We have probably all wrestled with automated phone prompts. Or maybe a recalcitrant app that did not want to take the information we were trying to input… Or what about your Siri, Alexa, navigation, or other virtual human interface? No frustration there, right? We all benefit greatly from the efficiencies that big tech has delivered for us. After all video meetings are largely the only way to actually work. It is no wonder that some people still harbor a reticence vis-à-vis tech that borders on suspicion.
How can I say that?
Easy. I recently spoke to Addie Braun, the former Chief of Staff for Google Cloud. I found her insightful, charming, genuine, interested, helpful, self-deprecating… in other words, a joy to speak with. If such people drive big tech, then big tech must also have a big heart.
Meet Addie Braun who has been working with Google for almost fifteen years [watch the interview]. We covered an enormous amount of ground during the interview. But allow me to pick out a few insights that I found intriguing.
Addie professes to being an introvert. She has had to “develop thick skin to jump off a cliff” and take on challenges for which she had no immediate experience. She says that companies like Google reward a degree of risk-taking and entrepreneurship—especially when it is successful. After her rapid initial rise in the company, she has been moving around horizontally, gaining new industry insights, acquiring skills and enjoying the mobility, though the ranks of course get thinner as you go up. Google apparently encourages this horizontal mobility as well as “thinking like a business owner.”
Addie believes that such companies prefer generalists as opposed to industry specialists (except where there is a specific need for industry experience—as there was when she joined Google due to her travel industry experience). In the interview Addie discusses a range of soft and hard skills that she feels are highly transferable. The harder skills tend to be on the engineering and analytical side of the equation, though; at least that has been her experience.
That and a lot of hard work, of course.
Google (like the Barrett Group) has been wired for working virtually for many years, so there was little immediate interruption when Covid-19 forced working from home on their distributed workforce. They are still expecting to return at least part-time to physical offices at some point in 2021 but probably the virus has accelerated underlying trends and the future will be increasingly virtual as far as Addie sees it. Besides, she has had a huge productivity gain by not having to drive 45 minutes each way every morning and evening. She says that she probably works more now due to working from home—often in wall-to-wall meetings.
To address the resulting burn-out her unit devised working practices that limit the length of meetings generally to 30 minutes with a target of ending 5 minutes early—and encourage no-meeting Fridays.
In any case, she sees the company as primed for growth as it moves into new sectors and expands its business scope, benefiting from its very virtuality. We talked, for example, about virtual doctor visits, something Mayo Clinic’s Chris Gade raised as well in our recent interview [watch the interview with Chris Gade]. Addie thinks this is long overdue and will evolve quickly now with Covid as the catalyst.
All that work produces an abundance of stress, of course, and Addie has very positive comments to share on how Google supports employees in managing stress factors and minimizing their effects.
She continues to move around horizontally at Google, looking for that role that will enable her to learn more and deliver more value, but at the same time she is fostering a fond dream to land a significant role at a winery some time in the intermediate future. That explains the sommelier training she has been juggling on the side. “I’ve really got the [wine] bug,” she admits with a little glow in her eyes—from growing the grape through the entire suite of processes up to the tasting.
We look forward to following Addie’s career and would love to see her realize her dream as we have helped so many other executives realize theirs. At the Barrett Group we do not have a cookie-cutter approach to helping clients. We take the time up front in our Targeting stage to help each client think broadly about their personalities, their current life circumstances, and their longer term goals before helping them commit to a personal strategic plan including a vision of how their lives should be five years from now. Then we help them realize that vision.
We make it our job to help you find yours, and more than 120 executives can attest to our efficacy since Covid became serious in April 2020. Read all about them on our Hiring Line. Oh, and give us a call if you need some help with your career.
The Barrett Group