The Next Chapter: Transitioning from Emergence Capital to Google

A new chapter begins…it was announced today that I will be joining Google to help Diane Greene build out Google’s enterprise businesses as the new head of marketing. After three years as the operating partner at Emergence Capital, I’ve made the decision to tackle a new challenge.

I’ve truly loved being at Emergence — the people, the portfolio, the role, and the enterprise cloud space.

That’s why the appeal of joining Google caught even me by surprise. A Google recruiter reached out and asked, “Did I know Diane Greene?” “Of course,” I replied, thinking, how could I be a woman in tech, focusing on enterprise cloud, and NOT know Diane Greene. I had been following her career for years, and more recently, I had been actively reading about her new role at Google, leading Google’s embrace of the enterprise.

“Diane is looking to hire a chief marketing officer to help build the Google Cloud businesses,” the recruiter, Roopa, mentioned. “Would you be open to meeting with her?” I paused for a moment, the question catching me a little off guard. I was eager to meet Diane, and as an enterprise cloud investor, I wanted to learn more about Google’s initiatives. So I said yes, and we arranged a breakfast at the Mayfield Bakery the following week.

That breakfast was one of those career altering encounters, the kind that you might have only a handful of times in your working life. In fact I can picture all of these pivotal meetings across my 25-year career: my fancy lunch in NYC with Terry Meguid at Morgan Stanley while I was a senior at Yale; my makeshift interview with Russ Siegelman when he was recruiting for Microsoft at Harvard Business School; my brainstorming meeting with Scott Cook in his corner conference room when I volunteered to write the business plan for Intuit’s Quicken Loans business; my afternoon coffee at The Creamery, again with Russ when he became a partner at Kleiner Perkins and was recruiting for a VP Marketing at one of KP’s portfolio companies; my interviews with Bill Sahlman and Mike Roberts back in Boston at HBS when they were looking for a new executive director of the California Research Center; and my dinner at the Woodside Bakery with Jason Green from Emergence Capital when we were brainstorming about how I might be able to help Emergence expand its franchise.

In each of these conversations, I can recall the adrenaline that comes with opportunity. The excitement of tackling new challenges; the allure of riding the innovation wave; the anticipation of the unknown. Yet that excitement is often coupled with a tinge of fear. Fear of navigating a new environment. Fear of wanting a role and potentially not getting it. Fear of leaving people that you like and respect.

My initial breakfast with Diane sparked all of these emotions. The conversation was far-reaching, and the time flew by — I felt like we could have talked for hours. My mind was buzzing when I left, thinking about the enormous opportunity for Google to expand its technology for enterprises. I could barely get to the car before calling my husband David, catching him by surprise. “It was so much fun to talk with Diane. I love Emergence, but I think I am going to take her up on her offer to meet with others on the Google Cloud teams.”

I talked with David that evening. We agreed that the marketing role sounded incredible — creative, strategic, complex, interesting, impactful. But we also knew it would be demanding — a bigger team, more commuting, more travel, more meetings — and with three kids ages 10, 12, and 14, that was an important consideration.

Over the course of several weeks, I met with several other super-smart execs at Google, while personally thinking through what it might mean to “go back into an operating role.” It was an interesting period of self-discovery, and I realized that (1) I’ve always loved marketing, (2) I’m an operator at heart, (3) I have an incredibly supportive family, and (4) the opportunity to make an impact is perhaps the biggest driver of my career decisions. The meetings at Google also renewed my respect for the Google culture — I had written two case studies about the company while running the HBS California Research Center — Keeping Google “Googley” (2008) and Google’s Project Oxygen: Do Managers Matter? (2013). It was fascinating to think about immersing myself in the company worthy of so much research.

In the meantime, I consulted judiciously with family and friends. I was surprised by the consistent advice: if I was offered the role, I should “go for it.” Interestingly, I heard the same message from my close friends who didn’t even know me when I was running marketing at Intuit’s Quicken Loans or at Greenlight. (I had detoured from marketing to write case studies for HBS while my kids were younger.) But they saw my energy and excitement for this role, and encouraged me to give it a shot. I asked around about Diane, consistently hearing stories of her excellence. I dug into Google’s commitment to the enterprise, and heard from multiple sources that Google was excited to expand in this direction.

As the interviews progressed, I felt increasingly conflicted about leaving Emergence. Was I crazy to consider leaving a job that I loved? But when I received the offer from Google to join Diane’s team as head of marketing, the answer was clear: this was the right role at the right company at the right time.

As excited as I am to join Google, it still is a very difficult decision to leave Emergence. I am proud of the work the firm does, and I’ll miss our strategy sessions imagining the future of enterprise cloud technology. I’ve been privileged to work particularly closely as a board observer with four innovative companies: Insightly, Textio, SteelBrick, and Handshake. It was difficult to tell my partners that I was leaving — probably the toughest work conversations I’ve ever had. But these conversations also confirmed what I already knew, my Emergence colleagues are great people — high integrity, supportive and encouraging. And while this is the end of my time at Emergence day-to-day, I will remain an investor — rooting for all the Emergence portfolio companies, and hoping that Google’s cloud offerings will help each team achieve its vision.

I start at Google on May 2. I’m honored to have the opportunity to help Google build out its enterprise cloud businesses. I still feel the adrenaline from that first breakfast with Diane, and I can’t wait to get going.