Sometime earlier in this century, we entered into the realm of the versatile career.
In generations past, it was a sound strategy to find and stay with one company for an entire lifetime — career changes were rare. Today, some companies are launched by a handful of people working on laptops at weekend hackathons. New industries are being born and completely wiping others out at an astounding rate.
What’s a person to do?
Traditionally, we have the old guard that says: “Go to school, take out loans, get a job, buy a house, and max out your 401k.” The advantage of this path is the potential for stability, but the disadvantage is that it can cause people to feel stuck in a career without real meaning.
Alternatively, we’ve got the startup narrative that says: “Drop out of school, eat ramen noodles, sleep on a couch, get funding, cash out, and live the dream.” While there are some glamour stories of this variety in our collective cultural archive, there are also many other cases that do not have a storybook ending.
Despite all of the advances in technology we’ve made — from smartphones and 3-D printers, to nanotechnology and open source hardware — we’ve yet to create a reasonable, viable, accessible career path that negates the need to experience the downsides of our current options.
Strangely, we’ve yet to reinvent the way work is organized — in order to benefit the people who actually do the work.
FactoryX is essentially a grand experiment in exploring what happens when we remove common constraints and assumptions around how work is expected to be organized. How could things be different if we were no longer confined to one limited job description, or even one specific company?
Rather than being committed to one project or company, individuals can work underneath the FactoryX umbrella on numerous companies, on the aspects of work that are most meaningful and interesting to them.
Take J, for example. As one of the earliest employees of FactoryX, she has seemingly done it all. From onboarding new fellows and designing the fellowship experience, to running user testing on Charmed (a dating app), to discovering a great fit with Academy—a new branch of FactoryX that she launched — where she teaches and guides teams through the rapid prototyping process.
“Though I learned that user testing was not an ideal fit for me to spend all of my time on, being able to experiment with it has made me better at guiding others who are struggling with it at Academy,” she says.
On the financial side of things, individuals get an opportunity to receive partial ownership of the companies they work on, depending on their role and duration. FactoryX calls this performance-based equity. While owning a big portion of your own small startup is a high risk, high reward maneuver — owning a small percentage of several different companies begins to tip the odds in your favor that at least one of them will pay huge dividends over time.