In the 11 years since WeWork launched in New York City, it has expanded exponentially, fought to find its balance, and has now arrived at stability while continuing to innovate how and where businesses operate. As the company has evolved, so have WeWork’s employees, many growing up with the company, from internships to staff positions and beyond. At the heart of the company are the community and facilities managers who keep buildings open every day and serve as the face of the company to thousands of members around the world.
As WeWork nears its IPO, we spoke with seven employees from community services across the world—from Seoul to Washington, D.C.—who’ve been with the company for many years. They shared what it was like when they started, what has changed since then, and what they’re embracing for the future.
What were some of your earliest experiences as a member of the WeWork community? How has it changed over time?
Alex Rodriguez, facilities manager, Washington, D.C. (at the company for nearly seven years): We were such a small company back then. My first day ended with a team meeting that had every employee based in D.C. in attendance—we all fit in a six-person conference room. There was a wealth of diversity in that room; culturally, professionally, and even fashionably.
Later, I was promoted to community manager [in a new building]. Since then, my role has changed more times than I can count. But I think the experience has always been the same. We’ve faced new challenges every single day. We’ve worked side by side with some really awesome people, and we built some freaking beautiful buildings.
Daniela Toro, member experience senior manager, Mexico City (at the company for five and a half years): I started over five and half years ago as one of the first team members for Latin America. We were hired to open the first building ever [in Mexico]. It was amazing because we didn’t have anything in Spanish, for example, so we created all of the signage. We needed to translate everything to a whole different region with a lot of cultural changes.
Marga Snyder, community associate, New York City (at the company for 10 and a half years): I was hired by [WeWork founder] Adam [Neumann], and I started out as an assistant building manager—that’s what we called ourselves. We had this event space that was part of the building and it was beautiful, with a separate entrance. I thought to myself, We’re trying to sell memberships and there’s this beautiful space, so why don’t we just book it for events at night, because it’s not being used.
So then I became the events director and started the events team. That was crazy—so many hours. I would put ads on Craigslist and book anybody, like a party for the women’s basketball team from Baruch [College].
Corey Mills, community lead, New York City (at the company for six years): I started at WeWork in 2015 at a time when things were super explosive. You can tell it was a new company making a mark. Fast-forward six years later and the difference is amazing.
Whereas it seems like the past was about opening building after building and buy, buy, buy, now we have new ways to monetize the product we already have. We have products like WeWork All Access and WeWork On Demand that make it easy to gain access to our spaces. We have a new partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue (SaksWork). These are new directions I see the company going in.
Paula Seretny, community area director, Melbourne (at the company for four and a half years): We have opened hundreds of buildings and hired thousands of people. Processes, systems, designs, and leadership have changed. The thing that has remained consistent is this incredibly spirited cohort of gifted minds driving our culture, which is the essence of our “secret sauce.”
Ana Maggiore, global program manager, community solutions, U.S. (at the company for 10 years): It has been amazing to watch the evolution of our business, despite the growing pains—from the operational management of our spaces to the innovative design and elevated look and feel. It hasn’t been until this past year that I’ve felt the shift of us being a company that’s growing up to actually being grown. We are developing systems and processes that are solidifying our foundation and are absolutely stronger than ever.
How have you grown personally within WeWork? What’s helped you grow professionally during your time at WeWork, and what has kept you inspired?
Seretny: Over the past four and a half years, I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to work in three different markets in four different roles. [After starting in London], I was granted the opportunity to further grow my skills opening the Polish market, an experience with a learning curve like no other. Selling the WeWork dream from a café while touring an empty and yet-to-be-fitted-out building, working with cross-functional teams, and building a team and community from scratch was truly unforgettable.
Maggiore: I grew up professionally within WeWork. I started at 23 with no real-world experience and haven’t worked anywhere else. That helped me grow my confidence and become unflappable. I learned how to build strong relationships and trust with our members, even when mistakes and issues were frequent. I became a leader when I opened the Denver market and built a team of all-new employees.
I think community is a feeling. And there’s a feeling that WeWork gives me that I never had before.Alex Rodriguez, facilities manager, Washington, D.C.
Stella Kim, community lead, Seoul (at the company for four years): When I joined WeWork Korea four years ago, we had only 28 people and just three buildings in South Korea. Now we have 130 people in the team and 20 buildings. I have had a chance to open two buildings and held a big networking opening party for one building.
One manager I had was a good communicator. He knew how to build a good relationship with members and with other teams as well. I could see and learn how he works, how he communicates, and how he speaks. When I moved to a new team, I realized that my communication skills were also upgraded from being around him.
Mills: What’s helped me grow professionally is feedback, help, and recognition of hard work. WeWork is a company that rewards hard work and that is motivation to work harder, which pushes growth. The ability to work on projects that solve real problems and present to leadership has helped me grow in so many ways. It keeps me motivated to continue to strive to be better and grow more.
Rodriguez: I think community is a feeling. And there’s a feeling that WeWork gives me that I never had before. For a lot of us, we know the experience that we get here as employees is the same as for the members: It’s an experience that they’re not going to find anywhere else. And that to me is sort of the magic of what we do here. There are a lot of material benefits to being here. But ultimately the one thing that no one else can give us is the feeling and the camaraderie that comes with it.
What’s your day-to-day work like at WeWork? What is it like interacting with members?
Mills: I make sure the operations of our building are functioning and that our members working from our location have the best possible experience. Interacting with members now is something that is a welcome relief—to be able to be one of those people whom others depend on. So many of our members have said how that in itself is what’s often needed, that interaction.
Kim: I solve problems that members have, answer any inquiries, check building operating conditions, communicate with relevant teams, and create events for members. I have worked at six locations over the past four years, which means I have met at least 8,000 members. Sometimes I don’t remember members’ names, but they remember mine. This makes me feel that I am in a community of the world.
Rodriguez: These days, I manage facilities operations for the mid-Atlantic market in the U.S. (Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia). Interacting with members has been as warm, bright, and personable as it’s been since day one.
Maggiore: We’re the advocates for community teams within the central function. For every initiative that rolls out, we think about how that will impact either the member and/or community teams. My two team members and I partner with these functional stakeholders to make sure that we’re connecting the dots. We’re helping them think through the communication plan, getting approval from leadership, and acting as their liaison to make sure that the rollout is smooth. It’s been fun for me to know how much we need that as a company, and then be able to step into that role and help create it.
Which of WeWork’s values resonates the most with you?
Seretny: The two that align most with my own ethos are “be entrepreneurial” and “be human, be kind.” The importance of being resilient and having a business owner’s mindset in my role is key to achieving goals and helping drive our business. However, it’s important to remember that we are all only human, and that being vulnerable, authentic, and kind to one another allows us to build trust.
Mills: “Give gratitude” is the one that resonates with me the most. I have learned to be grateful for everything and to take each and every interaction as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Rodriguez: “Do the right thing.” To me, it feels like the upgraded version of “be authentic” in the original values. In my role, I make decisions every day that impact our members and our business. It’s always important to remember the north star when we make those decisions: maintaining a strong community built on the foundation of trust and integrity.
What does “empowering tomorrow’s world at work” mean to you? What does our company going public mean to you?
Maggiore: I always imagine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When it comes to work, we provide people with the base of the pyramid, the things they need to have to be able to reach their full potential. We give them beautiful, comfortable, functional offices so they have a place to be. We provide them with WiFi, coffee, conference rooms, printers, so they can perform their basic tasks.
We also reach up into the midsection of the pyramid to help them connect and find a sense of belonging. They can then focus on their real work and use their brain space and power on the things they are passionate about.
Everybody that I know loves an underdog story. You don’t get to be a part of a story like that too often, and I’m happy that I’m here.Corey Mills, community lead, New York City
Snyder: Through WeWork, there are some people who can realize their life’s dream while others can solve huge world problems.
Mills: Everybody that I know loves an underdog story. So for us to come back from everything that we went through—all of the bad and negative comments—to be a part of a company that’s on a path of overturning that and achieving the next level of greatness? You don’t get to be a part of a story like that too often, and I’m happy that I’m here.
Rodriguez: To me, our company going public is the acknowledgement of our growth and maturation from a ragtag startup to a full-fledged global powerhouse. It’s the embodiment of everything we worked for all of these years, and it’s further proof that what we do here truly matters. To quote the rapper Drake: What a time to be alive!
Anna Dimond is a writer, editor, and content producer based in Los Angeles and in Cape Cod, MA. She covers the outdoors, culture, business, and politics for The Washington Post, ESPN, and Red Bull, among others.