Millennials and Mentors in the Modern Workplace: Technology and Tea

By Gregory Pings

Damilola Ashaolu
“While technology is important to me, it is learning from other people that gets me out of bed in the morning.” – Damilola Ashaolu, Human Resources program manager for Xerox North America Operations

“Cups of tea,” she said. “Nigeria is a former British colony which means I grew up drinking tea rather than coffee.” Tea is one of three things Damilola Ashaolu says she needs to get her job done. Others are technology and relationships, in no particular order.

A manager in the Xerox human resources department, she develops, implements and communicates HR programs.

One of the programs she manages is the mentoring programs that pairs young professionals at Xerox with executives. Unlike traditional mentoring programs, this program has the early career professionals doing the mentoring. They help seasoned executives on topics ranging from how to navigate social media to using some of the newer apps and tools at work. They also coach leaders on working with millennials and what they can expect as that generation starts to take key positions in the workplace.

“Most of our mentoring matches are not in the same office location, so they rely on phones or video conferencing for their mentoring sessions,” Ashaolu said. “Without technology, we could not enable those matches.”

But technology doesn’t solve everything. “Just as I’m beginning my workday in Connecticut, my colleagues in India are shutting down. I might have to wait a day to get their insights on a crucial matter,” she explained.

Aside technology, “relationships” is big on the list of things that are absolutely essential for getting her job done.

“The great relationships I have formed over my career are the foundation of every successful day at work.”

The work environment

“My ideal work environment is the beach,” she said puckishly. “But I like our office as well because it is designed for collaboration and promotes engagement. While technology is important to me, it is learning from other people that gets me out of bed in the morning. I work with some very smart people, and I know I can look forward to learning something new every day. Otherwise, like I said, I would prefer to work from the beach.”

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But even the best work environment can sometimes result in information overload. Email and presentations should be brief. “Less is more!” she insists. Attention spans are shorter, thanks to technology.

“I used to watch soccer games for the whole 90 minutes, no distractions,” the avid FC Barcelona fan noted. These days, she switches screens between the game and House of Cards until she hears the Spanish football commentators scream “gol!” Her point: You have to keep people engaged. “Don’t draw it out if you don’t have to.”

The benefit of in-office collaboration notwithstanding, Ashaolu sees work life and family-home life coming together. She sees more home offices around the corner, and a few more “cute accidents” such as when young children walked in camera range during Professor Kelly’s interview for a live BBC report.

Relationships buttressed by reliable technology does set the page free by enabling a steady flow of reliable, relevant information. But Ashaolu is also looking forward to robots in the workplace.

“They can bring me tea while I am held up in meetings,” she deadpanned.

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