Previously, I’ve written about my experiences working for Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, co-founders of Hewlett-Packard. In many ways, they were responsible for defining and introducing the meritocratic-style corporate culture that came to define Silicon Valley and startups worldwide. They were world-class leaders who built an enduring legacy on innovation and respect, all while remaining very open people.
Generation Z is now coming of age and they’ve got a lot of buying power. But marketing to them isn’t easy, because marketing to this generation is unlike the ones before them. Since they are digital natives, their approach to buying is very different.
When I graduated from Rutgers University with my bachelor’s degree in engineering, most of my classmates joined major East Coast industrial companies. I, however, did something many of them did not consider. Drawn to the unbridled energy driving Silicon Valley and the revolutionary innovation happening in the area’s pioneering companies and research labs, I decided to move west to work for Hewlett-Packard.
Large corporations and venture capital (VC)-backed startups exist in parallel universes. I have lived in both of them, observing that both require extraordinary work ethic and dedication while offering intense career growth. But despite their similarities, there are minimal connections between these two universes. That said, my time in the corporate world prepared me exceptionally well for a career as a VC-backed startup C-suite executive.
As far back as Plato and Socrates, prior generations have lamented the lack of dedication in their successors. Today, discussions surrounding the work ethic of current generations echo the lamentations of these early Greek philosophers, though much of it is baseless. In many ways, the media has drawn artificial distinctions between the millennial generation and Gen Z. Based on my extensive observations and interactions, as a professor and an employer of our future leaders, I think of them as Gen G, or the global generation. Employers who do not properly understand and appreciate this remarkable cohort will never adequately address the skills gap that faces the U.S.
Startup culture requires an incredibly specific and unique personality — one that carries a large appetite for juggling multiple roles with the ability to thrive in a volatile environment while remaining relentlessly focused on the company’s vision and mission. Shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley provide a look into the emotional roller coaster that comes with life at a startup.
To take on the role of CMO at a startup is to take on even greater responsibilities. This position demands a keen ability to liaise between the company and the marketplace.