I’m a Team Lead at Google: Here’s How ERGs and Mentorship Advanced My Career

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Nancy Hwang. Photo courtesy of Google.

Photo courtesy of Google.

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Fairygodboss
June 23, 2024 at 4:49PM UTC

When seeking answers to the most important career questions — How can I advance my career? How can I determine what I want? How can I make a positive impact? — it’s important to step back sometimes, instead of simply focusing on the work at hand. And this is especially true for women.

That’s what Nancy Hwang, the lead of the product activation and customer experience team for the Google Maps API products, advises.

In fact, Hwang did just that in a recent interview with Fairygodboss. She took a step back and reflected on her career, including her eight years at Google. From the importance of mentors to amplifying your voice and impact via employee resource groups (ERGs), Hwang shares her best advice. Read on to learn more!

To start, can we discuss how someone can step back and assess your personal identity at work?

Becoming more aware of my identity and how that shows up in the workplace has been aided by becoming very involved in our ERGs over the past few years.

The ERGs at Google focus on bringing people of different groups or interests together. Specifically, the Asian Googler Network is one that I've been a big part of, and I have a leadership role where I run our heritage month planning each year. This feels more like a celebration, but it actually offers up a lot of opportunity to have discussions around “what does this event mean,” and “what are the things that we want to talk about or share about.” In the last few years, it has really been about how we are being impacted, especially with things like COVID-19 and anti-Asian hate. Having these conversations is really helpful for self-reflection, too… It helps me discover if there’s something that I was feeling too, but did not realize it.

How do you expand the important conversations you have within an ERG to the broader Google community?

It is very easy to be in a group of people who all have that same perspective and where you have good conversations, but that’s not spreading the discussion. So, we have been actively thinking about how to expand that conversation across Google.

In the past, there's a lot of discussion around what we consider as allyship. This year, for example, we have been actively working with the Black Googler Network, the Indus Googler Network, and the Latinx Googler Network to think about how we can exchange ideas and support one another. Having that discussion and amplifying it across other community networks has been really important. In particular, we had a discussion with our leadership team about how we can show up for others who may be experiencing hate crimes, and there were a lot of groups around Google that came to us to understand how they could learn more or broadcast this discussion. This goes back to allyship, where part of it is having recognition or awareness of a topic.

In addition to ERGs, what are other ways you step back from your day-to-day role and make a difference?

Mentorship. Outside of work, I take part in a mentorship collaboration with Dynamico Space, a co-working space based in San Francisco that works really closely with the startup ecosystem. In particular, they work on enabling Filipino startups.

It is a very young market with early-stage ecosystems and a lot of young developers who are very excited about building solutions, especially in a market like the Philippines. There are a lot of issues around environmental waste, poverty, and other issues that they're trying to address.

Partnering with Dynamico, [we] mentor these startups, and help them think about their business model… For me, it’s very inspiring to see what they are developing and what they're coming up with, and it’s very rewarding to actually work with them.

Could you tell us more about the importance of mentorship and its role in your own career progression?

Within Google, we have programs that are offered today that open up pathways and give you a chance to connect with mentors.

Finding mentors is incredibly helpful, important, and relevant. One of the things that I've learned at Google is that people want to help. People want to support you, but part of the challenge is making that ask.

But, on the flip side, a lot of mentors are actually very happy or even flattered to be part of someone's career development or journey. And having that mentorship and network is extremely important, especially early on and at a place like Google, where there are so many different ways to navigate an entire career. Part of that is knowing what you can do, and getting access to information through mentorship and community groups.

In particular, for myself as an Asian woman, there are certain things that I encounter in my own career development that are very specific to how I grew up or the ecosystem that I'm in. When I've looked at mentors, it has both been from a career standpoint (with people who are in roles that I want to aspire to) and from a personal development standpoint. 

For example, oftentimes, growing up, [I was focused on] doing good work and seeing the performance come from there. That doesn't always translate into a business setting. I'm actively thinking about working on bridging some of those gaps. And, oftentimes, for certain segments of folks, those [gaps] are more prominent than others. [To address this,] we have mentoring programs that are focused on enabling certain Googlers [to bridge those gaps].



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