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Engineering a Generation Z Culture

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The next generation of engineers will bring a new set of challenges and opportunities for recruitment, building teams, and retaining talent. Barbara McCarthy, director of engineering at Hubspot, spoke about engineering a generation Z culture at Women in Tech Dublin 2018.

McCarthy started her talk by stating that "to be the best engineer, I have to bring my full and true self to work. I’m a mom, and the culture at the company where I’m working should support that and feel safe to me," she said.

Culture is to recruitment as product is to marketing. McCarthy stated that culture is a shared belief system, and top talent is consistently attracted to workplaces that can offer a strong culture.

"How does the work get done? Is it really important that people are happy at work?" questioned McCarthy. "Absolutely", she said. One of the reasons is that this leads to higher productivity levels, but also because it results in a happier work environment in which employees are brought into the company’s mission and willing to go above and beyond for their customers or team.

Generation Z is different - it is a seriously tech generation, the first fully digital generation, argued McCarthy. They know nothing about a world without information on demand. As an example: if you try to call them, they don’t answer but wait until you have left a voicemail message, and then react by texting/chatting. They mostly communicate with images and text.

Generation Z are worried about the world they live in. Being connected, they see what is happening in the world. They want to have a social impact, but are realistic about the impact they can have, said McCarthy.

McCarthy said that generation Z look for workplaces that promote equality. Many of them don’t expect to get a job after graduating from school. This worries them, but then they also have an entrepreneurial spirit and feel responsible for their own career, said McCarthy. Many expect to start their own company.

Generation Z are used to social media and want to have their say, and expect that also to be possible in the workplace, said McCarthy. They also want to get feedback, have an open mindset and want to learn.

Millennials are more about collaboration and teamwork, whereas generation Z people have a competitive spirit and choose to work independently. They would rather have their own workspace than a shared one. This something to be aware of when you want to introduce an agile way of working in an organization, said McCarthy.

You have to allow your employees space to be themselves at work, argued McCarthy. We hire top talent for their creativity, among other things, and in order for that to shine through, employees must feel empowered, comfortable and psychologically safe to express themselves, she said.

McCarthy mentioned that "Hubspot is passionate about creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity." Companies that are diverse in age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, and perspective are proven to be better companies, she argued. More importantly, she said, creating an environment where everyone, from any background, can be themselves and do their best work is the right thing to do.

Generation Z is motivated by job security, and pay rises. McCarthy gave the advice to be transparent about salary bounds and promotion paths to prevent false expectations.

InfoQ is covering Women in Tech Dublin 2018 with Q&As and summaries. Earlier InfoQ published The Importance of Feedback for Skill Development and Careers, Embracing Diversity and Fostering Inclusion: A Necessity, Connecting Business Challenges and Emerging Technologies, and Progressing with a Gender-Blind Attitude.

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