Google CIO sheds light on leadership, management


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Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Ben Fried, Google CIO, talked about leadership and management yesterday at the Rutgers Labor Education Center on Douglass campus.


Ben Fried, the Chief Information Officer of Google, wakes up every morning filled with excitement about what his team of more than 1,200 employees aims to do for the day and with a drive to apply his knowledge to his best potential.

Fried, who was not representing Google during his speech, came as a guest speaker to the Rutgers Labor Education Center on Douglass campus yesterday to shed light on the essence of leadership and management, as a part of “Leadership and Work Organization,” a class taught by Rebecca Givan, assistant professor of labor studies.

Fried, who started working at Google in May 2008 after 13 years with Morgan Stanley, commenced the lecture by defining to the audience the tasks of a CIO.

As CIO, he oversees a team of personnel for Google products ranging from search engines to software to smart phones, Fried said. The team also takes charge of acquisitions the company undertakes and helps the company comply with regulations.

Fried said he faced some challenges during his journey from Morgan Stanley to Google. While he had become a known and trusted face after working a long time at the former, he was a new figure at Google, which also had a unique organizational culture.

Fried then spoke about how to overcome challenges and become a true leader and manager.

“Things that make you a high achiever in some roles may not necessarily make you a high achiever in a different, more challenging role,” he said. “But you have to be clinical about why something didn’t work out and then move on.”

He has always believed that charisma and leadership may not necessarily occur in pairs. Not all leaders might be charismatic, Fried said, but they can still lead because they possess other qualities required to become a leader.

“Charisma and leadership are two separate things,” he said. “There are great leaders with little charisma and charismatic leaders who shouldn’t be leading.”

Givan asked if leadership was an inherent quality visible right from the beginning, such as during playtime as a child.

Fried said while leadership and extroversion are easily confused, leaders must be able to express their opinions in a strong and coherent manner.

“When I was a kid, I wanted someone else to lead, and I wanted to help,” Fried said. “But it was always important for me to speak my mind and my opinions clearly.”

Observation of his managers’ leadership style helped him gain a lot of management experience, Fried said. Morgan Stanley and Google gave him interesting opportunities to see different styles.

“From a manager I had for a very long time at Morgan Stanley, I learned how to lead — how to connect with experts,” he said. “My first boss at Google was a guy who led some of the most amazing innovations, [who was] also very down to earth and modest. That was really inspiring.”

With rapidly expanding technology will come many challenges that require the employees to expand their skills, Fried said. Anyone looking for a job in the technology field has to be prepared to renew their skills from time to time.

Google has reached an amazing place, which is hard to reach even for large companies, he said. The remarkable thing about Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, was that they hired highly skilled people even when they were starting the company.

Fried said his goal is to work in such a manner that he can create incredible replacements for himself and make sure his employees can coherently connect with the entire organization.

Neha Khurana, a School of Management and Labor Relations graduate student, said Fried deeply inspired her, because he not only balanced every sphere of his life, but was also modest and down-to-earth.

“I learned that no matter how far you get in life, you should always be clear about who you are and what you expect of others,” Khurana said.

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