Subscribe to Email Updates

    Workstream | 2 min read

    From Hourly Worker to Harvard

    Both my parents are hourly workers. My dad is a driver who has worked for the past 40 years delivering parcels for companies, while my mum helped him as she worked part time as a cleaner. My parents had never been to school, finishing 4th grade before being asked by their parents to come out to work. For them, spending each hour earning money made more sense than going to school.

    I grew up in my dad's van - following him to wake up early in the morning at 4.30 AM so that he could drive one hour to pick up the goods that he needs to deliver for the day. I was always tired and sleepy while he put me next to him as he drove to work. To him, every minute counted as he was paid by the hour. He would always tell me that he needed to get up early to avoid the traffic jams that come in by 7 AM, and that he would finish his $2.50 lunches in 15 minutes so that he could get back to work. He often finished work late in the evening at 8 PM daily and would work 6.5 days each week. My dad's dedication and passion towards hard work made me want to help others in the hourly worker space.

    There are over 60 million hourly workers in America, and over 2.7 billion globally. The majority of workers in the world are hourly, but they have often been under-appreciated. From hospitality, retail, logistics, agriculture, construction to healthcare, companies like Walmart, GE, Amazon, Safeway, CVS, Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Uber, DoorDash, Jamba Juice, Marriott, Instacart, and more mainly employ hourly workers. In fact, many companies mainly hire hourly workers, whereas office or full time workers are in the minority. However, when we read the news, it often highlights stories about financial institutions, technology startups and more; when we look at software and software, more are built for office workers, from Slack, Zoom, to Qualtrics.

    My first job out of high school was as an hourly salesperson, where I sold cable TV subscriptions door to door. While in college, I started a Thai food restaurant, where I needed to hire, onboard and manage hundreds of hourly workers. I grew up in the hourly space and felt the importance of giving back and helping others in the industry be recognized, appreciated, and helped. As the first in my family to go to school, I worked part-time throughout school to pay for myself and was fortunate to be the first in my family to come to America, where I attended school at Harvard University.

    From hourly worker to Harvard. Desmond Lim and his parents

    While at Harvard, I felt like I was provided the opportunity to go to school not just for myself, but for my parents and extended family who all came from a blue-collar background. My friends at Harvard told me about their parents, uncles and aunties who worked as doctors, engineers or entrepreneurs - I have over 20 uncles and aunties, all of who worked either as a taxi driver, vegetable seller, or construction worker. While at Harvard, I felt I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to not just help myself, but my entire extended family. I also felt a responsibility to give back to others who grew up in a similar blue-collar background.

    In this newsletter, "The Hourly Worker," I hope to be able to share stories and anecdotes about businesses, entrepreneurship, and people in the hourly worker industry and more. With the current COVID-19 global pandemic, it becomes more obvious than ever - hourly workers are the ones at the frontline. Hourly workers are the ones to lost their jobs first. Hourly workers are the ones who run the risks and put their life in danger first. They are the ones we should focus on and the ones we should help.

    The COVID-19 situation is evolving quickly, and I hope to be able to dedicate this newsletter to help highlight people in the hourly workers industry to help us to appreciate and thank them more. In the past few years, I have worked with businesses from supermarkets, logistics restaurants, hotels, and healthcare companies, helping them to streamline their hiring and onboarding process, including with McDonald's, Brightstar Care, Uber, Jamba Juice, Marriott and more.

    With this newsletter, I hope to be able to do my part to highlight and share stories about local businesses and hourly workers, to do my part in empowering them to do better work and to better appreciate them. I also plan to feature businesses, entrepreneurs, and hourly workers who work in this industry to spotlight them and to share their stories. Please do reach out to me directly at if you have a story to share!

    Related Categories


    Desmond Lim

    Desmond Lim is co-founder and CEO of Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers. He is a graduate of Harvard and MIT Media Lab, former product manager at WeChat, and investor at Dorm Room Fund. He is based in San Francisco and lived in Palo Alto with his wife and two young daughters.

    You may also like:


    COVID19 Updates: Labor Market Trends & Restaurant Industry Performance


    Job Description & Job Title Best Practices - Workstream Product Update

    Best practices for job title and descriptions 💯 To help ensure your job reaches the most number of applicants and get v...


    How to Create an Employee Referral Program and Dedicated Careers Pages

    Finding qualified applicants is more difficult than ever. The best applicants don’t come from online job boards or ads. ...

    WS Blue Gradient

    Schedule a Demo

    We serve companies ranging from brick and mortar small businesses to Fortune 500, simplifying the hiring process for:

    • Transportation Companies
    • Hospitals & Assisted Living Centers
    • Grocery & Convenience Stores
    • Restaurants - QSRs to Fine Dining
    • Parks, Stadiums, Arenas
    • Manufacturers / Warehouses
    • Gas Stations
    • Festivals
    • Gyms & Salons
    • Hotels, Resorts, Wineries
    • Logistics Partners