On Thursday afternoon, about 3,000 Googlers and 4,700 of their parents packed into a giant amphitheater in Mountain View, California usually reserved for the likes of Tim McGraw or Dave Matthews concerts.
Hailing from all over the United States — including Montana, West Virginia, and Mississippi — and all over the world — including Ukraine, Romania, Qatar, New Zealand, and Serbia — they had come to celebrate Google’s third Take Your Parents to Work Day.
The tradition started casually in Google’s India office a while ago, but first became a big event at its headquarters in 2012, when Google invited parents from all over the world to come “peel back the curtain” by exploring the campus, checking out a bunch of Googler-led classes, seeing some of its innovative new technologies, and pigging out on the plentiful free food.
Thursday’s event started with a series of talks by Google executives, including HR chief Lazlo Bock, and the head of Google’s maps division, Jen Fitzpatrick.
The last speaker was Kirsten Gil, Google’s VP of business operations. After talking about some of Google’s exciting technologies and recent changes — like its revamped corporate structure and its sleek new logo — Gil launched into a more personal story that left many in the audience dabbing at their eyes.
She started by explaining that Googlers often muse about their “magic moments,” the phrase they use to refer to the first time that they noticed something about working at Google that really resonated with them on a deeper level.
Gil’s moment came a few years ago. She was working in business operations and her team was prepping for a big event when she got the terrible news that her father, who had already been ill, wasn’t doing so well. With the blessings of her teammates and the company, she immediately flew home.
While there, helping car for her father, she got an unexpected phone call.
It was Eric Schmidt, the company’s CEO at the time, on the phone to tell her that she was getting promoted to vice president. But the situation got even more unexpected: He asked Gil to hand the phone to her father.
Schmidt, who had heard about her father’s deteriorating health, then proceeded to spend 20 minutes on the phone with him, explaining about the promotion and telling him why Gil was so valuable to the company and such an inspiration to other Googlers.
“I can’t tell you how proud my father was,” Gil says. “Eric had turned this incredibly difficult situation into this incredibly joyous moment.”
Her dad passed away three weeks later.
“I will never forget that ‘magical moment,'” Gil said on stage. “And I knew then that I wanted to be the same type of leader that Eric was when he was supporting me.”
Although Google talks a lot about its mission and innovation, she said, she’s found during her nearly eight years at the company that one of the most important, best things about the company is its people.
She then warmly thanked the parents for coming out, but, even more, for raising children that became such great employees.
“I hope today you can experience some of the things that we see that make this place so special.”
The huge auditorium broke into thunderous applause. Throughout the day, many of the families that we spoke to mentioned Gil’s anecdote as one of their favourite parts. Several said it caused them to tear up.
“Google’s focus on people…” on father ruminated, “That really makes me happy for my daughter.”
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