– 10: The Power of Transformational Learning and Development with Kathrin O’Sullivan

This episode’s guest is Kathrin O’Sullivan. Kathrin is the Head of Cross-Functional Leadership Development at Google.  She leads a team of people who help Googlers exercise leadership to transform themselves, Google, and the world.

In her career, she has enjoyed working in different leadership positions across HR, Sales, Operations, and Business Development. She strives to facilitate an environment to help people become more self aware and clear about their values and goals, and to design strategies and practices that lead to self-excellence. Kathrin was a featured presenter at the 2013 Emerging Women Live Conference in Boulder, CO.

In this episode, Kathrin and I speak about:

How she is able to help “Googlers” transform themselves into leaders.
What kind of practices they use at Google to foster development.
The vulnerability present in sharing your true self.
How Google is helping the advancement of current employees especially women in a male dominated field.
The definition of Unconscious Bias and how it plays a role in keeping women from rising in business
The potential reach of Google and social media, and the role they could play in changing the world.


Tune in to listen to my conversation “The Power of Transformational Learning and Development” with Kathrin O’Sullivan.
Subscribe to the Emerging Women podcast on iTunes.


Chantal Pierrat Hi, Kathrin! Welcome!

Kathrin O’Sullivan: Hi, Chantal!

CP: Thanks for setting the time aside. I know you’re a busy woman over there at Google.

KO: It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. I’m excited about this.

CP: Yay! So for those of you who are listening and were not at the event, Kathrin was part of our panel at the Emerging Women Live 2013 event in Boulder this past October. She was on a panel that was called “Game Changers” with other women in learning and organizational development at companies like Facebook and LinkedIn and Google and Twitter. So I wanted to highlight some of the things that came out in that conversation and explore some of those topics a little bit deeper. So maybe we could just launch in with a little short description of exactly what you do at Google.

KO: Well, I’m responsible for leadership development at Google. So I am helping Googlers exercise leadership to transform themselves, Google, and the world. That’s kind of our grand mission. And what that means is helping Googlers really own their leadership journey as they develop in their career and take bigger and bigger assignments and are more responsible for bigger scopes of business.

CP: So here’s my question with that. You know, Emerging Women, our tagline is “live the truth of who you are,” and it’s kind of a tall order, in general, just as a human being. I’m curious to see how much, when you say that you are responsible for developing programs that will encourage Googlers to transform themselves and their work, how deep does that go, when you say “transform themselves”?

KO: If we talk about real transformation, it goes pretty deep. We give people the choice. Some people might not want to choose to go any deeper than some transaction they’re learning. Other people are really open to going really deep and really looking hard at who they are as people and how they influence the world around them.

CP: Have you been doing a lot of these programs, and if you have, what kind of results have you noticed over time when you bring on programs that actually allow people to deep-dive inward and to self-reflect?

KO: We’ve really seen amazing results. I design and develop some of these programs and I also deliver some of them, so I’m actually in the classroom and I see it happen. A lot of what we do we do over time, and we follow up with people over time to see how the learning gets implemented in the workplace.

Of course, when it comes to more like “softer” skills, it is a little bit harder to exactly determine how it affects the bottom…