Building The Infrastructure To Drive Growth And Scale
March 17, 2022
Bethanie Baynes is the Director of Corporate Partnerships at Amazon. Prior to that she spent 16 years at Google in a variety of roles including overseeing strategic partnerships and driving new business development, revenue management and analytical insights. She is a tireless women's advocate and recognized leader on the topic of breadwinning women.

She founded the Breadwinning Women's community at Google, is the host of the podcast, Working Wife, Happy Life! and has been featured on CNBC, Refinery 29, Medium, Know Your Value "Women in the News", Said Business School at Oxford University and Chief Mom Officer. Below she shares some insights from her time at Google on company infrastructure and processes.

Learnings from the early days of Google on driving scale through technology.

When I started my career at Google, it was very early, literally January 2004. The first challenge I faced was during our hypergrowth beginning. We were hiring and got about 8,000 emails from applicants. Sheryl Sandberg, a staunch operational expert, tasked me with sorting through and bulk responding to those emails in a timely manner.

I don't have a technical background but I am very practical. So I found a few of my more tech-savvy colleagues, and we developed tools that would help us filter through the emails. This sounds like customer service 101 these days, but in 2004 auto replies were not common practice. To this day, we use that same principle when looking for ways to utilize automation without sacrificing the quality of the experience.

Determining the key value drivers that lead to company growth

I've learned there are these little red herrings when you look at data, these little anomalies that you can chase down. It's almost like a corn maze, you can end up in a dead-end, or you can end up with a clue. It takes diligence to follow through and wisdom to know when enough is enough.

So much about leadership is instinct. It's easy to fall into analysis paralysis. Honestly, you can make data tell any story you want, so go with your gut and be willing to pivot. You're going to make mistakes, and you're going to bark up the wrong tree. That's ok. That's not lost time. No matter how smart or successful you are, there is always more to learn.

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all tool for growth, but research is a practical approach to help you discover what tool will work for you.

The foundational principles key to setting up efficient infrastructure and processes

Everyone can be a snowflake, but we have to agree that we're all snow. Setting up a cohesive infrastructure is how companies outline what it means to be snow. To do that, companies need to create a unified vision.

I work a lot horizontally. Most businesses are structured vertically, whether it's by industry, region or even channels. Looking horizontally provides an interesting perspective. There's a foundational aspect to any business, be it working off the same product or targeting the same type of ROI. When you can get everyone to agree on that, you can have some really compelling conversations.

The value of research and data

I think third-party data and research are tremendously valuable. If you're looking for insights to understand a new market or consumer behaviors and content consumption, my guess is somebody looked at it before. I encourage people to do research, even if it's just through Google Scholar.

When thinking about a launch or a scale, it can be challenging to decide what to do. Do you go for the shiny new thing? Or do you go for the bread and butter? Do you go more niche, or do you try to appeal to more people at once? There are so many nuances across so many different businesses. It really depends on what the value is for you, and how nimble you think your organization can be to respond to that. It's all about finding as much information as you can and then going with your instincts.

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all tool, but research is a practical approach to help you discover what tool will work for you.

Hiring multi-hyphenate executives

I have sat on Google's hiring committee for several years and was one of the longest-standing members. I did have to move it off my plate but when I sat on the committee, there were instances where we needed to hire an all-around athlete, somebody so talented we could plug them in anywhere.

I think that's a personality type. Some people feel solely comfortable with their area of expertise, and they don't want to branch out. Those candidates are more linear. They've stayed in a similar area or had a very predictable path. I am not that person. I've jumped around a lot. When you interview people like me whose experience ranges, you're going to want to use your judgment to determine what motivates their trajectory and if the role can satiate their desire for variety.

Predicting consumer purchasing behavior

In terms of consumer confidence, there are so many external analyses going on. We typically produce three models ranging from highly expected to not likely. It is tough to do a year-over-year model right now. If you look at the economic trends, the stock market versus the GDP, nothing makes sense.

So from a business perspective, the best that you can do is make predictions based on various assumptions and have a couple of different models. As you go through each day or each week, depending on your business, watch to see which economic trend you're getting closer to. Then just be prepared. In recent years we have all learned, as business folks and just as human beings, to expect the unexpected.



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