Stress Test Moments

27th September 2018

Posted In: The Interview

The theme of last night’s Compass Leadership Summit in Google was Courage. Amongst the impressive line-up were a number of Googles top brass – Mary Ellen Coe, President, Google Marketing Solutions; Kristie Canegallo, Google VP Trust & Safety (and former deputy White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama); Fionnuala Meehan, Head of Google in Ireland, and Liz Cunningham Finance Director, EMEA, Google who also happens to be a WMB Ambassador for Gender Diversity 2018.

On the theme, Mary Ellen Coe, President, Google Marketing Solutions shared her personal career journey with attendees, calling out the ‘stress test moments’ when she had to find the courage to speak up and find her voice. Here she shares her thoughts with WMB.

“Years ago, I worked in brand management for an antiperspirant deodorant. In developing advertising, we used to feature ‘stress test’ moments which showcased people being put to the test in stressful situations, such as asking their boss for a raise or asking someone out on a date. This was how we could illustrate if the product worked.

We all experience ‘stress test’ situations in our careers. Though it is often difficult to see it at the time, these moments are opportunities for us to know our strength, overcome a challenge, or stretch beyond our comfort zone. For me, ‘stress test’ moments have helped shape some of my key beliefs on how I manage my career and my life.

Have the Courage to Ask

If you don’t ask, you will never know what is possible. I once had a work assignment where I needed to travel to another state for a client four days a week. I was a new parent at the time, and this arrangement was not allowing me to have a balanced life. So, I had the courage to ask for an alternative that worked for both the company and me. By defining new terms, I was able to not only give 100% at work, but also spend time with my family. Employers recognise that the most productive workers are those who have a work schedule that fits their life commitments. By proactively advocating for what I needed, I was able to give my best to the client and be my best self at work.

Have Courage to Advocate for Others

Once I had a client with whom I built a strong relationship over many months. Then, in a stressful moment, I needed this person to come to my defence. They did not. I was shocked because I thought we had a loyal working relationship. I later addressed the individual and asked why this person didn’t have the courage to stand up for me when it was the right thing to do. This experience taught me the importance of investing in building alliances — people whom you can trust, for whom you would advocate. It’s not always easy, and at times you will find yourself in those stress test moments that test your relationships and your courage to step up on behalf of others, but it’s worth it.

Have Courage to have Authentic Confidence

As women, we need to raise our hands more for the stretch opportunities that present themselves throughout our careers. There is plenty of research out there that indicates women can have a higher tendency to doubt themselves. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned to reflect on my strengths and to know what I am uniquely good at. I have also learned where I need to surround myself with great talent. I like to call this having “authentic confidence.” When I threw my hat in the ring for my current role as President of Google Marketing Solutions, there was a pool of very qualified candidates. I really wanted this position because I was passionate about helping small businesses grow in the digital marketplace (I grew up in Michigan where my grandparents ran a general store and my parents a plumbing and heating business). I reminded myself that if I was selected, it was because they were prioritizing the qualities that I am uniquely good at. If I was not, they likely wanted someone with different skills. I had the authentic confidence to stretch myself for the job I wanted.

The next time you are put to the test, think about what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. These are the moments that help us grow, believe in ourselves, and become even stronger.”