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Community associate Rashmi Paul first learned about respect and hospitality under unusual circumstances. During her tenure as a research associate at the House of Commons in London, the member of Parliament she worked for, Daniel Kawcyznski, came out as bisexual. “It was a big deal for some of his constituents,” says Paul, 28, “and it was part of my job to respond to the people who were upset by this.”
Kawcyznski was from a conservative district, and he was the first MP in the conservative party to be so open about his sexuality. Paul says that immediately afterward, volumes of communication began coming in from his constituents. “We would hear people’s outrage when we were out at events, or people would call in to our offices,” says Paul. It was the first time she had ever encountered the challenge of dealing with people who were upset in a work setting. “You had to be hospitable and respectful, even if you didn’t agree with them,” she says.
Paul says that she learned a lot from Kawcyznski, whom she calls “one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met.” She would watch awestruck at his ability to listen and respond to people’s concerns. “He never lost his cool, even in the face of very personal attacks,” she says.
Paul went to London because she loved its diversity and she wanted to study international politics. After six years there, she moved back to India. While she found political life fascinating, Paul did not pursue a political career on her return home because she was born in Kenya, which restricts her ability to run for office. Nevertheless, the lessons Paul learned from Kawcyznski were soon to serve her well.
After three years at a number of different jobs, one day she spotted a building covered in a tarp with huge letters that spelled out “Do What You Love.” She applied at WeWork and says that at the end of her first interview she knew that a community role was exactly what she had been looking for. “I knew that this was a place with all different kinds of people—a place where I could use the skills I had learned working in the political world,” says Paul.
And while she’s never faced the kind of situation Kawcynski did as a politician, working for him taught her fundamental lessons about hospitality—especially what it looks like under stressful and difficult conditions. The top five things Paul learned from working in politics are:
- Be disciplined.
- Be well-mannered.
- Be empathetic and kind.
- Stay calm.
- Most importantly, be willing to help people with anything.
Understanding the importance of these skills has served her well in her people-facing role at her building, WeWork The Pavilion on Church Street in Bengaluru. “I have seen firsthand how hospitality works,” says Paul. “It starts with the ‘hello’ at the front desk. It can be that simple, or it can be as big as making sure a huge company has a great experience, taking care of any issue, from the small to the big.”
While WeWork and politics might not seem to be related, she adds, “Learning the skills of a politician didn’t hurt.”
We spoke to Paul about her favorite things to do outside of work, her core values, and who she’d like to host for dinner:
Core values: Tenacious and inspired. She loves Steve Jobs’s Stanford commencement speech, in which he talks about how the majority of one’s life will be spent working. “He said, ‘Never settle,’” Paul shares. “That’s why I kept moving forward—I wasn’t going to settle.”
Ideal dinner guest, living or dead: Nelson Mandela. His message felt close to home for her because she is from Kenya. “I’d just want to sit there and listen to him,” she says.
Member who inspires her: Three days after Paul’s building opened in November 2018, a young man walked in and joined WeWork—Dhruv Mullick, a struggling sports agent who had been working at the Starbucks next door. Fast-forward eight months and he’d signed a number of athletes (one of whom is a famous cricketer), and has his own company. “He just took off once he came here,” says Paul.
Favorite downtime activity: Hiking. Paul has hiked all around India—from the Himalayas in north India to climbing the big boulders in the parks in the south. She has big plans to hike Kilimanjaro in her native Kenya. “Maybe next year,” she says.
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