Author Archives: Jennifer Rodstrom

Resilience tips from a Google expert

At Google, we define resilience as your ability to respond to and recover from stress. There’s maybe no time where this is more relevant than during a pandemic. Lauren Whitt, Google’s Head of Resilience, and her team spend their days helping Googlers perform at their best.

This week, to help even more people build their resilience, Lauren and her team launched a new podcast series that anyone can listen to and learn from. The series helps uncover the science behind resilience and high performance, and contains strategies from a wide array of experts to help listeners with whatever challenges they may be facing. We chatted with Lauren about her role, the podcast and expert tips for staying resilient during times of uncertainty.

How would you describe your job at a dinner party?

I lead Google’s Global Resilience program. Our team, including coaches based around the world, are focused on helping Googlers reach peak mental performance, maintain their wellbeing and cope with work-related stress. Some ways we do this are through internal speaker series, individual consultations and training programs.

What’s one thing that you want people to know about stress and resilience?

Stress is an inevitable aspect of our lives. Extreme levels of stress can lead us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but when managed appropriately, moderate stress can actually motivate us to perform at our best.. There are easy ways we can manage stress more effectively. For example, we know that self-awareness is the foundation of behavior change, so one thing we created on our team is what we call the “T.E.A check-in” — as a way for individuals and teams to reflect on their thoughts (T), energy (E) and attention (A).

How do you deal with stress in your own life?

For me, enjoying the outdoors plays a huge role in stress management. When the pandemic first started, my family and I relocated to a condo in a Florida Panhandle beach town. It has really provided me with a fresh perspective. Many days, my mornings begin with a walk on the beach listening to a podcast and taking in fresh air. In the evenings, when my husband arrives home from work, we close our laptops and shift to family time. We’ll end our days with a walk on the beach or by watching the sunset.

You just launched a new podcast on resilience. What can you tell us about it?

This project has been in the works for a while, and we’re thrilled to finally share it with the world. We’ve paired leading neuroscientists and psychologists with mental performance coaches to uncover the science behind resilience and high performance. Each episode — there are four in total — is filled with strategies that listeners can put into place right now to help them with whatever challenges they may be facing.

What are some of your favorite tips from the podcast?

There are so many! One I really love is about how fresh starts are one of the best times for setting new goals. This one is particularly timely as many Googlers just started their hybrid work weeks earlier this month. Many people naturally think about this on January 1 and create resolutions each year, but there are many other moments that provide a fresh start – such as the start of a new week, the start of a new month, the celebration of a birthday or the start of a season. Because we don’t think about time linearly, we create these chapters in our life stories. And when we feel we’re closing one chapter and opening another, we feel a renewed optimism about what we can achieve.

What are you hoping listeners take away?

I hope the podcast helps spark new conversations about how to prepare for and thrive in a hybrid work environment. As we move forward in our own hybrid workplace, there are new skills we need to put in place to manage the next era of workplace success. The podcast combines experts discussing the science and coaches who share the practical applications of these initiatives.

To listen to the podcast, subscribe via Resilience at Google.

A closer look at one Googler’s flexible work week

In January, we announced expanded leave benefits to help Googlers support their families and loved ones, and encourage employees to take time for themselves. We recently spoke with Googler Patricia Torres, who’s using leave benefits to spend more time with her family.

What’s your role at Google?

I’m a Program Manager based in Sydney, leading talent development programs for university students. My team provides scholarship grants to help students pursuing computer science degrees build their technical skills and become leaders in the field.

Tell us about your Google career journey.

I joined Google in 2016 as an Operations Specialist for the Talent and Outreach Programs team. My daughter Natasha was one and a half years old at the time. As a new parent, I felt guilty about leaving her in daycare — she cried every day for seven months straight! During this time, I worked three days a week, which allowed me to take care of my daughter and still get my work done. Once Natasha turned three, I moved to a four-day work week. Since then, I’ve had five different roles at Google.

What’s your typical workday like?

My days center around my family. After checking emails and eating breakfast, my husband Chris and I take turns getting Natasha ready for school. I usually sign off around 5:30 p.m. and have dinner with my family. We have a nightly routine where we share challenges and what we’re grateful for — it’s been an eye-opening experience for all of us! Because of the time differences between Australia and the U.S. and Europe, where the rest of my team is based, I’ll sometimes jump on conference calls in the evening.

How has the pandemic affected the way you work?

COVID-19 has presented challenges for everybody. For me, the hardest part was balancing childcare with work. When my daughter’s school closed for in-person classes, my husband and I became teachers overnight. It was a huge relief when Google extended their Carer’s Leave policy, which provides time off for parents or caregivers to support children or other family members due to COVID. Over the next few months, Chris and I worked half days, taking turns to make sure Natasha finished her schoolwork. On top of that, my mum was sick and in the hospital. Having the flexibility to work from the hospital and spend time with her before she passed was so important to me. Chris and I are both lucky to work for organizations that prioritize our health, well-being and families.

What advice would you give to others about flexible work?

Prioritization is key. Every month, I put together a schedule for my work and home responsibilities. For my job, I schedule back-to-back meetings on set days and times and block out periods to execute my work — communicating these in advance to my manager, team and stakeholders. At home, we plan meals (and who is going to cook) a week in advance, and we figure out who will take Natasha to her many activities.

Thankfully, I’ve had supportive managers throughout the pandemic who have been understanding of the challenges we faced as a family. My managers told me to take the time I needed and offered an even more flexible work week when I returned from Carer’s Leave. Google has been there to support me and it’s made all the difference — helping our family stay happy and healthy in a time that’s been tough for so many people.

Learn more about Patricia's storyand Google’s benefits.

Google women celebrate being the “first…”

Earlier this month, we celebrated women who achieved historical firsts. From the first woman astronaut to the first woman to climb Mount Everest, in the past year, the world searched for “the first woman” more than ever before. These trailblazers continue to inspire new generations, especially young women and girls striving to achieve their own firsts today. 

Our own workplace is filled with inspiring women who have achieved their own personal “firsts,” too. These accomplishments show how women everywhere are breaking down barriers, finding their passions and changing the world. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we asked 10 amazing women who work at Google offices all over the world to tell us their stories.   

Breaking down barriers

Maria Medrano

Maria Medrano
Director, Diversity & Inclusion
San Francisco, California

“My mom had me when she was only 16 and school was not an option for her. Her biggest dream was for me to graduate high school, and it was important to me to do so. I was the first woman in my family to graduate high school, and I didn’t stop there.Eventually, I went on to graduate with a BS, MA and MBA from San Jose State University. Today, I have three degrees and three kids and I help  oversee Google’s diversity efforts.”

Nisha Nair

Nisha Nair
Industry Manager, Large Customer Sales
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I was thefirst in my family to pursue education and career after getting married. In my family, all the women got married soon after they finished University. I had the support of my husband which really helped. I studied hard, managed to finish my Masters with a Distinction and a Dean's Award. And this set the stage for other women in my family to do the same."

Jayanthi Sampathkumar

Jayanthi Sampathkumar
Engineering Manager
Hyderabad, India

I’m thefirst woman to run a full marathon wearing a sari. It took place in  Airtel Hyderabad in 2017. I ran 26.2 miles in under five hours. I got into the Guinness  World Records book for that. I  also ran two 50Ks, or ultra marathons,  wearing a sari, the best one completing in under six hours. I continue to run all events in a sari in order to inspire the women in the local community to take up an active lifestyle and to feel confident wearing  saris on a regular basis.”

Neeta Tolani

Neeta Tolani
Internal Communications Manager
Southeast Asia, Singapore

I was thefirst woman to start working in my Hindu joint family (or extended family) of 48 members who still largely live together. My mother always encouraged me to think beyond the ‘usual’ courses that a girl is ‘supposed to take’ in school. I joined a computer course in school instead of picking a needlework class, for example. I went on to do a few more programming courses after college. Today, I’ve been at Google for 11 years!”

Karen Yamaguchi Ogawa

Karen Yamaguchi Ogawa 
Benefits Specialist
Sao Paulo, Brazil

"I am the first woman (with a disability) in my family to complete postgraduate studies, work in a multinational company, travel abroad alone and have financial independence."

Finding their passions

Angelica McKinley

Angelica McKinley
Art Director, Doodles 
San Francisco, California

I was thefirst news design internat a national newspaperand it changed the trajectory of my career. It exposed me to a variety of creative roles that brought together my love for art, history, film, fashion and current events. Today, my curiosity and passion for visual storytelling has led me to the Doodle team where I craft uplifting and inclusive stories about interesting subjects with diverse artists from all around the world.”

Catherine Hsiao

Catherine Hsiao
Product Manager, Stadia
Mountain View, California

I was the first female lead on all things VOD (Video on Demand) at my previous company. I was part of the team that built the first VOD upload business and all the features surrounding it, and I was the only product manager. Today, I’m a lead product manager for Stadia, which I’ve worked on since before its launch.

Changing the world

Bushra Amiwala

Bushra Amiwala
Sales Associate, Large Customer Sales
Chicago, Illinois

I was the first Muslim woman to be elected to my office at age 21 — and I still hold the title of youngest Muslim elected official in the United States.I first ran for office at the age of 19, and lost. With the support of the person I ran against, I was encouraged to try again and was elected in April 2019. This taught me how to nurture and cultivate relationships, which I carry with me in my role at Google as a Large Customer Sales Associate.”

Naomi Ventour

Naomi Ventour
Administrative Business Partner
London, United Kingdom

I was the first to help introduce a Black History curriculum into my children’s school. I am also the first woman of color called to join the Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) board. AFE is a rare but life threatening birth complication that took my sister’s life nearly seven years ago, shortly after the birth of her second child. I recently took part in the documentary ‘The Black Maternity Scandal: Dispatches’ to highlight both AFE and the shocking statistic that Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts."

Ana Ramalho

Ana Ramalho
Copyright Counsel
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I was thefirst woman to create a pro bono legal servicefor independent artists in the Netherlands.Today, I try to practice helpfulness by engaging as much as possible in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues at Google.”

Learn more about our “First Woman” campaign and apply for roles at Google by visiting

Behind the scenes of our first Women of Color Summit

Over the past year, Google has continued to search for new ways to build a culture of belonging virtually. To continue this important work, last week, we hosted our first-ever Women of Color virtual summit. The event brought together thousands of Googlers, representing women of color from every corner of the world and across every part of the company. 

I sat down over Google Meet with April Alvarez, Google’s Head of Women, Latinx and Indigenous Communities and Programs, to learn more about the event, her work and how Google is making space to uplift women of color around the world.

First, can you tell us about what you do at Google?

I’m the Global Head of Women, Latinx and Indigenous Communities on our employee engagement team. My team is dedicated to building a better workplace for all of us. This means listening to our employees and ensuring that they have a voice, as well as providing support to our internal communities by making sure they have access to the resources they need. It also means helping to provide a space for these groups to connect via company-wide events like this one.

So why did you host a global summit?

In the past, we have hosted summits for distinct communities across the organization, such as the State of Black Women and Latinas at Google Summit. This year, after hearing feedback from our employees, we widened our lens to include all women of color across the company in a single gathering to share their experiences, address the unique opportunities and challenges they face and support their personal and professional enrichment. 

Around the world, we continue to reckon with structural and systemic racism. As long-term solutions are developed, we wanted to give light to and honor all of the amazing and talented women of color across the company. Our theme was Transcend, and the day centered around transcending global boundaries, celebrating each other, empathizing with shared challenges we face and giving space to our own stories of triumph and perseverance.

Tell us about the highlights.

The event included a powerful fireside chat with former first lady Michelle Obama and our Chief Diversity Officer, Melonie Parker. In the hour-long session, the two women covered a host of topics, including mentorship, vulnerability and how their childhood experiences shaped them. 

Reflecting on the stories and experiences women of color carry, Mrs. Obama said, "The only way people will know us, and our complexities, is if we share our stories.” In addition to the fireside chat, the virtual gathering featured 25 speakers from inside and outside Google who talked about their own experiences transcending boundaries. Another highlight for me was seeing the incredible feedback we’ve received from the attendees. One attendee said that it was the most inspiring and connection-driven program she ever experienced at Google.

What does this event mean to you?

For me personally, as someone who identifies as a Latina, a Chicana, Latinx, Mexican-American and as a woman of color, I know that when we come together like this, our voices become louder, and together we go further. After this past year, I’ve personally been craving connection with my fellow colleagues, and so for me personally, I was extremely thankful to have the space to be together in sisterhood.

What advice do you have for women of color?

Prioritize community and connection. Right now, so many of us are isolated, going through our work days alone and working from home and others are being pulled in multiple directions, trying to juggle work and family. Take the time to get to know others and create space to really listen and share experiences.

Rachel Spivey helps Googlers find their “happy place”

Rachel Spivey has been at a crossroads more than once during her 10 years at Google. “It can be challenging for anyone to navigate a large company, but it can feel especially isolating for underrepresented employees who might not see representation in leadership, or have sponsorship or an existing support network to lean on,” she says. 

Today, Rachel leads a team of retention and progression consultants, a program she helped start two years ago that helps employees from underrepresented groups stay and thrive at Google. Since the program started, Rachel’s team has retained more than 84 percent of the program’s participants. 

We sat down with Rachel to discuss her role and the importance of diversity in the workplace. 

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

I help underrepresented Googlers find “their happy place” at Google. It can be difficult to know where to go for career support, especially when you’re talking about a company as big and complicated as Google. But to make our products reflect our users, our employees need to be representative of all our users. Our team’s goal is to help ensure that, once they’re here, underrepresented Googlers stay and thrive. Sometimes, that means working with them to navigate a challenge in their current role, and other times, it’s connecting them to a new internal opportunity. 

You started the retention team two years ago. What was your inspiration?

The program started after we learned that Black+, Latinx+ and Native American+ employees in the U.S., where Google is able to report across race, were leaving Google at faster rates than the average, and women were leaving at a faster rate globally. Prior to this role, I was the Global Community Inclusion Lead for the Black Googler Network and HOLA (now Familia), two of our employee resource groups. During that time, I saw the retention challenges firsthand, which inspired me to champion our retention efforts. Through all my time at Google, mentors and others guided me through career highs and lows, and I wanted to help others the way they helped me. 

Talk more about the “attrition gap.” What is it and what does it mean for Google?

Attrition refers to the number of employees who are leaving a company. We spend a lot of time hiring, and once employees are here, we want them to stay. In order to improve overall representation, we need to improve retention. It’s our job to make sure underrepresented employees find satisfaction in their role, feel included at work and have opportunities to develop and grow. Right now, we’re the only company reporting attrition data externally and we’re using this data to inform how we approach our diversity and inclusion efforts. 

What specific things has your team done to improve retention?

If an underrepresented Googler is looking for support, they are referred to our team by People Operations, Employee Resource Groups, word of mouth or direct outreach. Each Googler in the program is then matched one-on-one with a retention and progression consultant to advocate on their behalf. The consultant might serve as a mentor or coach, connect the Googler to other support options, or locate internal mobility opportunities. 

For example, a Googler came to us thinking about leaving Google for a competitor. She enjoyed her role and team but wanted a career change. We connected her to a sponsor through the Black Leadership Advisory Group (BLAG), as well as the Mobility Experience team, which helps Googlers transfer to new roles, to help her find a new opportunity. Through this process, the Googler decided to stay at Google and got more involved in the Black+ leadership community. Today, she loves her new role and mentors other underrepresented Googlers on her new team. 

What are you most proud of? 

There is nothing more rewarding than helping Googlers find deeper career fulfillment at Google—whether in their current role, through internal mobility or making sure their feedback is heard. My team gets flooded with “thank you” notes, “you’ve changed my life” notes … Googlers seriously make me cry every day.

What’s next for your team?

As part of Google’s ongoing commitments to racial equity, our team will double in size, and each product area or function at the company will have a designated consultant. We’re also expanding our focus beyond retention to helping Googlers progress their careers.

What advice do you have for people that are a part of underrepresented groups starting out in their careers?

Stay focused on your purpose. No matter who you are, there will probably be many obstacles that may come your way, but staying focused on your north star will help you stay grounded.