Work.Life Meets: Tony McGaharan, People Operations at Google

Business advice
Estimated read time: 4 mins
Published: 10/05/2019

Tony works in People Operations at Google. He is currently responsible for hiring Product Managers into London. He is passionate about people development at all levels and, alongside his core role, Tony serves as a consultant helping leaders increase their team’s effectiveness at Google. Prior to joining Google, Tony led peace-building programs for a non-profit which uses sport to bring young people together from divided communities. During his undergraduate, he took a year out to coach basketball in Sweden’s top women’s league, the Damligan. Before Tony came and spoke at our upcoming Work Happy: Building a Happy Company Culture event, we thought we’d get to know him a little better…


Tell us your story, what were you doing before you started at Google?

I started my career as a high school teacher. My two main subjects were Business Studies and Physical Education (I didn’t teach them at the same time, although that would have been fun). When I graduated, I was a substitute teacher for about 4-5 months.

I’ve also been coaching basketball since I was 16 years old and during my undergraduate I took a year out to coach professionally in Sweden’s top women’s league (Damligan). My experience both playing and coaching basketball has taught me a lot about leadership, team effectiveness and the importance of culture.

In my first full time position after University, I was able to combine my two passions (education and basketball) through a role with PeacePlayers International, a non-profit which uses sport to unite young people from divided communities. I still try to contribute to this organisation whenever I can! When I joined Google, I set up a program for Googlers to volunteer at a cross-community tournament in Belfast. The “Spring Jam” takes place every year and Googlers also fundraise to support the amazing work PeacePlayers is doing in my hometown of Belfast.

Why HR? What inspires you to work in this sector?

I love people. It sounds cliché, I know, but it’s true. I’ve been fortunate, blessed, lucky, to have been able to work across several different areas in People Operations at Google. In Singapore, I was responsible for managing the onboarding program for all new Googlers (“Nooglers”) joining the company in Asia-Pacific (APAC). I also contributed to many of our other L&D programs including manager development, leadership development, sales effectiveness, and facilitator training.

When I moved to London a few years ago, I decided to do some backwards career integration and so, I took on a Technical Staffing role. The past few years, I’ve been helping grow teams in Software Engineering, Site Reliability, Product Management and also our fast-growing Cloud business. It’s been incredible fun partnering with our business leaders to help hire top talent.

Favourite thing about working for Google?

My favourite thing about working for Google is the people. Again, I know it sounds cliché but it’s true. We have some of the best and brightest people working for our company who pride themselves in being “Googley”. What does it mean to be Googley? Well, it’s difficult to define. However, for me, it means people who want to bring their best to work, care deeply about their team, always put the user first, and have fun in everything they do!

What’s one thing you think many businesses get wrong when it comes to hiring?

I think a lot of leaders rush to make a hire and don’t necessarily take the time to reflect on the needs of their organisation. It’s often more important to invest time early on in the process rather than have to course correct later on or worse, start again from scratch. I spend a lot of time in the beginning of our process partnering with our hiring managers to fully understand the type of candidate they need in their team.

If I could add one more to this, I would stress how critical it is to hire a diverse range of talent. Research has shown that a diverse and inclusive team can help increase innovation. I personally have found this to be true in all of my experiences: coaching basketball, managing non-profit programs, and of course, in Google.

Do you have any top tips that businesses can implement straight away that can help create a happy company culture?

Implement rituals! In my experience, a lot of folks talk about the importance of culture and often forget to do culture. At Google, we value transparency; it’s part of our culture. Since the company was founded over 21 years ago, we’ve had a weekly meeting where everyone in the company is invited to hear updates on some of the cool things we are working on. TGIF (“Thank Google It’s Friday”) also provides a chance for anyone in the company to ask questions of our leaders. This is one of my favourite rituals in Google and a good example of our culture in action.

Last but not least we have to ask, have you ever used a sleep pod?

Absolutely! Naps are good for you!

Thanks for letting us pick your brain today, we thought we’d ask you the quick-fire round we ask all our interviewees…

Morning person or night owl? Night owl.

Favourite film: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Summer or winter? Winter.

Sweet or savoury? Sweet.

Cats or dogs? Neither. Controversial, right?

City break or beach holiday? Mountains.

Last meal before being jetted off to a desert island? Boojum – Belfast’s best burrito!


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