Millennials Drive Demand For Co-working Spaces and Creating Own Job (Part 1/2)

By Carolyn Adolph

There are 74-million adults in the United States under age 34. They're known as Millennials, and they're a generation with a strong identity. They love disruptive technology. They challenge conventional thinking. In this two-part series, KUOW reporter Carolyn Adolph explores how some companies are responding to their needs. Today, how Millennials are re-shaping the workplace.

Millennials with tech skills have a lot of power around here. Employers cater to them. Chris Owens is the general manager of real estate at Microsoft. His job is to create work spaces that appeal to the workers the company needs.

Owens: “This is a building that was built in the 90s and we just finished doing an interior renovation of it.”

It's more than fresh paint. He's knocked down walls. It's about rethinking how workers want to use the space.

Owens: “It’s one of the central requirements or desires of say the millennial generation is not being told how to do your work. Not being told where to do your work. Not being told when to do your work. So we’ve tried to create a lot more choices in how they can do their work.”

More choice is exciting for everybody. But it's about the opportunities you can find if you work in a different way. Owens says "I often tell people that I would give anything to be 20 years younger and just coming out of college and being an entrepreneur again."

James Maiocco, a director at Microsoft Ventures, says he "sat down with four startups yesterday, gave them some feedback and also learned some great things about some markets that I didn’t know about.”

These meetings didn't happen on a corporate campus. They happened here in South Lake Union, at a co-working space called We Work where Maiocco has set up shop. He's here because this is where the young enterpreneurs are. They're attracted to this place and others like it because of the community feeling.

This isn't only for coders. It's for creative people who want to meet the people who can help them get going. Gina Phillips gives me a tour.

Phillips: “This is designed to be flexible in so many ways. ”

Flexible because people can move from single desks to bigger spaces – starting small and growing fast. Cloud storage makes it easy. Just pick up a laptop and move. There are kitchens and meeting rooms, local beer and citrus water. We stop in front of a space with four desks.

Phillips: “And actually this was just taken by a friend of mine who has the number one Apple store’s best kids’ app. We’re really excited for him to move in. The app is called Yakit by a company called freakin genius.”

A week later, the Freakin Genius guys were all set up. So was this young woman. Eileen Namanny a senior project manager at a Texas marketing company. She and a colleague were among the first in the door when WeWork opened earlier this year.

Namanny: “Everyone you meet is like, you’re just like in awe while they’re talking about what they do.”

There are a lot of millennials here. But they’re not the only ones who see the potential in a work space that’s designed for growth, provides access to money and talent, and is made for socializing. Mark Relph, formerly of Microsoft, is no millennial.

Relph: “I left back in June to try and decide what I wanted to be when I grew up even though I’ve been at Microsoft for a long, long time. I was working at home. I have a great setup –everyone has internet access everyone has a desk but at some point you want to be around other people."

A single spot costs around $600 a month. Relph says it's worth the money. He says “there are a lot of like-minded folks down here.“

And it's not that they're just young. James Maiocco of Microsoft Ventures says he know what it is.

Maiocco: “it’s much more about a culture of curiosity. People in their 20s, they’re still curious. And as we get older many times we get more set in our ways. Less open to change. But people who remain open to change, people who remain curious about the world."

Those are the people you see here, regardless of their age.

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