Karen Godwin (Manager, Online Sales and Operations) has over 14 years experience with marketing and product management in the software and online service industries. Most recently, she served as director of product management for Kodak Easyshare Gallery, driving consumer product strategy and building technical product management teams for the award winning online photo service. Previously, she held senior product management positions with Internet icons Excite@Home and Webcrawler.
After a decade in San Francisco, Karen and her husband Michael, who is a native of southeast Michigan, moved to Ann Arbor to be near family as they raise their son, Oliver. Excited by the opportunity to work for Google, Karen joined the company in September when its Ann Arbor AdWords office opened.
My Leap of Faith
After many years spent in Boston and San Francisco, my husband and I decided it was time to create a new experience for our family. We knew we wanted to raise our son in an environment closer to that of our own childhood. Closer to lakes, streams, farms, orchards. Closer to grandmothers, grandfathers, crazy cousins and holiday insanity. Ann Arbor, my husband's childhood home, had the greatest density of those things. With a leap of faith and a healthy dose of optimism, we shed big city life for our new adventure.
My last adventure involved a similar leap of faith, leaving Boston for San Francisco with a dream that I would work for a company like Silicon Graphics or Netscape. Lucky for me, I landed at a small internet search engine, WebCrawler. Through the Dot-com bubble and beyond, I had the opportunity to work at a variety of companies with dynamic leaders, brilliant engineers, big dreamers and fearless visionaries. Great leap. Strong landing. A bit of stumbling. Tons of learning.
I had no idea if this leap to Michigan would be the right one.
I left an incredibly rewarding career, defining consumer web services for Kodak EasyShare Gallery, in order to move our family across the country. Should I stay home with my son? Should I consult for Kodak? Do I look for new purpose in this vastly different economy? I tried them all and decided that I wanted to have local impact. I wanted to find a way to contribute to new economies in Michigan.
Still connected to the evolution of consumer web services, search and content, I networked with locals to better understand the state of the digital community in Ann Arbor. I also maintained close tabs on Ann Arbor SPARK, thinking about ways I might plug in to help energize my new community and support emerging businesses.
Then Google happened to Ann Arbor.
Working with Google's AdWords division seemed to be the obvious path for me. After all, I did cut my Silicon Valley teeth by leading ad operations for the WebCrawler search service and later defining the network advertising systems for Excite.com. Google's arrival in Ann Arbor was quite serendipitous! Like many, I was inspired by their mission, values and innovative work. Their local growth goals offered yet another opportunity for me to help facilitate the rapid pace of growth and change in a quasi-startup environment. Helping Google put roots down in Ann Arbor seemed to be a great way to make impact.
#1 Google comes to A2
I'm still amazed that I left Silicon Valley behind, only to have one of it's most famous names open shop in A2. Bizarre.
#2 Local Talent
I knew that we would find great college grads in the local Midwest universities. However, the biggest surprise has been the caliber of the local leaders we've recruited to help lead our organization. While we have a rich mix of experience bases, I was most shocked by the strong leaders we recruited from the local auto industry. My naive assumptions about Big Three talent base has been thankfully trashed forever. They are a phenomenal group of leaders who are creative, energized, optimistic, collaborative and innovative.
Choosing to work full-time while raising children is a conscious choice. Some days this is an easy choice to make. Other days it feels impossible. However, I have been thankful that Google is such an incredibly family-friendly company. I feel extremely supported in making sure that my son is a priority and feel empowered to make the right decisions to balance my professional and personal life.
#4 Impacting Michigan
I knew that by joining Google, I would help to create jobs in Ann Arbor and encourage people to put roots down in our community. I knew that the Google.org philanthropic division was making impact on some heady world issues, but I didn't realize how committed the team would be to our local community. We have formed Google Cares, an employee driven volunteer team that does outreach and fundraising for issues of their choice. We've partnered with youth organizations, schools, universities and chambers of commerce to collaborate on ways to impact our local economy.
Collectively, we're beginning to make a difference in our community and it's exciting to consider the impact we'll have as our team here in Ann Arbor grows.
My leap of faith to Michigan was built on the assumption that opportunities would abound in a small university town like Ann Arbor, rich in culture, research and innovation. It was a scary transition to leave a place I had called home for so many years and while I came here believing I left a lot behind, I quickly realized that there are a lot of opportunities here, personally and professionally.
I've landed in a place where I have the unique chance to influence the growth of a new wave of leaders and a new way of thinking. Google encourages teams to take risks, think big, and focus on solutions. We encourage collaboration and don't shy away from challenge. I'm part of a local community that embraces change and opportunities. I'm raising my son close to extended family in a community rich with diversity and culture.
Personally and professionally, I've landed in a good place, making my leap of faith rewarding in ways I could've never imagined.