Role Change Advice: try before you buy

Thank you for the feedback on my post last week. It inspired me to make blogging and sharing learnings a weekly activity.

Today, I want to share some advice on role switching that I commonly give my team: try before you buy.

At Google, and other large companies, employees can fairly easily switch between roles (which is one of the reasons I recommend larger companies for people early in their career). For me, flexibility between roles acted as a driver in bringing me back to Google. I get the security of staying at the same company, with, relatively, the same salary, yet the ability to try out many different products and role functions. As I decide what “I want to be when I grow up,” breadth of experience remains an important tool.

When people come to me for career advice, I encourage moving between roles, but also offer caution not to do so quickly for several reasons.

Early in a career, most people think that their job contains too much mundane work and does not fully take advantage of intellect. Yet, if one too quickly jumps to another role, he or she simply inherits a different set of uninspiring work while also moving a few steps back in the totem pole of progress since he or she is new– they incur switching costs. So, unless someone truly knows why he or she wants to switch to a different “totem pole,” I encourage them to get to the next level to understand if they actually so like their line of work before jumping ship.

Additionally, even for people out of the first two to three years of work experience, employees gain a lot of value in trying out a new role “20% time” before officially switching to that role. “Volunteering” to help with work above and beyond your core responsibilities, like helping a team you want to consider joining, offers many advantages. You get to understand:

  • the mundane (and exciting) work the new job would entail (combating the grass is always greener mentality)
  • how your new boss and colleagues work and function. Sure, they were nice at coffee, but how do they function when you disagree on a next step
  • what success looks like in that role. Yes, the hiring manager or recruiter can describe what it takes to succeed, but it helps to realize first hand this may take 80 hours per week while your current role takes 30.

Finally, in addition to providing insight, “volunteering” or offering “20% time” may even snag you a role you don’t qualify for or doesn’t have headcount. In proving your value, ahead of an official role, you may get to develop your own role and responsibilities. That happened to me with my role as an APMM on Google Fiber. I  lacked in the criteria to transfer from Sales to Marketing at Google, but once I started just doing the APMM role for a new team that didn’t get any marketing headcount, the new VP of the team, Milo Medin, told the Head of Marketing to create a role for me. Since I did the role already, I made myself the most qualified candidate at Google to take it.

For these reasons, if you want to move within your company, I suggest finding a way to try before you buy. If a formal rotation does not exist, simply talk to the person or head of the team you want to work for and offer some “free” help. While managers often turn down people for new jobs, they rarely turn away free help, which is exactly your token to understanding if you want the new role, and if you do, making it.

One important note on this: do not put yourself in a place to get fired from your current team while pursuing a new opportunity (something I came close to myself). Make sure you continue to excel in your full-time role and put more time into work through the “volunteer” role (no one will stop you working harder and longer). Good ratings in your current job impact your ability to move to a new role, even if you create it. In discussing your extra pursuits with your current manager let her or him know that you do not plan to let your current role suffer and check in on how he or she thinks you are preforming on that front periodically.

Happy exploring.

Role Change Advice: try before you buy

Management Review: One and half years in

At this point in my post business school career, I’ve managed people for a little over 20 months at Google. Two learnings cemented for me recently that I wanted to share: the importance of career development and feedback. Basically, good managers adopt Oxygen attribute #6: support career development and discuss performance.

Helping people think through what they want in their careers, negotiate next steps and determine ways to network into a role, come naturally to me and I love to teach those skills, both inside and outside of work (in fact, much of this blog focuses on that topic). In feedback surveys, my team at work solidified the importance of career development.  As they stated, it impacts their well being and drive to perform.

The harder part of Oxygen attribute #6 for me to develop was to discuss performance, both good and bad, often.

I value transparency, yet until recently giving negative feedback felt difficult. I do not like that it forces me to risk “likability”. Perhaps, as a woman the fear of not being liked is larger than my peer male managers, although, of course, I do not know that for sure. Yet, my team consistently wrote in my manager reviews that they appreciate that I grew in my management style to provide “detailed and honest” feedback. Note: they did not say positive, just honest.

Since I struggled to give negative feedback effectively at the beginning, I wanted to share a few resources here that helped me develop that important skill.

  1. Read Radical Candor. After reading Kim Scott’s book, I adopted “real time” feedback. This enables me to give feedback right when a situation occurs, which ensures all parties remember the situation in more of the same way. It also lessens fear of an impending formal review and enables quicker turn around times in progress.
  2. Manage a low performer. While not fun, managing someone who struggles with work quickly forces development. Here, I learned how to provide extremely specific SMART goals. SMART goals force everyone to clearly know what each party expects.
  3. (Obvious) Watch other managers. Another, more senior member of my organization, told me “You’re their manager, not their friend”. He wasn’t saying to act mean or cruel. It helped me remeber that in our lives we play different roles for different people. I do care about my team, but he was 100% right. They need me to act as manager who can give feedback, both good and bad, to help make them better sales people and Google employees, not to act as a friend. As my survey results showed, they value my coaching, not my “likability”.

My team often asks me what I want “to do next”. I think they wonder how I find managing an Inside Sales team fulfilling or hard enough.  I tell them that I still find managing well a challenge.

Management Review: One and half years in

How Grit, Radical Candor and Access to Information Can Improve Diversity


This Weekend’s Gossip

If you miss Valleywag (a popular startup gossip blog), this weekend provided some much needed drama. A Google SWE (software engineer) wrote a post about how men and women are inherently different, Google is a leftist / politically correct culture and I’m sure a bunch else that didn’t stick.

I don’t disagree that men and women are different. And, Google definitely is a left leaning organization. For me, I’m not sure exactly where I stand on the musings of this SWE. If forced to pick, I value free speech more than I dislike hate speech (or in this case, perhaps, things I don’t necessarily agree with).


Regardless, this SWE’s post promoted an elegant response, “The Fallacy of Biological Determinism” from Albert Wenger, my former colleague at Union Square Ventures. He brings in another author we both admire, Angela Duckworth and the work she’s done studying Grit.

But there is more to cognitive differences and the fallacy of biological determinism. Biological determinists like to trot out IQ results. Here too though they suffer a confusion between what is currently measured as a result of the past and what is possible in the future. We have learned a great deal in recent years about the amazing degree to which the brain can grow new connections (even in adults). The brain is highly (re)programmable…I highly recommend Grit by Angela Duckworth, which in addition to great anecdotes also provides lots of statistical evidence on how much can be learned given enough time (and deliberate practice).  

We won’t know for quite some time what people will be able to learn in a world in which we can give everyone access to all the world’s knowledge. That is not the world we lived in until quite recently; where you were born and what your parents were able to afford had a huge impact on what you could learn… Why would we then assume that this is not something we could and should overcome with technology?  

I like Albert’s view, because it argues that even though women do possess different genetics, with all of the information we can access now (and accessing more information is Google’s mission) and with “grit”, who is to say we cannot overcome any mental differences we’d like?

Radical Candor

If grit and access to information can make us better at almost any skill (I argue with my brother about whether this involves me getting into the WNBA), we need one more element for success. The information to understand when we preform well and when we don’t.

Kim Scott, a former Google leader, wrote a book called Radical Candor (framework above and on her site). Radical Candor towards those in your organization trying to improve themselves, as all successful people do, plays an important role. As we try to increase diversity in fields where few women work, we need to offer them the same level of feedback, positive and negative, we offer men. We cannot afford to hold back this access to information. For, as Albert calls out, it is access to more information that will enable us to increase diversity and level playing fields.

In the past few weeks since reading Radical Candor, I practice it with my team. It definitely feels unnatural at times. One suggestion I might give that’s helped me greatly is to explain what I am trying with my team (steps here on how to roll this out). They know when I say, “Can I give you some Radically Candid feedback?” that I care about them personally and am going to give them a specific example of what went well or what didn’t.

Radical Candor, a growth mindset, access to technology and specific feedback can lead us to overcome most of the genetic traits we inherit. So, if the SWE’s argument is that women are fundamentally different based on genetics, that’s totally fine. It doesn’t need to limit women at all.

How Grit, Radical Candor and Access to Information Can Improve Diversity


I read Fred Wilson’s post a few weeks ago about a talk he held for the USV portfolio companies with Albert and the author of Grit, Angela Duckworth.

I don’t normally like to read business books, but after a long run of non-fiction focused on poverty, mental health care and race, I wanted something lighter.

My take away from Grit (TED talk here) is that it’s patience that makes us great at something, most of the time influencing success more than talent. Perseverance, consistency and practice contribute to meaningful outcomes more often than luck or pure skill.

At the beginning of the book Duckworth offers a “grit test” to understand your current grit level (55). In explaining results Duckworth points out, “Grit has two components: passion and perseverance,” and while passion is important to achieving goals, “passion and perseverance aren’t exactly the same thing”.

In interviews about what it takes to succeed, high achievers often talk about a commitment of a different kind. Rather than intensity, what comes up again and again in the remarks is the “consistency over time” (57).

So, while I recommend you read the book to get the entire picture, I learned that most of success, as proven in Duckworth’s and other long term studies, is simply sticking with the same goal and practicing a specific skill over and over.

On a positive note, we can build grit both inside and out:

Inside out-– “You can cultivate your interests You can develop a habit of daily challange-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can learn to hope when all seems lost” (269).

Outside in--“Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends” greatly contribute to your grit (269). Duckworth suggests, “If you want to be gritter, find a gritty culture and join it” (245).

Patience is never something I’ve excelled at. My grandpa called me “Ms. Impatient”.

Duckworth’s book, unlike many business books where I feel like I need to change a million things post-read, made me feel like I can become gritter, and it doesn’t seem too daunting.

Practice. Consciously. And don’t give up too easily.


Option B as a Growth Mindset

Today, I read the entire new book, Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I enjoyed the copious amounts of data that the book included.

One particular data set on learning stood out around the growth mindset.

One of my favorite, very true, passages from the book:

To be resilient after failures, we have to learn from them. Most of the time, we know this; we just don’t do it. We’re too insecure to admit mistakes to ourselves or too proud to admit them to others. Instead of opening up, we get defensive and shut down. A resilient organization helps people overcome these reactions by creating a culture that encourages individuals to acknowledge their missteps and regrets. (144)

In this past year at Google, my first manager especially, made me feel more comfortable opening up about my failures. Yet, still when I get feedback, I go through the phases described here. I get defensive. I disagree. But now, I, sometimes, also pause. Reflect. And know I can decide, even if I don’t agree with feedback or outcomes, that I can learn from the situation.

Interestingly in sharing our short comings, we also realize others may have the same ones. For example, Sheryl and I both struggle with something I think many women in the tech business do. The perception (and, self admittedly, the reality of!) jumping in too soon. She writes:

At Google, my colleague Joan Braddi explained that I wasn’t as persuasive as I could be in meetings because I often jumped in to speak early. She said that if I could be more patient and let others express their views first, I could make my arguments better by addressing their concerns. (149)

So how do we deal with feedback we don’t want to hear more effectively so that we can grow from it versus deny it? Sheryl offers advice from two law professors for, I think, people like me that can feel sensitive to feedback:

You should “give yourself a ‘second score based on handle you the first score…Even when you get an F for the situation itself, you can still earn an A+ for how you deal with it. (151)

Now what type A person wouldn’t like another option at redemption? I want my Option B to to think more about how I deal with difficult news, even if just at the office. Building up that resiliency now and growing from it, according to Sheryl and Adam, will prepare me better to act resiliently in the future.




Option B as a Growth Mindset

Extreme Ownership

The Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, serve as a good time for reflection. What do you regret from this year? Can you apologize to someone for it? How do you want to act differently in the new year?

The holidays coincided with my finishing a book by two Navy SEALs about Extreme Ownership.

Leif and Jocko, the two SEALs that wrote the book, believe that good leaders exhibit “Extreme Ownership”. To me this theme compliments the holidays. We own what we do — good and bad. And, according to both theories, secular and religious, when we make a mistake, we must own it, learn from it.

I want to employ more Extreme Ownership this year. I must own mine (and my team’s) mistakes. Without excuses. Instead of “this happened because…”, I want to move to a place of “I made a mistake with X, Y and Z. Next time I will do A, B, and C.” For example, I sent that email to early. I made a mistake in not fully thinking through its implications first.   

And, as a leader, Jocko and Leif stress that you own not only your mistakes but also those of your team. Did someone on your team do something wrong? If so, the leader owns that as well. The leader didn’t teach them enough, explain the situation well enough, share the higher motivations enough. Example: My team member didn’t meet their quota. I need to teach him or her how to do that more successfully and make sure I do a better job explaining why it’s important. Conversely, when a team member excels, you do not own this. The team member does.

I enjoy the rituals and customs of religion. in some ways, to me, religion to me seems a lot like an older version of leadership and morality books: how to lead better, how to help others, how to connect with yourself.

Extreme Ownership

The Happy Secret to Better Work

One of my favorite things to do is to watch TED talks. I appreciate the fact that I can, wherever I am, whenever I want, in ten minutes, learn about a new field.

My favorite field to learn about is the psychology of happiness. I probably enjoy this field, because I learned that individuals can easily control happiness. And, I like control.

I wanted to share the top 5, easy things you can do to be happier. I’ve tried all of them at some point and can attest to the fact that they work:

1) Bring gratitude to mind: Write down three NEW things that you are grateful for each day

2) Journal: About a positive experience you’ve had recently for two minutes once a day

3) Exercise: Engage in 15 minutes of mindful cardio activity

4) Meditate: Watch your breath go in and out for two minutes a day and

5) Engage in a random, conscious act of kindness: Write a two-minute positive email thanking a friend or colleague, or compliment someone you admire on social media Do these steps for 21 days, and you will begin to see a lasting shift in your mindset towards more positivity.

The talk I listened to today especially piqued my interest because it talked about how happiness doesn’t come from success but rather, in fact, happiness causes success.

Happy people:

  • Are 31% more productive (this one’s my favorite)
  • Have 37% better sales figures
  • Have better, more secure jobs
  • Are better at keeping their jobs
  • Are more resilient
  • Have less burnout

So, try one of these five things for 21 days. Be happy. And a good side benefit is that it might help you succeed too.

The Happy Secret to Better Work