The Journey to be a Google MD — Lunch with Leonie Valentine, MD of Sales & Operations, Google HK

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Leonie donating lunch and raising 141 volunteer hours

“Your 20s are about exploration, 30s for consolidation, and 40s for acceleration.”

At lunch with Leonie Valentine, Managing Director of Sales and Operations at Google Hong Kong. We learnt that career isn’t a smooth climb on the ladder, and often it takes decades of trial and error before you can find the right direction and accelerate.

In a culture of instant gratification and on-demand everything, Leonie’s tips and stories were an important reminder that great things take time.

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Google office and nap area

What is a guiding life motto that you live by?

“These days…I think very hard before I say no.

In the early part of my career if someone asked me, ‘Do you want to come and do this?’ I would say, ‘…no!’ because I already had an idea of where I wanted to head and what I wanted to do. I also wasn’t clear on what I was looking for.

Now, it is about not saying ‘No’ to opportunities that are in front of you. Before I say, ‘that’s not the industry for me!’ or ‘I don’t think I’m doing that job!’, I say ‘Let me think about it.’ and I compare the attributes to my next role and think of where I’m heading.”

You said your 20s is all about exploring. What were you like at 25 years old?

“25 was a very interesting year for me because it was the first time in my life that I quit my job without another job to go to. I had accelerated my career quickly by working in an advertising company in Australia.

I had an expectation that people were going to do things for me.

When you do not think that the culture suits you, what are your options? Finding another job should be a last resort. At 25, I ended up spending eight months out of the workforce because my CV did not match my age.

When I went to job interviews, people did not believe the things that I had done at my age. I ended up working at my husband’s candle factory as a candle-maker to give myself some time out.

I had my mid-life crisis really young.

But I’m glad I had it so young and to think about what I really want in life and how to conduct myself in business. I was on a management table as a senior when I was 25. I learnt a really valuable lesson because I was given wonderful opportunities at that young age. I wasn’t actually maximizing that opportunity; I was still figuring who I was and trying to do the right thing for me.”

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Having been through that, what do you think are the most important experience to get out of your 20s?

“I had this fantastic job at the time, which was one of the best graduate programs in the world. I should have stayed for more years at the company.

I should have explored what the company could do for me, or with me at that time, instead of rushing to explore another career.

I would still do all these career moves. Every couple of years I am going to try new roles and new disciplines, but probably under one company. It’s very interesting for me to compare my career path with my peers. Some share similar experiences with me, such as traveling and having international jobs.

What I’ve learned over the years is that I am really good at creating jobs that don’t exist and seeing where the “gap” is. The journey itself is really rewarding.”

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How can someone impress you?

“I admire strong and very down-to-earth authentic leaders.

I am not impressed by status and brands. I always listen and pay attention to these leaders. I watched the final speech from Obama and the speech was connected, authentic and you could tell he was having a really good time. People will forever treat him as the president — that it is the ultimate thing that I admire.”

What is one thing that you want everyone here to take away from meeting you today?

“I hope you’ve had a nice time!”

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Thank you Leonie for spending your lunch time with us which has raised 141 volunteer hours to Social Career, Enactus, Soap Cycling, Leprosy Home, Feeding Hong Kong and more. Thank you everyone for volunteering!

For more experiences, visit Time Auction, a platform connecting you with inspiring leaders while encouraging volunteerism.

A few messages from the volunteers:

Jasmine Kwong

This is my first Time Auction meeting and after this session with Leonie, I will definitely come back for more. Through recalling her own life journey, she provides me with several insights and renders me to reflect on how I lead my team and how I live my life. Her bubbly personality made everyone felt at ease and the conversation we had was very engaging.

Ronnie Koo

Leonie’ talk is witty, funny and inspiring. I have learnt much about resilience and about balancing my priorities. As spoken, my bank is pushing fintech ahead and my team trying to assess Web stores or blogshops by mixing e-commerce analytics with financial analysis. If Leonie is open to talk about this or refer me to some industry experts or google partners who can do the same, I would be very grateful. I hope it aligns with Leonie’s vision to build up the local startup community.

Robin Fong

Dear Leonie, It was an inspiring, valuable meeting on 09.02.17 @GoogleHKOffice. All people in the meeting were keen to learn more, share their own stories, where at the same time we have learnt a lot from your journey in personal growth, careers development and more. It is always amazing to meet new people, whose experiences would lead you discover further and become more mature. People who realised time is so limit tends to value it. People joining time auction is to treasure the time, connect interesting and inspiring people with mutual interests. Under limited time, we manage our expectations, and we optimise the time value through many life’s auctions.

Anne Wong

G’day mate! Thanks heaps for all your interesting and inspiring sharing. Wish I would have lived in Oz since younger and for longer, so that I can be cultivated with a wider set of values and pursue things with a more open-mind like you. Anyway, it’s never too late. I should do things that make me happy, as you have well said.

Ruby Leung

Thank you Leonie for your inspiring advice, such as being prepared for rejection and maximizing opportunities for myself, and not expect what others can do for me, but what I can do for myself. Also, thank you for advising me to search for opportunities within a company instead of hopping to one after another which will make an impression of being a career hopper to my future employer.

Ting Ting

Very inspiring sharing! It’s a life changing event.

This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium:

Updated on 8 April, 2021
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