What’s your role?
I lead the EMEA team of Cloud Solutions Architects, a team responsible for supporting & scaling the efforts of hundreds of customer sales engineers, specialists, partners and customers, across a range of industries. The goal is not simply to figure out technical solutions that have others stumped, but to share complex new initiatives with a range of stakeholders. We build solutions that, if we luck out, may evolve to become a new product feature but above all, help customers transform to digital organizations that gather, secure, and use data in richer ways.
Tell us about your path to Google.
Feeling stretched and challenged has been my happy place for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the London Borough of Hackney and studied Chemistry at University College, London. After a brief period as a licensed arsonist for the U.K. Ministry of Defense (I tested materials to analyze what was in the fumes they gave off and how long folks had to get away from it in the unfortunate case they caught fire…it took me a while to realize sometimes I was the only person in the building!) – I discovered the additional challenge of learning about computers, and how my fellow scientists could work with them. My curiosity took me to databases, networks, security and eventually platform architecture and the cloud.
Problem solving seems to be at the heart of all you do. What’s your process?
Usually when we start working with a customer, it’s a problem that their customer engineer can’t solve alone, or a specialist may need assistance with solving. When I’m brought in, I try to get right to the customer’s pain point, figure out how they talk about their problem. Once there’s some empathy going, we can talk about possible answers. When they start asking about seeing things, or how they might train their people to work better with a solution, I can tell they’re starting to see the solution.
We’re like builders, laying the foundations and building on top. But, instead of bricks, we work with customers in digital transformation. It helps to be comfortable feeling challenged.
Working with customers involves the most complexity I’ve ever encountered, my team thrives on it.
Do you have any passion projects?
On the side, I celebrate other kinds of complexity, writing short stories sparked by photographs that I’ve taken, and penning a technical blog called Grumpy Grace that displays my interests in the complexity of everything from analyzing my own Twitter feed to what the design of medieval castles tells us about contemporary computer security architectures
What has been unique about Google?
I’d never been interviewed by a woman until I got here. At my previous company, I was the only female solutions architect for two years, globally – so that was a welcome change. We still have work to do, but we’re on the right path.
What is your advice for women engineers?
My most frequent advice to women in engineering is to take the initiative at first meetings, whether with customers or partners. You have to qualify yourself, right at the start. Say your name, and what you’ve done, where you’ve worked, what you’ve built. Provide context and tell your story first so people don’t make assumptions.
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