You joined Google in 2005 and you were appointed to your current role two years ago - has your career evolved as you had anticipated at the outset?
Probably not if I’m honest. I’m not sure if I am a person who has a grand 5-or 10-year plan, but there are probably a few things I’ve done consistently throughout my career. I started out in customer service operations and sales and I do love that. I love the pace of it and the energy.
When I started at Google, I started off managing the telecoms and project management teams. In the early days, it was “all hands-on deck”. You just did whatever you needed to do. Then I settled into more of a standard career path and took on more frontline roles. I always want to stick with what I am good at, but to expand my scope within that.
At Google, I started off with the UK team, then added the Benelux team and then eventually got to the stage where I was managing the entire EMEA region.
I’ve always thought a lot about what my strengths are. What am I good at? What am I really interested in? Is there an aspect of the job in which learning is needed? And then how can I have more scope and impact? This has been the story for me since I first joined Google.
When I joined Google, the digital marketplace was in its infancy and online advertising was a new discipline. AdWords was relatively simple in that it was about getting your keywords right. In the intervening period, everything about doing business online has become more sophisticated, but for Google, it is still about helping small businesses to understand how to be successful online and how that can open so many doors for them.
If I look back on my career, it has always been about helping businesses to stay ahead and my passion has always been about working with small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). What is different today is that it’s all about data. It is about getting in with entrepreneurs and people who are running their own businesses and helping them understand how they can use data to make better business decisions, how they can reach their customers online, wherever in the world they might be. That is a key feature of my role and I feel it is where we can really make a big impact.
I would imagine that your work involves a great deal of variety - do you have an "average" day or week at work?
I have two very interesting jobs. My day job is running half of the Google Ads business across Europe the Middle East and Africa, leading a team of about 700 people who work with small and medium businesses, helping them to be successful online. That applies to everything from advertising, to website analytics and measurement, to developing their mobile site and helping them to export.
We know businesses that export are hugely successful online and hire a lot of people.
They are able to expand quickly. We launched Market Finder a few weeks ago, which is a great online tool to help businesses figure out which market they should export into next. So, my day job is about spending time with customers, my team and with my direct reports.
The number of customers we look after is really significant, so I need to monitor that on an ongoing basis.
My second job is as Site Lead, which is really running Google’s Dublin campus in the broadest sense of the word. It has many buildings and 7,000 people. Half of them are Googlers and half are vendors or contractors we work with to deliver key services.
My role is about making sure we are all aligned as a site leadership team, which takes time and effort, and that we think about culture, inclusion and respect. It is important that this is an inclusive and respectful place to work, particularly when we are growing so fast. It is an incredibly vibrant site. We have 70 nationalities and 70 languages. We serve more than 100 markets.
My job is also about thinking about our next investment and how we might secure additional roles for the Dublin site. I was delighted to secure investment for our cloud team here in Dublin. Gareth Morgan is Vice-President of Google Cloud and it is testament to the experience of Dublin in establishing new business teams that Gareth and the cloud team is located here. We just opened the Velasco building, which is the seventh building on our Dublin campus and is home to our cloud team. We are hiring at pace for cloud, which is one of the most exciting new technologies not only for Alphabet, but also for Google.
That is the part of my job that is a little less routine and more medium to longer-term. It is about thinking about what’s big for Alphabet or Google at the moment, what role we can play in this region and how I can continue to secure investment and make sure businesses that are looking to scale in Europe and internationally know what we can do here in Dublin.
Our Dublin site is incredibly competitive, not only for sales headcount, but also for engineering talent. My role is about making sure that everyone knows of our site capabilities so that Dublin will continue to grow as the wider company grows.
In terms of career planning, work style or philosophy, is there anything in particular you attribute your success to?
You probably only see the pattern when you look back. When you are going through it you think, “Why did that happen? Was that luck or success?” I’ve always worked really hard. I really believe the quote that hard work leads to luck. You need to work hard, work smart and stay close to your business. You need to really understand your customers’ needs and I have always done that. That’s not necessarily about going for the showy headlines, but knowing what your team is doing every day and what is going on with your customers. It is about hard work and the routine of going in and having a close look at your business every week.
I have always been eager to learn. I love learning and I know that it motivates me, so I’m always looking for new insights or to learn new things. With our products, I like to really “go deep” learning about the product as it is being developed.
Self-awareness is absolutely key for any leader. You can’t just assume that the way you act or behave doesn’t have an impact on the people around you. It has a huge impact. It is so important to be aware of both your strengths and the areas you may need to develop. Look for feedback and really listen to that feedback, not only from your team, but also from others around you. With everyone I work with, whether they are a peer or a more senior or junior person, I look for opportunities to get feedback. I think that, if you have that attitude to feedback, whereby it doesn’t make you defensive and you instead welcome it, that self-awareness is really what will sustain you in your career. You have to really keep “checking in” with yourself as a leader, so you can make sure you’re making a sustained contribution and getting the most out of the teams around you.
What do you regard as your proudest achievements thus far with Google?
Two things stand out for me. Getting the role to oversee the entire EMEA region for the Google Ad business three years ago was huge. It is a really big business and a big undertaking. That was really the pinnacle of 10 years’ of work for me. Because I am passionate about small to medium sized businesses, it is fantastic to be involved in the role we play in helping them to stay ahead.
It’s fascinating to look at the diverse range of businesses across the region from app developers in Russia to companies operating in Israel, which is a really interesting emerging market, and the companies closer to home you can work with directly.
You’re constantly trying to help them stay ahead, using the resources Google has in terms of being able to see a little bit further down the track and share those insights with them to level the playing field.
To be able to do a job with such a huge scope is a real privilege, as is managing such a talented team of 700 people.
More recently, it was fantastic to be chosen to take on the role of Site Lead for Google Ireland. It is an honour I take very seriously and one that has led to a lot of personal learning for me because the role is very different. With that, it is about building on what I do in my day job and thinking more broadly about the impact we can have, not only in the business community, but the community around us.
As a leadership team, we think a lot about being good neighbours for those around us through education initiatives and by working with start-ups, and just getting out and meeting people who live nearby. Getting the opportunity to make a mark in that way is very important for me.
In the 12 years since you joined the company, what are the main developments you have seen in the technology sector in Ireland and globally?
At the end of the day, consumers are driving the marketplace. Their adoption of technology and their expectations drive everything in our business. People expect convenience, personalisation and speed. They have such high expectations. That whole perfect storm of connectedness, the cloud and access to cheaper devices has changed consumer behaviour significantly and that is driving everything we do in our space.
Responding to that can be daunting but the opportunities are huge and for small businesses, that’s where machine learning and automation come into play.
Our cloud team’s AutoML project is putting all the machine learning models and archives we have to work, helping businesses so they don’t have to develop these technologies themselves. They don’t have to be machine learning experts. They just need to make use of open source tools like TensorFlo or AutoML.
We’re seeing thousands of businesses sign up for AutoML, even though it’s been launched for just a few weeks. It allows them to bring some of the machine learning models we have developed together with your own data.