Microsoft’s 18 Year Old Advisor Speaks Out
Philip Riederle is 18 years old, has just published his first book, and advises companies such as Microsoft and Deutsche Bank. Salary and status count little for his generation. He explains what companies still do wrong. An interview by Germany’s Wirtschaftswoche.
WirtschaftsWoche: ThyssenKrupp, Google or Audi – for which one of these companies would you rather work?
Riederle: Each company has its pros and cons. Anyway, I’m still very undecided at the moment as far as my future path is concerned. My high school graduation is almost behind me and, before I begin with further study or training, I need one or two years to devote myself intensely to my consulting company. A lot was lost in translation during high school.
WirtschaftsWoche: The independent work seems to cause you great joy. What does a perfect work relationship look like for young people of your generation?
Riederle: For my generation, it’s not so much about salary and status anymore. For us, it is important that we can grow as human beings and find the right balance between work and leisure. It should not matter to my future boss whether I’m sitting at my desk with my laptop or if I am lying in the park to do my work.
WirtschaftsWoche: Sounds to me as if you are looking to be hired as a freelancer somewhere.
Riederle: To be your own boss is tempting. But I think that the working world is changing. For example, I could imagine a world in which salaried employees apply themselves to specific projects because they are truly passionate about them. This would, of course, shake up all the group structures. But it would also bring along many benefits.
WirtschaftsWoche: For example?
Riederle: Employees are looking for projects according to what interests them. Thus, the motivation for the work increases. They also enjoy more work variety if they don’t handle the same job for 30 years straight. People who are most productive after midnight just might work at night or when they feel like it, with their laptop in the outdoor pool.
WirtschaftsWoche: A very big part of your book “Who we are and what we want” deals with communication. Why is this so important in the working world?
Riederle: Communication is the foundation of human coexistence. My generation has grown up with the Internet, social networks, smartphones and therefore communication functions in a radically different way than before, in three ways. First: Everyone can always get in touch with everyone. Second, we have access to an enormous wealth of knowledge thanks to the Internet. And third: Anyone can publish.
WirtschaftsWoche: But what does that have to do with the working world?
Riederle: We can try a lot more things professionally than ever before. For example, I have built my own recording studio solely from instructions found on the Internet. I have not yet decided to become a sound engineer, but who knows. Also, becoming self-employed is now easier than ever thanks to the Internet. If someone has a good idea, he can promote it publicly on the net, collect money for it and run with it. Project-related work is also made possible to a much greater extent.
WirtschaftsWoche: Companies must not only rethink their communication internally, but also how they communicate with young talent. What must an employer offer of Generation Y?
Riederle: The important thing is: the job has to make sense. My generation does not want work that it may deem useless or pointless. In addition, companies need to offer flexible working models, which we have discussed at the beginning.
WirtschaftsWoche: And are companies doing that?
Riederle: Although such models exist theoretically in some large corporations, they are rarely implemented and lived out. They may offer flexible working hours. But if you’re not in the office from 8am until 4pm, your work is assessed by supervisors and labeled as lax. We promise parents to be able to come back to the same job after maternity leave. This works sometimes, but not very often.
WirtschaftsWoche: So we’re not yet talking about a brave new working world.
Riederle: Not yet. The old structures that have grown inside of corporations for decades will not dissolve easily. But, little by little, the older generation disappears and change runs its natural course. In addition, the companies must orient us because the shortage of skilled workers is not something we can stop.
WirtschaftsWoche: And that’s exactly where you come into play. You work with companies such as Microsoft, Bertelsmann or the German bank. Why are they looking for answers from an 18-year-old student?
Riederle: Well, the companies don’t want some older consultants to tell them that Facebook is really important and that they are supposed to establish a presence on these platforms. They want to understand what makes my generation tick. And I explain to them the change in values and the life world of my peers.
WirtschaftsWoche: Do seasoned managers actually take you seriously?
Riederle: I have to first prove to them that I know what I am talking about and that I can actually help them. But that is usually relatively easy for me…