agency’s key clients such as Sony, Dell, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, HSBC, Heineken and Avon.
Before her return to Ogilvy in 2003, Freddie served as Director of Strategy with DMB&B. During her four-year tenure, she drove insight-driven strategic leadership while championing innovative and fresh ideas for major iconic brands such as Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toys “R” Us and Moët & Chandon.
Freddie’s career began in New York, at a consulting firm where she conducted strategic planning and quantitative research. She entered the advertising ranks of Young & Rubicam on Madison Avenue in 1996.
A veteran and proven leader in her field, Freddie’s long career in marketing is punctuated by a multitude of awards. In 2013, Freddie received the Golden Globe Tigers award for the 50 Most Talented CMOs Worldwide. In 2012, she received the Microsoft Marketing & Operations Leadership Award and the Internationalist of the Year Marketing Award recognizing global marketers with the highest cultural affinity. In 2009, she was the recipient of two Atticus Awards, including the Grand Prix, the highest honour for best thinking across WPP companies. Her campaigns for leading brands such as AT&T, Cisco and Nokia, garnered multiple EFFIEs, which recognize marketing effectiveness.
Freddie holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. She is a proud supporter of the charity Room to Read, UN Women and resides in Singapore with her husband, two children and their dog Sky.