Google VP Says Liberal Arts Leads to Lifetime Success

What are the skills needed for a lifetime of career success? According to a recent column by author and New York Times writer Tom Friedman, the skills are leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn.

Laszlo Bock

Laszlo Bock, Vice President of People Operations at Google

Friedman comes to that conclusion after interviewing Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President for People Operations at Google.  Bock a graduate of the liberal arts college Pomona, in California, where he was an international relations major, spoke with Ursinus students about the number one thing the HR team at Google seeks: “learning ability.”

Ursinus students had the chance to hear more from Bock during an exclusive visit March 29. Offering some career advice, he recommended a liberal arts education, even though he admitted he graduated “without any sense of what I wanted to do.” Eventually he earned an MBA and decided on a career in human resources.

“There is no better preparation for living your life,” he said of a liberal education. “It gives you the insight and ability to make connections.”

Bock said he was surprised that after receiving his MBA that he was not called for a job interview. He was told his resume was not distinctive. He studied the resumes of people who worked for companies he admired, and learned:

  • A resume should show not only what you did but what were the implications of what you did;
  • The average employer spends little time reading a cover letter;
  • When applying for job, it is better to be employed than not to be employed, if there is a choice.
  • For an interview, one should anticipate questions and practice three answers for each one. This is because different interviewers will form different opinions about the job candidate.

The lesson, he said, is “being able to tell your story well. This is one of the most important skills you will have in your entire life.”

How can students tell their stories? “Tell where you have had an impact,” Bock suggested. “But also that you were part of a team you helped motivate. Just saying that you are a great leader is not enough.”

Bock leads Google’s people function, which includes all areas related to the attraction, development, and retention of “Googlers.” Google has been recognized over 100 times in the last five years as an exceptional employer, including being named the No. 1 Best Company to Work for in the United States and in many other countries, and the most desirable employer for undergraduates, college graduates, and MBAs in numerous countries. The company has been honored with a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign and Corporation of the Year from the United Negro College Fund.

Bock joined Google from the General Electric Company, where he held various executive leadership roles within GE Capital. Before GE Capital, Laszlo was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, serving clients in the technology, private equity, and media industries on a wide range of strategic and operational issues, including growth and turnaround strategy. Earlier, he had worked at another consulting firm, a start-up, as an actor, and co-founded a non-profit organization working with at-risk youth.

The talk was part of the U-Inspire! Speaker Series. And co-sponsored by the U-Imagine! Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, Office of Career and Professional Development, Mathematics and Computer Science department, and Office of Academic Affairs.  It was part of a program for admitted students interested in majoring in math and computer science.

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