TheBridge profile: Lynette Barksdale
Name: Lynette Barksdale
Current city: Austin, TX
Current job: Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Google Cloud
Past job: Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Access (Google Fiber)
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. My first role out of college, I was working as a Human Resources Manager at a large retail company. I learned very quickly that in order to succeed, I had to correct naive mindsets. The reality was that I had very little experience managing others or understanding the art of influencing and motivating people. The work that I was hired to do required both of those skills — probably at a proficient or expert level. I was struggling with my team and didn’t understand the concept of emotional intelligence, so I did a lot of things on my own. I was working harder and not smarter.
I eventually learned that getting feedback in the right way is actually one of the greatest gifts you can receive. I also gained a better understanding — and appreciation — of the importance of having a level of emotional intelligence that helps you understand and meet people where they are so you can positively influence them in that space.
Q. Job advice in three words? Emotional intelligence matters.
Q. How are you (or your company) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? There are some incredible programs that have been launched to help bridge the gap between tech/innovation and public policy. One example is our Google Next Gen program, which was founded by Google’s Strategic Policy Manager, Chanelle Hardy. This program welcomes the “next generation” of leaders and influencers from areas such as communications and media, non-profits, grassroots organizations, tech and many more. These are leaders like Mike Muse from Sirius XM, whose show provides insights into how tech is impacting everyone's lives and the role that we need to play in understanding and having a position on topics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Another example is Kim Tignor, whose organization Creative Control provides resources and support to creators who are trying to control their brand and rights as an innovator.
Another example is our Online Safety roadshow, which teaches internet etiquette while also encouraging students to take a deeper interest technology. As part of this program, Google partners with local politicians in the cities we visit to work with grade school students.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give yourself in the beginning of your career? Looking back, I would honestly tell myself to do exactly what I did all over again — except this time, really ENJOY IT. I have had the opportunity to work at some incredible companies doing things that I still pinch myself about. Experiences like creating Google’s first presence at the NAACP Image Awards, curating an event for Black Women Leaders during the Essence Festival and being in Detroit during our Black Googlers Network annual outreach trip, delivering water to residents. Many of those events and experiences are such a blur now — things that I will not get to relive because they were once-in-a-lifetime moments. So I would encourage my younger self to enjoy it, live in the moment and be fully present.
Q. Living person you admire? It may sound cliche, but I definitely have to say my mom. The lessons I learned from my mom beginning at a very young age have really shaped me into the person I am today. She always encouraged me to work extremely hard for myself — not for accolades or to make someone else proud, but because it is the right thing to do. So if I brought home a grade that was lower than she expected, it wasn’t that it disappointed her but that it should have disappointed me because I could do better. I learned from the mistakes I made and used them to achieve the next goal.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Emotional intelligence. I think we focus too much on whether someone can do the job, possess the technical skills required and know the right thing to say. But if we hone in more on emotional intelligence (or “EQ” as it’s also described) and developing that skill, we will see leaders who are able to help their teams better solve problems, as well as individuals working better with each other and being open to different perspectives and ways of doing or thinking about things. This is what creates more collaborative — and more inclusive — spaces.
Q. Favorite App? Google Translate. I travel a lot, and it is a saving grace! I feel like I am invincible with that app because I can communicate with anyone the way that they want to be communicated with and in the language that they prefer.
Q. Best advice you've received? I follow this IG handle @commandinglife, and a quote that I will never forget is: “The most beautiful chapters in our lives don’t get a title until much later.” I am so used to trying to understand and define everything in the moment, and this quote reminds me that you may not understand or be able to rationalize everything while it is happening, but the lesson and the beauty of it will reveal itself.
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? In February 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba. Not only was it one of my favorite trips to-date, but I also had the rare opportunity to completely unplug. Close to the end of the trip, we visited a resort in Varadero where you could utilize the Wi-fi as part of your day pass to the resort, and I remember not even wanting to log on to anything because I was enjoying being present around my friends and simply living in the moment.
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