Mediaplanet spoke with VP and Country Manager of Google Canada, Sabrina Geremia, to learn about her history in the technology industry and how to master success in our growing digital world.
What inspired you to get involved in the technology industry?
Twenty-three years ago, I was working in Italy for a consumer packaged goods company. My morning drive to work would take me past incredible artifacts of innovation like the Roman Forum and Colosseum. It was the beginning of the dot-com boom and I could see that the next wave of global innovation would be underpinned by the internet and technology — and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I ended up leaving a great job to travel the world and learn about tech. My travels took me to London, where I joined a search engine called Ask Jeeves, then to another global packaged goods company, where I set up its global footprint for digital marketing. I ended up at Google because I was inspired by its mission, and here I am 15 years later.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to overcome throughout our economy’s digital transformation?
As we’ve seen over the past year and a half, digital is an essential tool for Canadian businesses and workers. Businesses that were already on the path to digital were able to weather the storm or take big leaps. But if you were a small business, an employee working in the service industry, or from an underrepresented community, the pandemic took a harder toll. Looking ahead, digital tools and digital skills training will be critical to Canada’s economic recovery. Providing free access and ensuring that the programs are directly supporting underserved communities will be a necessity. That’s why at Google, we helped small businesses get online for the first time for free with our ShopHERE powered by Google program and a pledge to get 50,000 small businesses online. And we just made a $2 million commitment to deliver free Google Career Certificate programs to individuals from underrepresented groups.
Do you have any tips for how employers can help and encourage employees to learn new digital skills in order to gain success in the digital economy?
Digital skills are table stakes for the future of work and I believe that companies are becoming critical training grounds for new skills. Canadian businesses need to have a plan for reskilling their employees as work changes, especially as automation kicks in. For example, a few years ago we retrained 18,000 engineers on machine learning because we knew it was critical to our future. To do my job I need to continuously reskill — I take micro-credential exams on our products and policies every three months. We also train our partners, agencies, businesses of all sizes, developers, and teachers — it’s what we do. To all business leaders, you need to ask yourself: what are the skills that are critical for the next wave of growth at my company, and what am I doing to help my workers master these skills? Investing in your people should be a priority, and you don’t need to go at it alone. There are lots of options out there to get started. Our Grow with Google programs include five Google Career Certificate programs on topics like project management, data analytics, UX design, Python coding, and IT support. Anyone can complete them with no prior experience, in less than six months. These are sought-after skills — there are 22,000 open jobs in these fields in Canada today.
What’s your favourite part of being involved in the technology industry?
Working at Google of course means that I work in technology. But I don’t only work in technology. Tech is the tool we use to get the results we’re looking for. For me, a lot of the work I do is helping businesses across Canada grow. We help them use our advertising products to find new customers across the globe. This allows a business of any size, even a shop at the top of your main street, to compete in the global economy. Tech is just the tool we use to drive positive impact, and it’s part of a bigger purpose.