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Episode 54:

Love as an Advocacy Strategy 

This week we are joined by Katharine English, a leader at Google Cloud. We have some insightful and important conversations around women in tech, inclusion in the workplace, and how DEI should be addressed today. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

JeffProfile

Jeff Ma
Host

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Katherine English

Katharine English
Innovation and Transformation Lead, Cloud Solutions Studio at Google 

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ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma
In today's episode of love as a business strategy, we have an amazing and deep conversation with Katherine English, a leader at Google Cloud. She shares some raw and honest stories and insights that lead to truly insightful discussions about women in tech inclusion in the workplace and how the DEI should be addressed today. I learned a lot and I think you will too. So enjoy the show.

Jeff Ma
Hello, and welcome to love as a business strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. As you know, we're here to talk about business that we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the centre of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma, and I'm a director here at Softway, a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offer services that helps build resilience and high performance company cultures. I'm joined today by my good friend Chris Pitre Vice President at Softway. Hey, Chris, how's it going?

Chris Pitre
Going Well, so glad to be here today.

Jeff Ma
And our special guest today is the global transformation lead at Google Cloud. Katherine English. Welcome to the show. Katherine. How are you today?

Jeff Ma
I'm doing great, Jeff. Hey, Chris. How's it going?

Jeff Ma
Good. So glad to see you again. . Yeah. History. We love history. What's the history?

Chris Pitre
Katherine was my former boss and supervisor. I don't know if we use that word anymore, boss, but she was my leader at my previous organisation before Softway called Astadia.

Jeff Ma
Very cool. Very cool. It's awesome to have you, Captain. And I know you've built a really impressive career and hold such deep experience in the big tech and media. I'm really excited. And looking forward to picking your brain today, around the passions you have for innovation, as well as your perspective as being a woman in big tech, and in all kinds of topics. I'm really excited to do that. Before we begin, we have an icebreaker we like to do. And I'll make First I'll give Chris the question. You'll have the same question. Do you have more time to think about it? Chris hates that. But we do it anyway. So Chris, icebreaker question today is, besides your cell phone and computer, what is one piece of technology you cannot live without?

Chris Pitre
My Apple TV? Oh,I watch all the shows. Like Like I see just about everything no getting. So I watch a lot of content.And for me that is something that is like a must have if I'm going to be stationary somewhere like my house.

Jeff Ma
Got it? Makes sense. It checks out. Katherine, same question, do you besides yourself on a computer, what is one piece of technology you cannot live without?

Katharine English
I would have to say it's my connected home. And this is not something that would have even occurred to me five or six years ago. But from my doorbell to my cameras, we recently moved to a very large, mixed use live workspace. So we have 10,000 square feet. And it would be impossible to figure out what's going on in any given room if we weren't able to use our apps to talk to each other. I can tell my smart home device to start a timer. Find a recipe, show me how to make a festive cocktail. And I have found that I am incredibly reliant on this now. And it saves me so much time. And I feel like I have another friend in the house.

Jeff Ma
So true, I didn't have an answer to this question too. He just said that and I now share the exact same answer. I didn't realise how much that was an important part of my life as well. Great answer.

Katharine English
I know just remember those analogue days when you were leafing through cookbooks Gosh, what is even a cookbook

Jeff Ma
Okay, let's let's dive into this Katherine there's a lot I want to talk about. But let's start off from the basics. Can you give a little bit about you your background, your experience and your your passions really could you give us as much or as little as you can, but um, so

Katharine English
I have taken a very unconventional journey into the world of tech. I started in journalism in print, as a as an editor for a small magazine, later a small newspaper and in the early 90s this thing called the internet kind of popped into my purview, I randomly applied to a job as a, as a website reviewer for a little known company at the time called point communications, which was later acquired by Lycos. And some of you who are old enough to remember Lycos may recall that it was the first consumer facing search engine. And I turned myself into a product manager after spending a lot of time with engineers who had fabulous ideas on how to surface the most incredible relevant material possible on a web that was still very much the Wild West. How to make that consumer friendly. And so without knowing anything about product management, I made the leap to product management. From there, I went to CNET, I was working on a stealth search product there that was acquired by NBC. So I made the leap to television, in digital, and ultimately, that led me on a path to Microsoft, and now Google. So it's been, it's been an interesting ride with lots of twists and turns, and none of them in a straight line.

Jeff Ma
That's amazing. That's incredible. Like you've done it all it sounds like.

Katharine English
Now there are some things I haven't done. But we'll talk about that bar poll another time.

Jeff Ma
So I'm wondering where where does that have led you today? So Where? Where do your passions today lie? What do you what do you find meaning in your current career and in your life?

Katharine English
Well, I think my journey has been a physical manifestation of the power of change, and the rapid acceleration of technological change, and how that has not only impacted consumer behaviours, and I can remember, you know, back in the late 90s, thinking about how the rise of the Internet had just absolutely fundamentally up into the way we look for information, find information and exchange information, the impact it had on the news media, which initially was super explosive and positive. And now we've seen, you know, a roller coaster of other kinds of impacts and challenges to that industry. But change is constant. And our ability to respond to that change, embrace it, and lean into it, as opposed to back away from it or become even further entrenched, which is what I saw happening. And television, for example, is the thing that holds us back from progress. And that too, is a double edged sword. So progress, to what end? Are we making people's lives better? are we creating efficiencies and economies of scale? Or are we inadvertently or sometimes even deliberately creating chasms of inequity? So all of those are really interesting challenges to tackle. But the constant is change. And what do you do with that change and how you respond to change? It makes the difference in whether you're going to be a leader in the industry, advancing innovation, new ideas, progress, or if you're going to use change in a less humanitarian way, I guess.Does that make sense? Yeah.

Chris Pitre
That does make sense. And I, it sounds like from a, a person who has worked alongside you, that no matter how constant that changes, I know many of our discussions when we were sort of travelling around the world was around the cultural side of that change, right? So the fact that culture plus change go hand in hand, you can't do one without the other. And I remember you, you had this term that I now see other people using, but you say we, we had a company that was merging, and we were being bought out and sold and put back together. And used to say like, we haven't really completed the merger when it came to the cultures because we had those different sort of companies that had their own cultures and own teams, the dynamics coming into one team that had to sell, execute, and sort of operate as one and most of our problems as you remember were people and that really sort of the technology side of it, but umCurious,you having sort of seen all of these different industries and different organisations? Is that true? You know, are true. Were then maybe just the instance where we work together. Do you see that problem or that that being common?

Katharine English
I definitely do. And you see it. I've seen it in big tech, as well as smaller consultancies, like, you know, where you and I shared our experiences. I, you think about Google and Google Cloud, and Google is a company that for the most part has grown up more organically than it has purposefully. And I would say, the purposeful nature of its maturation has come probably in the last 10 years or so. And Google Cloud, for me is, is one of the best examples of a purposeful growth initiative, where you have a leadership organisation that's looking for the most experienced the best, the brightest, across the tech ecosystem writ large. And as a result, you're pulling people in from multiple different cultures, multiple different geos, multiple different historical, personal perspectives. And it's some real soup, and trying to find some cultural cohesion. It's, it's bumpy. I think, because of the legacy of Google's imprint, and we all came to Google, those of us who are relatively new and I had come from Microsoft, we all came with different experiences. It's the unifying thread of what makes us great. That is the hardest to define. When you build a company that fast and put that many different people with that many different backgrounds and, and orientations together. In a in a pot. It is literally it is a bubbling. To borrow an analogy from one of our favourite foods. Chris, a bubbling gumbo, the guise of like gumbo.

Chris Pitre
You can't ever take one thing away, or distinguish one thing as being critical. Like when you when it's homemade. I can't talk about store or restaurant made. Homemade.

Katharine English
I don't know about restaurant gumbo.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, homemade gumbo. I know it's really hard to separate the ingredients. And you know, everything is critical and everything sort of blends and there isn't one single thing. That's great, unless you add okra and it changes the whole thing. And you're like, but who did this?That's another religion. We can get into the gumbo or not but the

Katharine English
religion of okra.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, but I hear you So no, that's, that's really interesting, because I can imagine that, you know, in tech, and this is just from my anecdotal experience, being a woman in tech typically presents another set of challenges that isn't true. And some other industries, as well as in companies that have sort of that, that Pinnacle, or that marking of being sort of the biggest and the baddest, and the best. So I'm curious to understand, like, if you can talk more about that, because I can, I'm not a woman, but I have heard stories from women, especially in the tech space and the different treatment, but also the way opportunities are presented the way conversations take place. It is a little bit of a different experience from maybe a man.

Katharine English
That's a great question. And it's it's layered, and it's complicated. As a woman, who I mean, I started my professional journey in the 80s. So I'm old. And we no matter what industry you were in, and I'll lead us into tech, but we had so few role models. And you know, I'm going back to the days where you were expected to wear pantyhose and skirts to the office. I mean, please 98 degrees out 100% humidity and you want me to wear what? So it you know we we've come from a time where we behaved the way we were thought to behave. And we put our professional personas forward based on what men presented. And so our behaviours flowed from that and, and there's such a conflict there because men can be aggressive and they're applauded and rewarded for it. If a woman is aggressive then she's the B word. So, and I think we've we've come a little bit further away from that, I think we've learned how to be assertive without having to be aggressive. We've learned to develop confidence from what we know about ourselves from within, or certainly I could say I have, but but it took me two decades to get there. In tech, in particular, because it is it, it is largely a male dominated field. And Google actually just released their their latest DEI report, and we're making progress, but we are still an organisation that is largely dominated by males, and mostly white males. And that has just kind of been, you know, it has been the status quo for so long, because companies are harvesting from the same schools, the same profiles, and our internal, you know, maybe unconscious biases attract us to people who seem like us. So if you have white men in hiring authority positions, they're going to be hiring people that feel more like themselves. And, and it becomes difficult if you problem solve differently, as I think many women do. You approach problems differently, you approach leadership slightly differently. You may even approach if you're a technical woman in business, you may approach product development and coding differently. And I think we are just still not there yet in understanding how those differences are a strength versus something that makes us feel uncomfortable, because not everybody's, you know, running in the same direction. It kind of goes back to that gumbo analogy that, you know, it takes a shrimp and a clam and an oyster. Okay, Nobody puts clams in gumbo, but, you know, yeah, but it really takes all of those ingredients. And the most important piece of advice I would have for younger women coming up is don't look to the men for your role models. Even if you don't see a woman role model who's nearby, or in your immediate group, find one, look for ways to network and gain mentorship from other women who can really help you see another way forward. Because for me, for the longest time, I just acted like a man. I thought that was how you how you succeeded and it works for a while. But I think eventually you start to realise that your authenticity has been degraded as a result of that.

Chris Pitre
I know personally, for me, I'll share my experience. But when I look back at my career, whenever I had a woman leader, I grew significantly, in all senses of the word right financially. Developmental wise skillset wise exposure, like it was always a situation where I knew that if I was sort of being led by a woman, it was a more positive experience for me, right, and I'm not discounting any of the male leaders, it's just when In comparison, my growth was way more pronounced and significant under female leaders. And I think it's important for listeners to hear that because it's, I have not heard other men come out and say those types of things. But I'm not trying to put myself on a pedestal for saying that I'm just saying, typically, in business schools and wherever sort of students are getting introduced to the business world. You're a talker, professors and marketing professors are women and like your operations and business, like you sort of see those different, right? You get conditioned, right? And so having strong female leaders early in my career, sort of remove that, that exposure that I think some other folks have, when it comes to business world where you see more men you know, sitting in leadership and decision making roles. And so personally like in listening to you, but also having been led by you, I can honestly attest to like the benefit of having, you know, a woman leading making decisions because, you know, as you call it out all of those unique things, the thing that I will also add is communication. Now, research shows that women are better communicators than men, that is not something that I need to argue, right? If you disagree, you disagree, but research has already proven that. And when you add that layer of, you know, communication, you start to get that inclusion element going you start to get you know, active listening going you start to you know, as you said when you go solve problems differently When your communication skills are more advanced or better, you have more tools to access when it comes to resolving conflict, when it comes to including others when it comes to travelling to or visiting other geos, where you might have to understand what's happening before you can really contribute. So you may talk second and listen first, right? But you see, those things are an eight, and women in this not against discount man, something that some men have these skills as well. But it's just research has proven and even my anecdotal experience has shown that those things contribute to growth for everyone, including the organisation.

Katharine English
Yeah, I think that's right. And I think studies from both McKinsey and Harvard have revealed that companies with more women leaders at the top, making financial decisions, making investment decisions, making product roadmap decisions, tend to have a longer horizon, revenue success, if you will, you know, financial success. Sorry. my time here.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, no mention to be short term thinkers, I'm going to a conference and a presenter was going over the differences between men and women in leadership positions. And this was like a global conference. And they were telling historical stories to sort of show, you know, social proof of these theories. And, you know, in the 1950s, and 40s, when the men were off to war, women had to take over or lead businesses and homes. And that's when you saw lifespans increase. That's when you saw a lot of investment into colleges and education, right? Like he started to see societies as a whole advanced because women were making the decisions while men were at war. Men back home, again, going out to bars. Like those, those kind of short term wins and sort of values and gains were prioritise. When men started coming back into the homes and into businesses, and sort of meeting quarter goals versus annual or five year plans were also prioritised versus why Wall Street is this, we don't need to go and dissect that that's a whole nother

Katharine English
You know, there's a flip side to that too. And I will say that men historically tend to be bigger risk takers than women. And, and I like the fact of having a balance where, you know, you may have a colleague who's chomping at the bit to go do something that's fairly heavy. On the risk side, I think, if women are able to enter into a dialogue, that is a more balanced risk reward assessment, I think collectively, we tend to make better decisions. You know, there's a difference between rushing headlong, you know, into the Riptide versus like, well, there's a way we can do that. If we build this device, quickly, we might have longer term success and penetrate, rather than getting knocked back over and over and over again, sometimes just to give up. And also learning from those failures, I think, I think women are a little better at that. And that may be because of our historical roles as the primary caregivers to our children and our ageing parents. You just I think you have a greater tolerance for one step forward, the half step back.

Jeff Ma
That's something you said earlier, really, I really want to ask about because, you know, love is a business strategy. We're constantly focused on culture and behaviours around culture. And one thing we we end up one of our outcomes that you'll hear a lot is we want people to be able to bring their whole selves to work. We say that a lot we believe in it. It's it's the unspoken sometimes spoken goal of all that we do. I heard you say earlier that you know for 2020 or so years of your career, you had to essentially be someone else or be a man. And I'm curious like are would you say today? You're able to be yourself or bring your whole self to work? And if so, I have some question first that and then and then how and how would others like what do you think attributed to that? And what's the key for a woman in tech or just a woman in general to overcome some of that culture was

Katharine English
I am able to bring my whole self to work today. I I will ask Chris to keep me honest, but I definitely tried to do it as long ago as what was that eight, nine years ago? Yeah. 12 Yeah, I had figured out how to do it by then. And it really took for me getting out of the corporate Melayu and starting my own consulting practice. And I realised that in order to win business, I was going to have to be authentic. And that I would be selling myself, not necessarily what I was capable of doing. People buy people before they buy products and services, they need to have that level of trust. So they need to feel that there's a sincerity coming through. And I think that was the tipping point for me, where, you know, I wasn't influenced so much by all of these, you know, these other actors, I really was pretty self reliant. And once you get into that rhythm, it's it's hard to go back, although, you know, I did go back into a corporate environment after that, and I'm just, I don't think I've ever gone back, you know, I'm, I'm, but it isn't, it's not easy. And I would say particularly, and Chris knows, I shared this article with him, there was recently an article in the Harvard Business Review about the dangers of an overly nice culture. And there's been quite a bit written about that recently. You know, what, what does that mean? And so is your authentic self, a nice person? Is it an honest person? Are you overly frank, are you assertive, I mean, you really, you have to decide for yourself what it is. And it isn't really, it's not about getting people to like you. And I don't mean to take us down a rabbit hole. And I am worried that maybe I have here, a little bit of a rat hole. But it there's, it's what is the balance between your authentic self and your nice self. I mean, your authentic self is just not nice all the time, you know, you're you're going to disagree with people. And so there there is a point to this circle that I'm in, which is, I think, particularly in a post, while we're not out of the woods yet, but it's getting close to a post pandemic world, we hope at least, there has been an emphasis in a lot of cultures, particularly in big tech to, well, let's think about our employees well being and let's, let's make sure they can bring their whole selves to work. And let's make sure that they're able to deal with family and other kinds of personal demands, while at the same time, you know, showing up for the task at hand. And, and I think that has pushed some companies into this overly nice area where I think that tends to put us in positions where we're just we're not being as truthful and authentic with one another because we're focused on let's be nice. And I apologise if that was a super circuitous ramble. But

Jeff Ma
it's really good, actually, you're speaking my language, because I love with you. I love what you're saying. I think it's incredibly important to talk about these things, whether it's just about you know, women in the workplace, but also just this nice, nasty issue is a big problem, when it comes to what we're facing today in the world in terms of just a company's own self awareness of their own culture. Because the most dangerous part of that nice nastiness is that it makes you feel like or at least to some people, especially people in decision making positions, that your culture is good, because they associate a good culture with niceness, like everyone gets along. And on the surface, we're all happy holding hands and singing Kumbaya. When really, like you said, I love what you just said that you don't bring your true self to work, you know, that our true selves have a lot of not nice parts. Like that's the reality that we there's a bunch of parts of us that are real, that are nice. And I think that's so so powerful. It's so important. Thank you for sharing that.

Katharine English
Well, there's there's a tether that goes back to this idea of change to that, I think, if if we never disagree, or if we build a consensus driven culture where we're just Alright, we've got to get everybody on the same page. No. Why, why, why, why? Why? I mean, can't we agree just to disagree, and then let's commit to the outcome and go forward and do our best. I think when we don't air our differences, and we don't have open debateEven if it's heated, as long as it doesn't get ugly and personal but heated debate, you don't move the needle takes far too long to make decisions. Sometimes decisions just don't get made at all. And you wind up in this black hole of inertia. It's just I think it's critically important to disagree and being nice to each other doesn't mean we all to your point, Jeff, skip hands and saying, hands hold hands and skip. Hold hands and jump rope. And like that's that's not what it's about. It's, it's, it's, and it that goes back to what you were saying, Chris, about active listening. really listen, you know, you're saying something that I fundamentally disagree with? How can I open myself up enough to let that in? And and see where it goes?

Chris Pitre
And I think you told me to hold you honest, when you started to answer this question. And I can honestly say that working with you, you were always, you know, I would out like, at times, it was funny, because that's my style of humour. But you are just Frank and sort of blunt with things, especially when you're in a safe space, where it's like, I would just you and me or you, me and a few others, like you never held back even if you like we were making this decision, I disagree with it. This is not what I wanted. But unfortunately, it's something that I do have to enforce. So we do have to go along with, right like you were always Frank in those manners in that regard. And you were also always yourself, like you always, like you told stories of your mistakes. And I think that that's a rare thing for leaders to do. Right, like, and some, some of them are hilarious, and everyone will put you on the spot and make you share them here. But you know, when I recall, like the things that you share in terms of what you've done in your career, and like, what some people today might consider, you know, fodder for entertainment. But it was just it was like that you actually did those things. And you don't mind sharing that. And I can honestly tell you, those kind of stories made it that much easier for me to be self aware in moments where I could see myself doing the same thing. But because you have shared that you've already done the mistake, I don't have to commit it, I'd have to make it because it doesn't lead to the outcomes that perhaps your flesh might tell you in the moment. And so I just remember you doing those kinds of things and sharing those kinds of stories and those kind of vulnerable moments in your own career and life throughout our time working together. That made your authentic authenticity, something that I never questioned, I never questioned whether you were telling me the truth when we spoke ever.

Katharine English
Thank you for that.I do you think it's essential for people to acknowledge their mistakes. I had something happened recently with somebody on my team, relative newcomer to the team newcomer to the company, was super passionate about a specific practice area that he wanted to pursue. And I felt like, you know, we had so much white noise going on, and everybody's pet projects that like this, here's one more, and we don't have room for it. And I wasn't convinced that it belonged in our charter. It, it felt to me like this particular initiative was that should be in somebody else's organisation that doesn't really belong in ours. And he was adamant, and he may not have been, as diplomatic about advancing his cause as I might have liked him to be. But and if you're out there listening, you know who you are. But, you know, he, he just kept doing it, he kept advancing his cause incrementally and demonstrating the value in in his, in his approach and his rationale for wanting to just spin up this particular practice area. And he was right. I mean, as it turned out, I was wrong. I was too narrowly focused. It our customers, there was demand for this in the field, both from our wider sales organisation but also from our customers. And he is now in the process of building out a practice for this and I had to go back to him and and apologise and say, Hey, you made a believer out of me. That was a rough ride. And, you know, I said some things that I regret, like, get off of this. It ain't going anywhere you drain then I was wrong. And I think if if I hadn't been able to say that to him, what what what does that say about me? This is something that's going to benefit The entire practice and you know, ultimately, I hope all of all of Google Cloud and I, you know, and that's a mild thing. I've done some really crazy things like stand on desks and screaming, you know, very important people, things like that.

Chris Pitre
But when it comes to any leader story, Val one is my absolute favourite, I bet we shouldn't have favourites of people's mistakes. But just like that story was just so Oh, it's so good.

Katharine English
Oh, my gosh, and this is an example of, you know, the results of looking to others to frame and shape your leadership style. And in television in particular. And I think this is become nowhere. As more revealed as it has been in the wake of the me to movement, a lot of bad behaviour is tolerated, just in the creative industries in general. And I watched, I was working for a major television network, and I was watching a lot of incredibly bad behaviour, have absolutely no consequences afterwards, tantrums being thrown. And, you know, people being publicly humiliated and berated in front of colleagues and peers. And, you know, I thought, well, this is working like so and so's got the corner office, and well, why do I need to behave? So I was trying to get something on the air on the digital air that was controversial, and not really in line with standards and practices. And the head of business affairs for our division, basically came in to tell me the news that like, Look, you got to find another way to frame this thing up. It's not gonna fly the way it is. And I exploded, I first climbed up onto my chair, and this is a guy who this is classic power move, by the way, like I'm higher than you, you know, I'm sitting in the higher chair. I'm standing on the higher step. This guy was sitting on the sofa in my office. Yes, you have sofas when you work for media company. And first I sit up on my chair, and then that that not being high enough. I literally got up onto my desk and was screaming and calling this guy horrible. names. I mean, f bombs everywhere. I mean, f hauls y'all go back to the trailer you crawled out of and you know, whatever, Burg and Indiana, he came from it just awful. was so awful. Just, you know, and horrible thing is afterwards, I just I felt great. It's like what showed him? Yeah, all. And the thing is, my staff were horrified. Like, they were in the next room. They'd never seen me do anything like this. And it was you could have heard a pin drop, they were silent. And, you know, I walk into the conference room was like, well, I showed him and everybody's just like, wow, I wonder if she's gonna get fired tomorrow. And here, here are two important lessons. One is a complete and utter lack of self awareness on my part, butter and in turn, showing a complete and utter disrespect for someone who was just trying to do their job. And, you know, the standards and practice guidelines, you know, came not from him, they weren't out of his head. It's a body of work. And I showed myself weak and ineffective in front of my staff. And I nearly got fired.Now what a man have been fired, probably not. But I nearly got fired for that. And, honestly, it's a miracle that I wasn't fired, and I should have been fired. And I had to eat crow for a long time after that, and this great trajectory that I was on and you know, getting headcount budget and resources came to a screeching halt. Because, you know, there was some very real question around whether or not I had the professionalism and maturity to handle any additional responsibility. So that was a turning point for me as well. And it was not too long after that, actually, that I this maybe a couple of years later that I started my own consulting practice and that episode has come back to haunt me many times when I've been angry at a colleague or a customer or a client That, you know, Chris, you use you said something to me years ago that I, you know, I, I adopted it into my mantra, this is like a credo for me, you have to meet people where they are. And it's not that I had never heard it before, I had never heard it the way you said it and applied it in your daily life in your daily interactions with staff and customers. I've never forgotten it. I have internalised it. And it's something I failed to do that day that I stood up on the desk and absolutely humiliated myself. And it's, it is just, it's just, yeah, yeah.

Chris Pitre
And what I again, that story, it's hilarious. It'll be a great reality TV show. I'm waiting for a real house. It's just like getting there do that. But it was a story that has stuck with me ever since you told me that story, not because of my Haha, Katherine did that. That's funny. But just anybody can do that. Like, if you can do it, then that means that I could get to a place where I lose my core. And I do something like that. And for me, that story really made me sort of introspect, because I'm like, it's not about whether I would do that. It's like, what would make me do that? Because that's the moment that I need to be really self aware in. And I think few people take the time to take stock of don't question or don't dismiss them that she's Oh, I would never do that. Like, I like to ask myself, what would make me do that? Because I'm stronger case.

Katharine English
Yeah, I think that is that's really perceptive. And I think it boils down to a lack of confidence. And I would never have said of myself at that time that I was not a confident person. But that is, that's the truth. I believe that I have become more grounded, and more balanced. Because I have developed confidence in my decision making ability, and my ability to execute, I'm just much more confident. And confidence gives you the courage to listen to an opposing point of view, internalise it and figure out, well, do I have a response to this? Or is this actually a better position to take?

Jeff Ma
No, in my, in my experience, also, like events like that, like the huge kind of boiling overs are usually built up over time, not so much in that exact moment. Right. And I think it connects back to what we talked about earlier, when you work or you exist in an environment of artificial harmony, or a place that values harmony over honesty, as we say, Chris, you're constantly suppressing something, you're constantly in a state of holding back. Yeah, not being yourself. And that's where those moments come from. I wasn't there, obviously. But I can only imagine your outrage was, you know, more than just that day's events. Right. It was, it was a comp, you know, a compilation of a lot of other feelings of injustice and other things that that had built up in that position. And I think it's so key for people to kind of connect those dots. Because when you don't, when you when you go, Oh, yeah, I can be honest overhauling. But what we mean winning honesty, when we say when we promote honesty, over harmony, what we really mean is that, hey, right now, when we just had a conversation, and it was a little bit awkward, let's stop and talk about that. Let's Let's stop and just be like, hey, you said some stuff. You know, it didn't rub me the right way. And I made these nothing. But let's talk about it. Because that conversation right there, releases that pressure valve that day. And you can build a culture that can value that because it's so much easier to say, Hey, we're at time this meetings over. We'll see you tomorrow. And you know, all night you're thinking man, was he trying to he was he trying to like put me down was like an underhanded comment was that like, and it just eats away at you. And then one day, that person comes in your businesses and you're up on a table. So I think this is a really important connection.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, no, I agree. Jeff, like what you just said, essentially, the way I'm interpreting it is that in overly nice cultures and in places where you can't be your authentic self, typically the language that is dominant is silence or offence or both. Where you are silent, but you are also walking away offended and not getting any clarity or resolution until that blow up happens. Or until that that conflict becomes so great that now it's a team thing, and it's beyond Just the two people that I could have stayed with. And that's sometimes what happens in those nice cultures where there was a blowout unexpectedly and I was like, What did I go from? And unfortunately, like, and what's unfortunate about it, Katherine, and I'm gonna say this, and some people might hate me for saying this, but typically it involves a woman. And when you start putting on the biases that are oftentimes portrayed against women, but by being too emotional, etc, right, like, when you have those types of blow ups and blowouts, and these nice cultures, it involves a minority or a woman, right? Like it's, it's, that's typically where you're going to see that conflict, or that sort of, at that event, explode to a degree where it becomes fodder for the office. And something that becomes much bigger than it is. And it's something that we rarely talk about, because it's it one, it feels like we're sort of perpetuating that bias, but to Yeah, it's something that there isn't a conversation where we can honestly say, like, hey, let's talk about all the factors at play in this situation. because it requires honesty, writers, gender, there's race, their socioeconomic status, education, they're like, there's all these other things that are at play in this moment. And we can't talk about it openly and honestly, because it's going to make people uncomfortable, or people going to think that's some card is being pulled from a minority perspective, or, you know, people are gonna think that like, why can't we just move on from this and just forget about this, because, you know, harmony is so much more comfortable for us, like if we just sort of let bygones be bygones, and we don't have to deal with this ever again. And all of those things are problematic, because it sits in that culture, right. And it becomes the expected way to deal with things not a sort of a planned way to or protocol on how to resolve conflict, first interpersonally, with one to one versus in a group and mass.

Katharine English
That's, it's really interesting, that you, you raise the issue of diversity being a factor and in how these kinds of episodes are, are viewed, and how they're treated. And you think about companies, whole industries that are dominated by men who may have and I'm stereotyping here. So I apologise in advance. You know, there's the whole sports culture of, I'm going to tear you up on the field. But I'm going to pat you on the back. And we're going to go have beers together afterwards. That I do think, starts early with, as boys are growing up. And it's probably less the case for girls. I mean, certainly an I wasn't a sports playing kid. I mean, I was forced onto the field hockey team when I was 15. I do think you learn that kind of all fair in love and war, that, for whatever reason, has historically been more difficult for women. Maybe we take things more personally, maybe we internalise things a little differently, maybe there's more of an emotional factor to it. And I think historically, that has been viewed as a negative rather than Oh, this is just a different response. And I do think it's, it's even worse for black women, I absolutely know much worse. You know, there's that whole Well, she's a hysterical black woman, it is so awful. And I have had African American female colleagues talk to me pretty frankly, about this, and how it has driven them out of tech, because it is so heavily dominated by white males still today into other other careers entirely. And, you know, where maybe they feel a more welcoming atmosphere. There's a broader ecosystem of tolerance for diverse points of view and responses. It'sit's a man, this is heavy stuff.

Chris Pitre
Oh, it isn't. It's like, an I I'm sorry. I'll be honest, like, it's something that rarely gets discussed. Because when you start moving away from sort of the things that are icy, which is like the gender, the race, you get into the behaviours like, oftentimes, many office cultures don't really deal with the behaviours of the individuals regardless of the person, right? And if you don't have a foundation of expectation around behaviour, it's really hard to police and what happens is that when extremists or extreme circumstances arise, the standards now change, right? Just like you mentioned, like, oh, white man, sports culture. All's fair in love and war. You know, their response, if they throw a chair is like, Oh, well, he's just angry. He's upset. That'll pass. Right? But if a person of colour or a woman does it, she's crazy. A crazy B word, right? You know, if the minority does it oh bike, huh? They're clearly going to hit somebody or it's going to turn into a violent situation quickly. Right? And yeah, and then the consequences are not even or equal. Right?

Katharine English
Yeah, you're absolutely right. Those are, those are hard things to talk about. And then we should be talking about them more often.

Chris Pitre
Yeah. And so and that's, and so we talk about, like, women in tech. And, you know, I would often say minorities in tech as well, like, they do have a very different experience my sister works for has worked for several large tech companies in her past, and I hear the stories. And I've overheard the calls, even in this pandemic, because we live together, right? Like, the tone that people can take I'm like, is that what we do now like, is that because I can't do that, right. Like, you know, as a person of colour, like I was always taught like, you, you can't have any strikes muscle mom always told, told my sister like you already have one strike, don't add any more like you have to, you know, be better, you have to keep your cool, you have to make sure that you don't, you know, cut your eyes and do all these things, right? Like, that was always in, in sort of infused in our upbringing. Because our consequences are not the same, you know, having someone to go to bat for us or daddy or grandfather, you know, at the top of the company making decisions and protecting it like that. We don't have that cover. And so

Katharine English
that is that is it's it's heartbreaking. To hear this. And I I'm cognizant that it is real. I have a colleague, an African American colleague who said in in leadership off site not long ago, he said, I come to every job with a demerit. I come with that I come with a disadvantage, I come with the knowledge that the white hiring manager across the table from me is giving me a chance. And, you know, to hear that from a super talented, incredibly valuable, wonderful, creative human being who deserves to be where he is today. It's I think this is where, you know, those of us who aren't African American, or Asian American, need to understand how to be better allies. And, you know, I once said to a friend of mine, a longtime friend of mine, an African American woman, I said, How can I be a better ally? And she goes, man, I am sick and tired of you why people come and ask him, me. Just do it. You know, what, you know, why are you asking me for the blueprint? Just look around at your behaviours, and look around at the behaviours of the people around you. And it's, it's, I feel like we are getting better.But we have a long way to go.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, and for me, I always say like Star Wars, self awareness, like, as she's like, if you're aware of how, when you're triggered, what conversations trigger you, when someone else around, you might be getting triggered, right? Like those things that make it a lot easier to know when to sort of step in, right? And there's different ways to sort of ally right, you can sort of move your seat closer to the person who's being sort of marginalised in the moment, and you can reiterate their points, I agree with what that person just said, like we should, then we should reconsider that, right? Like, you can use your voice literally, and extend it to them. Like there's all these small little things that you can do that aren't these big major, like behavioural shifts, or even like, you know, extra time or effort or money. But it's just being one present of mind, saying like, hmm, that is no, right. I know that person and their normal facial reactions, they seem a little bit off, maybe I do need to jump in. And what I'll do is I'll just repeat what they said, and give them credit for it. Or I will, like move my seat next to them to show that I'm in support of what they're going through right now. But I might speak because they may not need my voice per se. Right? I might, you might sort of, you know, invite them to have a have your seat instead of like, hey, actually, I realise I'm not needed here. This person can handle it. Right. And so you defer your power to them and you walk out of the room, right? Like all of those small things become big moments for that ally ship response, right. And I think those are the things that are really hard to for people of colour or people who are marginalised to give to someone asked me to ally and say like, You know, just imagine your child being taken advantage of in the moment, like, chances are you might overreact. But also, if you realise that it's someone a power, you might have different things that you would do to still put yourself between the that person and whoever is taking advantage of them. Right. And so I think it's thinking about how we can do that. And I think even for women in tech, there's still a need for ally ship around, you know, that community, whether they're women of colour, or white women, because they do have those the same needs when it comes to, you know, approximating having men in power, sort of lend their voices, give up their seats, you know, give up, you know, their voices or their share of voice inside of meetings, like, actually, Katherine, you know, this subject way better than I do. Can you can you cover this for this meeting? Or can you explain, or can you show that thought that you were talking about yesterday with me, because I think the team needs to hear it, right, those small little cues that welcome you into the conversation, but also give you a platform and give you that comfort that like, not only did he invite me to speak, he confirmed that what I was speaking about is smart is worth it is like validated. So you have that double confidence going into whatever that invited conversation might be.

Chris Pitre
Those are really incredibly down to earth practical pieces of advice. And I hope everybody thinks about that they're easy things to do.

Chris Pitre
Again,

Jeff Ma
go ahead. And so so these are just really, I think it's so important to kind of just, I just want to touch on because you talked about basically referencing the whole picture, the whole story, which is hard to talk about when it comes to these more complex scenarios. And I think it I just wanted to bring out that, you know, it's really, it's so important that we kind of see what's going on in these spaces when it comes to what someone just didn't call D&I, and things like that, because we have, I'll just give an example. We have these situations where there's people being marginalised as non dominant groups that are actually experiencing the work environment, you know, like, Katherine use view, very, you know, clearly shared your experiences of just having to be somebody else. And we talked about how that can boil up and bubble up and become something. And the problem is, I think, I think the world as much progress as we're making, is still seeing this, there's these two binary results that come out of the end of that. One is either that stereotype is perpetuated or something, you know, a blow up happens and it gets brushed off as, as something that further worsens the, the entire cause. But the the alternative is also that now it's just a DI issue. Now, it's just like, I want to be an ally. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna go analyse every black person I know and make sure I can be very careful how I act around every black person, I know when, to be honest, it needs to be about each and every person. Like it's not how do you treat black people? It's why would you treat anybody that way? Like why would you behave that way to anyone human, you know, at all. And I think that that that conversation is lost, right is lost in these the minutiae of these individual scenarios and what he said she said, and we're not stepping back and Christy said that, that self awareness is where to begin ally ship I, that's where I want to, you know, I'm trying to, I want that message to be clear for people because, you know, the eyes is turned on, we just kind of use like, be like, let's just be aware of these, like, people see it as this like this more, almost more divisive than it is meant to be. When really true inclusion is actually kind of starting at yourself my own behaviours. Oh, did I do that? Do I? When am I doing something subtly against women that I didn't realise Am I doing so in the end, we all have room to grow in that we all have some types in green things you earlier, when you're talking about how we raise young boys, I mean, that's, that's in me, I have a lot to learn and explore about how I view you know, the cutthroat male in the workplace and what I need to be like, that's all something I can explore. And that journey moves me further along inclusion than looking at every other race and gender and understanding how they want ally ship to look like because I don't think that's important ally ship is extremely important, but I think it's so important that people start seeing behaviour at the centre of humanistic behaviour at the centre of true inclusion. And so I'm sorry that diverted I just wanted to put that point

Katharine English
oh, not I think that's such an important thought and, you know, your your reference to dei just sort of becoming this this boilerplate catch all for creating roadmaps for behaviours or principles and standards, you know, by which a company wants to organise itself. It unfortunately I I see this a lot. That it's it's a well meaning initiative, the principles are well articulated, and they're well meaning. But they run the risk of further othering the groups that they are designed to help articularly. And I think, Jeff, you reference something like, we're going to target certain individuals or groups, and I'm going to figure out, you know, how to be better here, when the underlying problems are typically culturally systemic, and not even maliciously. So just, they're just a fact, of conscious bias and the way companies have organically grown up. So putting a layer of a, you know, a DEI, cover on top of it isn't going to change the underlying challenges, if you don't go deep. And I think and really understanding back to Chris's earlier point, this notion of personal accountability and personal awareness, rather than targeting whole groups and saying, you know, what, we're gonna, we're gonna go out there and make sure every African American inside of company acts feels great. And isn't a flight risk, you know, that, to me is a little problematic.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, absolutely.

Chris Pitre
Like, what about the LGBTQIA? Plus? Like, I think, yeah, I mean, who are we not? Yeah, it's Yeah. Like every human should be built to feel like they belong. So we should look at everybody, nobody should be a fight risk, right. That's the ideal organisation. And that's technically what the benefit of hierarchy is, is that it allows for everyone to be taken care of by someone who is in authority position. But unfortunately, hierarchy has become more of a negative and sort of a detriment to organisations more so than a value add, because it's not using the right way issues to manage communication and power, but not care and love and compassion and endearment among your teams.

Katharine English
I really love that analogy. Thinking of leadership, as as caretaking. Is, is really I hate to use the word nice, but it is nice, a nice, a nice picture. I hadn't really thought about it that way. And I don't want it to be you know, paternalistic and like I need a mother. You know, I'm your mother. Yeah. But really just this idea of caregiving and caretaking, stewardship.

Chris Pitre
Still, they still honesty in there, there's no sort of accountability. But you like me, the CEO of Google should not have to try and personally take care of all of you know, the 100 and something 1000 employees that Google has, but that's the point of hierarchy is that someone should all right, at some point, someone should be taking care of a small group within that 140. And if you have enough of that scaled, you can have a system and an organisation with hierarchy that cares and everyone knows that they are cared for, regardless of where they are in the organisation.

Katharine English
And and it does come from the top, you know, that kind of genuine desire to ensure the well being of the entire company comes from the top. And I do have to give Google some props here, particularly during the pandemic. It has been Top of Mind across the entire senior leadership organisation. How are people feeling? Are people feeling overwhelmed? Are they stressed? Are they burned out? Do they have time to care for their families? Have they been hit by a hardship because of illness or a lack of resources for their families? I have to say that that was surprising for me and I had not been in a corporate environment where that level of attention, genuine attention, it you know, including extra time off and global holidays that just pop up for no reason other than there's an awareness that there's added need at this time. That is is unusual. I know there are other companies who are undertaking similar kinds of initiatives. But you know, for a company that is historically known for hard driving hard working, focused. A focused hard driving culture. This was it was welcome.

Jeff Ma
Awesome. That's good to hear. Absolutely. Well, I mean, the time has flown. I just looked up at the clock. Oh, okay. Well, that's an episode. But Katherine, I want to thank you so much for coming today. And really being very open and sharing so much about yourself. So much of your experiences, I was really a really powerful conversation for me to be able to hear from you and your lived experiences, but also have these discussions is really good kind of opening ups of about how we see the world how we see the workplace. It's given me a lot to think about. So thank you so much for for joining us today. Katherine,

Katharine English
thank you for having me. This has been a real pleasure. Always a pleasure to spend time with Chris.

Chris Pitre
Thank you, likewise.

Jeff Ma
Oh, yeah, that too, Chris. Thank you. Thank you for being here. I see him every day. Okay, I'm gonna say

Chris Pitre
yes, you do

Katharine English
Thank you so much for having me. It was a it was a real pleasure,

Jeff Ma
though. Thank you. Thank you and to the audience. Of course, we are posting new episodes every Wednesday. And you can of course, read about our story, our mission to bring humanity back to the workplace by checking out our book. You can visit loveasabusinessstrategy.com for more information on that. If you liked what you heard, be sure to leave a review and share with your friends. And with that, thank you again and we will see everybody next week.

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