Libby had previously switched between organizations and departments within Google to guide leaders and teams through times of great change, and she channelled that experience to drive alignment across the full spectrum of the business—from its mission, to operations, and culture. Libby considers her success in integrating the two organizations under one brand with one shared vision to be ‘the proudest moment of my career.’
In her role now, Libby’s work is highly cross-functional, collaborating across product areas to deliver differentiated Google experiences on first-party hardware. This requires actively building new ways of working and ‘back-channelling with other chiefs to get things done and marshal the necessary resources to achieve shared goals—while always anchoring what I am asking of people in the why.’
The flat organizational structure of Google and many other tech companies supports a culture of innovation where leaders are encouraged to ‘dream big’ and ‘go for it.’ With this structure emerged a need for chiefs of staff; intensely organized yet intensely creative problem solvers who can work with their leader to forge a path from dream to reality.
Libby Dabrowski and Ramsey Allington use different metaphors to describe their approach to their roles, but they agree on what their roles are for and what is needed for their teams to succeed. In a networked age, networked organizations challenge the chief of staff role to work not only vertically but horizontally—to connect leaders to their teams, but also to connect and merge teams together, working through formal and backchannel routes, reaching out to other chiefs of staff, and integrating cultures. Navigating the jungle gym of the organization has matched the route of their careers. Their roles have sometimes been called chief of staff, sometimes they have been called Director, Head or Senior Manager. But they have always brought guidance to their leaders and to their teams.
Ramsey Allington has been at Google since 2002 working across Corporate Development and Operations in Business and Engineering teams – currently chief of staff for Phones and Wearables business.
Libby Dabrowski joined Google in 2008 and has worked in six different divisions during her tenure. She is currently Chief of Staff for Nest, where she oversees the portfolio-level strategy for Google’s smart home products.
1. Sandberg, Sheryl, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Ebury, 2013). Further Reading
Sadun, Raggaella, ‘Google’s Secret Formula for Management? Doing the Basics Well’, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2017/08/googles-secret-formula-for-management-doing- the-basics-well (24 August 2017)