Shailesh Rao '99
Google India managing director Shailesh Rao ’99 finds ‘dream’ job
By Rachel Collins
In just nine years, Google has become one of the most successful technology companies to emerge from the dot-com bubble of the late ’90s. So successful, in fact, Google is not only a household name, but the online search giant has its own phrase in the American lexicon.
This success, in part, has been attributed to the company’s executives who have a mission to lead by example. And the philosophy paid off, landing Google at No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list two years in a row. “Google continues to mint millionaires as the stock cracked $700,” Fortune noted, adding that the firm issued stock options to nearly all its employees. This culture is also what attracted Shailesh Rao ’99 away from his job at Yodlee, a Silicon Valley startup, to Google in 2005. “Going to Google was not my original focus, but once I visited the company and walked the hallways, the energy was palpable,” remembers Rao. “Everyone walking around with a sense of purpose. It was infectious.”
The Kellogg graduate saw the company as “a rare opportunity” since it combined the resources of a large firm with the cultural freedom of a startup. As a result, Rao says, “you could execute your ambitions and dreams.” Now the managing director at Google India in Gurgaon outside of Delhi, Rao works to improve the company’s prospects in that market, a market in which 54 percent of the population is under the age of 35, an important statistic in the youth-focused technologies market. “I am here in India as long as I need to be and I am enjoying it. It is personally gratifying and professionally satisfying,” Rao says.
Rao, 36, originally began at the company’s California headquarters where, under his direction, the local search business increased its revenue tenfold in two years. When offered the opportunity to manage Google’s Indian operations, Rao, who is of Indian descent, jumped at the chance to merge his work life with his heritage. “This job sits at the confluence of three things that I never really thought would come together: my Indian culture, love for technology and desire to give back,” he says. “This has been a real pleasure because of that.”
As managing director, Rao must oversee successful adoption of Google products by Indian consumers, the growth of advertising revenue from Indian businesses and, at times, even work with the government to keep the legislation in step with the latest advances technology can offer. Keeping up with demands can be challenging, but understanding that managers must strike a balance between the employee’s needs and the company’s is one of the keys to Rao’s success.
“In a company like Google, people are the primary asset,” explains Rao. “We have to find the right intersection between skills and interests. A lot of that comes from listening and finding the right match between the need of the person and the need of the organization.” Rao also says that his ability to focus and prioritize tasks, as well as “work on the front lines,” has proven to his team that he is just as dedicated to each project as they are.
“It shows the team you are right there with them, engaged in the business, so they don’t think you are detached from the day-to-day,” he says.
Rao says he learned this management style from his Kellogg MBA experience, where he found that a rich social life was as important to his learning as his academic studies.
“The peer group was really high caliber,” he recalls. “The friends I made from Kellogg are some of my best friends, and from an academic perspective being in a classroom with people from all walks of life was an education in and of itself for me.”
He also believes that his choice to attend Kellogg has helped guide him on the professional path he has traveled since graduating: “You do better in your career if you do things that you enjoy. These days we spend way to much time at work not to enjoy doing it. That is something that I learned at Kellogg.”
Rao considers his time at Northwestern “the best years of my life.” He particularly values the broad exposure to ideas and the top-quality courses and professors at Kellogg. “I learned about valuing people and the culture of Kellogg was very much what I hoped it would be,” he says. “I couldn’t get enough of that energy and environment.”
Posted August 2008