WeWork’s community team members are the soul of the We community. Heart of We highlights how their hard work and passion improves the daily lives of WeWork members across the globe.
Early one morning, just six months after he started as community manager of Boston’s WeWork 200 Portland St, Koko Ekong was awoken by a text message: The Secret Service needs to do a sweep of the building, it read.
“The most senior officer in command in the Air Force was coming,” recalls Ekong, 27. The text came in at 5 a.m., he says, and “I realized I was now running on military time.”
The Air Force was testing a program in which it assigned employees to work off-site, with the aim of inspiring more creative thinking and attracting more civilians to their workforce. So they became members of WeWork. With 98 members of the Air Force in Ekong’s building, he knew things would have to run like a well-oiled machine.
No one had ever asked to search every corner of the building, but Ekong snapped to attention. “I understood who this member was, and what they needed,” he says. Ekong obtained cards and keys with access to all doors in the space, including IT closets, storage rooms, and the basement, so the Secret Service could do its job.
He also welcomed the service members into the culture of his WeWork building. “Where usually we’d do a blast invite to an event, I sent a personal invite to the Air Force members,” says Ekong, noting that a vital part of ensuring the success of the program was making sure the Air Force members were fully integrated into the WeWork community.
“Things got really fun when I asked them what kind of event they’d like to see,” says Ekong. “They said Star Wars, of course!” He arranged for Star Wars-themed cookies and cocktails—and was happy to see that all of the Air Force members came out for the event.
Ekong’s efforts to go above and beyond were recognized by Jamaal Sampson of TDMK Digital, who worked together with the Air Force and WeWork. “As a former member of the U.S. Army and current manager, I do not for one second take for granted the hard work of key people that turn great ideas into reality,” says Sampson. “That has been in large part a role that Koko has pioneered and perfected.”
Ekong says the appreciation flowed both ways. He recalls the time a member was locked out of their office after breaking their key in the lock. “As we were trying to find a way to open the door, a high-ranking officer walked past and offered to help,” recalls Ekong. “He had really long arms and could reach the knob we weren’t able to, and he got the door open.” Mission accomplished.
We spoke to Ekong about the WeWork members he admires, his other home, and his future plans.
Member who influenced him most: “Edward Sullivan is always a voice of reason around our office,” says Ekong of Sullivan, who works at Bank of England Mortgage. “He’s very conscious of how he hires—he really pays attention to diversity.” When Ekong asked him why he does this, Sullivan pointed out how much every business needs every kind of person.
Ekong says he also admires the way Sullivan makes a point to meet every member of the building and participates in yoga every Wednesday. “He has also been a huge help in shaping our roof deck to match the North End/West End vibe of our neighborhood,” says Ekong.
What he misses about his homeland: Ekong, who came to the United States from Nigeria eight years ago, says he misses Nigerian nightlife, where most places don’t close until 7 a.m. and people find a reason to celebrate year-round. “I miss festivity without it having to be a holiday,” says Ekong. He also misses the food: pounded yam and Afang soup, which he says is a delicious vegetable dish loaded with chunks of smoked and fresh meat—“whatever you can lay your hands on.”
Plans for the future: Ekong says that if Nigeria gets a WeWork, he’d love to go back. He’s itching to make an impact in his homeland, he says, and would like to enter politics there one day. “I don’t think the U.S. needs me,” he says. “Or, at least, Africa needs me more.”
Person he respects the most: Ekong’s father taught him a lot about how to deal with people. “When someone came at my father with negativity, he always remained calm,” says Ekong. While his father stands out, Ekong credits many people with influencing the person he is. “I’ve taken bits of everyone around me.”
What he likes best about WeWork: “The connection,” Ekong says. “I love meeting people from every background; I enjoy the exposure I get to different people. The way everything revolves around the community—that’s the glue.”