Disruption and Transformation: The Google Layoffs

I started my dream job at Google six years ago, driving incredible business outcomes using APIs and the Cloud.

Last Friday, I was laid off along with 11,999 additional Googlers.

While there, I worked with hundreds of companies to help prevent their business from being disrupted. Disruption happens, and it’s unavoidable. A competitor may disrupt you, or the market may. Covid disrupted us all.

If disruption is inevitable, you can’t take your market or corporate position as guaranteed. You must navigate that disruption and constant change for the better. Technology is constantly changing and being nimble with that change will make meeting customer needs and expectations easier.

According to Deloitte, 87 percent of businesses believe digital will disrupt their industry. However, just 44 percent are prepared for this.

The premise of being agile is familiar, and I’ve often tried to live by that directive myself. But we all can become accustomed to our routines and settle into our comfort zones, then a mass layoff like Google’s shocks you back into a reality check. I wasn’t prepared, but I also wasn’t surprised.

Strategy and Innovation

During my time at Google, I worked with hundreds of Fortune 500 companies and executives, including Disney, Ford Motor Co., Target, Experian, Ulta Beauty, Wells Fargo, Home Depot, Domino’s, Twitter, Major League Baseball, and many more. I also was introduced to fabulous leaders and startups like Lately.ai, SquadCast.fm, and Securrency.

I consulted on strategies and innovation plans with C-level executives to help them solve complex digital problems and build organizational success. These stories and lessons learned were the foundation for the podcast I created and hosted at Google, “That Digital Show.”

The simple idea of focusing on business outcomes and thought leadership about digital acceleration at an executive level started in a small meeting room in Sunnyvale. I unpacked a suitcase of audio equipment and persuaded my team to join me in recording five episodes. By the end of 2022, the podcast had grown to 5 million downloads and 1.2 million subscribers internationally. 

The podcast was a catalyst for helping more organizations navigate disruption. I remember speaking to the CTO of a large auto manufacturer who had listened to my podcast. He called me and said, “I enjoy listening to your perspective, and it’s refreshing to hear a voice from Google that’s here to help us, not sell to us.” He then asked me a dozen questions on navigating the digital evolution they faced.

These conversations help to ground me today: real people, honest discussions, and genuine empathy to navigate the significant challenges we all face. Disruption is a road bump, but in the end, it helps us grow, evolve, and move forward.

The Beauty of Transformation

As I think about the changes ahead in my career and my life, I reflect on the truism that “we learn more from losing than from winning.”

I talked about failure often when I worked at Google, using it in the context of innovation, disruption, and transformation.

The more you try, the more you learn. The more you know, the more you can adjust to new ideas. This is how innovation works. But it also involves failing. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” – Henry Ford.

Google does a beautiful job talking about how “failing fast” helps with innovation. Yet rarely do we look at this from a personal lens. It’s our learning opportunity. Right now, I’m learning that dream jobs are what you make them. People are not expendable. But you also can’t let a company dictate your self-worth. You are valuable. You, and you alone, hold what you want your future to be. You must transform.

One of the best parts about working at Google was strategizing with great companies to build amazing things. Those meetings will be some of my fondest memories, and they make me smile often. Every day when I shop for groceries, drive my car, deposit a check at my bank, order a pizza, fly on a plane, or use social media, I experience the results of my work firsthand.

I’ll never forget driving impact at the companies I advised. A CIO from a large regional bank once called to discuss my time with his team. During my time in their offices, I challenged their organization’s culture and encouraged them to embrace failures to drive growth and change. He called me in April 2020, just after they closed their branches due to Covid. The CIO said, “Thank you. We’ll survive.”

The Future is Now

We can’t predict the future, but we can reflect on what the future may hold. Not just for me but for the 11,999 other people from Google facing the same challenges. You’re not alone. We will recover. We will transform.

My future holds the promise of being at an exciting organization where I can have a significant impact again, working with like-minded, visionary colleagues who are not afraid to take risks. I may be back at Google, doing similar incredible work. Or I may be on my own, consulting and podcasting with businesses that want to avoid disruption, build fantastic innovative ideas, and accelerate their digital programs. 

Forrester reports that 21 percent of companies believe they have finished their digital transformation. 

Trust me, our transformation is not over. Whatever the future holds, I am replacing my fear with gratitude, doubt with drive, and confusion with contentment. The future is mine: to mold as I wish. This disruption is temporary, the transformation will be invigorating, thrilling, and unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Thank you to everyone that made my time at Google transformational.

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