How to get a job at Google (or in Healthcare in the next 5 years)

Peg Breen: March 06, 20142 Comments

In February, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman wrote an article that lit up the internet almost as much as when Ellen DeGeneres took down Twitter with her Oscar Night selfie. Its title was “How to Get a Job at Google”.  

In it, Friedman interviews Laszlo Bock, Google’s Vice President of People Operations, about the kind of attributes (characteristics, traits or personal qualities), you need to get hired.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t all depend on your GPA or even your past experience.  As I read the article, it made sense to me that this recipe is one that hiring managers in healthcare should be paying more attention to, if we’re to weather the healthcare storm that’s at our doorstep.

Using the Google-Way to get hired (and promoted)

Fail Forward Fast: The phrase “fail forward fast” was popularized by management guru Tom Peters, but is explained most vividly by hockey great Wayne Gretsky who said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Bock is saying that Google wants people who take the shot, and when failure occurs demonstrate “intellectual humility.” Translation – failure spurs learning which ignites success.  In its most productive form, if you’ve failed, you have a story to tell about what you learned. You will have an edge against your competition because self-awareness is a rare commodity.  And even more rare is a quality called “learning agility”, which is the ability take the lessons from your past, and apply them to new and different challenges you are facing.   Learning Agility is the new black.

Avoid the Genius-Idiot Syndrome:  Bock says Google looks for people who don’t blame their failures on other people but also rarely take sole credit for success.  Healthcare is a business so dependent upon a complex web of interrelationships that this advice could make or break your career if you are looking to move up.

Approach work with an equal balance of Big Ego and Small Ego:  At Google and in the new healthcare we’re trying to solve complex problems so this means that we’ve got a mix of people in the room when we collaborate.  At Google, it’s engineers and design people and finance wizards and marketing goddesses. For us it’s physicians and nurses and operations experts and finance gurus, just to name a few.  Smart people often hold fiercely to their opinions but according to Bock, you also need to be able to step back and change your mind when presented with new facts. Bock calls this emergent leadership.  So if you have your eye on growing your career in healthcare, make a point to have a big enough ego to argue vehemently for your position, but confidant enough to change it when someone makes a valid point.

Be a Dot-Connector:  Google hires people who have a skill in pulling together dissimilar pieces of information and creating something new. In healthcare, we also need to fill our jobs with employees who can connect the dots between their own job and goals for quality, safety or financial outcomes. People who are connectors, value and build relationships and think about things way above their pay grade. When we encounter these people we need to protect and grow them. If you want to be one of these highly valued and promotable people – be a dot-connector. 

Here’s a case study in our own healthcare system that shows Google is right.  James McCurley is a Facility Financial Analyst at Community Regional medical Center. He had no healthcare experience when he was hired two years ago but he did have something that a lot of candidates don’t – a degree in physics, an MBA and an insatiable curiosity. The way James explains it, the combination of science and business has really helped him in his job. “Both physics and math are just about problem solving,” he says.  “You have to lay out the problem in an organized fashion to figure out how to solve it.”  In his quest to improve his problem solving ability James taught himself to computer program. He’s currently working on a project to create patient “stories” that help physicians do problem oriented charting. The project that James is most of fond of though, is one where he is working with Dr. Michael Mellenthin to identify ways to increase the utilization of the ORs.  He says it’s fun and that he loves working with people who have, “way more expertise than I do.”  Where does James see himself in the future?  If you asked him 2 years ago he would have said- I don’t know, but today he says, he’d like to be a Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive Officer. 

All I have to say is  - leave him alone Google!  He’s ours.

What qualities do you think help you succeed at your job?  If you had to give advice to your friends about how to grow their career at CMC, what would you tell them. Share your comments and we’ll send you a copy of the book “The High Achievers Guide to Happiness” by Vance Caesar.

2 responses to How to get a job at Google (or in Healthcare in the next 5 years)

We can learn so much from Google ( and James)

Part of what makes Google great is that they are consistently thinking outside of the box, listening to their audience and asking why. Problems are hard to solve but if we have the right attitude, allow ourselves to fail, listen to what people are saying and develop great teams then we can solve anything. James(and many others here) are doing just that and I'm so happy they are a part of the Community family!

Big Kudos to James McCurley

The most important quality that helps me succeed every day in all the madness is very simple… is having a positive attitude and being capable of looking at the “bigger picture”. The advice I give is to be a sponge and absorb as much as you can! Thank you for sharing such a great article and Big Kudos to James McCurley!

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