Four leaders at the high-tech powerhouse reflect on how they are helping one of the world’s most innovative companies stay at the cutting edge.
- January 10, 2020
- Career Impact
That change is the nature of business is nothing new.
After all, renowned fashion brand Levi Strauss & Co. began as a dry goods business serving the California gold rush. And Starbucks started out selling bulk coffee beans and spices, not brewing a single latte until more than a decade after its first store opened.
Another prime example? Google—one of the world’s largest and most influential tech companies and employer to 159 Booth alumni in California, Chicago, and other offices around the world. Once known exclusively as an internet search engine, it has grown into much, much more: maker of Pixel smartphones and Chrome OS, a driving force behind driverless car technology, on the forefront of the smart speaker revolution with Google Nest, and the corporate parent of YouTube and Android.
This is today’s Google, and Chicago Booth alumni are taking lead roles within it, empowered by the same sense of intellectual curiosity that brought them to study at Booth. They’re also pushing the envelope in areas you might not associate with the tech giant: payments, energy, and brand management among them.
Here we present four Boothies whose stories take you inside one of the world’s most famous brands as it expands into new arenas. Their stories illustrate in sharp relief how The Chicago Approach taught them to ask tough questions of themselves and embrace ambiguity as a gateway to rich possibility. In fact, many say their ability to navigate through uncertainty and drive to better outcomes was a sure strength learned from their Booth years.
To hear them tell it, the growth challenges and opportunities at Google make their past experiences at Chicago Booth a very present reality. In that way their current roles serve as a veritable high-tech lab where they put their knowledge, sharpened intellects, and curious minds to the test every single day.
Total number of Booth graduates at Google159
Recruiter of Booth Full-Time MBA Program GraduatesTop 5
|Top Five Locations by City|
|1. Headquarters: Mountain View, California||92|
|3. San Francisco||12|
|4. New York||11|
|Top Career Specialties|
|3. Product Management|
|5. Strategic Planning|
Source: Booth alumni data, Class of 2019 Full-Time Employment Report
Megan Beck, ’17
Head of Supplier Payment Operations
The payments world is changing fast before us; what once took place exclusively through cash and wires now travels at digital speed in and out of online platforms such as PayPal and Venmo without a single building in sight. In her role at Google, Megan Beck oversees the accounts payable space—a pressure-packed arena where negotiating the disruption doesn’t mean putting daily business pressures aside.
A 2010 graduate of Stanford with a BS in management science and engineering, Beck spent roughly five years at Accenture as a systems integration analyst and technology consultant before landing at Booth. Her career at Google started in July 2017, and in less than two years, she moved from financial operations manager into her present role. In it, Beck oversees day-to-day global source-to-pay payment operations and strategic transformational projects.
“One of the things that became quickly apparent is you have to be creative and innovative wherever you are,” Beck said. “In my world we’re trying to operate a business and solve problems on a scale that has never been attempted before.” For Beck that comes down to operational oversight to keep the payment trains running on time.
But as Google is global, those rails span the world, making it far from an easy feat. “There’s the more general challenge of trying to standardize on a worldwide scale with hundreds of different geographies,” she said. “It’s about balancing standardization and automation with the dynamic and ever-changing needs of our business.”
Those tasks and responsibilities push Beck to her limits every day. “It can be very challenging,” she acknowledged. “But I found a company, and an internal organization and team within that, where I get to use all this capacity that I have. One of my biggest takeaways from my time at Booth was to learn what I wanted from a team and an organization, narrowing in on the way I want to operate, and aligning those values.”
At the end of her searching, and her time at Booth, she found just what she sought: a role that was anything but predictable and every bit impactful, as she helps drive best-in-class performance and value creation in payments.
“I’m tasked on a daily basis with approaching problems that look wholly different from what I’ve ever seen before,” Beck said. “My role is not necessarily predicated on a specific experience or something that’s happened in the past. It’s an extreme case of working with ambiguity—and at Google, it’s often ambiguity on steroids.”
Favorite Booth Memory:
“When I was making the decision on whether to go to Booth, I interviewed with one of the second-year students—and I had this overwhelming feeling that Booth was right for me. The deciding factors included the pay-it-forward culture."
Michel Geadah, ’17
Head of Partner Engineering for Google Cloud US West
In his role Michel Geadah works closely with business development and sales managers to build, grow, and support the Google Cloud partner ecosystem. The portion of the US West region in Los Angeles where Geadah works is in hypergrowth, so there’s much work in trying to write the playbook even as it’s followed.
“I’m involved in the business aspect of things and the tech aspect—for me that’s the best of both worlds,” said Geadah of his role supporting Google’s cloud computing platform. “We’re building and strengthening an ecosystem for businesses, such as consulting firms and system integrators, around Google Cloud. We work on go-to-market partnerships to eventually help our customers on their cloud journey. It’s helping our partners from an engineering standpoint with tech empowerment and enablement.”
Geadah earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer, and communications engineering from the American University of Beirut; beginning in 2004, he spent the next 14 years in Chicago. There he worked for a trio of financial services organizations: ABN AMRO Bank, Bank of America, and the Royal Bank of Scotland. In his last stop before Google, Geadah spent eight years at RBS, moving up from technology consultant to senior infrastructure leader.
In managing global trade infrastructure for banks, “I used to talk to computers more than people,” Geadah laughed. “But over the years I found myself at the cross section of mergers and acquisitions. I had a front-row seat on how to integrate two distinct corporate entities.”
All this piqued Geadah’s interest in management and strategy. “At that point I realized, ‘Now’s the right time to learn about this.’ And that was how I got into Chicago Booth—it’s part of the ‘transform yourself’ journey.”
Most of all, Geadah’s Booth experience gave him the chance to imagine new possibilities for his career. “There’s a saying that if you’re indispensable, it’s hard to be promoted,” he noted. “In certain organizations you unfortunately get pigeonholed, so if you’re really good in technology, you may be told, ‘Just do that, build systems.’ Booth provided me with a new framework, the chance to stretch.”
In his time at Booth Geadah focused on courses in strategic management, entrepreneurship, and general management. He fondly recalled his Corporate Governance class, too, and the way it helped him understand how C-level leaders make decisions. “I wondered, how do corporations make decisions? And when do you go for inorganic growth versus organic growth? Those were areas that fascinated me the most.”
It’s a framework he immediately put to work as he finished the Evening MBA Program. “At the tail end of my time at Booth, Google reached out, and I couldn’t have written the job description any better. The business and technology aspects were exactly where I wanted to be.”
Favorite Booth Memory:
“I created a community, an Evening MBA Program student group, called Creative Culture Club, which is now Studio Booth. Research has shown that being involved in arts or music helps you achieve more. I also started a rock band with some Full-Time students and performed a few shows."
Lauren Johnston, ’11
Head of Brand Management
What’s in a brand? That question, hard enough to answer for any big business, becomes especially tough when you work at one of the biggest businesses of all—and branding is your baby.
“My job is to help protect, propel, and build the Google brand through strategically managing how we think about everything from brand positioning and perceptions to elements such as naming, iconography, and product design,” said Johnston. “It’s also about how we help people navigate Google based on the way we show up as a brand.”
In her career at Google’s Brand Studio—the lauded internal think tank—she and her team use creativity, media, and technology to create experiences that connect Google products to the people who use them. Her past projects have included developing and implementing a company-wide brand architecture framework, and working on brand strategy for parent company Alphabet and the Google Store.
Johnston graduated from Duke University in 2005 with a BA in public policy studies and spent nearly four years as a strategy consultant at Interbrand. She chose to get her MBA at Booth, taking advantage of the flexibility of the curriculum to round out her skill set. Her coursework also prepared her with unique abilities she’s only now coming to fully appreciate. “The projects given to me at Google require me to navigate ambiguity, and that’s something I learned at Booth,” she said. “The fact is that you don’t know exactly how what you learn at Booth will come into play later in your career.”
Johnston’s time at Booth also encouraged her to tap into the strong background she had developed in brand consulting during her postundergraduate job at Interbrand, and apply it in a whole new way. “Booth made me realize I had a superpower—and taught me how to leverage it,” said Johnston, who interned at Mattel. “I gathered the confidence to go back into the branding space outside of consulting—embracing what I do that’s unique even if it is not the typical post-MBA role.”
After graduation Johnston took a full-time role at Mattel, and then moved to Google in November 2012 as a brand manager and strategist. As head of brand management since mid-2017, Johnston most recently showcased her work in November with the launch of a new product division called Google Health, which seeks to help people improve their health-care and wellness experiences.
“Every Google product needs an identity,” Johnston said. “Seeing what we do out in the world is so fulfilling. But it’s also very complex, and a lot of the strategies we’re thinking through are new. We’re trying to figure out how to help people navigate the many elements of our brand and get a clear identity. That means getting a lot of people aligned and working toward the same goal.”
Favorite Booth Memory:
“When I applied to Booth I was daunted by its reputation as a quantitative powerhouse. Seeing [deputy dean] Stacey Kole speak during Admit Weekend about how students can best build their education and shape their own course was so inspirational. It was why I decided to go to Booth."
Robert Parker, ’04
Senior Lead, Global Data Centers – Energy Strategy
While many of us might not associate Google with the energy sector, the tech giant has the potential to change how power is conserved and consumed. “Google has been highly committed for several years now to using 100 percent renewable energy,” said Robert Parker. “Last year we met that goal and now we have a new goal: to power our operations on a 24-7 basis, everywhere we operate, with carbon-free power.”
With Google since March 2013, Parker works within a larger global Infrastructure group responsible for the site selection of Google’s data centers. The team he currently belongs to guides the energy strategy that governs new and existing centers; he joined it in September 2014 as it began to experience explosive growth.
For Parker the post means building energy strategy into data-center site planning and the service of third-party cloud customers. “Energy is actually the largest operating expense and one of the more complicated aspects in terms of developing a data center. There are years of lead time required to build infrastructure and secure reliable supply. And we’re a very large consumer of energy; we can do a lot of good in the renewable industry through our scale.”
Parker’s job calls him to develop deal structures and negotiate with utilities or developers. “Corporates are very, very new to the space, and we’re the largest one doing it. We’re blazing a trail,” he said.
Parker graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2000 with a BA in economics and enrolled in Booth two years afterward. “I had a liberal arts background and wanted go to Booth to learn real accounting and finance,” he said. “Booth exposed me to a much wider variety of skills to help me build my tool set—such as an introduction to the psychology of economic behaviors, and the negotiation skills I’d need.”
After earning his MBA, Parker began a pivotal job as senior vice president at LS Power Equity Advisors in New York City. The power-focused private equity fund managed several billion of equity capital, and Parker spent almost seven years there, before moving to Google in 2013.
“It’s great to have a job that I’m proud of: to push renewables, decarbonize the grid,” Parker said. “I get excited and passionate about this. We’re the largest company to say, ‘Hey, this is our goal. We’re not sure how we’re going to get there, but we’re drawing the map even as we figure out what the destination is.’”
Favorite Booth Memory:
“It would have to be the friends I made, and our poker game. I was not the best by far.”
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