In an Era of Millennial Job Hopping, Here’s Why We’ve Stayed at Mathematica

Nov 20, 2019

Courtney Powers and Nandini Sikdar

In most respects, we fit the standard urban millennial demographic. We’re part of the most educated generation in history. We moved to diverse, well-educated, and car-optional cities after finishing school. We are reliant on phones, social media, and tight connections with friend groups. And we both love iced coffee and avocado toast.

But there is one significant way in which we differ from our peer group. Studies show that millennials embrace job-hopping, and 21 percent of millennials changed jobs within the past year alone. By contrast, we’re both still at our first jobs out of college, celebrating four- and six-year work anniversaries.

Why we’ve chosen to stay at Mathematica as long as we have often comes up when we talk to friends or prospective hires. People have varying degrees of familiarity with Mathematica, but even those most familiar often don’t know about the environment and culture that keeps staff here for years, if not decades. If you spend some time on our company website, you’ll find that Mathematica is an employee-owned, staff-driven, and mission-driven firm. Not everyone knows what those terms mean, so let us explain based on our experience.

When we say that Mathematica is employee owned, that means employees are the sole shareholders and stakeholders of our company. We are part of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that invests money into our retirement accounts each year. But employee ownership goes beyond an annual contribution. It extends to our business strategy and culture. In a recent all-staff meeting, our president and CEO, Paul Decker, noted how little influence he has over individual bid decisions. And it’s true. Our internal database of proposals and projects provides all staff in the company visibility and a say in what opportunities we pursue. This structure offers staff at Mathematica control over their careers with the flexibility to grow and take on increasing challenges in areas of interest. Employee ownership translates into being staff driven. The ESOP is a by-product of decisions we make every day.

In addition to the opportunity to help drive the future of the company, we are all at Mathematica because we believe in its mission to improve public well-being. We believe that the work we do with clients ultimately improves people’s lives. That same sense of mission spills over into other aspects of our work and lives. We get to wake up every day and work with coworkers who are nice, thoughtful, humble, and genuine people. Cultural norms around behavior and collegiality that other companies might strive for are simply the norms here—the expectation.

Our workplace policies even reflect some of our cultural ideals: we have generous leave packages, a paid parental leave policy, and the flexibility to work from home if something comes up in our personal lives. We work with people who not only care about themselves and their role at Mathematica but also truly care about their coworkers’ well-being and the communities where we work. Staff in each office dedicate time to volunteer at a local nonprofit. In the Washington, DC, office, staff volunteer twice a month at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local nonprofit that provides meals and other support services to the homeless. The company also donates money for every hour we volunteer with Miriam’s Kitchen and other designated community partners.

Finally, as millennials who are also ambitious women, we love working for an organization where we are surrounded by women in leadership roles across the company. Unlike the stories circling around academia (especially economics), Mathematica has created an environment where women make up not only 60 percent of employees overall but 70 percent of our executive leadership team. Both of us have benefited from the strong women at Mathematica we get to work with and learn from. We feel welcome to bring our ideas to the table and confident that others value them and act accordingly.

Beyond employee ownership and the shared sense of mission, Mathematica retains so much of its staff for a reason that might not come through in the publications we produce and forums we hold: we have fun. We look forward to our annual holiday party and enjoy casual happy hours or coffee breaks with colleagues. In the fall, staff gather for a light but competitive lunchtime bocce league. We host monthly tea time, board game nights, and an annual treasure hunt. We always have a giant jigsaw puzzle that staff piece together over many months while grabbing a fresh cup of coffee. And when we need a five-minute break, we can stop to read Humans of Mathematica, a series of interviews published on our internal website where coworkers share personal stories about who they are and why they do what they do at Mathematica.

We came to Mathematica because we believed in its mission of improving public well-being, but we stay because we feel empowered to help guide Mathematica as it evolves in the future.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not represent those of Mathematica.