'Intense, inspiring, and energizing:' Google Cloud's Alison Wagonfeld on her work

Google Cloud's VP of marketing shares what brought her to Google—and what her experience has been like so far.

What was your path to Google Cloud?

A Google recruiter reached out in early 2016 and asked, “Did I know Diane Greene?” “Of course,” I replied. While I didn’t know her personally, how could I be a woman in tech, focusing on enterprise cloud, and NOT know Diane Greene? I had been following her career for years, and more recently, I had been actively reading about her new role at Google, leading Google’s embrace of enterprise.

“Diane is looking to hire a chief marketing officer to help build the Google Cloud businesses,” the recruiter, Roopa, mentioned. “Would you be open to meeting with her?” I paused for a moment, the question catching me a little off guard. I was eager to meet Diane, and as an enterprise cloud investor, I wanted to learn more about Google’s initiatives. So I said yes.

That breakfast was a career altering encounter, the kind that you have only a handful of times in your working life. In fact, I can picture all of these pivotal meetings across my 25-year career. In each of those conversations, I can recall the adrenaline that comes with opportunity: The excitement of tackling new challenges; the allure of riding the innovation wave; the anticipation of the unknown. Yet that excitement is often coupled with a tinge of fear. Fear of navigating a new environment. Fear of wanting a role and potentially not getting it. Fear of leaving people that you like and respect.

My initial breakfast with Diane sparked all of these emotions. The conversation was far-reaching, and the time flew by. My mind was buzzing when I left, thinking about the enormous opportunity for Google to expand its technology for enterprises. I could barely get to the car before calling my husband, David, catching him by surprise. “It was so much fun to talk with Diane. I think I am going to take her up on her offer to meet with others on the Google Cloud teams.”

There’s a tremendous opportunity to transform so many businesses with the power of our cloud technology.

I talked with David that evening. We agreed that the marketing role sounded incredible — creative, strategic, complex, interesting, impactful. But we also knew it would be demanding — a bigger team, more commuting, more travel, more meetings — and with three kids, ages 10, 12, and 14, that was an important consideration.

How did you make the decision to come to Google?

Over the next few weeks, I met with several other super-smart execs at Google, while personally thinking through what it might mean to “go back into an operating role.” (At the time, I was a partner at Emergence Capital, a venture firm investing in enterprise cloud start-ups). It was an interesting period of self-discovery, and I realized that (1) I’ve always loved marketing, (2) I’m an operator at heart, (3) I have an incredibly supportive family, and (4) the opportunity to make an impact is perhaps the biggest driver of my career decisions. The meetings at Google also renewed my respect for the Google culture — I had written two case studies about the company while running the HBS California Research Center — Keeping Google “Googley” (2008) and Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? (2013). It was fascinating to think about immersing myself in the company worthy of so much research.

I consulted judiciously with family and friends. I was surprised by the consistent advice: If I was offered the role, I should “go for it.” Interestingly, I heard the same message from my close friends who didn’t even know me when I was running marketing elsewhere. But they saw my energy and excitement for this role, and encouraged me to give it a shot. I asked around about Diane, constantly hearing stories of her excellence. I dug into Google’s commitment to the enterprise, and heard from multiple sources that Google was excited to expand in this direction.

As the interviews progressed, I felt increasingly conflicted about leaving my previous role. Was I crazy to consider leaving a job that I loved? But when I received the offer from Google to join Diane’s team as VP of Marketing, the answer was clear: this was the right role at the right company at the right time.

How would you describe your time thus far?

A couple of words come to mind: intense, inspiring, and energizing. It’s amazing to be at a company with so many smart and motivated people. Google is changing the way businesses collaborate and serve their customers with transformational cloud-based technology, it doesn’t get more inspiring than that! And I’m floored by the speed at which we are moving. I have an entrepreneurial background, and I’ve always had a bias to action. It’s amazing to me that a company the size of Google works with that same speed.

What are the big opportunities ahead for you and your team?

Sometimes when you’re living and breathing the cloud, it’s easy to forget that it’s still very much early days in this space. It’s estimated that the cloud is a $1 trillion market opportunity, and yet only 5% of the market has moved to the cloud. There’s a tremendous opportunity to transform so many businesses with the power of our cloud technology. I get particularly excited when I think about how companies can use machine learning in fields such as healthcare, education, and manufacturing. I loved learning about how Google saved 40% on energy costs in our own data centers through machine intelligence.

I’m also excited that we just launched G Suite, an entirely new brand for our apps product family. G Suite is an intelligent set of apps—Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts, and more—designed to bring people together to move faster and achieve more. I’m excited about bringing this to market in a big and powerful way.

'Intense, inspiring, and energizing:' Google Cloud's Alison Wagonfeld on her work

Google Cloud's VP of marketing shares what brought her to Google—and what her experience has been like so far.

What was your path to Google Cloud?

A Google recruiter reached out in early 2016 and asked, “Did I know Diane Greene?” “Of course,” I replied. While I didn’t know her personally, how could I be a woman in tech, focusing on enterprise cloud, and NOT know Diane Greene? I had been following her career for years, and more recently, I had been actively reading about her new role at Google, leading Google’s embrace of enterprise.

“Diane is looking to hire a chief marketing officer to help build the Google Cloud businesses,” the recruiter, Roopa, mentioned. “Would you be open to meeting with her?” I paused for a moment, the question catching me a little off guard. I was eager to meet Diane, and as an enterprise cloud investor, I wanted to learn more about Google’s initiatives. So I said yes.

That breakfast was a career altering encounter, the kind that you have only a handful of times in your working life. In fact, I can picture all of these pivotal meetings across my 25-year career. In each of those conversations, I can recall the adrenaline that comes with opportunity: The excitement of tackling new challenges; the allure of riding the innovation wave; the anticipation of the unknown. Yet that excitement is often coupled with a tinge of fear. Fear of navigating a new environment. Fear of wanting a role and potentially not getting it. Fear of leaving people that you like and respect.

My initial breakfast with Diane sparked all of these emotions. The conversation was far-reaching, and the time flew by. My mind was buzzing when I left, thinking about the enormous opportunity for Google to expand its technology for enterprises. I could barely get to the car before calling my husband, David, catching him by surprise. “It was so much fun to talk with Diane. I think I am going to take her up on her offer to meet with others on the Google Cloud teams.”

There’s a tremendous opportunity to transform so many businesses with the power of our cloud technology.

I talked with David that evening. We agreed that the marketing role sounded incredible — creative, strategic, complex, interesting, impactful. But we also knew it would be demanding — a bigger team, more commuting, more travel, more meetings — and with three kids, ages 10, 12, and 14, that was an important consideration.

How did you make the decision to come to Google?

Over the next few weeks, I met with several other super-smart execs at Google, while personally thinking through what it might mean to “go back into an operating role.” (At the time, I was a partner at Emergence Capital, a venture firm investing in enterprise cloud start-ups). It was an interesting period of self-discovery, and I realized that (1) I’ve always loved marketing, (2) I’m an operator at heart, (3) I have an incredibly supportive family, and (4) the opportunity to make an impact is perhaps the biggest driver of my career decisions. The meetings at Google also renewed my respect for the Google culture — I had written two case studies about the company while running the HBS California Research Center — Keeping Google “Googley” (2008) and Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? (2013). It was fascinating to think about immersing myself in the company worthy of so much research.

I consulted judiciously with family and friends. I was surprised by the consistent advice: If I was offered the role, I should “go for it.” Interestingly, I heard the same message from my close friends who didn’t even know me when I was running marketing elsewhere. But they saw my energy and excitement for this role, and encouraged me to give it a shot. I asked around about Diane, constantly hearing stories of her excellence. I dug into Google’s commitment to the enterprise, and heard from multiple sources that Google was excited to expand in this direction.

As the interviews progressed, I felt increasingly conflicted about leaving my previous role. Was I crazy to consider leaving a job that I loved? But when I received the offer from Google to join Diane’s team as VP of Marketing, the answer was clear: this was the right role at the right company at the right time.

How would you describe your time thus far?

A couple of words come to mind: intense, inspiring, and energizing. It’s amazing to be at a company with so many smart and motivated people. Google is changing the way businesses collaborate and serve their customers with transformational cloud-based technology, it doesn’t get more inspiring than that! And I’m floored by the speed at which we are moving. I have an entrepreneurial background, and I’ve always had a bias to action. It’s amazing to me that a company the size of Google works with that same speed.

What are the big opportunities ahead for you and your team?

Sometimes when you’re living and breathing the cloud, it’s easy to forget that it’s still very much early days in this space. It’s estimated that the cloud is a $1 trillion market opportunity, and yet only 5% of the market has moved to the cloud. There’s a tremendous opportunity to transform so many businesses with the power of our cloud technology. I get particularly excited when I think about how companies can use machine learning in fields such as healthcare, education, and manufacturing. I loved learning about how Google saved 40% on energy costs in our own data centers through machine intelligence.

I’m also excited that we just launched G Suite, an entirely new brand for our apps product family. G Suite is an intelligent set of apps—Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts, and more—designed to bring people together to move faster and achieve more. I’m excited about bringing this to market in a big and powerful way.