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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
CINTHIA LOPEZ
Director, Talent Outreach, Google

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March, 2024
Photos by Pablo Roldan

 

What's it like to work at Google?

Joining Google in 2021, after two decades at Capital One, was a transition to a company with a mission just as deeply woven into its culture: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  The most rewarding aspect of working at Google is that we build products with a truly global impact - our work actually changes lives around the world. Being a part of People Operations, I have the unique privilege of finding and connecting with exceptional talent who will drive our mission forward across every Google product. It's an incredibly inspiring experience.

 

What are some pivotal moments or experiences that led to becoming an executive at Google?

In 2015, I pivoted into People Operations (HR) after years in Product Management and later in Risk Management. My cross-functional experiences gave me a unique perspective - it allowed me to approach People Operations with a business-first mindset, where our people are our most valuable product. I embraced diverse roles within People Ops, focusing on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Learning & Development, and Recruiting. It was this well-rounded experience that made me a compelling candidate to Google when they needed a People Operations executive to lead Talent Outreach for them.

 

In what ways do you believe your diverse perspective as a Latina executive has contributed to the success of your teams or projects?

As a Latina leader, I deeply value connection, collaboration, and finding common ground. Our Latinx community, while incredibly diverse, shares a core set of values and a culture of connection. At a leadership training some years ago, I discovered my superpower: ‘generosity of spirit.’ This ability to find unity and celebrate differences across my teams has been vital to our team’s success. It fosters an environment where people feel empowered to contribute, which ultimately drives stronger business results and builds a more resilient team.

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Have you encountered any specific challenges or barriers as a Latina professional climbing the corporate ladder? How did you navigate through them?

As a Latina, one of the biggest challenges I faced climbing the corporate ladder was overcoming a cultural mindset of humility that felt at odds with stating my career goals and asking for help. To this day, I still say “Gracias a Dios” or “Si Dios lo permite” about almost everything.  It took time and coaching to authentically advocate for myself and directly ask my managers and leaders for their support in achieving my ambitions. At Google, I have been pleasantly surprised by how open leaders have been to supporting my career goals. I've learned that self-advocacy, clarity about aspirations, and asking for help are essential for success, but still don't come naturally to me.

 

What strategies or initiatives have you personally implemented or supported to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within Google's workplace?

As Director of Talent Outreach, I have spearheaded our investment in scaled tools and technologies that expand how we identify and connect with top talent (from students all the way to executives). By meeting candidates where they are, regardless of their alma mater, past companies, or physical location, we break down barriers and create a stronger and more representative Google.

Within my team, I prioritize the equitable distribution of work and opportunities. I understand that access to high-profile projects and roles can shape career trajectories, so intentional distribution is critical.

I also actively engage with the Google Latinx Leadership Council (LLC), empowering the Latinx community both inside and outside the company. I firmly believe that supporting and advancing our diverse communities is essential for building a more inclusive workplace.

As a successful executive, how do you balance your professional responsibilities with personal commitments or community involvement?

Balance is an ongoing daily endeavor/practice. I give myself grace for the days I get it right and the days I don't, knowing I can reset tomorrow. I've learned that the path to balance is not a solo journey. Asking for help from my team, friends, and my partner is essential. To lead by example, I openly share my personal commitments on my calendar with my team, demonstrating that sometimes "life happens during work," and occasionally, "work happens during life." My hope is that this transparency and vulnerability help create a culture of understanding and mutual support.

 

Could you share some insights into your approach to mentorship and sponsorship, especially in supporting aspiring Latino professionals within Google?

Mentors and sponsors are essential for navigating career growth. Mentors are there to provide guidance and share their expertise - you should be specific about your needs and goals to maximize their impact. Sponsors, on the other hand, actively advocate for you. To earn their sponsorship, be clear about your aspirations and ensure they know your work firsthand. I've personally benefited from exceptional mentors and sponsors, and in turn, I prioritize both formal and informal mentorship, along with actively sponsoring talent from all backgrounds, especially underrepresented groups. I do not take for granted that as a Latina Executive in Tech, I am in a unique position to serve as an amplifier for aspiring professionals who look like me or have similar backgrounds.

 

How do you keep up with the rapid pace of tech?

In the ever-evolving tech landscape, a mindset of continuous learning and intellectual curiosity is crucial. I firmly believe in the power of 'not being afraid to be a beginner.' To stay ahead, I actively seek out folks who are experts in the field I am interested in, prioritize learning time, and embrace putting new knowledge into practice. Additionally, I try to stay up-to-date with industry news and podcasts and recently went back to school to complete Stanford's Executive Program (SEP), through their Graduate School of Business, to expand my knowledge and network. The key is to acknowledge the constant evolution of tech and to commit to ongoing learning - you'll never know it all.

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What advice would you offer to young Latinas aspiring to reach executive positions in tech or related industries?

I would remind them that: It's not just about who you know; it's about who knows you. Strive for excellence in everything you do, no matter how small. That is how people will know you. Your work quality will open doors. However, don't underestimate the power of goal-setting and seeking support:

  • Set Clear Goals: As I have stated multiple times before, Be direct about where you want to go in your career. 

  • Utilize Your Manager: Your manager can be your greatest advocate. Help them support you by effectively communicating your goals and aspirations.

  • Seek Support: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Find mentors, sponsors, and others in your network who can offer guidance and champion your success.

  • Embrace Your Identity: Being Latina is a strength - your unique perspective and cultural insights are valuable.

  • Build Community: Forge relationships with other Latinas and allies. A strong network will uplift and encourage you.

 

Reflecting on your career trajectory, are there any specific accomplishments or projects you're particularly proud of during your time as an executive at Google?

I know this may sound cheesy, but the thing I am most proud of is my team.  Navigating the recent challenges within the tech industry over the last couple of years since I joined Google, has been a test of resilience.  I am immensely proud of how my team has not only weathered these turbulent times but also thrived. I've guided my team with care and clarity, reminding them of the enduring importance of our work amidst the ever-shifting macroeconomic conditions, rapid AI advancements, and a dynamic hiring landscape. My team has risen to the challenge, embracing the continual evolution of our industry. Their unwavering commitment to creating inclusive experiences that allow individuals to truly see themselves at Google fills me with pride.

 

What do you think about LEN?

I am so honored to be a part of it.  It is so important for us to not only see ourselves in these roles and positions, but there is a real power in numbers.  This is a community that is leading across so many industries in the DC area and beyond.  

 

What's your favorite place in DC? 

So many! I have always loved Masseria for special occasions, Peacock Cafe for casual meals with friends and family, and recently I have enjoyed Shoto downtown, and El Presidente in Union Market (if I can get a table!)

 

What are you currently listening to? 

A little bit of everything, as a big part of my listening happens in the car when I almost always have at least one of my three kids with me.  My 2023 Spotify Wrapped told me that my Top Artists were Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Gracie Abrams, Shakira, and Maluma.  

 

What book are you reading?

The last book I read was Lessons in Chemistry (I watched the Apple TV show too!).  I highly recommend it. 

I also love listening to podcasts- NPR’s Upfirst, The Daily from the NYT, and The Journal from the WSJ are all part of my daily routine.

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