Born in India, Gopi’s life has balanced both the inner work of spiritual practice and outer work of business and technology. He met his Guru, learned to meditate and became a yoga teacher as a teenager. At the same time he continued his academic studies in India and later got his MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Gopi currently leads the Search Advertising Product Marketing Team at Google. The following interview was held at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California.
Wisdom 2.0 Interview with Gopi Kallayil (pt. 2)
At any company, there are decisions that need to be made – some projects get funded and others do not, one person gets promoted and another does not. These can easily create ego clashes and some level of conflict. As great is Google is, this no doubt happens here. How do address those issues when they come up?
Those things absolutely happen here, but comparatively speaking this is a very conscious company and people are generally much more collaborative. Having said that, there are often situations when you feel should something should have happened differently. You may think, “I was passed over for a promotion that I should have got.”
Some people think that they can escape such issues by going to live in a monastery or ashram, but I have been to many ashrams and seen that these issues follow you — you get upset when the director of the ashram did not promote you to be senior teacher! This is because these things do not exist outside of you; they exist inside you. You take them with you wherever you go, whether you are working at a corporation or living in an ashram.
“Some people think that they can escape such issues by going to live in a monastery or ashram, but I have been to many ashrams and seen that these issues follow you.”
For me, usually there is a period where I am upset or disappointed, but I know the one thing that I can control is how I respond. Increasingly, how I am choosing to respond by asking three questions: 1) What is the greater good that may come from this? 2) What is this trying to teach me?” and 3) How I can respond with grace, wisdom, and maturity so that six months later I can look back on it and know that I did the best thing possible?
Using the promotion example, this happened to me some time back. The promotion was not occurring in the timeframe I thought it should. I realized, however, that what I wanted more than the promotion was the opportunity to operate at the next level. So I said to myself, “No one is stopping me from working at that level. Assume that level and act that way.” I went ahead gave myself the promotion. I even took myself out for ice cream to celebrate. By doing this, I gave myself permission to move to that next level. Then a few months later, the actual promotion came through.
You went ahead and internally made the shift?
Yes. I acted internally as if I had been given permission to work at that level.
Are there ways that Google supports collaboration and teamwork so clashes are less likely?
Absolutely. It all starts with who we hire. One of the qualities we look for, which is very hard to define, is something we call Googliness. Often at the end of an interview, someone will say, “I really think we should bring her on because she is Googlee.”
One aspect of this is a very collaborative and non-hierarchical mode of operation. For example, I do not sit in a closed office. I sit in an open office with my team and there are beanbags and big stuffed toys around us. It is a fun and creative workspace. This way it promotes collaboration and open access. Even the CEO of the company has a small modest office. There is a sense of egalitarianism rather than the hierarchical structures you see in other institutions.
“One of the qualities we look for, which is very hard to define, is something we call Googliness. Often at the end of an interview, someone will say, ‘I really think we should bring her on because she is Googlee.’”
Sounds like the group wisdom is seen as more important than any wisdom of one individual.
Yes. We also share information freely, so everything is very, very transparent. Anyone in the company can see what I am working on and I can see the goals and projects of other teams. The senior leadership is also very accessible. There is no one “corridor of power” here like you have at other corporations. It is spread out. In some ways, it mirrors the Internet, which has no central place of power or hierarchy.
Anything else you would like to add about how to live what I call consciously connected or Wisdom 2.0 — to live with purpose in our day and age?
Yes, it is that this life, what you call Wisdom 2.0, is a very joyous life. Ultimately, people are seeking happiness, and going towards it is worth pursuing. It seems to be the one solution to all of our problems. It definitely changes your life.
I think it helps to integrate one’s life. For example, we tend to think, “I have my work life, then I have my family life, then I have my spiritual life,” but the same person with the same body shows up everywhere, so you cannot really separate them. So you might as well accept it and integrate all of this into your practice.
To not think, “Oh, I am at work, so I do not need to be conscious now. I can do that later,” but instead to say “Yes” to whatever life presents?
Exactly. I am a marketing guy, so if I had to put it in a few words it would be, “Say Yes to a conscious life.”
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