9 Success Secrets and Life Lessons Learned at Google

In 2003, a very close friend told me about her new employer: Google. She told me the company was going to be a hit and was planning to go public soon. I hadn’t heard of it, but it sounded promising. I went through a gauntlet of interviews, and after about two months, received an offer to work as an attorney in Google’s commercial group, negotiating sales contracts for the Ads team.

Google success secrets
Julie Fabian Haniger ’90

I had never negotiated sales contracts, and I had been hearing about the crazy hours (including on the weekends) that were required of Googlers in these pre-start-up days. My second daughter was only a couple of months old and had some complications at birth. As a result, I felt a strong need and desire to be at home with a job that offered a lot of flexibility (i.e., not the Google job).

I phoned my friend who referred me to Google and told her that I wasn’t going to accept the offer but rather I was going to stay with another job. I remember that conversation vividly. As I stood in my kitchen looking out the window, I expected my friend to say that she was sorry to hear that I wouldn’t be join Google, but that she understood. Instead, she told me that I had to take the offer. “This offer is a big deal,” she said. “You can’t turn it down. Sorry.” I was shocked, but by the end of the conversation, she had convinced me that I’d be a fool not to take the job. She was right.

I started at Google in January 2004, three months before we launched Gmail, seven months before we went public, two years before we launched Apps (like Docs and Spreadsheets), three years before we launched Street View and about five years before we launched Android. At the time we had about 2,000 employees and only a handful of lawyers in the US. Today, Google employees over 60,000 people with a legal department totaling over 800 lawyers and support staff.

My friend who forced me to accept that job at Google still works with me here. I thank her just about every week for forcing me to accept Google’s offer 13 years ago. My time at Google has been incredible. Over the years, I’ve of course experienced frustrations, late nights and stressful situations, but overall, I still can’t believe I’ve been fortunate enough to spend almost 13 years at this company.

Google success secrets
Julie Fabian Haniger ’90 at FSHA’s Bay Area Networking Night, where she delivered this speech to alumnae

I’ve been able to work for two founders—Larry Page and Sergey Brin—who are true visionaries. In addition to wanting to create products and services that improve the lives of people globally, our founders “wanted to create a company where work was meaningful, employees felt free to pursue their passions and people and their families were cared for” (Laszlo Bock, Work Rules!) Most of our cool company perks started when Google was founded and continue to this day: massages, child care, free food, laundry services, doctors, gyms, dogs at work, etc. Google has set the standard for what Silicon Valley companies offer to their employees.

My current role as vice president of legal involves directly managing 10 team leads and overseeing a team of over 250 attorneys and support staff located in Mountain View, San Bruno, Los Angeles, New York and London. My team advises product and engineering on all launches of Google products and services worldwide. We also negotiate all US deals and many European deals for all of our product areas.

The thing I find most challenging about my job is overseeing such a diverse set of products and services. We have nine separate product areas and many more sub-product areas that present a variety of complex legal risks and issues. In one day, I could deal with an employee who is unhappy about something at work, regular 1:1 meetings with direct reports, an escalation of an indemnity issue on a big deal with a strategic partner, a privacy issue, a compliance issue or a competition issue.

As I’ve reflected back on my career, a few lessons learned stood out to me and I’d like to share them with you:

1. Well-being is extremely important.

Spending time with my four kids and husband is very important to me. I’m lucky because Google is very supportive of employee well-being and strives to provide resources for them to balance (or integrate) work and personal life. I encourage everyone to think about (and share with others) ways that you integrate your work and personal life in a way that is healthy and meaningful for you.

2. Keep up the networking.

I prefer to think of networking as developing and maintaining friendships. Your friends (or network) can also help with career advice, provide guidance for your personal life or help you relax and have fun when needed.

3. It’s OK to let things play out over time.

Don’t be too strict with yourself and don’t over-think things. Many of the paths I took over my career were not planned but rather presented to me unexpectedly.

4. Stay true to yourself.

Pursue what you enjoy. Know your talents. Be aware of what challenges you want to take on to better yourself.

5. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and who are supportive of you.

Having many parents and women on my team at work allow me to feel comfortable and supported in my focus on both my work and my family. I just returned from a four-month sabbatical that I took to spend more time with my family. I felt very supported and entirely comfortable taking this time off work and that is because of the group of people that I work with at Google. I also rely on my husband to share equally the household responsibilities.

6. Find role models and mentors.

Whether it’s your manager, a leader in your company or in your industry, or someone you read about in the press, it’s imperative to have people you respect, look up to and admire as mentors or role models so that you can model your behavior and work ethic after those people.

7. Be an athlete, even if you’ve never played sports.

Take on new challenges to gain valuable experience and make yourself more marketable. Be willing and able to work on a variety of different issues in the workplace.

8. Love the one you’re with.

Find an employer that you believe in, that you’re proud of, that shares your same vision. Work has been so much more rewarding for me because I believe in our founders; I believe in Google’s product vision; I’m proud of the impact we have on our community through giving and service. Overall I’m incredibly proud to say I’m a Googler.

9. Be a kind, transparent, honest and compassionate leader.

This is extremely important for everyone, but even more so as you advance in your career as a manager or leader in your field. I think that above all else, how you work together with and treat others will play a large role in your career path. I believe that much of that career success is attributed to the relationships I have developed over time and how I have treated others.

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