Navigating Transition During Uncertain Times

As Chief People Officer at WeWork, Matt Jahansouz has zigzagged through his career, taking “one opportunity after another.”

After graduating from Penn State with a degree in finance, he climbed the corporate consulting ladder, logging seven years with Deloitte Consulting and nine years with Goldman Sachs before joining WeWork in February 2019.

Transitioning to a new career can be “both exhilarating and a little terrifying,” said Jahansouz, who served as the third virtual guest speaker in the 2020 MBA Executive Speaker Series.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a different type of transition, affecting workers from every sector. Faculty and students have transitioned from working in the office and traveling to school to adapting to working remotely.

“What we're going through right now is effectively the largest work from home experiment in the history of the world,” Jahansouz said.

Jahansouz encouraged students to think expansively about what they want to do because there are a lot of different ways to be successful. And, he added, sometimes actually failing is just as important.

As interviews shift virtually, standing out among candidates is even more critical. Jahansouz recommends preparing by first asking yourself if would would be happy in the culture and work environment. Being eager and trying to get as much information as possible about the organization to truly understand how it works, is also very important, he said.  

Employers across the globe are struggling with how to balance the urgency of getting people back to work and safety. While many companies are focused on how to help employees continue working remotely, WeWork’s business model centers on providing shared workspaces.

WeWork is evaluating the impacts of the coronavirus on a daily basis, and implementing and safety and health procedures, including temperature checks, providing personal protection equipment such as masks and gloves, enhancing disinfectant protocols, spreading out work spaces to accommodate social distancing measures, and improving ventilation.

“When you sell office space and you have 800 buildings around the world you try your best to figure it out, there is no playbook,” Jahansouz says.

Jahansouz noted that companies are also grappling with how to address issues raised by the  Black Lives Matter movement, adding that seeing “start to make serious investments and changes to their business and their strategy as a result of it indicates that we are moving in the right direction.”

WeWork has hosted a dozen of roundtable conversations with folks across the organization, spurring discussion around questions such as, “how are you doing in the context of everything that's going on and what can we as an organization do to help and support our people?”

WeWork isn’t limiting its efforts to employee conversations. In addition to a number of committments, the company will fund 200 $10,000 grants  –$2 million  - for Black-owned WeWork member businesses.

The presentation can be viewed on the Feliciano School of Business YouTube channel.