Inside Google Cloud

Catching up with our 2020 CRN Women of the Channel honorees

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Each year, CRN honors exceptional women leaders within the IT channel through its “Women of the Channel” awards, which recognizes executives for their insight and influence that help drive channel success.

This year, we’re thrilled to have six honorees from Google Cloud receive this esteemed accolade. Congratulations to: Aimee Catalano, Alison Suzuki, Carolee Gearhart, Kayla Spiess, Megan Mackh, and  Nina Harding.

Carolee, VP WW Channel Sales and Global SMB Sales, leads the worldwide channel business for Google Cloud, including  Google Cloud Platform (GCP), G Suite, and Chrome. She has made the “Women of the Channel” list six other times since 2012, and was named one of the “50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs” in 2019.

Nina is the Chief of Global Partner Strategy & Programs, leading a team that creates and develops partner strategy and programs across all partners that sell, service, and build with Google Cloud technology. Last year, Nina and her team launched the Google Cloud Partner Advantage program; she was recognized as one of CRN’s “Power 100” Women of the Channel for 2020 for her role in building the program.

Aimee heads up our Global Partner Marketing organization, leading joint marketing strategy and execution across the portfolio of Google Cloud partners. She, too, has been previously recognized as a “Women of the Channel” recipient in past years and is an advisor in Google Cloud’s 12-month career development and sponsorship program, which aims to accelerate the development of Google’s high-potential women and build more diverse executive leadership.

Kayla leads the North American Partner Marketing organization, engaging with our partners on joint marketing strategy and execution. Her team supports through and with partner marketing efforts, helping Google Cloud and our partners find more success together. She runs a live monthly marketing community call to bring like-minded professionals together to learn, share, and collaborate.   

Megan is the Global Head of Telecommunications Partnerships for Google Cloud. She is responsible for more than 60 telco partners worldwide, engaged in the resale of G Suite and Google Cloud Platform, and networking for Google Cloud Interconnect. 

Alison is the Head of Distribution for Google Cloud. She and her team focus on expanding the two-tier go-to-market internationally, to bring the best of Google Cloud to Enterprise and Education customers, via the scale and power of the channel. 

We wanted to take this opportunity to  learn more about the career paths of these women, and share any advice they might have for those just starting out. From tackling self-doubt to shattering ceilings and more, these women shared some powerful experiences and knowledge.

Let’s kick off the conversation by talking about empowerment. How do you empower women around you to succeed?

Carolee: I think examples are really important. Early in my career, I definitely felt pressure—frankly, from myself—to fit into a sort of traditional male sales environment. I didn’t want to be different because I was a woman; I wanted to be recognized as a performer. 

I didn’t see examples of women who were executives, much less those with families. I’m really deliberate now about letting my organization see that I’m a mom, and I also talk about time I took off to care for my grandparents.  

I make an effort to really call out the capabilities I see in the women I work with—I find they’re often hardest on themselves and don’t see what I see. At work I really look for stretch opportunities they can be offered, and then I encourage them to go for it, even if they’re scared!

Kayla: I empower other women to succeed by always making space. By taking the time to connect with others, sharing my story, experiences, and failures and pushing them to take chances. I always encourage people to know themselves and own their brand authentically. There is tremendous power in that that propels success. 

Along those lines, Kayla, what advice do you have for women who want to stand out in job applications and interviews? 

Kayla: It may sound obvious but always be yourself and bring your whole self to everything you do. Organizations are looking for passionate and driven individuals who know who they are, acknowledge their unique style, and embrace it. The more you bring your authentic self to the process, the better. No one knows you better than you—and no one can be a better you. Always own that!  

Let’s segue into lessons learned from your experiences. As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career and how have you overcome it?

Nina: In your career, you will find many challenges and hopefully those challenges will always bring a lesson learned. I think the most difficult challenge I had to overcome in my career was understanding that you have to ask for things. I was always from the school of thought that you worked hard and it would be recognized, sort of like in school. But I realized it’s not like that in your professional career. You have to ask for it. You have to ask for the opportunity and the chance. Be vocal about what you need and what you desire. And also make sure that other people believe in you like you believe in yourself.

Aimee: The most significant barrier to me has been time—there is never enough of it. A parent and homekeeper is a full-time role in itself, so many years ago I had to take a step back and look at prioritization, and then strategize what could be outsourced, and how to balance between family versus work. In the fast-paced world of tech we live in, continuous effort is needed to get the balance right, but prioritizing being there for my family for the most important moments matters most and helps me be my best self in both my personal and professional life.

To dive a bit deeper, Carolee, how have you overcome feelings of doubt (from others or yourself) throughout your career?

Carolee: I’ve learned the most from embracing doubt.  

If others are doubting me, I make sure to separate my emotion about it from the reason they have a doubt.  

It’s always useful to listen and examine reasons others may be raising concerns—and I’ve certainly learned more from people disagreeing with me than I ever have when they agreed with me!  

If I’m doubting myself, I also look at the reason why. Maybe I don’t have enough information, or maybe I can ask for help. These are situations where there is something I can do.  

Other times I may look at the doubt and realize I don’t actually have a good reason for the doubt; in those cases, I really take a pause to remind myself of all of the situations I have already been through, all the successes I have had in adversity.

Kayla: I believe that doubt is a distraction. I know I am not always going to get it right but by pushing myself forward and continually trying new things, I block it out. When I am comfortable in something that means I’ve been doing it for too long; building new muscles and keeping myself in a state of discomfort means I am learning. This viewpoint has helped me overcome doubt in my career. 

Alison: In my life, the answer to doubt has always been preparation. I try to think about and understand a situation deeply and have a real and personal point of view. I find that with depth of knowledge and a perspective that comes from personal belief on a matter, it is harder to let doubt linger. 

Nina and Megan, we’d love to hear what your “why” is?

Nina: It’s so important to understand who you are and what really makes you tick. For me, these are the non-negotiables, or the “whys” in my life. First, integrity: is my word good and do I honor what I say? Second, learning: am I constantly challenging myself and expanding my horizons? Three, family: do I treat those around me like I treat my family, do I collaborate, listen, engage, and respect them? These three things: integrity, learning, and family, are the constant “why” in my life.

Megan: What motivates me most is having a transformational impact on the people and businesses that I work with. What I love about Google is that our technology can help businesses to grow exponentially, to respond more nimbly to the trends in their industries, and to work more effectively as a team. From our Mission, through to the daily decisions we make as sales and partnerships leaders, we’re here to help our customers rise to their full potential. This same philosophy applies to my role as a people leader; I am here to help my team grow, develop and achieve their goals. Those processes of transformation, within our clients and our own teams, are what motivate me to come to work every day. 

Megan, is there a book or podcast you recommend that has influenced your career?

Megan: One of the core skill sets that I rely on the most is the ability to coach and develop people, and to drive changes in behavior within our sales and partner channels. One of the best books on this topic for me is Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath. Their whole series of management books is great, and really teaches you about the power of narrative in influencing people. However, I particularly love how Switch teaches you to seek out “bright spots,” to find the healthy or transformative trends and to cultivate and expand upon those. It’s a great primer on how to make change relevant to people, how to get them invested, and how to create a lasting effect.

We’re down to our final question for all of you: if you could give yourself a piece of advice early on in your career, what would it be?

Carolee: The only real competition you’re in is with yourself, and becoming a better version of you every day. Learning often starts when feeling foolish begins, so if you’re not willing to ask, not willing to try something you’ve never done before and risk not looking good to others, you’re never going to become who you could be.  

And if you’re never feeling fear, you’re not pushing yourself to the edge of what you’re capable of. It's stretching at the very edges of your capability and capacity that helps you build increasing skills.

Aimee: You don’t have to know it all. As you become more senior in your career, it’s likely you’ll be running teams in areas you don’t have any experience in, and that’s fine. Especially for women I feel there’s an extra level of desire to make it seem like we have all the answers. Be confident in your strengths. Don’t try to pretend you have all the right answers. Ensure you hire strong and hire for the areas you don’t have the depth of experience in and lead your team to success YOUR way.

Alison: I would remind myself to try to embrace change and always look for the opportunity it presents.  Change is inevitable so the sooner you learn to work with it, and within it, the better! 

Kayla: The best ideas do not always have to be your own. Helping others bring their great ideas to life is even more rewarding. 

Nina: If I could go back and have a conversation with myself at the beginning of my career, I would tell myself to take risks and to always try to find the possible in what looks like the impossible. How are other people going to have faith in you and give you chances if you don’t have faith in yourself? My advice would be to just go for it, keep trying, keep reaching, keep believing in yourself, and anything you want to do is possible. 

Megan: Trust yourself and lean in to the opportunity. I think many times we tend to focus on our gaps or what we lack, and that causes women in particular to be uncertain about putting themselves forward for new opportunities. Many times, that exciting new project or job will get awarded to the person who was bold enough to take the leap and ask for it, the person who spoke about their strengths and thought through new ways to apply their skills and solve problems. You don’t have to be able to do 100% of the job you’re applying for, nor do you have to have a solution to every strategic problem you might face. I think it’s important to have an expansive point of view and to put yourself forward for tasks or roles that interest you, leaning in to your own ability to adjust, adapt, and deliver.

We’re proud to have such phenomenal women working and leading at Google Cloud, and we’re thankful for how they’re helping to foster and grow the next generation of female leaders.