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How Olympians at Google handle hurdles at work

Clockwise, from top left: Kate Johnson, 2004 Olympics; Timothy Goebel, 2002 Olympics; Aleksandra Jarmolińska, 2020-2021 Olympics; Natalie Dell O’Brien, 2012 Olympics; Petri Kokko, 1994 Olympics; Matt Brittin, 1988 OlympicsProfessional athletes are resilience experts. They’re constantly pushing their minds and bodies to new limits, all while staying motivated to reach their goals and tackle new challenges.…

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Clockwise, from top left: Kate Johnson, 2004 Olympics; Timothy Goebel, 2002 Olympics; Aleksandra Jarmolińska, 2020-2021 Olympics; Natalie Dell O’Brien, 2012 Olympics; Petri Kokko, 1994 Olympics; Matt Brittin, 1988 Olympics

Professional athletes are resilience experts. They’re constantly pushing their minds and bodies to new limits, all while staying motivated to reach their goals and tackle new challenges. If you don’t believe me, ask Matt Brittin. Matt is Google’s President of EMEA Business and Operations — as well as a former Olympian. Matt competed in the 1988 Olympics on the U.K. men’s rowing team, and he’s tapped into what got him to that stage in this last year. “We’re in a state of long term uncertainty and building resilience takes knowing yourself well and takes time,” he says. “It’s all about how you manage your energy and approach the unknown.”

As this year’s games come to a close, we asked Matt and several of other former Olympian Googlers to share how their experiences helped them in the workplace. 

Petri Kokko – Country Sales Director of Brands, former Olympic figure skater

“Giving your maximum doesn’t help you achieve optimal results, but working optimally will help you achieve your maximum effort,” says Petri, who represented Finland in figure skating at the 1992 and 1994 Olympics. “And often people, especially motivated people, think that the more they work the more they achieve and that’s not the case. We’re not trying to achieve our best tomorrow, we’re trying to develop ourselves over the years.” 

Petri falls back on his training to find a healthy work-life balance. He builds variation into his calendar, making sure some days and weeks are lighter, so he doesn’t burn out and can give his best over the long term. As an Olympic athlete, Petri learned the value of rest and recovery to avoid injuries and to deal with stress. At Google, mental health and wellbeing are highly valued, and these resources were expanded over the last year. 

Aleksandra Jarmolińska – Cloud Software Engineer, former Olympic sports shooter

Calling Aleksandra a “former” Olympian is nearly a misnomer — she just competed in this year’s games in Tokyo, as well as back in 2016. “I interviewed for my role at Google during the same month that I qualified for the Tokyo Games,” she says. Fresh off her competition, she says  an important lesson she’s learned in her athletic career that translates to work is to keep trying. “This may be a bit of a cliche, but I always appreciated Samuel Beckett’s philosophy of: ‘Try. Fail. Persist. Fail better.’”

In sports shooting, she explains, you can’t necessarily succeed with athleticism, you need to step back, clear your head and adapt. “This applies to lots of things — programming included,” Aleksandra says. “I cannot count the times I’ve started from scratch on some feature I worked on.”

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Creating new career opportunities with Google Cloud

A year ago, in a forum with chief technology officers from our Google Cloud Partner network, there was one topic on everybody’s mind: talent. Or more specifically, a lack of it. All the leaders in the room were finding it incredibly difficult to hire, train and retain top cloud talent. I was hosting this forum…

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A year ago, in a forum with chief technology officers from our Google Cloud Partner network, there was one topic on everybody’s mind: talent. Or more specifically, a lack of it. All the leaders in the room were finding it incredibly difficult to hire, train and retain top cloud talent. I was hosting this forum and so went away to think how we could best solve this challenge and grow the pool of available cloud-skilled individuals.

In my day job, I lead a team of engineers in the U.K. and Ireland who work with our partners’ technical teams to enable and support them in delivering Google Cloud technologies to our customers. So I was motivated to solve this skills gap. This is not unique to us, either: we know from Gartner that through 2022, insufficient cloud Infrastructure as a service skills will delay half of enterprise IT organisations’ migration to the cloud by two years or more. So this is an industry-wide challenge.

We wanted to do something locally, to help grow the pool of available skilled individuals, ideally tapping into underrepresented groups. This was the genesis of Project Katalyst: to create a programme that would provide equal access to job opportunities for young people who may not have had the chance to go university, giving underrepresented groups a path into a rewarding, well-paid and growing tech sector. Yes, it’s Katalyst with a K, not the traditional C; this is a nod to Kubernetes, a key component of the training. In the recent LinuxFoundation 2021 Jobs Report, cloud and container technologies were ranked as the hottest skill.

To do this quickly at a large scale, we needed to work with a partner with experience in this area. We were introduced to Generation UK, a charity which already does exactly what we are looking to achieve. After our first meeting, it was clear we were completely aligned. Over the following months, as we developed the programme with Generation UK, their drive and expertise has been invaluable in creating the ideal way to prepare, place and support people into careers that would otherwise be inaccessible, all on Google Cloud.

Google already does a lot to make the workplace as inclusive as possible. For me, the Katalyst programme helps us to bring part of that inclusivity to our partners and the wider communities we live in. Growing up, I always thought one day I would be a teacher, following in my mother’s footsteps. While I took a different career path, for me it’s fantastic to have the opportunity, through this programme, to enable life-changing careers, supporting others to learn and hopefully enjoy working with Google Cloud as much as I do, fulfilling, in part, a dream I once had.

The Katalyst programme is 12 weeks long, with the initial pilot running this summer 2022, covering both technical and soft skills training. On the course, participants will go through the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification,and will also do much of the training for the Google Cloud Associate Cloud Engineer certification, which they will be expected to complete in the first six months of their new roles, once they start at our Google Cloud Partners.

Participants will then get to meet and interview for confirmed roles at our Google Cloud Partners with an expected annual salary of up to £30,000 in London. To grow the pool of underrepresented people working on our technology and the workplace in general, the programme is aimed at participants representing a balance of genders, ethnic minority communities, young people who are furthest away from the labour market through no fault of their own, individuals who are not in education, employment or training for more than 6 months, or those with a mental or physical challenge, who’ve not had a chance to develop their skills. The hope is to then expand this out to other locations in the U.K. and beyond, as well as our customers’ organisations, after we deliver a successful pilot.

If you would like to offer a place to one of our participants at your organisation, you can learn more here or if you are interested in applying for one of the places, or know someone who might, you can apply on Generation UK’s site

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Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents,…

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I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.

When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.

These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don’t think about invisible disabilities, but it’s equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I’m incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.

Having a disability doesn’t limit me, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I’ve achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.

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Office spotlight: Chicago

“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the…

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“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.

Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the West Loop neighborhood has now grown to more than 1,800 employees across two buildings. In 2021 alone, more than 500 “Nooglers” — what we call new employees — joined the campus.

Chicago Googlers work on all kinds of products and teams. You’ll meet engineers designing Pixel devices and working on Search, Ads and Cloud projects; salespeople helping businesses across North America grow; and folks working across finance, human resources and product management. “It’s amazing to now see all the different organizations and product areas represented in Chicago,” says Britton Picciolini, who was the office’s tenth hire in 2002. “It feels like such a great cross section of what we do at Google.”

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