If you are 35 years old or younger, you have achieved dubious recognition as a cohort. The mildly disparaging moniker given by Asian societies, Strawberry Generation, roughly corresponds to those known as Millennials. If you frown in confusion, disagree with their work style or constantly bemoan the unfairness at how you-had-it-harder, I’m sorry but you don’t belong to this new age jet set.
(Featured photo: Nelvin C. Ceped via San Diego Union Tribune)
Quickly entering the lexicon of the general public in the region, after being coined by the Taiwanese media, the phrase makes an unapologetic analogy of today’s youth to strawberries and its inability to hold up to the hard knocks of real life. This generation has been accused of being selfish, overconfident, of being unwilling to work hard and of spending too much time on the Internet.
Every successive generation has its friction with the previous ones, owing to the contrasting set of life experiences between the two. Indeed, the older Millennials have only come of age within the last 10 years, whereas the youngest batch of Generation X have at least 15, and the baby boomers have had a lifetime to build up their playbook of sagely advice.
Instead of being quick to judge, shrug off the typical journalistic vitrol, and consider, instead, The Charcoal Generation. Charcoal by itself, is fairly cheap and worthless beyond a source of heat in forever-sweltering Singapore. With the correct conditions under sufficient pressure and heat however, it turns into much rarer, much more expensive diamond (yes we are aware actual charcoal cannot be actually formed into diamond, it’s just an analogy). With nothing less than time on their side and a lifetime of adult pressures and trials by fire to look forward to, it is certain that the world will see more diamonds emerge from this crop of kids.
A large part of this disconnect, ironically, stems from how each group socialises and communicates. Although in a sense more connected to a much wider network, face-to-face encounters perplex a good percentage of Millennials whereas face-to-face interaction is valued by Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers and even taken as a sign of credibility, and reliability. As old makes way for new, there must necessarily be some pangs of succession; will they be good custodians of what was built up, or will it all go to pot when the pioneering generation lets go?
In any case, their ranks are swelling. By 2018, the Millennials will have the largest spending of any generation, at about US$ 3.39 trillion. By 2025, 3 out of 4 workers will be Millennials. As of the last 5 years, 87% of Millennials rose to management roles, as opposed to 38 % of Gen X and 19% for Baby Boomers.
When talking about outstanding Millennials, the most prominent one is undoubtedly the literal ‘Face’ of Facebook. With a net worth of US $ 41 billion and a fifth of the world’s population plugged into his product, Mark Zuckerberg is the quintessential success story. However, his climb to the top was not without some duplicitous double dealing and perfidious politicking, leading to a less than amicable jostle for company ownership with his partners. It looks like someone from the Charcoal Generation picked up a few ruthless corporate sharking habits from the greed-is-good 80s.
In time, this Charcoal Generation, their ways and the new economy that they will inevitably helm, will dictate the new norms of social and business conduct when their day comes. In fact, the following young trailblazers have already begun terraforming global economic landscapes; diamonds that have emerged from the Charcoal Generation.
They are feisty, they are female and they are at the forefront. Like the hardy pioneers that ventured into unknown territory to blaze a trail through sacrifice and sheer grit, these steadfast lasses know what it takes to start from the bottom up.
Stephanie Chai – Founder of The Luxe Nomad
At 33, Ms Stephanie Chai has transformed the face of independent travel. Her company, The Luxe Nomad, has thrived in the competitive male dominated world of tech start-ups to beat her rivals by offering luxury resort and hotel stays at reduced prices. Since its incorporation in 2012, the company’s revenue grew 34% after the first year, and doubling within the next two years.
Despite the challenges, Stephanie invested all of her savings from her previous career and worked from the bottom up by burning shoe leather and building strong business networks internationally which contributed to her company’s success. Eventually after 3 years of building her operation up from scratch, venture capitalists took note and pumped in a sizable investment.
Features in Bloomberg, Esquire, Vogue, Elle and other media outlets soon followed; a strong show of affirmation that Stephanie was on the right track.
Krystal Choo – Founder of Wander
Treading into uncharted waters, companion-less globetrotter – Krystal Choo, now 28, created an app to link single travelers to one another. Called Wander, it is akin to a matchmaking service but for those looking for similar minded travel companions, not lifelong romantic ones.
Today, the service operates in 56 cities, with the United States forming its largest market. It also raised half a million U.S. dollars in seed money and accumulated 25,000 members within the first month of operations.
Lim Qing Ru – Founder of Zopim
Hitting the nail on widening chasm of reliable customer support and growing preference for online chat interfaces, Zopim was created. Founder, Ms. Lim Qing Ru, 31, and her partners worked tirelessly for 2 years on a monthly salary of SG $500 to grow their company that provided an online help-desk service to clients.
This grit and perseverance paid off in 2012 when revenues grew to SG $ 1,000,000 on a client base of 400,000 international clients. 2 years later, they hit the jackpot when the company was acquired by a San Francisco based company for SG $ 40,000,000.
Malala Yousafzai – The youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate
Malala Yousafzai isn’t quoted in business magazines or lauded in most listicles on the web. However, like her peers on this list, she inspires the common man with uncommon valor – a quality hardly ever accused to be lacking in “The Greatest Generation” (referring to the strawberry generation). At age 19 this year, she is already a Nobel Prize Laureate campaigning for human rights, particularly in the area of education for females in less privileged or developed societies. She has endured social rejection and assassination attempts but still remains resolute.
As these tender standard bearers have proven, do they as a generation, deserve the callous moniker? It seems that not all tender fruit have thin skins and those that do can grow callouses with repeated abrasion. While others have proven to be hidden gemstones under a surface of coal.