Flat hierarchies. Invisible bosses. WFH. It’s work – although not as you know it. So in a constantly evolving business environment, how can you establish the ways of working you need to succeed?

"Remote work – leading on project management and cross-functional collaboration – fuels my energy and drive by offering flexibility in my work-life balance."

Jerome Albert
Class of 2015 (2009-15)
Business Enablement Group
CFO Chief of Staff at UBS

Jerome, Class of 2015 Jerome, Class of 2015

The gig economy. AI and automation. D&I. WFH. Welcome to the world of work – but not as you know it. From new tech to pandemic shifts to changing social attitudes, today’s workplace has undergone a revolution. “Across all industries, there seems to be this paradigm,” says Chia (Luchia) Nakada-Mallet, Class of 1999 (1995-99), Learning and Development Manager at PwC. “More and more, the business landscape is evolving rapidly and with uncertainty. And it requires us to be more adaptable and agile.”

So, what does the new workplace look like? Remote working, of course, is the most significant trend. Alex Lecanda-Moreno, Class of 2011 (2002-05), is Co-Chief Investment Officer at Goleta Fund, a family of investment funds.

“Whereas in the past, distance and time zones had more of an impact, remote working means it’s like we’re all now working in the same city. In general, I think it’s positive – it’s provided for increased flexibility for everyone. And from the employer’s perspective, you can now tap into a wider talent pool. You’re no longer geographically restricted.”

Automation and AI are also starting to play a significant role, he says. “During my career, I witnessed the transformative impact of these technologies on areas as diverse as asset management and corporate law. When I was a trainee M&A lawyer at White & Case, an international law firm based in New York, I was tasked with revising extensive legal documents and many other small, repetitive tasks that demanded great attention to detail but little strategic thinking. Later, as a Portfolio Manager, my team and I had to manually sift through large datasets, which consumed a significant amount of time. Now, with the integration of AI models, we can analyse the data, allowing us to reach investment decisions much more efficiently.”

But the third pillar of the new workplace is perhaps surprising: more compassion. Wellbeing programmes supporting mental and physical health are commonplace, and diversity, inclusion and cultural competence are more important than ever before, says Michele Koch, Class of 1981 (1979-81), an HR expert whose CV includes Siemens and General Motors and who runs Wow Corporate Culture. “Diversity awareness is reflective of the workforce – if you’re working remotely, people can be anywhere. But also, I think society has changed and now has more appreciation of different cultures. We all need to learn how to embrace differences.”

“The flexibility of remote work helps bridge borders throughout client engagements, empowering efficient collaboration and nurturing work-life balance.”

Joana Asshauer Class of 2014 (2003-14)
Engagement Manager at Vivaldi Group

How to make your mark in the new workplace

Be confident. As a young graduate it can be daunting to share your opinion or ask questions. But if you don’t know,

ask – it’s the only way to grow. Be proactive. Take the initiative, and go to colleagues with solutions, not problems.

Be efficient. Time management and the ability to concentrate on one thing for set periods of time are hugely valuable skills which can be learned.

Be present. If you have the chance to meet up with colleagues face to face, or to work in the office, take it.

Be on LinkedIn. It’s still the go-to professional platform for building a network.

Be connected. Build up your connections within the ZIS Global Community at

The world changes and, sometimes without even noticing, we change too. But for young people entering the workforce, adapting isn’t always so simple. What qualities do they need to not just survive, but thrive? Adaptability and open-mindedness – one of the ZIS Character Standards – will be key, says Alex. Although he trained as a lawyer and economist, not a computer programmer, he found that his role required him to learn some coding. “So, I just took a Python course. We all need to be learning, all the time. Don’t be the person who reacts to change but the person who leads the change, who is ahead of the curve and not just following.”

Adaptability also suits those who are prepared to embrace the gig economy and a more peripatetic form of working – something which is becoming increasingly common as companies look to hire more freelancers and short-term contractors for specific projects. “The days of being at a company for 30 years do not exist anymore,” says Michele. “Companies that get someone in for a period of time and maximize their time before they move on are actually the smarter companies out there.”

A flexible mindset is never more important than when working in client-facing roles, says Samantha Rainer, Class of 2012 (2006-12), Vice-President of Planning at global media advertising agency Universal McCann Worldwide. “It’s an incredibly fast-paced environment, and it’s vital to separate the personal from the professional. You can put forward brilliant work that the client loves – and the next day they change their minds. And that’s fine: it’s just part of the job. You have to be able to separate yourself from the work you do, to pivot and change from one task to the next, to keep up with the latest trends.”

But while the new workplace allows for new opportunities and skillsets, it’s also a challenging and unpredictable place. Uncertainty abounds: will AI really take my job? Will I get hired for the next project? That’s why resilience – also one of the ZIS Character Standards – is vital. “Resilience is not just the ability to bounce back from setbacks, it’s about maintaining a positive outlook in the face of challenges,” says Chia. “So, foster a growth mindset. Be open to learning, embrace change and challenges and view failures as opportunities for growth.” Michele recalls talking to a successful entrepreneur. “We asked about what he looked for when recruiting. He said that the number one thing was someone who had failed along the way – because, he thought, if you haven’t failed along the way, you haven’t been trying hard enough.”

"Working in a project-orientated field, supporting clients in banking, allows me to discover different ways of engagement.”

Sven Beatrix
Class of 2014 (2009-14)
Project Management Consultant at Q-Perior

Sven, Class of 2014 Sven, Class of 2014

When recruiting, the number one thing he looked for was someone who had failed; if you haven’t failed along the way, he said, you haven’t been trying hard enough

“Due to digital disruptions and technological advancement, human skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving are becoming even more valuable,” says Chia. “The ability to analyse complex situations, think creatively and propose innovative solutions will be what sets you apart.”

Alex agrees. “Those monotonous, routine, repetitive tasks – I think they’re going to disappear. That frees up time to look at the bigger picture: allowing you to think more about strategy or portfolio optimisation. We’re all going to have to learn to adapt to more strategic and complex tasks that require having a little bit more criteria than the machine has.” Likewise, Michele believes everyone needs traditional communication skills. “The tried-and-trusted skills on how to write well and how to be a confident public speaker are vital, whether you’re having a virtual meeting or an in-person one.”

And as these virtual meetings could take place between people anywhere in the world, those who are comfortable with people from different cultural backgrounds will be much in demand. “Coming from an international school gives you that advantage over others,” says Alex.

Empathy goes along with this: understanding and considering others’ perspectives has never been so important. “It is essential to lead with empathy and foster positive relationships with colleagues and clients. And many companies are starting to realize that we should not neglect interpersonal skills and trusted leadership. This is because it’s critical to be able to create psychological safety for people so that they can thrive in their workplace,” says Chia. It’s something Samantha finds, too. “Now that I work on global accounts, having that empathy and understanding of different cultures and their work styles is a huge thing,” she says.

Today’s workplace, of course, may not even resemble tomorrow’s workplace. The pace of change is such that the teens of 2024 will likely end up doing jobs that don’t even exist yet. For instance, who had even heard of an AI prompt engineer or a Spotify playlist editor ten years ago? But don’t dread the future. Stay openminded, resilient, adaptable and empathetic, and the new world of work offers opportunities that workers a few decades ago could never dream of.

“My mentors joke that I was like a little kid pulling on somebody’s jacket when I saw them having a free moment!” says Samantha. “I’d always be asking: ‘Can you explain this? Why do we do this this way? What about this thing I learned in this meeting with a partner or a new tech company? Why don’t we use that?’ Asking those questions, having that curiosity, and then becoming a semi-expert in any of those areas of interest puts you ahead of the pack. And I think that that’s been a huge part of why I’ve progressed rapidly in my career.”

Back in the old days, there was something called a career ladder, says Michele – and if someone was sitting on the rung above you, you were stuck. That’s not the case anymore, and that’s a good thing. “You can move sideways, you can move down, you can move across – you can move all kinds of different ways if you broaden your skill set and figure out what you want to experience. The journey will take a whole bunch of turns that you can’t possibly imagine – so just enjoy it.”