Have you ever Googled how Google hires its Googlers? Since 2006, it has been Kyle Ewing’s job to make sure that the global software giant doesn’t run out of the best talent the world has to offer. Leading the company’s Talent and Outreach Program Team, Kyle is responsible for all of Google’s entry-level hiring, internship, apprenticeship, and residency programs. Joining Dr. Diane Hamilton in this episode, she gives us a sneak peek at what the how curiosity plays into Google’s innovation culture and how the company is advocating for greater diversity and inclusion in its teams. Now is your chance to learn what makes Google Google and what Googleness is all about.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Kyle Ewing here. Kyle leads the Talent and Outreach Program Team at Google and she does a lot with diversity and inclusion. We’re going to talk about a lot of things that they’re doing at Google. Stay tuned. This is going to be a great show.
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How Google Creates The Next Generation Of Innovators With Kyle Ewing
I am here with Kyle Ewing who leads the Talent and Outreach Program Team at Google which exists to invest in the next generation of Googlers across campus industry and research audiences. Her team is based out of 30-plus offices globally and is responsible for all Google’s entry-level hiring, internship, apprenticeship, and residency programs with a focus on connecting with growing and hiring folks who have been historically underrepresented in the tech industry. She leads Google’s employment brand and companies hiring efforts to build a more representative workforce. It’s nice to have you here, Kyle.
It’s great to be here.
This is going to be interesting. I’m always fascinated by people who work at some of these companies that you think are amazing. My son-in-law works at Apple. I’ve had other people from Google on the show, Jaime Casap and others. It’s a dream for a lot of people to have your job. I am curious how you got to that level. Can we get a little backstory on you?
I’ve been here at Google for fourteen years. With the exception of my first year here, I’ve been in a similar type of space. That’s programs, outreach, and development space. Prior to Google, I started my career in public accounting. I was an auditor. I learned a lot about general business, understood more about what I enjoy doing about that job, and the certain things I didn’t particularly care more about. After I hit my two years and three months, I went into recruiting. Ever since then, I’ve been in this space of helping them match people with jobs. I always did it with external search firms. Google was the first time in my career that I was recruiting for a company. Think back to 2006 to what Google was then.
It was 8,000 people. There was no YouTube, no ability to share documents, I had a Blackberry. It was a totally different world back then. I was a little hesitant. I enjoyed it when you’re an executive search working with all the companies, all the people, but it’s been cool to be inside this company through such tremendous growth and be able to practice what I preach. I’m telling you, I’m coming here because I have an experience that is XYZ. This is what keeps me here.
I’ve always wanted to see the Google Campus. Is it anything like the Vince Vaughn movie?
All of the outside scenes were shot at Google. You can imagine how fun that was when they were all on campus. A lot of folks on my team were extras and things like that. You should come, we’ll have to have you out. We’ll have you up there and we’ll visit when everything goes back to whatever normal will be.
I would love that. I watched some of the talks that you’ve given and some of the things you did. I loved how much it tied into my work with curiosity. You talk about some of the things that you’ve done in your Talent Outreach Programs and things you’ve done with Google. You talked about how you had people share stories with you and that changed all your experiences especially when you’re talking about Black Googler and different trips you did in DC. Is it true that you have this time spent at Google to do these pet projects? That one, I keep getting back and forth. It’s not a set process that we have in place but people are encouraged to be curious. How does curiosity fit into Google in this cultural requirement, so to speak, if you’re spending a certain amount of time on it?
There are two things. I’ll touch on that 20% thing because it does come up a lot. There’s some inconsistency. It evolved in how people talk and think about it. I don’t know that it was a requirement but there was this expectation that you would spend 20% of your time doing something outside of your core goal. Gmail is a great example. Whoever created Gmail, that was nothing to do with his job. He was a software engineer, but the notion was 20% doing something outside of that silo does breed that innovation and curiosity that you talk much about.
That was a core piece of Google culture for years. It didn’t necessarily translate into life as an HR person. It wasn’t like how you got to do something 20%. We still “20% projects” but those were core to our culture whether it shifts opportunities to get exposed to something else or bring that innovation that has been such a cornerstone of Google’s culture alive and well. When you talk and asked about curiosity, I think about hiring at Google. There’s been plenty published over the years about whether it’s attributes or this notion of Googleness.
What is Googleness in? I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s evolved over the years. Google has evolved for years of being around. If we look at Googleness, some of these core qualities that we do feel make someone successful in their journey like driving an ambiguity, putting me either first, doing the right thing. The whole notion of curiosity that Googlers are curious. We want to solve the problem, break it, and put it back together. That is core to our culture and something that’s still a focus.
You bring up many great things there. The Gmail thing interests me because I hadn’t heard that story. Do you know more about that story? How did it come about that he created it?
I don’t know more if I’m going to use that as a little nugget. When I started, I was a recruiter. Individual contributor recruiting folks for finance and that was one of my big selling points at Google. We create flexibility, space for innovation, these 20% roles, and then here comes Gmail. I need to know more specifics. I can look into that. I wanted to go Google it.
It’s amazing what we can Google these days. When you become a verb, that’s when you’ve made it. We know that. You mentioned some of Google’s hiring philosophies and it’s important to have curious people. A lot of people are curious, but they’ve been hired even though you don’t know if they are or they aren’t. That’s what was interesting to me with my research is because you can give people a curiosity test and they will come out high or low. That tells you if they have a higher level but they didn’t tell you what to do about it. That’s what my research was. It was to figure out how to get people more curious because if you have a low level then what do you do? I love that you guys incorporate this need to have people that are curious, break things, put them back together, and do different ways. You have this Talent and Outreach Program at Google. I want to know exactly what that is and how did you get to be leading that?
I’d been here about a year and I was recruiting for finance. At that time, this was back in ‘07, there was a college recruiting team specifically for tech and there was an outreach team. This would be the team that manages the relationships with universities, students, and student groups but there was no central college recruiting team for nontechnical roles. This was at a time where Sheryl Sandberg was leading our online sales function and we were in a tremendous growth mode. We wanted to hire students out-of-school to help support our customers and things like that. There was an opportunity to start hiring entry-level folks right out-of-school.
This is where the Talent Outreach Programs team comes in and our mission which hasn’t evolved over the years but we know great talent is everywhere. It’s our job to connect with folks where they are. Students who might be either located in a city where we don’t have a strong presence in terms of an office, someone who’s not technical and would never see themselves at Google, or when you look at folks who are excluded from or underrepresented in the tech industry, black, Latinx, native American, people with disabilities, women in tech, it’s our job to make sure that folks everywhere know that Google is a place where they could be successful. It’s our job to connect with them where they are whether it’s to events, visit a program, resume workshops, career fairs, all of that stuff. It’s making sure that we’re casting that wide net.
It’s an important topic. My daughter lives near Apple up there and it’s a high percentage of Asian-based people working in the tech industry because that’s been a high focus. We hear a lot about how women in tech or different minorities aren’t as well represented sometimes. Do you find it difficult to find the people who are interested? Are you doing anything to get people interested at younger ages? What foundation is there behind this movement?
There’s a lot that happens outside of my web. If you think about the awareness to your point. A lot of folks, especially whether it’s young girls and there was a big effort that kicked off, I’d say a few years ago now called Made with Code. You could go onto this website depending on your age, let’s say you’re an eight-year-old girl and you can type in, you want to make a bracelet. You’d be doing all this stuff that was code. It was all said and done, you’d be like, “I took the beads and the blue beads that personally defined name and code in that.” This behind the scenes to make it a little more relatable, it’s cool. We have a K-12 effort working with different cities and school districts nationwide to make sure that there’s this introduction at a young age so that it’s not such an unlevel playing field when folks do get into college.
We knew a lot of the programs my team has developed. We started about a decade ago. When we looked at the data and we saw that, you graduated high school, you’re starting your first year of college, and it’s a computer science degree, only 20% of those women were graduating with a Computer Science degree. A lot of that was there’s imposter syndrome. There’s the fact that you didn’t have access to an AP computer science class. You’re surrounded by folks who don’t look like you, who know more than you, and it doesn’t feel good. Those women are going off and they’re going into their pre-med or whatever it might be. How do we keep them in?
It’s fascinating. One of the big examples I remember hearing was one of the intro projects for computer science. It was like a poker game. You got to build some poker game. That could be a bit of gender bias even in the notion of that exercise because an eighteen-year-old female couldn’t have played poker. She’s got to learn the rules of poker before she can do her project. That’s not fair. There’s no equity in that. If you’ve got a group of men who’ve been playing cards their whole life, that type of thing, there’s been a lot of effort and we partner a lot with universities on a lot of programs. We have one called Google in Residence where we send Google software engineers to about fifteen Historically Black Colleges and Hispanic-Serving Institutions, partnering with their faculty to do an intro to computer science like CS 1. It’s been cool to make it more attainable. We can touch it. it’s a little more tangible. It’s not such a big, scary thing.Great talent is everywhere. It’s just a matter of connecting with folks wherever they are. Click To Tweet
That’s an interesting story. I had Annie Duke on my show who’s the big poker champ. You do sometimes think women aren’t going to go into certain areas because it’s not their first interest. One of the first jobs I had was selling IBM System36 and 38 in the ‘80s. Back then, you didn’t see women in tech that often and times have certainly changed. It’s a difference in culture that we’re seeing in corporations. You define culture add different from culture fit. I want to talk about how you differentiate those. Can we talk about that?
That’s been a big initiative for years. We’ve had thousands of Googlers take this training. A lot of companies, myself included, have thought a lot about culture fit. I’m interviewing you, I want to know how you’ll fit into this culture. We’ve turned it on its head a bit to go, “This isn’t about someone fitting into what exists.” We know at Google that we want to build an even more representative workforce. We want that diversity of perspective background, all of the things so we can represent our users and the communities that we serve. It becomes important to say, “What can someone add to my culture?” I’ll give you an example. We’re going through this training with the hiring managers.
I worked at McKinsey. I was in management consulting. I built my career. That’s not me, by the way. I’m saying hypothetically. If I have done that, I might be inclined to then go, “I need these skills. These are the skills I’ve developed at McKinsey so I need someone from McKinsey.” Let’s not anchor on the credentials someone might bring to the competencies that you need. You need someone who’s highly analytical who has experience in consultative advisory. I’m making it up but how could you assess for that skill and not simply look at what school did you go to? What company did you work for? It’s a powerful shift in your mindset. Look around your team. Is everybody from McKinsey? Is there a perspective that might be a useful addition to your team? Let’s think about that versus do you fit into what exists because we want this company to continue evolving, growing and representing the vast diverse needs of all of our users.
That’s an interesting perspective to look at how you even determined competencies. I remember interviewing Owen who is a CEO. He was telling me he’ll hire people. He sees things in them. He could tell that they would be great, but he doesn’t know exactly what the job is yet. He’ll first hire them, see what they’re great at, and then develop a job around them. That’s hard to do for some companies that don’t have that funding. It’s not the easiest thing to do. How are you determining which competencies are important? How are you measuring those?
This is part of that shift. It’s understanding, sitting down with the hire ninja. We want to hire a financial analyst, a software engineer, whatever it might be. It’s important to differentiate what are the skills someone needs to know on day one. Clearly, they need to show up and know something. That tied to entry-level where we spend a bit more time developing and supporting. What do you need to know? What are the things you can be taught on the job? There’s been a lot of work that we’re doing now.
A couple of pilots in topics to unpack that because, over the years, it got a little bit jumbled. At a place like Google, you can imagine there’s this thought of like, “I want this person to come in and do all of these things.” It’s like, “What do you need on day one? How can you understand the difference between the aptitude someone has versus they’ve done that before?” We’re trying to push hiring managers to drill down into the common. I do need someone who’s analytical. How could someone demonstrate their analytical skills?
Going through the questions you could ask to suss that out versus simply looking at the resume. The resume is an indication of what someone might have been exposed to, but you’ve got to have a conversation with someone to understand how they think, how they tackle problems, how they might thrive in a team environment, how they navigate ambiguity. Those are things that don’t pop out on a resume. If you look at our job site, our minimum qualifications tend to be quite broad because we don’t want to unnecessarily filter too thin. You want to have that conversation and get to know what someone could add.
If I’m a candidate, I want to work for Google, I’m talking to you. What things are you looking for when I’m talking to in this initial conversation?
There are a few core things. There’s an element of role-related knowledge that becomes somewhat relevant. I was like, “What have you done in the past? Let’s talk through some specific examples of projects you led or whatever it might be.” A lot of it does come down to this when I talk about this definition of Googleness. We know that folks who have demonstrated those qualities have been successful and added to our culture. It’s evolved over-time. Driving an ambiguity at a growing startup, trying to build a user base, it’s different from the ambiguity that exists when you’re navigating a 100,000-plus person company across multiple product areas in global markets.
Even you think about this notion of me saying, “People who are successful at Google or people who challenge the status quo, even that evolved over-time.” That innate curiosity that you are passionate about and that desire to solve big problems make things better has always persisted. We asked a lot of questions. It’s a behavioral interview and examples of times were have challenged the status quo, where you made a decision that was tough, where you went against the majority group on a decision? How did that go? We’re less concerned with the outcome but to know did you speak your voice and did you feel good about that? Did you contribute something and add a different perspective that other folks hadn’t looked at?
That’s critical. I remember talking to Francesca Gino from Harvard about this because her research was important in the realm of curiosity. A lot of companies think that they reward curiosity, but a lot of the employees do not feel like it’s being rewarded. It’s interesting to see which companies have put curiosity in their core cultural beliefs because if it’s not at the top, it doesn’t filter down. How else are you promoting curiosity within the culture? You can hire people who, hopefully, are curious and you can have a culture of curiosity written down and all that. Do you do certain things where you reward learning? How are you rewarding curiosity?
One of the things that I’ve seen a big shift, and I can speak within my own function, is this notion of overtime and particularly know at a place like Google where we have a history of hiring folks who’s at the top of their game. People who’ve come from great things and they’re doing great things. What we’re trying to embrace and it goes back to that notion even of a growth mindset is not celebrating the shiny polished outcome of whatever project but understanding how you can either celebrate little milestones along the way.
I remember I heard Astro Teller who leads Google X, it’s called X now, but that’s the real experimental arm of Google where they’re putting Wi-Fi in hot air balloons and making sure that New Zealand has Wi-Fi, all these throws and creative stuff. They had this whole culture. It’s important in an area that’s innovative like X when you’re genuinely experimenting. You cannot anchor on the thing that went well. You have to celebrate your mistakes. You have to decide some of the steps. You’re going to fail and you got to fail fast.
If you got to go all-in, you’ve got to decide when to make the call. They were celebrating failures because they would know that it would get you closer to that success. That is cool and something that we try to do in my function of doesn’t send out the, “Look at this amazing thing I did.” Let us know along the way, “Here’s what I’m working on. If it’s going well, I’m struggling here. I miss this and now I’m going to iterate for the next time around.” Normalizing of mistakes and the celebration of failure is important.
That ties into great collaboration because you’re getting other people’s feedback. That’s important. Earlier, you say something you wanted to ask about mindset because you brought up celebrating little mindsets. What was your question? I’m curious.
I’m interested in the research you’ve done when it comes to curiosity and this Curiosity Index. I don’t know if it’s a scale of 1 to 10 or what it looks like but then I’m curious if you can map it to those with a growth mindset. I can imagine what the mindset is. If you’re anchored on wanting to be right and succeed, you’re not going to be curious. You’re going to be set in what you know, I’d imagine.
You bring up an interesting point because some of what you’re talking about are tied into the assumptions part of what I found holds people back. If you assume you know it all, you’re the only correct way, and you’re telling yourself certain things, you’re going to be stuck in a certain way. When you bring up mindset, everybody thinks of Carol Dweck’s work. She has great work about having that open growth versus fixed mindset. To get that growth mindset, you got to figure out what inhibits it, to begin with. My research found was there were four things and it’s fear, assumptions, technology, and environment. These are the four things that impact curiosity. Fear of failure and embarrassment, all the kinds of things you think about that go with fear.
What you’re talking about somewhat goes into the assumptions category of that voice of what we tell ourselves. I’m not going to be interested in this. It’s too hard. It’s too overwhelming. If I go to my boss, they’re going to give me this project and I’m not getting paid for it. This has worked in the past, why should I do anything different in the future? You get that voice that’ll stop you. The technology is the over and underutilization of it. People either rely on it too much, don’t understand the foundation behind it, things like that. The environment could be your work situation, parents, teachers, and everybody else you’ve ever known in your life. It could be social media, but it could be your past work situation. It could be somebody has said certain things to you or certain cultures you’ve lived in, in certain things and all these things.
It was fascinating to me because as I said, you could find out whether you were curious or not, but then what did you do? My point in the research was to say, “This is how curious I am. This is what’s stopping me from going further.” Everybody can explore more. We could all learn from failures. Even Google has had things that didn’t work out perfectly. You learned something from Google Glasses. It hasn’t been your top product. That’s what we’re trying to do is get people to have that Google mindset that we learn fast and we move forward. I’m curious if any of that resonates with my acronym to remember FATE. Is that something that resonates with you of what you’re doing with Google to move forward?Celebrate your failures, knowing that they would get you closer to your success. Click To Tweet
It resonates with me. You got me thinking and I’m making this a little internal right now. I would imagine that curiosity is something that could not be learned. I’m far more curious now than I was when I was twenty. I don’t know if that’s because of the way I might’ve been learning. It wasn’t particularly interesting but now I’m like, “What’s that tree? Let me Google it. I want to know about all of the trees.” Whereas before, I was like, “I don’t want to learn about this.” I don’t know if there’s any correlation experience on curiosity.
Curiosity peaks around age five and then it tanks dramatically into your 30s. The thing is it can be improved like emotional intelligence. I’ve had Daniel Goleman on the show and we’ve talked about this. It’s recognizing that you want to become more curious and overcoming it. The Wozniaks and people like that had great environments as kids and that led to higher levels when they’re older. I don’t know what your environment was like but some of us are at a higher level to begin with than others. We all have the curiosity gene that Max Planck Institute coined that phrase. If a bird’s got it, animals have it, everybody’s got this because bird flies around a bush, it runs out of berries. It’s going to die if it’s not curious. We all have it. It can be developed and you can improve it. That’s what’s exciting about it. Thanks for asking about that.
You were asking me before I got a soundtrack by Trees about how Google thinks about the notion of curiosity and the FATE acronym that you shared. At Google, collectively, we are an organization of curious, talented, passionate people who are building products for everyone. As we’ve grown, 115,000 Googlers globally, our culture has to evolve with that scale. Our culture is defined by Googlers, the curious, passionate, talented ones that are inspired by impact, solving big problems, and again, wanting to have that impact. One of the things we’ve noticed over time is that people come to Google with totally different skillsets, qualifications, and champ but still channeled towards this collective purpose. As a hiring manager, as a leader of an organization, it’s my job to let folks do their best work. How can someone feel included? How can someone feel that they belong and they can do their best work? We know that you have much to offer. It’s our role as Google to let that be unleashed.
It’s great to see what companies do. Working with Novartis, Verizon, and some of the companies I worked with, they have all these events to build curiosity to Curiosity Month, book clubs, and different things. You have that speaking program that you do a lot at Google. Do you attend many of those? I’ve seen a lot of people on my show have spoken there.
We do a lot of Talks at Google. I’ve had the chance to attend many and we’re still doing that even now like a live stream. One of the big benefits of this whole virtual world is accessibility. Those authors at a handful of folks who show up and some people would catch it on the live stream, but now everyone’s like, “I’m going to carve out time to make sure I watched that. The whole world can come and tune it which has been great.”
I mentioned Novartis, they have their Curiosity Month. They brought in 180,000 people to speak for the month of September 2020 for different things. They reward their employees for taking 100 hours a year of learning they would hope that they have. It’s interesting to see what programs they do. Some companies are doing little mini TEDx Talks, some are doing little vignette videos. I did one with Verizon where they had us do a little video. They did that further onboarding to encourage curiosity as well. We were talking about onboarding and getting candidates. If you go to the website and all that, how are you finding new candidates at Google? Do you go to LinkedIn? Where are you finding people?
No rock goes unturned. Our online channel continues to be Google.com/jobs or Google.com/careers. It is a great place to start. We get a lot of great talent organically interested. We’re active on a lot of our social channels including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, a lot of folks see something that might spark their interest. The work that my team does is representing Google at every industry conference, student conference, on-looking university canvases. Even hosting industry type professional events in cities where Google might not have an office. You have the series called Google Sandbox which is like, “Let’s pack up all the things about Google and bring it to fill in the blank.” National where we don’t have an office and let’s bring a group of folks together to let them see it hands-on exposure to Googlers and the work that we do.
I’m sitting in Nashville. You might think I’m not working at Google. I’m not moving to Mountain View or whatever it might be but we do a lot of higher-touch things. In this virtual world, accessibility is powerful. We’re having our anniversary of the Sandbox Event and I’ll be getting on with a group of hundreds of alumni who’ve come through that program. It’s a way to reconnect, not just with people but with each other because it’s about building a community and investing in the tech community broadly whether someone comes to work at Google now, in the longer term, or not ever. Our outreach strategy is focused on this broader tech ecosystem and how we can make sure folks know we care about you, we’re invested in you, we want to build a relationship versus apply for this job.
You start in your relationships. A lot of them are in internship programs. I know you have a summer intern program but you had to do that virtually this 2020. Tell me what about that?
It was quite a feat. I respect my team who drove a lot of that work. We had to make that call early. We were the first big company to announce that we were going to make the decision to go virtual. We made that decision internally. It’s one of those moments where I remember where I was sitting, I was talking to Andrea Fonts to lead the intern team the last week of February 2020. It was a couple of weeks before sanction order started happening around this country. We saw what was going on around the globe and we’re like, “We got to make this call. We need to make it soon because those students have to make a totally different plan.”
We’ve got thousands of interns, they’d all be hired historically to work in an office. That means 80% of our interns relocate from somewhere to fill in the blank office. This is going to be a big old pivot for them. We want to give them as much time to prepare. What are they going to do? We needed to make sure we could get our stuff sorted out so we could pivot that program to virtual. We used to be told students that the first week in March 2020, that’s now hindsight in 2020. It was the right call but you can imagine, there’s much passion for interns at Google. We’ve hosted interns since 1999.
Since our first year in business, it’s a critical part of not the theater for our full-time talent but culturally, we talk about curiosity. These students come bright-eyed, hopeful, purpose-driven, and they know they can make the world a better place. We need that infusion of hopefulness, optimism, and the smarts behind them. There was a lot of passion, that fate. Step one, under those circumstances, are we not having an interim program what now? We’re going to go virtual. What does that mean?
Where are these students going to be? There are a lot of logistics that had to be sorted out because I won’t get into the boring HR stuff, but you can imagine, if you’re a student studying in New York City, but you’re like, “With this COVID thing, I might be hightailing it back home to fill in the blank country.” We’re talking about a global situation. We’d have to then make sure, “Where are you going to be? Let’s talk about localizing these offers. Do we offer any payor? Can we employ you there?” There was a lot to work through that we’d never had to tackle.
All of a sudden, if you’re going to be in Poland for the summer and you were going to be in Mountain View, we’re going to need to find you another project and another host because that time zone won’t be effective. That won’t set you up for success but there was a lot of rematching. All of our interns know by the time we made this call early March 2020, they had a project, they had a host, they knew exactly what they were going to do, and it hadn’t turned it on its head. In the end, most of our interns have now gone back to school or stay home from school or whatever they’re doing and it worked out. We were able to provide them with an experience where they contributed to our culture, their projects, they had an impact, and they learned a lot about us even from home. I’m proud of that.
It’s different to do things virtually. I’ve taught more than 1,000 online classes virtually and every year it changes somewhat. When I ran the MBA program at Forbes, I looked at some of their courses. When I was rewriting it thinking how can we incorporate this to make it more interactive? Some people like to learn virtually in a visual way, others are auditory, and all that dark stuff if you get into the education piece. Did you find any real challenges with the virtual aspect? Does Google have a Zoom version of anything? Do you have to compete in that Zoom market at all?
Our product is Google Meet and that’s what we use internally. Internally we call it Hangouts. We’ve been using that for years.
I haven’t seen a lot of it, lately. Have you done a lot more with it to change it? I’m curious how it is now.
It’s been a few years, there’s a lot of functionality. There’s the grid view so you can see everyone and then there are backgrounds. I’m not biased but this is what I’ve been using. I’m like, “This is the best.” To your point, when we were building this all out and we’re making sure all of our senior leaders who are invested in this program and have them, we’re letting them know every step of the way. I remember one of our senior leaders asked me, “How are you going to make this virtual internship as good as an in-person internship?” We are not.
The most critical component of an internship for these students is the ability to live and breathe Google. Our culture summons office is located with their host and their team. That’s gone. The ability to organically connect with someone in the micro kitchen or at a cafe over lunch, that’s gone. I’m not going to say it’s going to be as good as in-person. However, there are a number of things that we do. Some of the stuff where we doubled down the most on this building of connections and how do we build a community virtually.Leaders should be deliberate about empathy and authenticity towards their people. Click To Tweet
That’s still the area where we had the hardest time. While we didn’t have remote internships before, we’re distributed. From a tech perspective, I’m comfortable with video conferencing. That was no problem. People could get their work done and be supported but it was like, “How are we going to make sure that the interns are exposed to the best parts of our culture?” Make sure they attend. We have our weekly TGIF company-wide meeting. Making sure that these interns join our employee resource groups or any Google group they want. We also launched the Virtual Coffee Ninja. It helped those build the connections across Google because you’re not going to randomly need someone from a different team.
You have to be deliberate about it. It was this platform that helps facilitate coffee chats between interns and Google. It uses an algorithm that matched interns with Google. They wouldn’t have otherwise interacted with throughout the summer. It’s casual. Let’s talk about what are the interns? Professional interns, technical interns, gaining interns. We mashed up folks. Some of these interns were doing one a day because they were craving connection and willingness. We hosted gay nights, speed-dating, book clubs, and bingo night. We had a virtual DJ and all these things to build a connection and community. The interns were here for it.
I’m visioning the speed-dating thing. You put people together. How much time do they spend in this interaction?
The ninja talking is 30 minutes. You’d have to breakout rooms on the Meet. It’d be 5 minutes, 10 minutes of rapid-fire to get to know people. Technology is amazing. Clearly, we wouldn’t have been able to do a virtual internship without the ability to face-to-face connect with us. That was critical.
The last thing I saw, you were leading a 300-person global team. Is that still the size of what you’re managing?
That’s a big group. I loved how you said you use storytelling to connect. I was watching a couple of your talks. To me, some of the stories you told about how it led to you coming into these areas that you would have never gone into if you hadn’t asked questions of people and found out about certain networks. You didn’t know more about your trip to DC was when you gave. Do you mind sharing that story? It was interesting how you learned something from asking and hearing people’s stories.
In this country, we are experiencing this long-overdue reckoning with racial injustice. For me personally, as a leader, I’ve been on a journey for a while. That term can be a little bit overused and as I listened to folks, particularly in my team, it’s like, “You’re on a journey. You’re leading a 300-plus personal organization of a group of folks who are representative.” I’ve got folks from all backgrounds, a high-representation of Black and Latinx Googles on my team who are driven by the impact that they have in the space that we do. The outreach, we do the access, we provide the opportunities. It becomes important for me, as a leader, to understand that perspective.
I’ve learned much, long since my first trip to DC with the Black Googler Network. This work that you in Talent Outreach Programs at Google. This isn’t about what do we do for work fill in the blank community. It’s about how do we cocreate programs and build with these communities that we’re working with versus for. It shifts it to this notion of collectivism in this collective community that we’re working with. What exactly do you need to be successful, feel properly prepared for your interview, instead of us rocking up and say, “Here’s all the stuff you got to do?”
It’s more like, “Let’s have a conversation. Let’s get to know you. Your background and where you’re from.” That subtle yet profound shift in how we approach the development of our programs and relationships has been powerful. The ability to have empathy, self-awareness, and understand where you sit, the experiences that brought you here, the privilege that you might have, and then flip it for a second to have a bit of empathy and understanding for all of those around you.
That’s exactly what my next book is all about perception. The empathy that you get from asking these questions and finding out the other person’s vantage point. Everybody is unique from cultural quotient, emotional quotient, IQ, and curiosity question, I’ll combine together in this perception of what we think we know is different from what everybody else knows. That’s great that you talked about that because that’s a critical thing that a lot of cultures and corporations. They don’t address that. I noticed when you were talking about your trip on that video I was watching, you were saying say yes, and. I imagine you’ve taken an improv class. Do any of that stuff to add a question asking to find out more to develop empathy? What are you guys doing to develop an empathy and that question asking?
I brought all my people and managers together for a couple of days on offsite. We did bring in an improv group to get in. It is important particularly to get your head out of that cranking out the one-pager, preparing my presentation. That creativity and curiosity, that’s great. I’ve been inspired by Brené Brown and a lot of the work that I don’t think I’m unusual there at all. I’ve liked the authenticity, the vulnerability, and that has been something that I’ve been passionate about with all of my leads.
If you are a leader and you’re leading an organization of humans especially at a time during 2020 where it’s fair to say we’ve all been thrown many things that we’ve never seen before, all at once. It becomes more important than ever like your job to make sure that people are okay. That is the number one thing that the wellbeing of your teams, understanding of their perspective, as you said, understanding of where they’re sitting, and how they might be experiencing all these things in the world different to you. The notion of empathy and authenticity is something that we are deliberate about, certainly with our leadership team in building, growing, and involving.
It is a time when people are experiencing this differently. I’ve talked to many people who either get COVID and don’t have the same response to somebody else, their company benefits from COVID, or completely collapses from COVID. We’re all in this time where you don’t even know what’s going to happen and it’s crazy. It’ll be interesting to see what products come out of what we’ve learned from all this. As we trying to do more virtual things, we’re going to see more virtual jobs at Google, have some 3D glasses that are incredible to see people in the room with you instead of on the tube. Is that the next thing? You guys are doing some amazing things. What have you learned the most from going through this whole COVID crisis? It’s challenging.
The thing that I take away is the power of community, connection, and you can create that even in a virtual space. It was something that I took for granted before. You took for granted human interaction. It’s something that’s critical for my soul. The other thing that has inspired me, particularly, is a lot of the women leaders whether it’s my extended network or folks I work with regularly. The way that folks have leaned into leading with strengths, the empathy as we spoke of but so much resilience. I’m blown away by the resilience of folks to keep up and keep going.
You’re juggling many things whether it’s your kid’s distance learning, multiple people working from home, sick parents, missed celebrations, canceled vacations, all of these things that individually would be disappointing and collectively feels overwhelming amounts of grief. I am blown away by the resilience of folks, beauty, and humanness of everyone realizing we’re in this together, it’s lost. This is a rough 2020 but there is some beauty in the sharing of the grief or the helpfulness that somehow still persists. I have to think that it is still personal.
A lot of people are finding it challenging, all the things they’re doing and while they’re trying to work. How are you keeping people motivated and driven to continue working? Do you think that this is going to impact how much virtual jobs that you guys offer now at Google?
One of the first things when this started and I don’t think anybody at that time knew that I’d be having this conversation with you from my office in my bedroom. I don’t think anyone knew how long we were in this for. At Google, it was important to us whether we’re a data-driven company, you’ve got your annual objectives, you measure them with the key results each quarter, etc. We’re going to go ahead and like, “Keep at it. You keep going. Here are all of these resources available for you to make sure that your well-being is okay.” Not the least of which we’re the carer’s belief. For folks who had to take care of kids, when the school shut down, or parents who were sick, up to fourteen weeks paid leave for some Googlers. You can take it for half a week, take all fourteen weeks at once.
That has been our priority for that first six months of like, “Are you taking care of yourself?” This work will get done. Lots of humans in the professional world are highly motivated intrinsically. There wasn’t a lot that we had to do other than keep reminding folks that you got to take care of yourself first. That’s the only thing that matters. That’s the one consistent message that every manager has been sharing across Google and every leader has been you got to take care of you. In terms of motivation, at the end of the day, those are inspired by the work that Google does, by the products that we create, by the experiences that we provide, and it’s enough motivation to keep us all at it. Our work is inspiring and then our managers exist to make sure they get out of the way, support as I need to, and let folks do their best.
It’ll be interesting to see how people respond to changing the work environment. We were getting into these collective work areas. We work in different places where people were getting together and that’s looking like it was the next thing to do. It’s going to be fascinating to see how much virtual opportunities will open up because of this. Everybody found this trial under fire in a way. It’s like, “Here we go.” You have to and it’s going to speed up the learning curve a little bit for what everybody is able to accomplish. I’m curious, what’s next for you? You’ve been doing this and you love doing this. I know you do International Women’s Day speeches. I’ve seen some of the stuff you guys do to promote diversity and all that. Is that your main focus is to work with hiring and getting a culture that’s diverse or are you thinking of writing books? What’s your next thing?
I’m still continually challenged and inspired by this work. It’s hard for me to imagine doing something different. The other thing, a lot of times, I’m doing this for so long. Every six months, it’s quite different whether it’s how we connect or how we relate. If I think about what it’s going to take to help Google continue growing and being successful in nowadays landscape, the work that I get to do alongside my team is more critical than ever, that impact, and criticality drives me. No plan or anything new but now you’ve got me thinking about a book. I also think about it. I like this idea.
You named some of my favorite authors already. I could see that you have such an experience and this was interesting. A lot of people whether they want to be an intern, learn more about Google, or learn more about you, is there some site or some way they could reach you or follow Google?
Kyle, this has been fascinating. I’ve always been inspired by all the things that you guys do at Google. I love that you’re creating such a diverse workplace. Thank you for being on my show.
My pleasure. I had fun. Thank you.
I’d like to thank Kyle for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show and you may have missed an episode or two since I’ve interviewed more than 1,000 people at this point. I know I have. They’re all listed on my website at DrDianeHamilton.com. You can also find us on iTunes, iHeart, all those places. If you want to read the show, you can only find that at DrDianeHamilton.com/blog and on the blog we transcribe everything. Anything we talk about, you can find by linking to it.
What’s great is every once in a while I’ll mention somebody who was on the show or something like that and the links are all on the site. Sometimes it’s hard to write down these things. You can go back to the site to check it out. Everything to deal with curiosity and perception. Everything we’ve talked about is all on the site as well. You can take the Curiosity Code Index at Curiosity.com or at the DrDianeHamilton.com site and the same with the Perception Power Index. It’s all there.
I hope that information is helpful to you. If you want to become an affiliate, make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the page because there’s more information down there. Testimonials, affiliate links, you can’t put everything at the top. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom. It’s fun on the About page. If you want to see some of the guests who have been on the show, you can go to the About page and you can watch everybody scroll by. Every once in awhile, I get to meet my guests in person and it’s always wonderful to take pictures. We like to share that on the site. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
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About Kyle Ewing
Part of Google’s global leadership team focused on technical and non-technical recruitment and long term pipeline development strategies.
College Recruiting, University Outreach, Intern Programs, Diversity Pipeline Programs, Events Marketing, Technical Outreach, Research Programs
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