Office Hours: I'm Director of Business Technology at YouTube. I'm Sarah Graham Bolin.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Sarah Graham Bolin, Director of Business Technology at YouTube. I was previously Director of Tools, Development and Automation for gTech Product and Tools Operations and also led Business Intelligence teams in gTech. I originally joined Google over fourteen years ago as a Customer Solutions Engineer (i.e. a Sales Engineer) and have worked in the New York City, Mountain View, and San Bruno offices. Before joining Google, I worked as a Software Engineer in Austin, working on medical software and device controllers.

Ask me anything about technical leadership, career growth, imposter syndrome, mentorship vs. sponsorship, and more!

Thanks so much for joining us @sarahgrahambolin!Elphas – please ask @sarahgrahambolin your questions before Friday, September 24th. @sarahgrahambolin may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites πŸ”₯πŸ‘πŸΎβž•
Hey Sarah, thank you so much for taking out the time to do this :)I'm a Computer science engineering student, will be finishing college in May 2022 with some good experience in Product management. Things are going good here in India but I want to get out of my comfort zone, maximize my learning curve and growth opportunities. To be able to do this, I am looking for some opportunities to work internationally. Remote work and relocation both would do. If you could guide me a bit here as in how to get started, what are the challenges I might face and how to navigate them. Since you have been in leadership positions as well, so what would you look for in a candidate for her to stand out and get hired by you?Thanks bunches!
Hi! Congrats on being in the home stretch of your CSE degree! With respect to a job search, you will be entering the workforce at such an interesting time. We still don't really know what the future of work looks like, but we know there will be many more options for remote or flexible work. This gives you much greater flexibility in the roles you look at without tying that decision to the geographic location. Given that flexibility, it can be helpful for you to think about what you want to prioritize in your search: a specific company? a specific role? a specific location? Knowing what you are optimizing for can help you focus your search. From the hiring manager perspective, employees have so much flexibility right now that it is difficult to find and hire technical talent. That puts you at an advantage with respect to getting that first interview. To make yourself stand out, highlight the experience and skills that make it clear that you can succeed in a business setting, not just college. Clearly your prior work experience is key here. Other things might include leadership roles you have had or things you have done that clearly represent values that are aligned with any employers you might be interested in. Wishing you all the best as you enter the professional world!
Hi Sarah, thanks so much for doing Office Hours with Elpha! Which of the 3 Google offices that you worked in was your favorite and why?
The New York City office will always hold a special place in my heart. It is where I started with Google, where I ultimately met my husband, and where I still have many dear friends. There is just nothing like that office or those views!
Hi Sarah, Thank you so much for hosting office hours!I'm an early career data scientist in a big corporation, and find navigating the organization can be daunting! But at the same time, I see it's an important skillset in career development, whether it is to be able to talk with business side, or to find mentors/sponsors within the organization. What tips do you have to navigate a large organization, in order to grow professionally and develop leadership capabilities?
Thank you for the question! I will do my best to share thoughts on two parts of this question: 1) speaking to the business side and 2) finding mentors and sponsors.1) Speaking to the business sideOne of my mental shortcuts to shift to a business-oriented mindset is this: Shift from the "what" to the "so what." Rather than just talking about your work, talk about why your work matters -- to your team, your org, your company, and even the world. I find that thinking in terms of the "so what" helps me share my message in a way that resonates well with a larger audience. This can sometimes lead to #2...2) Finding mentors and sponsorsFinding your place in any organization is such an important part of enjoying and growing in your career. I will start by saying that connecting with communities where you feel comfortable and included -- like elpha -- is a great start! When I moved from NYC to the Mountain View office, the Women@Google employee resource group became a community for me, helping me feel more connected in the vast sea of Google headquarters. By networking within those communities, you will likely find that you meet people with whom you naturally connect and identify mentors among them. Depending on your company culture, you might also try the "cold call" -- asking for a 15-20 minute coffee chat with people whom you respect and/or who are in roles you are curious about so that you can pick their brains and ask them about their own careers. Even though this is likely a one-off conversation, it can be its own form of mentorship in that you are learning from someone else's career. With respect to sponsorship, this typically comes as the result of a formal working relationship where you helped deliver outsized results. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your manager or your manager's manager and thinking about what opportunities are aligned with key business goals. Seeking out these types of projects can help you find those key projects that ultimately lead to mentorship or sponsorship.
Thank you so much Sarah! The 'so what' mindset resonates so much and it's something I observe in our technical leaders. Love your tips on finding community and finding mentors that naturally connect.
Hi Sarah!I want to ask how do you identify impostor syndrome symptoms, and what are your strategies in overcoming those.Also, how do you maintain long-term mentoring relationships? Finally, what is your experience like at Google as a Customer Solutions Engineer? What are some differences you see in different Google offices that you've worked at?Thank you for the office hour!
Hi! So many great questions! Let me take them in turn...1) Imposter SyndromeIf you constantly question whether or not to speak up in meetings and are worried about whether what you are going to say is valuable, I would call that Imposter Syndrome. A good starting point for tackling this can be to find a community with whom you can share your own experiences and where you can calibrate from the experiences of others. If you are comfortable and have a good relationship with your manager, you can also discuss this with them, finding ways to support in building your confidence.2) Long-term mentoring relationshipsHonestly, I'm not great at this. I have embraced the spirit that mentorships, like all relationships, evolve -- and sometimes go away. For those that I specifically aim to maintain, I have at times set a 3 or 6 month calendar reminder to reach out and connect, ensuring that too much time doesn't pass without reconnecting. 3) Customer Solutions Engineer (CSE)From an industry perspective, being a CSE at Google (at least back when I was one) was like being a Sales Engineer: you are the technologist that the sales person brings into the call to ensure all technical needs are met. It was definitely a learning experience, to say the least. Having come from a traditional SWE role, I learned at least as much about how to engage with customers and sales people and navigate the business side of things as I did about the actual products I worked with. 4) Google OfficesIf the offices I have worked in were members of a band...New York City -- the drummerMountain View -- the lead singerSan Bruno -- the electric guitar
Hi @sarahgrahambolin, thanks for the opportunity! My name is Yumi Taguchi, I'm an Account Manager in Sales at Facebook. I previously was at an agency developing affiliate/influencer media strategy. You mention mentorship vs. sponsorship. I just learned about "Building Your Own Board of Directors" with mentors and sponsors - it's an amazing construct that I will be working on this upcoming year.I'd love to learn from you on do's and don'ts of 5-year to 10-year plan setting. How have you navigated career growth steps, specifically, leap-of-faith moments for new opportunities? I personally have been dealing with a lot of imposter syndrome, and it's been muddying my vision on what I can and want to do next. Thanks in advance!
Hi Yumi! The Board of Directors concept is such a good one, and building it can actually help you work through some of the imposter syndrome as you talk through your career with others, find the commonalities, and even celebrate successes. With respect to the 5 or 10 year plan, I am possibly a poor example in that I have never really had one. My primary career objectives have been: 1) Feel like you're learning and growing; 2) Don't sacrifice anything you're not willing to sacrifice (time, values, etc); and 3) Have fun along the way. Given those grounding objectives, I have optimized in the moment, choosing the best path for me at that time. This has not necessarily resulted in the fastest path forward, but it has resulted in a career journey that I have (almost) always enjoyed.As for leap-of-faith moments, I will share some guidance I was given that I found helpful: 1) The next role is not forever. If you don't like it, you can always go do something else. This helped me get over the fear of taking the leap.2) Think about the likelihood that anything you would be more excited about comes along in your timeframe. Depending on what you are looking for at what time, it might help you decide if this is a great option or you want to wait for something better.Wishing you all the best as you build your Board, and wishing you many leaps of faith supported by those board members!
Thank you @sarahgrahambolin! So many grounding nuggets of wisdom and insight. Appreciate you taking the time to share. Cheers!
Thank you for doing this @sarahgrahambolin! What is your role as a director of business technology? I've never heard that title before, so I'm very curious what your week looks like!
Thanks for joining office hours! As the Director of Business Technology, I lead a team that is focused on delivering technology and systems infrastructure to power the business organization. To use language from another question above, I lead an "internal tools" team. My team largely consists of people with software design and implementation experience (i.e. PM/Eng) who enjoy the B2B space, i.e. like tackling a good business challenge.