Episode 58 / Google UKI / Craig Fenton / Director, Strategy & Operations
Here are five things I learned from chatting to Google's Director of Strategy and Operations in the UK and Ireland - @Craig Fenton on the 'Shiny New Object' podcast.
1. Diversity isn’t someone else’s responsibility
Tapping to diverse talent is one of Craig’s biggest passions. As you can imagine, Google receives a lot of CVs, most of which are incredibly impressive - great degrees from top universities, all manner of extracurricular achievements. But if talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. These CVs don’t represent a significant proportion of the population who may consider a role at Google to be beyond them. Many companies - Google included - are working to help change this with apprenticeships and internships, but individual people shouldn’t leave the responsibility to organisations, governments and charities. Craig advocates giving up time to community groups and youth centres to try and educate and inspire young people to consider new kinds of careers and to mentor where you can. Reaching those who may have less opportunity but who have perseverance, persistence and determination in spades, will better shape the workforce of tomorrow.
2. Get comfortably uncomfortable
Craig describes his career not as a carefully curated, well-planned series of steps, but as a collection of random choices and opportunistic decisions. The only real common theme for him has been the consistency in choosing things he loves to do. This also involves challenging himself, even if that means it’s time to move on. He gave the example of his career at Accenture, where - although immensely enjoyable - he’d hit a point where his learning plateaued. So he went online, googled the right contact at Google (as you do) and hey presto - a new challenge and a step back into the comfortably uncomfortable zone where he likes to be.
3. Stay irreverent
Perhaps not a standard chapter in the careers advice book, but Craig believes there’s a lot to be said for being irreverent. Never underestimate the advantage of naivety and what you’ll learn by asking what might be considered a silly question. People who run businesses often suffer from a sense of inertia that can be overcome by questioning everything, all the time. Always ask yourself - and others - if there’s a better way to do things.
4. Love your failures
You might think the subject of Google Glass would be awkward for someone who works at Google; after all, it's not considered their finest moment (just ask the Glassholes). But as we learned from Craig, Google loves failures, as does he. The technology that was developed during the process of creating Glass now shows up in other projects and products. Craig believes that with every failure, you can harvest something good for the future.
5. Eat worms
Figuratively, at least. Craig points out that curiosity is an innate human trait; from the kid that wonders what worms taste like, to the adult who has a constant thirst for knowledge. In order to satisfy his curious side, Craig tries to meet one new person a week, often via his LinkedIn network. It could be anyone from a Hollywood entertainer to a start-up founder, student to sportsperson but the important thing is that there’s something in it for everyone, an opportunity to learn something new. This is particularly true of meet ups that are cross-generational or just cross-cultural in some way - he describes discovering the weird world of ASMR and how the ‘super selfie’ style spread globally from these chats.