Last week, the Global Workspace Association (GWA) announced that Jamie Russo has been appointed its new Executive Director. Our team knows Jamie well through her work with LEXC and her participation as a space provider in the LiquidSpace network. As she takes on her new role, she was kind enough to do a Q&A with us. Read on.
Tell us about your history in the workplace industry.
I have always been sensitive to the connection between workplace and wellbeing, happiness and the ability to do one’s best work. Starting with my very first jobs, I was constantly evaluating my surroundings and generally finding them lacking and un-inspiring. I was on an executive team for a startup whose model was to activate wellness programs for Fortune 500 companies – so I was visiting a lot of workspaces – a lot of, bland, uninspiring workplaces. I became really focused on this issue and came across the concept of coworking and decided to experiment with creating a workspace and a culture of wellbeing from scratch. I started Enerspace Coworking and we have locations in Chicago and Palo Alto. Since then, I’ve been an avid student of workspace design and strategy, community building and understanding how real estate trends impact workspace models. I am the outgoing President of the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces and have spoken at industry conferences such as GCUC, Worktech, GWA and I host a weekly podcast on coworking trends and how-tos.
How have your previous experiences prepared you for your new role?
I think it’s a combination of being an avid student of the evolution of workplace, passion for workspace, experience in the industry AND having spent years outside of the industry in key business roles. I happen to own coworking spaces, but my interest in workspace is broad and certainly not limited to coworking. I’m passionate about business and helping business owners to harness the opportunities in this industry – including space owners, real estate players and service providers. My broader professional experience in marketing, operations leadership and consulting have prepared me to deliver on these goals.
What life experiences have shaped the type of leader you are?
Throughout my experience at big companies (Accenture, Kraft Foods) and high-growth startups, I’ve worked for really visionary leaders that inspire teams but then don’t provide the resources and clear, consistent objectives to help a team to achieve goals and make an impact. And I’ve worked for very process-oriented leaders that don’t align a team with a purpose and meaning. My ideal is to combine the two – vision and inspiration with the ability to facilitate top-notch business planning and execution.
What do you hope to accomplish at GWA in the coming year?
In my opinion, this is the most exciting time in history to be a part of the workspace industry. The increase in flexible work policies on the corporate side, freelancers and small business owners embracing the shared economy and the technology to support mobile work is driving demand like never before. My goal is to position the GWA as the central platform for the conversation around work and to provide the support and resources to our members to help them stay current, competitive and connected to ensure that they are well-positioned to harness the growth opportunities.
There has been a significant amount of innovation in the workplace industry in recent years. Emergence of coworking, new technology offerings. Are these developments temporary and peripheral or is now the time for real, enduring change?
These changes are just the beginning of a major shift in how all constituents think of workspace. The pace of technology advancement, the value that the Millennial workforce (now taking on management roles) places on flexibility, and the mass embrace of the shared economy are all going to continue to drive innovation in workplace.
What excites you most about the workplace industry as we look into 2016 and beyond?
I am most excited about the consumerization of workspace. The demand for high-quality, accessible, flexible workspace from mobile professionals, the growing freelancer economy and small businesses and startups will raise the bar on the provider side. I think we’ll see a major shift into a workplace-as-a-service mindset with workspace providers of all types creating experiences that drive value, convenience and delight for users.
What should we know about you personally?
I am a native NY’er, spent 15 years in Chicago and now live in the Bay Area and I’m still in the honeymoon phase with the weather here. I have more dogs than kids (two goldendoodles), I am a Crossfit fanatic and I’ve taken up knitting to try to kick my device habit.