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The Pepelwerk Podcast Ep. 17 – Interview – Gen Z and Millennials in the Workforce After College

Kim Kelley:                         Well, welcome everyone to our podcast. I literally lost count and I'm sure that's for a lot of crazy fun reasons. Just growing the Peplewerk business and getting a lot of excitement from our employers and our talent users and really spreading the word about the mission of Peplewerk and why we do what we do to really not just be the matchmakers of the working world, but to bring about the digital change in the way that we work. Today we have a talent guest who has been gracious enough to offer up her experience to hopefully shine some light on other talents out there that are just listening to the Peplewerk message, trying to figure out how or if Peplewerk can help them. But more importantly, how other talent, job seekers, people in the workforce that are your age are trying to figure out how to really survive, not just survive the working world, but find opportunities to thrive. And our guest's name is Karima Boukary. Hello Karima.
Karima Boukary:               Hello.
Kim Kelley:                         Go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us how old you are, if you don't mind, just so that everyone can kind of get a person a good perspective on where you're coming from.
Karima Boukary:               Yes. Well thanks for the introduction Kim. My name is Karima and I'm 25 and I graduated from NC state in North Carolina coming up on three years ago. Can't believe how long it's been, but time really flies. After graduation I started out working at a yoga studio and eventually moved from doing some nutrition-related research and now I do clinical research for a pharmaceutical company.
Kim Kelley:                         Interesting. So you went from teaching yoga. I'm assuming that was just to get cash in the door.
Karima Boukary:               Pretty much. I actually managed the studio. The manager wanted, or the owner of the studio wanted somebody who wouldn't teach but would only manage just so that there was no conflicts of interest. So I got to take a lot of classes but I actually did more of the operations for the business and just really fell in love with that kind of work.
Kim Kelley:                         Oh really? So you fell in love with operational process? Or you fell in love with managing and growing a business?
Karima Boukary:               The managing and growing a business. I just fell in love with small business ownership and got to know a lot of the other small businesses in the same, it was like a little strip mall, and just really loved the business side of everything and it really surprised me.
Kim Kelley:                         Okay. So I want to leave that thought and come back to it. Cause I, a lot of our users, I should say our talent users, are kind of all over the place. If I'm being really honest. We have some adults that have been in the working world for a long time and they're using Peplewerk to get connected to contract opportunities that fit their skills and their schedule. And we have 17-year-olds just getting into the working world and some of them are making a decision on the value of college and the value of going to a mega university and the debt that they would have to incur, because most students or most young adults don't have the luxury of having a college university paid for. And I'm curious to know now that you're three years out past your college graduation, do you think going to a formal university, a four year program, was worth it?
Karima Boukary:               I do. I loved NC state and I loved the development opportunities that I had there. But if I could go back, I would absolutely take a gap year, maybe even two, and I probably would have saved myself a lot more time, been lot more focused with what major I chose and I am happy with where I am now. But going straight to college was not necessarily the best plan in the world.
Kim Kelley:                         Well you know what, I've heard that more and more and obviously that's another reason why we're trying to bring these conver-, not trying, that we are bringing these kind of conversations to light through the Peplewerk platform because most young adults, they do want time to discover and we're now in a position socially and how we kind of flow through data that taking a gap year certainly doesn't hurt anybody and I would guess that if you were to take one or two gap years, that just like you said, that you'd be able to really make a more educated and informed decision on what your major would be. What do you think?
Karima Boukary:               Definitely. I think NC State has an unusual application process where you apply directly to the major you want to go to. So if you want to go to NC State and you apply for nuclear engineering, which I have a friend in that program, it's way harder to get in than if you apply directly into say, nutrition major like I was. So you kind of have to decide what you're going to do in your four years when you're still 17, which seems like a bad idea.
Kim Kelley:                         I would say most 17 year olds that I've met or even the two that I've raised, I would definitely, and I did, encourage them to think really hard about what it is that they wanted to do and figure out if a four year degree was the right thing. My oldest, she was in more of a, I think I want to do this. And the only way that she was able to refine that she didn't want to do what she thought, which was to be in the medical field, was to go to college. She had to bob and weave with what she wanted to do as she learned more about her interests. But I want to talk about where you're at now. So you're doing, you went from small business management while you were in school. Did I hear that right?
Karima Boukary:               Yes. And then I just kept doing that the summer after college.
Kim Kelley:                         Okay. And now you have a full time job for a pharmaceutical company using your degree. Is that correct?
Karima Boukary:               Yes.
Kim Kelley:                         Okay. So what, with the employer, and you don't have to say the employer's name, but do you think that the job that you have now, that you could have done the same job while you were learning, or do you think that you had to finish your degree in order to get the job?
Karima Boukary:               So in order to get this job, I think they will hire people into the entry level role I started into with only an associate's degree, but it's very rare. They want you to have finished college to start working because some of the protocols are really advanced and you don't necessarily need a four year degree to understand them, but I think the company wants to know that you're coming in there with a scientific education just to understand the kinds of drugs that you're studying. And then there's also a lot of FDA regulations and there's something called good clinical practice, which everybody needs to know and frankly can be learned in an online course in a few weeks, but they want you to have a college degree for some reason, but it is very helpful being in the field now after having taken organic chemistry and biology and genetics and learning about how clinical trials are designed in school before I started working on one myself.
Kim Kelley:                         That makes sense. And of course, one of the reasons why I'm asking is with anything having to do with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it really depends on how advanced the role is. Almost like if you're a genius and you're the one that's trying to create the new formula to have something that cures cancer, I would say that yeah, you would want somebody who goes through a formal education. But for entry level positions, because you're not just ... I understand that you would need a baseline in any of those areas just because everything requires some sort of foundation and you don't want to go into something just completely blind. But with entry level jobs and the one that you're doing right now, just the what you talked, about you could somebody learn simultaneously while they're learning the company's particularities. Right? Cause I guess where I'm going in my question to you is, how much of what you learned in college is helping you on a day-to-day basis versus how much you have to learn about how the company likes to run things?
Karima Boukary:               I would say the only part of my job that I use my degree for is understanding the protocol and when you have to make critical decisions about, there's a protocol and then there's what actually happens in real life. When you're at the site and you're with the patient and they're taking this new medication and they're having an issue or there's a difficult question, having the critical thinking skills that you're supposed to have developed in college and then also understanding how the drug works in their body and how different drugs work in their body. That's something that you would really need an understanding of science that you would get in college. You definitely need that for it, but understanding of the company and just the day-to day-operations, that's another 80% that you could do without this specific degree and there's no way to really know. I guess just for me, because there's nobody in my industry who doesn't have a degree, so it's hard for me to say how they would perform versus how someone with a degree would.
Kim Kelley:                         That's fair. Yeah, that's absolutely fair. I guess my questions are for any of our employer listeners who could be recruiting for science-based jobs, you know, how are you thinking about hiring the next generation of talent and really getting them to think through, once you understand somebody's aptitude for science and their attributes for the job, what's the harm in hiring entry level positions for kids who are learning and getting them to understand your company culture and the way that your protocols are, and also learn at the same time what textbooks they would also, how to apply it. Now obviously Karima, before I go onto my next set of questions, do you like the job that you get from your degree?
Karima Boukary:               It has its moments, but I recently got promoted, as of last week, but the first year was a little rough.
Kim Kelley:                         You know what, it's funny you say that as a 25-year-old and I hear the same thing from a 60-year-old, when they transition to this job it's like, well you know, it has its moments. So obviously, the nutrition job with protocols in a pharmaceutical world, very technical, very scientific-based and your generation is all about basically a myriad of skills that can be used in different ways to really create the work life that you want. So is there anything else that you're doing to utilize other skills that you have and other interests, like the small business in operations that you fell in love with?
Karima Boukary:               Yes. So the skills that I gained at the yoga studio and running the small business have directly impacted how good I am at helping run a clinical trial because running operations for an organization is a somewhat, you know, it carries over as far as skills go. Knowing your way around Microsoft Excel and understanding budgets and understanding how to resolve issues, and whereas in the yoga studio it was quickly responding to keep the customer happy, in this case it's quickly responding to the doctors whenever they have a question to make sure that they're happy and make sure that our patients are safe. So understanding some of that on the customer service has really carried over into the clinical trial because in this industry, the doctors and the patients are like our customers, so making sure they're happy kind of feels the same as making sure our yoga student is happy with the class package that they bought.
Kim Kelley:                         I love the fact that you really mentioned some, what people think are are assumed skills for the next generation getting jobs, and they're really not. For what customer service is in person, which is more like customer experience and what it means to even use email and Outlook and have grammar when you're communicating to clients and what that means to be client-facing. It's actually a struggle for a lot of our recruiters and hiring managers and small business owners to think about the real core skills that they're looking for in their hires. And you know, people get so frustrated because they have so many skills to offer and they don't understand why they're not getting jobs. It's really because the job itself sometimes is poorly structured and poorly offered to make a failure to connect.
But the ones that you mentioned, the skills that you just mentioned about how they can apply to whatever job you're getting, that should be part of anybody's skill or talent profile when they have their Peplewerk out because you can't assume that everybody knows those things. Even as a 25-year-old in the working world, how you understand those things and what level of expertise, it really changes what kind of jobs you can have. I want to kind of transition out of skills and what you've done for college and how you decided to even go to college and some words of wisdom that you've given our young adults about how they should consider maybe a gap year and evaluate what their career decisions are. So tell us about how you think about your career and any last words of advice that you would have to young adults trying to define their work life.
Karima Boukary:               I guess my biggest advice would be if you think you're interested in a career, find somebody who's doing that career and actually talk to them. Actually spend a day with them, maybe more than one day. I think a lot of kids could skip right over the two to three years they spend as a premed major before they switched to something else if they had just shadowed a doctor and not just a doctor but a nurse, a physician's assistant, a pharmacist get what it's really going to be like to be under the fluorescent lights of the hospital 60 plus hours a week before you start taking premed classes. Also, there's something so character-building about just having a retail job or a restaurant job. Both my sister and I worked at the same ice cream shop in our neighborhood and I just scooped ice cream and did dishes and just, made customers happy, counted people's change back to them.
Just really simple stuff like that taught me a lot about myself and what kinds of tasks that I really like and what kind of tasks I'm not so crazy about. I know just from that ice cream job that I would never want to be a nurse because I don't like being on my feet all day. I do much better sitting down when I'm working. So just little stuff like that. You would be surprised how much just a little retail or food service job can teach you about your career and being an employee. Then also the satisfaction of cashing a check, even if you're only making 7.25 an hour. It's a good feeling and you shouldn't be afraid of going to work. It's something you can be excited about if you do it correctly.
Kim Kelley:                         Well, I think those are very smart words of wisdom and I think it also would give any of our adults listeners a little bit more appreciation for your generation. We've written a lot of blogs and a lot of content around getting the next generation matched with work and what that means to work with anybody who's really 30 and younger. Unfortunately the bad rap is just, it's almost like a poor media job. There's just so much misinformation and it's a negative thing, but what you've just mentioned about just getting, going through the ... When you go through the trials and you're basically learning the foundation of just what it means to just be punctual and like you said, down to counting change and understanding and listening. I mean, it's just a lot of foundation and if you're really willing to start at that place, no matter what your interests are, you should be able to be very successful in discovering eventually what it is that you want to do.
Karima Boukary:               Exactly. Yeah. Any little job where you're going through a checklist and you go through a training, you're going to have to do that at any job, pretty much for the rest of your life.
Kim Kelley:                         That is true, the scenery may change, but the tasks do not.
Karima Boukary:               Exactly.
Kim Kelley:                         That's a very good point. Okay, Karima, last words or is there anything else that you'd like to the audience to know about yourself or even any scary stories that you have about facing the working world?
Karima Boukary:               I don't know about scary stories, but I will say, oh my goodness, LinkedIn and recruiters helped me get my first job and I cannot imagine how much easier it would have been if I could have just used Peplewerk and had job matching and not have to cold email all of these people and get passed over and read a million job descriptions that weren't right for me and send out my resume blindly. If I could have skipped over all of that, would have been nice. So I would say use Pepelwerk because-
Kim Kelley:                         Of course.
Karima Boukary:               It is so much easier.
Kim Kelley:                         That makes me smile from ear to ear. Hopefully we can bring that type of experience to the next generation of both our talent and employer users. And I think on that note, we will end the podcast. Thank you everyone for listening. Thank you, Karima, for participating. I'm so grateful that you are one of our talent users and that you're willing to share your story. And all of our listeners, remember that we gave you the tools. It's up to you how you use them.