Transparent ‘Googliness’ helps make great business leaders

The regional head of Google answers questions put to him by a group of students at the Swiss International School in Dubai.

Lino Cattaruzzi, Google’s general manager for the region, speaks at the Swiss International School in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Lino Cattaruzzi is the regional director of Google. Before moving to Dubai five months ago, Mr Cattaruzzi worked for the tech company in Mexico, Ireland, Argentina and the United States. He has also held managerial positions at AOL Latin America. Last week, the 42-year-old from Argentina gave a talk to children at Swiss International School in Dubai, where his own two children go to school. During the hour-long session, he fielded questions from pupils about what it is really like to work in the top echelons of Google, which has more than 60,000 employees. These are some of the questions they asked:

What do you look for in an employee?

We have four dimensions – how smart they are, how much they know about what they would be doing, leadership potential and what we call “Googliness”, which is respect for people’s culture and diversity. We want to be open. We have a very flat organisation where anyone can exchange ideas. We have projects that people collaborate on in all continents – although possibly not Antarctica. People can come in at whatever time they want to the office, on any day, and wear what they want. But this freedom can only be used effectively if you set the right framework. This is called “OKRs” – Objectives and Key Results. If you come into the office for many hours, we clap, but if you only come in for a bit of time, we clap too, as long as your objectives are being met.

What makes a great business leader?

You can get much more from a person if you inspire them. We have this project, Project Loon, about releasing balloons really high, which move into the stratosphere and connect people all around the world through antennas. The aim of this project is to connect every person in the world – even in the middle of nowhere – because, in developing countries, technology changes lives. A good leader is also open and dedicated to every single person, regardless of their role in the organisation. Transparency is essential. Sometimes we have a piece of information that is confidential, but we try to share as much information as we can.

Are there challenges related to working in the Arabian Gulf?

When you have a homogenous population, it’s easier to predict how you can serve them better. Here, you have people from so many backgrounds – it’s challenging for us to understand how to serve them better. It’s not just about the search engine. When you watch a video on YouTube, what’s the next video we should suggest to you? What are you looking for? It’s easy to say “rose”, but is it the colour, the flower, or Rose, the French singer, that you’re looking for? The second challenge specific to the Gulf is that you have great differences in wealth and access. There are people with many devices who are connected at the fastest possible speed, and people who are very sensitive to every megabyte or gigabyte, and have slow connectivity. Similarly, there’s one common language in the region, but a person in Oman will speak different Arabic to a Saudi. To make advertising relevant, we need to understand what consumers are looking for, which is challenging here.

What is your favourite Google app?

YouTube. I learn every day on YouTube. It’s easy to guess the second – the search engine. If one day we didn’t have this app any more, my life would stop.

How does Google make money?

We make about 90 per cent of our revenue from advertising. The second is technology around advertising and the third is the Cloud. The Cloud is a combination of storage, so being able to put content in servers on Google. It computes, which is processing power using very complex calculations. Instead of using different devices for these calculations, you just use the server and you pay for the amount that you use. We also have all these other applications like machine learning, which will be huge. In Google Translate, we use past translations and content created by others to improve. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of pieces of sentences that we use to improve our translation.

How will Google be influencing the world 10 years from now?

Go back to 2007, when I was joining Google, if you told me that the company would be mastering machine learning and beginning to work on life extension, I’m not sure I would’ve listened. Many of the things in this world that require manual labour are going to be reduced. Google participates actively in inventing the software that the machines of the future will run on. Google will also be busy analysing data to make decisions, developing augmented reality and making money from health care and driverless cars.

Why is Google actually called Google?

There’s this very long number called a “googol”. The founders of the company thought this was very cool, but they changed it to Google.

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