Sept. 20, 2022

76 : Own Your Career with Jenny Wood


Welcome to the Mindful FIRE Podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond.

On today's episode of the podcast I'm joined by my new friend, Jenny Wood.

Jenny Wood is the founder of Google's Own Your Career program, which helps Google employees increase their impact and influence in their current role and or land their next role.

In just a few months, the program scaled from 153 users to tens of thousands of users across Google's global offices & continues to grow like a rocket ship. 

In today's conversation we discuss:

  • What owning your career actually means
  • Practice tips to figure out where you want to take your career
  • Jenny’s thoughts on the role work plays in building a life
  • How Jenny applies the Own Your Career tips in her own career
  • Jenny’s advice to people early on the path to financial independence
  • Jenny’s advice to people new to meditation and/or mindfulness
  • How to connect with Jenny

Connect with Jenny Wood

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Transcript

Adam Coelho:

welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond I'm your host, Adam quail. And I'm so glad you're here on today's episode of the podcast. I'm joined by my new friend, Jenny wood. Jenny would is the founder of Google's own your career program, Which helps Google employees increase their impact and influence in their current role and or land their next role in just a few months, the program scaled from 153 users to over 23,000 users across 180 global offices. With 97% positive feedback. Jenny also leads a team of 25 Googlers as a global lead for mobile apps. Customer care. Jenny loves improv, tap, dancing, hiking, and flying airplanes. As a private pilot. she lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two children. In our conversation, Jenny shares, why it's so important to own your career as you know, the mindful fire podcast is all about creating a life you love by living intentionally on the path to financial independence and beyond, and since we spend so much time working, the career, we choose is so impactful in both building a life that we love and also our ability to pursue financial independence. Jenny shares our thoughts on why it's so important to own your career and what that actually means in practice. and she shares a bunch of her favorite tips for how you can actually do that in the areas of job, searching, networking, thought leadership, and a lot of. Jenny shares her thoughts on why it's so important to own your career and to take an active role in your life and not allow life to happen to you. But as she says, to take the bull by the horns and direct your life in the direction you want it to go. I really enjoyed this conversation with Jenny and I learned so much that I can apply to my own career and even my own mindset about how I think about my career. on my path to financial independence. As always you can find the full show notes for today's episode, including any books, links or resources mentioned in the episode mindfulfire.org/70 Let's jump into today's episode. Jenny welcome to the mindful fire podcast. I'm so glad to have you here.

Jenny Wood:

Thank you so much for having me, Adam. I'm really looking forward to the conversation.

Adam Coelho:

so I'd love to have you start by sharing with the audience a little bit about who you are, your journey and what you're up to these.

Jenny Wood:

Absolutely. I'm Jenny. I am a mom and a wife. I am a pilot, I'm a tap dancer. I'm a musical theater lover. I'm an avid daily hiker, but all of that is for fun. but as far as my career goes, I've been at Google for 15 years and I lead one of our technical teams within our global business organization, leading a team of 25 Googlers who are helping our advertising sellers be more successful using our products. And at Google, I also have a side hustle. Astounding and leading a program called own your career. And the goal of own your career is to help fellow Google employees increase their impact and influence in their current role and or land their next job at Google. And it's grown really fast. We had just 153 Google employees using it in March of 2021 and fast forward, just about nine months. We now have 23,000 people using it, which we are so proud of. It's just a couple of volunteers doing the program along with me. And we received 97% positive feedback on the program. And folks who go through the program report an increase in confidence of 56 percentage points from 25% confidence in owning their career before the program to 81% confidence and owning their career after the program. So love what I do at home. Love what I do at Google for my day job, and really love this side hustle too.

Adam Coelho:

Jenny, that is awesome. I'd love to hear that impact. I've seen the resources that you've put together and that the training materials and it's really well done. And I also love the idea of what I call the on the job side hustle as listeners will remember, I have my own on the job side hustle, which is all things related to the mindfulness community at Google. And so I think it's really important to have those areas of interest in alignment with your values and purpose. There I say that can. Help when the day-to-day stuff might not be the most exciting every single day to have those other areas of passion and purpose that bring life to the role and create impact outside of the core role.

Jenny Wood:

Absolutely Googlers often ask me, like, how do I find the role that is the perfect fit for me, that speaks to my passion. And I challenged them on that because I certainly believe that at Google, because we have. This ability to have a side hustle. We actually have a formalized program around it. It's called a 20% project. And we've had that since the company started over 20 years ago, Google earth came out of that. I think Gmail came out of that. You have to fact check me on that, but this has always been expected to be part of your whole story that makes it your Google experience. So I challenge people when they say like, how do I find that perfect job that is the perfect fit for me across all dimensions? I say back to them is it possible that you have your day-to-day job and maybe that's not exactly your area of passion or you're, a hundred percent area alignment, but you can always create something that does round out your Google experience. So I do happen to feel very fortunate to have my day-to-day job, but yeah, there are times where that's going to feel more mundane, but my whole Google experience is my day-to-day job, plus the own your career program. And that makes me feel like such a fulfilled employee or.

Adam Coelho:

absolutely that makes ton of sense. So Jenny, one thing you said before we started recording, is that owning your career. About not letting life happen to you, but as you said, just before taking the bull by the horns and really directing your life in the way that you want to go, do you have any tips for helping people to think about where they want their career to go so that they can then know what steps they should take to start moving that direction?

Jenny Wood:

This is a big one. So where do you want your career to go? This is a question I get often and I encourage people to think about three things. One. Are you happy? Are you happy? Are you happy doing what you're doing? Do you like this kind of work? And if you don't move on to something different, if you're stuck in a role where you're in spreadsheets every day, but you want to be creating slides or just talking to customers. Think about that. Pivot. Number two. Follow growth. This was advice that somebody gave to me, one of our executives at Google, Mary hammer shock, and she said she was given advice to follow growth, and that could be growth of an industry that could be growth, where we're hiring more at Google that could be growth, where we're investing more in other resources. And that is always a place that you want to think about moving toward, and then finally goals. What are your goals? And they're different for everybody. I feel it's important to think, not just about your goals at work, but also your goals outside of work, where you are in your personal life. If you just moved to a new city, if you are in a new relationship, if you've just had a child, these are all things that can help influence where you want to go in your career. But if I had to just pick one of these, do what makes you happy because we spend too much time at our jobs. To not be happy, right? The average career is over 40 years and we spend, I know at Google, we spend on average more than the 40 hour work week at our computers, communicating with each other, doing our jobs. So you want to make sure that if you're spending all those hours and all that heart share and mind share working on something, you want it to be something that makes you happy and everything else will follow. I see people chasing the promotion or chasing the next job and asking me for advice on how do I know what's right for me next. Do the next best thing you don't have to have the 20 year plan laid out. I never have. I've always fallen into my next best thing. Or my next thing has been a result of a reorg. We can talk about reorgs and how to thrive in reorgs. Those are pretty common at Google and at other companies too, but I firmly believe that you don't need the 20 year plan doing the next best thing. The thing that makes you happy, the thing that most makes you want to get out of bed and skip to the office in the morning, that is where you will likely find the most fulfillment you'll do your best. And that will naturally lead to career progression because it will be a good natural fit for you.

Adam Coelho:

I'm curious as to your thoughts, Jenny, on what is the role of our career in building a life. and what does owning your career really mean to you?

Jenny Wood:

Wow, such a great question. You're asking about what role does your career play in building a life and building the path to financial independence and what does owning my career mean to me, they are so related. Like we don't have to stretch far on this, but because your career is how you make your money and your money is how you get to financial independence and getting down to like real brass tax and practical application own your career is three things. First of all, it's a 60 minute. Which talks about, my favorite tips on how to own your career. It is a set of four, one sheeter. So four, think of them as like PDFs, where we have maybe 10 to 15 tips on a specific topic across that one tutor. And then number three, it's a biweekly email tip. So it's a newsletter where you get one tip every other week. The four one tutors we have right now are job search tips. Number one, number two, stakeholder management tips, number three, networking tips, including mentorship and sponsorship and number four, email tips for influence. So a lot around communication. And if you really get down to it, I think people use the own, your career program to find their next time. To have career advancement to get that promotion, to get that performance score that they want. Adam, all these things are tied to more money, more money is tied to financial independence. And this is, let's not kid ourselves, a big driver for people. So whether people care a lot about money or they care a little bit about money, people care about money and it's how you pay your mortgage. It's how you send your kids to college. It's how you go out to the, four-star restaurant, not the three-star restaurant. So this is highly correlated with that. And you also ask, what does it mean to own your career owning your career? To me. Means that you are going to take life by the horns and that you are going to ask for what you want and that you are going to, when you set up, time with your manager's manager, you're going to send them an agenda ahead of time to say, this is what I want to cover. And this is why the time is valuable so that they don't move it to three weeks later or they don't cancel it. Owning your career means that when you apply for a job, you send the hiring manager a note ahead of time, highlighting three bullets in a short and concise fashion about why you're awesome for the job. It's amazing how many people don't do this. And right now I'm building a team of 25 people. So I'm really observing how people handle application processes. And there are certain ways you can stand out from others. And to me, this all falls into owning your career. Some of these are day-to-day things and other things are. Actions you would take only when you're looking for your next role, but a lot of what doesn't own your career is about the small things you do day to day, how you show up for your manager, how you show up for your manager's peers, how you show up for your own peers, your customers that can really make a big difference when it comes to getting your next job, which hopefully is an advancement more money, more financial independence.

Adam Coelho:

so Jenny, as you said, owning your career really helps you pursue financial independence because our career is not only a huge part of our life, but it's how we make money, which leads us to financial independence. And you mentioned you share a lot of practical advice and tips with the own your career offering. what are some of those tips? I'm really curious as to what some of those tips.

Jenny Wood:

Sure. Absolutely. This is what I'm so proud about with the owner career program, Adam, because we really do strive to be practical, tactical, actionable, not theoretical mind you, I'm not in any kind of people, operations organization or any kind of HR organization at Google. I'm just in the business by the business for the business. So these are just real day-to-day things that can help you increase your influence and impact in your current role and or land your next role. So theoretical career advice. To me, the opposite of what we do would be something like network, be in the right place at the right time, work hard, right? So I take it like 14 levels deeper and say what does this look like day to day? So here are some exams. Of the tips we share in the own, your career program. And by the way, this is not just internally at Google. I share a lot of these on LinkedIn and I write for entrepreneur magazine and share a lot of these ideas there as well. So a couple examples, meet your manager's manager twice a year. You'd be shocked at how many people are not doing this. I did a poll on LinkedIn. It was over 40% of people who answered it was as unscientific as this is, we had several hundred people answer and over 40% said they had never met their manager's manager. Meet your boss's boss. They matter for your promotion. They matter for your career trajectory. Another one cut 60% of texts in that email you wrote today, get it down to the bare bones. Cut 60% of the text in your email. Another one with respect to influencing through email, try writing in bullets and not prose or paragraph. Try bolding. The first couple of words in that bullets to really draw your reader's eye to what matters most. Another one when you're interviewing for roles. No, your three super powers. Mine are people, leadership, stakeholder management, and strategy and insights. Have those ready to roll off your tongue and any informal coffee chat or of course for an interview. But you never know when that person you set up time with might be your next hiring manager. Even if you just were having a casual lunch with them. There's another one with respect to interviewing. I love this one. Notice the eye flick to the corner of your computer when you're in an interview with someone that means the interviewer is checking the time. That means maybe you've gotten a little bit long-winded on your answer. Time to wrap it up. So a lot of things along the lines of those, they are very much these micro moments or these small actions you can use starting like 45 minutes from now, but they make a big difference over the long haul. And they're the kinds of things that maybe people don't talk about in what managers aren't necessarily talking about each individually. Item here when we're having conversations around setting scores, which of course matter for your compensation, which matter for your financial independence. These aren't the things that explicitly come out all the time when managers are deciding who's getting promoted or who is getting the next job in that open role they have, but they need to fill, but on the aggregate on the whole, these are the things that make you a rockstar employee day to day. Of course, this is assuming you're good at your core job. Table-stakes these are the things that are so important around communication around stakeholder management, around networking, around having people advocate for you, brand being very clear in your messaging around knowing yourself, knowing your personal brand, knowing who you are and being confident in what you can bring to the table. So those are some examples of the type of tips we share.

Adam Coelho:

Yeah, those are really important and very helpful. I like how you make the tips actionable regardless of role. It doesn't matter if you're an engineer, it doesn't matter if you're a salesperson or a massage therapist, it doesn't matter. It's these things can be applied regardless of what your day to day work looks

Jenny Wood:

like. Yeah, absolutely. This is about navigating politics. I've never been scared of politics. Politics exists at every company. Interestingly, I actually did a session when we do these sessions, we tend to have oftentimes over a thousand or 2000 people who show up to them. And we tried out this new poll question, which was what frustrates you about your Google career. And we did a word cloud real time. And the number one thing that people wrote was politics. So politics is real. I think sometimes it gets this bad rap, like, oh, we shouldn't talk about politics or who wants to be good at politics, or that feels a little bit like it doesn't sit great with me, but let's call it what it is. People are saying. The number one thing that frustrates them is politics. So if this helps you navigate some of the politics or if this helps you feel more comfortable reframing politics to relationships or stakeholder management or building a network that can help you thrive a Google and you can help them in return, that something really important to pay attention to because the reality is people are telling us that the politics exist and that it can be quite stressful and frustrating.

Adam Coelho:

Absolutely. Are these resources only available at Google?

Jenny Wood:

So right now it's only internal, what I do externally is I'm, posting a lot on LinkedIn and I'm sharing like external versions of it on LinkedIn. So an email I'd write to Googlers. I then post on LinkedIn. And so there's a lot of content on LinkedIn and then I've also written articles for entrepreneur magazine.

Adam Coelho:

Okay, Jenny, so you mentioned that. Letting your happiness and the question, am I happy guide your career. And so how do you know when it's time to change roles?

Jenny Wood:

Great questions. I actually have a little acronym on this one. How do you know when it's time to change roles, Adam, or I like to say, how do you know when it's time to flip roles? Flip stands for F L I P fun learning impact that's business impact and personal. So am I having fun? Am I excited about the challenges we have? Am I showing up at each team meeting, raising my hand with new ideas? Or am I rolling my eyes? When somebody comes off mute to speak saying, oh, we tried that four quarters ago. It's never going to work right. A little bit cynical. That's not fun. I know what fun feels like in my body. And that doesn't feel fun in that meeting. Oh, am I learning new things? And I don't just mean incremental learning. Step function, learning like real big incremental steps in my learning. And by the way, I don't just mean learning about a product. Learning about yourself too. So I just went through this experience. I just started a new role 10 days ago and I had been in my old role. For almost three years. And I thought he was still learning, but it was like real small learning day to day. It wasn't big learning. And when I think about the personal learning, I realize now that I'm in this new job, how much I am making massive learning leaps and bounds every day, one example is I used to struggle with decision-making and being quick about decision-making and now I'm finding myself being much, much faster. And I realized in this, new role is giving me an opportunity to be faster. And that decision making, who are we going to hire? Who are we going to pass on? How should I set up the structure of the team? These things are much faster now for me. And that used to be a real development area. So I realize I'm learning not just about new products and new systems and new team. I'm learning about myself in this new role and how I've grown professionally in my ability to make decisions faster. So that was L learning. I impact the business impact that was making some business impact in my past role recently, but not nearly as much as I was making two and a half years ago when I started on that team and had new goals that we defined a new processes and structures and built a new C suite for our leadership team. Like that was real impact. And I think it had frankly tapered off if I'm being honest with myself. And then finally the P stands for personal, what is going on in my personal life. And this can be two things it can be do I need to change cities because my fiance is in Ann Arbor and I'm in New York. And that happened to me at the time. In a previous life at Google or personal could also mean, is this job so stressful that I'm staying up at night? Worried about it or am I so unhappy in this role that I am not even showing up for my friends or am I so overworked that I don't have time to go to dinner with my boyfriend, whatever your case is in your own individual situation, all those things fall into personal. And that is okay to consider when you're thinking about, do you stay in a role or do you go, so again that's how do you know when it's time to flip roles? F L I P fun learning impact personal.

Adam Coelho:

Yeah, that's definitely helpful to remember and flipping rules. I feel I'll speak for personal experience here at I might fail the flip test, I might fail the flip test in some ways. so. Let's switch gears now into what I call the mindful fire. Final four. Are you ready? I am ready. All right. So Jenny, the first question is. What's the future look like for own your career? You've built this internally. It's had incredible success over the last 10 months. Where's it going? Is it going to stay internal? Are you looking at bringing this offering more external? What's your vision for own your career?

Jenny Wood:

Oh, such an exciting vision, Adam. I'm thrilled because the VP of manual side cat of the org in which I work just to granted me one full-time employee to work on this as a strategy and program manager, which is a big deal. So I am now officially a job creator, which feels very good. And when we have this role staff, I just think there's so much more we can do both internally. I would not be surprised if we, increase our user base by 50% over the next year. And to have, right now we have 23,000 users. I wouldn't be surprised if we have, closer to. Thirty-five or 40,000 users soon. I'm thinking about different formats. People can use to consume the content. I'm envisioning little, two minute video clips where I share tips on the top 10 or 20 questions that get asked to me about careers in these big forums, we have tons and tons of data around what matters to people about their careers and where they get stuck. So we can use this data to develop content around what is top of mind for people. And we've got a lot we're doing with analytics to get really smart about. How we can most help people. We're looking at correlations and statistical analysis around we're doing to help people and whether that will have any kind of actual impact on their promotion rates or their scores or their ability to move careers. And that's all on the internal side. And externally, I just think that the sky is the limit here, because Everybody cares about their advancement. People care about money. People want to get promoted, right? People have this as like a day-to-day goal sometimes. So the external stuff was what really excites me. And I know we have an opportunity to be a thought leader in this space because people look to Google for everything. Look at the. March 10th or 11th, 2020 Google went to work from home for four weeks. And then the next day, all these companies went to work from home for four weeks. So if you think about how much Google influences and Google thought leader influences on so many different dimensions, product process people, I know there's a real role. We can play here on helping others in the tech industry and beyond own their careers too. So I assume that we'll have a keynote blog post coming out. That's Google's official external blog posts. I think that we could partner with the New York times or other publications. What it means to own your career and what Googlers are doing about this, just like the New York times has published stories on how Google derives, successful teams. They've published stories on what it means to be a great manager at Google. Those two projects were called project Aristotle and project oxygen, respectively. So there really is a hunger outside in the external community around what all this stuff means and how we can apply Google's excellence and learnings to the broader world. I see little short videos coming out over YouTube that are accessible to everybody that also share our tips and tricks that are actionable and practical. Of course, I'll keep writing. I'll keep posting on LinkedIn. I'll keep writing articles for entrepreneur magazine. And if anybody else is interested in having me write for your publication, please let me know. Or if you're interested in having me on your podcast or as a keynote, those are also things that I am doing. So there are a lot of ways we can help others and inspire others out there to get. To increase their confidence and to help people increase their impact and influence in their current role and or land their next role.

Adam Coelho:

Yeah, I totally agree. I think there's such an opportunity there and I think the way you've thought about it from the beginning with the branding and the, actionable tips are going to make it so ready to go external when Google is ready to do that. And I think that there is such a need in Google steps up in a lot of cases. So I think it's perfectly aligned. So the second question is what piece of advice would you give to someone early on their path to financial independence,

Jenny Wood:

max out your 401k, always it's free money. You're leaving it on the table. If you don't. Cause our company is probably going to match. And the earlier you start saving the faster, you're going to see that money grow and compound

Adam Coelho:

absolutely simple, but effective, actionable advice. Max out your 401k, that match is part of your salary. And if you are not putting the money in your 401k, you're just leaving it on the table. So the third question is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and, or mindfulness

Jenny Wood:

start small if you're not doing any meditation now don't give yourself the goal of meditating for 60 minutes, seven days a week, start with two minutes, one day a week.

Adam Coelho:

Yep. I I totally agree with that. meditation's not about how much you do it each time. It's about the fact that you actually do it consistently. And so that's great advice to start small. And the final question Jenny is how can people connect with you online and follow your.

Jenny Wood:

LinkedIn is the best place for this. So you can connect with me there. My name is Jenny Illis wood. That's Ellis. I L L E S. And I share lots of great tips there. Even the ones I share at Google, I make external versions of them and make them applicable to everybody. Whether you're early in your career later on in your career, you work for a startup, you work for a massive company. You are a student thinking about how to start this in the future. I also share the articles I write for entrepreneur magazine through LinkedIn. So that's the best place to stay connected with me.

Adam Coelho:

Perfect. And I will include a link to your LinkedIn in the show notes so people can access that very easily. Jenny, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It's been really awesome to get to know you to hear about your work. And I took away a ton of tips that I'm going to put in my own life. As I continue to navigate my career. It's been a wonderful conversation.

Jenny Wood:

The pleasure is mine, Adam, thank you so much for inviting me. You're doing great work. These are things that people think about every day, financial independence, I love that you have a passion for that mindfulness. It is just, I think, at the root of happiness for all humankind, and I'm really, truly grateful and honored to be part of the conversation today because you're doing things that are so important. So thank you for your time and your great questions. And thank you for having me here.

Adam Coelho:

Pleasure. Thanks so much for joining me on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jenny wood. The founder of Google's own your career program. As Jenny mentioned, you can connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more about the work she's done, the tips she shared and receive any of the new career tips that she sends out. If you enjoy today's episode, I invite you to please hit subscribe wherever you're listening to this, this just lets the platforms know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here. When I produce additional content. as a reminder, you can find the full show notes for today's episode@mindfulfire.org slash 70. And if you'd like to help spread the word about the podcast, I'd really appreciate if you could send your favorite one or two episodes to a couple of friends who might get value from listening to them. Make sure to follow the podcast on Instagram at the mindful fire podcast, because I'm sharing a lot of content there now in short clips of takeaways from the episodes. Thanks again, and I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire podcast.