Being Open to Growth in Coworking—Stephanie Contreras

Coworking and Growth Mindset

When Stephanie Contreras joined the Enerspace community less than six months ago, she had just started as the Business Development Manager with OpenGrowth, a company that works as an incubator for a number of different clients working to grow and develop their businesses.

“Starting in the workforce, I think it’s important to start with the greatest opportunity,” Contreras said. “We toured a couple of spaces, and we found that Enerspace was the best fit for our company.

The open growth-mindset atmosphere at Enerspace became an important part of both the OpenGrowth team’s development. Although the OpenGrowth core team is currently comprised of three people, they function as a holding company for a number of other companies, working with hundreds of people and their teams on a regular basis.

Coworking for Growth

Enerspace, according to Contreras, offered a setup that reflected their business model as well—a blend of private space for the OpenGrowth team and a collaboration that leads to a number of good connections, opportunities for growth, and a community that facilitates connections.

“Everyone [in the OpenGrwoth team] is fresh with ideas, and it seemed like that was what Enerspace focused on,” Contreras said. “I love how Enerspace collaborates and tries to bring all the companies together.

A recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Contreras said she has found her experience as a recent graduate and part of a startup to be well-supported by the coworking community.

“That’s been very helpful to feel like there’s support,” she said, commenting on how different it is to transition out of academia and into the professional world. “You kind of have to be an entrepreneurthink of all the things that you have to do, she added. She said that learning how to manage her day-to-day schedule, prioritize tasks, and understand how to effectively work with different people have all been important skills for her to transition into as well as being important to OpenGrowth’s work with the companies they serve.

“That’s what OpenGrowth really stands for,” she said. “Open to becoming a better person and a better version of yourself.”

Company Growth, Personal Growth

This concept applies to Contreras’ everyday work with OpenGrowth as well. The nature of her position means that Contreras not only has to be innovative and self-paced on a day-to-day basis, but it also means that she must be able to adapt to working with different clients who have very different needs.

“You’re not going to stay static. There’s always an opportunity for growth,” she said.

“We’re growing together with the companies,” she said, explaining how each of the phases of development for the companies OpenGrowth works with are moldable, just like Contreras’ days are as she works to make sure each company and team has what they need to succeed.

For example, she has recently been working to recruit structural engineers for Design Everest, working to scout for, interview, and recruit the perfect fit for that team. However, she recruits for a number of teams, meaning she has to constantly shift in understanding what each specific company needs based on their team, vision, and company goals.

“They’re all very different. I just have to switch my tab throughout the day,” she said. Understanding the people on the teams, then—having empathy—becomes critical, and she said her many interactions with people from all industries and walks of life in the Enerspace community has been key as she navigates the demands of each day.

“No day is the same,” she said.

Supporting Businesses, Supporting Team Members

Contreras said she has found Enerspace’s atmosphere to be supportive of her everyday needs as a new professional.

“You have a lot of things going on, so Enerspace really helps,” she said. Whether it’s making copies or just checking in, she said that having staff support has been important for her own personal development. She also said that the social events, as well as the collaborative workspaces coworking offers, have helped her develop her entrepreneurial mindset as well as connections that have been important for OpenGrowth’s service base.

“When I go into Enerspace, you know, I have this ability of having a quiet area. If you want to be surrounded by people, you have the opportunity to be around other people,” she said. “Getting out of that comfort zone and then going and interacting with other people has really helped.”

But it’s not just business needs Enerspace supports. Contreras’ background in the agricultural industry, as well as her desire to stay in Silicon Valley, led her to OpenGrowth, which works with several agricultural clients in their incubation program. She grew up in the Silicon Valley area, on her family’s farm, where her father was a cattleman. She said she has always been naturally inclined to working outdoors, and she grew up outside—something she loves.

“I love being outdoors,” she said. “I love being active.” She enjoys backpacking and hiking and tries to regularly get outdoors—even during her work week—to reconnect with nature. “For me, it’s very important to still tap into…our surroundings,” she said. “It’s amazing to disconnect with society,” she added, noting that the patio space at the Enerspace location offers her quick access to the outdoors at times.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

The most important part of working with both a startup and in a coworking space, however, has been developing what Contreras calls an “entrepreneurial mindset.” Her field requires her to be able to innovate and adapt to changes in both the industry and in client needs. She said being in an environment where this mentality is the norm—both for Enerspace staff and for community members—has been crucial to her success.

Contreras gave examples of connections made at Enerspace happy hours, barbecue events, and other social gatherings where friendly conversation has led to successful partnerships. “You never know who potentially could help you in the situation that you’re in,” she said.