Power Suit: The Transformer

Google’s Monique Picou brings innovation to the company and the tech industry on multiple levels

As Google’s vice president of product, technology strategy, and global server operations, Monique Picou is accountable for a transformational organization that successfully meets customer requirements within the technical infrastructure of Google Cloud. She is leading the global expansion of server operations while responding to both large-scale and private customer needs for server capacity. Picou was previously chief strategy and supply chain officer for Sam’s Club. Prior, at Walmart, she was responsible for a $5 billion budget. She also held various senior leadership roles in her 25 years with Procter & Gamble.

Picou has served on numerous boards, including the American Red Cross and the US Chamber of Commerce. She earned a BS in electrical engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and completed her MBA at Florida Tech in 1993. Picou and her husband, Brian, have been married for more than 25 years and have three children.

Diversity Woman: Google created a new role for you. What are you charged with accomplishing?

Monique Picou: As the vice president of technology strategy and global server operations, I lead a team responsible for helping keep Google’s services up and running all day, every day. Our success is measured by how we are modernizing Google’s server operations and creating sustainable linkages that allow us to deliver faster and more efficient operations.

My responsibilities include developing and expanding Google’s server floor operations and data center materials, including strategies for technology, planning, staffing, product, process, and capability as Google Cloud continues to grow. As we grow, climate action matters more than ever. We intend to run our entire business, including our data centers, purely on carbon-free energy—everywhere, at all times. And we plan to do it by 2030.

DW: Historically, there’ve been many challenges in STEM professions for Black women. What challenges did you face early in your career?

MP: Throughout my career, I have experienced gender and racial microaggressions, compensation disparity, workplace segregation, hair bias, tokenism, body profiling, promotion pass over, and threats to my psychological safety. None of these threats came from Black women.

I have come up with several takeaways:

All such instances are centered in fear, competition management, and melanin hierarchy placement.

There is never one challenge that you face at any given time. There are always several working against you. I have learned to expect them, which helps me be prepared and ensures that my emotions do not make decisions for me.

I focus on being the best version of myself, never altering who I am but always improving.

I own my value equation and realize that everyone may not see it the same as I do. When that equation comes into question by my peers or leadership, it’s usually a sign for me to explore the next opportunity.

DW: Tell us about your childhood and family background. Where did you grow up? What were some of your interests as a child, and were you encouraged to pursue them?

MP: I grew up between Wisconsin and Louisiana as the oldest of four siblings.
I was very close with my grandmother—I was the youngest of her 13 grandchildren. She worked cleaning houses and cooking for wealthy families. I learned a lot from her work ethic, her faith, and our sense of community.

The church and neighbors in Bogalusa, Louisiana, nurtured my natural abilities in math and science. I honed my skills counting the collection at church and playing math games at revival. The community encouraged me and cheered me on in school, which is how I landed my first job in seventh grade at the American Red Cross answering phones.

I didn’t have a family of engineers or computer scientists, nor did I have career advisors or high-school counselors pushing me to dream big and chase that dream. But what I did have was a passion for math and people who believed in me. It’s a passion I couldn’t ignore, and one that I continued to fuel, develop, and progress­—throughout high school, into college, and beyond.

DW: When did you realize you wanted to become an engineer, a predominantly male profession? Were you discouraged by other people from obtaining that degree?

MP: The Kuder, a career assessment test, predicted that I would be a good engineer. Those results, along with my grandmother’s consistent encouragement, kept me focused on the end goal. She never wavered in her belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. She taught me that naysayers would always be there. She taught me how to go up, around, over, under, and even through the barriers that would want to steal my dreams.

DW: Historically, the representation of women of color has been a challenge for the tech industry. What is Google doing to increase the pipeline, a sense of inclusion, and advancement opportunities?

MP: At Google, I have seen firsthand how crucial a diverse and inclusive workplace is to shaping the work we do. We work with external partner organizations to build community and provide resources to groups historically excluded from the tech industry. We strive to remove barriers to careers in tech while creating a pathway for future Googlers across our entry, industry, and executive hiring. For example, in 2021, we achieved our best year for hiring women globally, as well as Black+ and Latinx+ employees in the US, since we began reporting these numbers.

We’re also driving allyship and holding leaders accountable by incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into performance reviews for all vice president and higher levels. And in expanding how we help employees from underrepresented communities thrive at Google by growing our Stay & Thrive team, we are seeing promising progress.

DW: What career advice would you give woman graduates in engineering and technology? And what advice would you give aspiring midcareer women of color?

MP: For recent graduates, this is your time and moment; women in STEM are in short supply, and the professional opportunities give you more choices than ever before. Be brave, be bold, and believe in yourself. It is important to ask for what you want and never settle for less than what you need.

For those already well into their career journey, take these crossroads and be clear on what you want and where you are headed. The tough choices you make now will reveal your growth and determine your future. Be honest with yourself. Are you where you want to be? If not, let’s get moving. And most importantly, bet on yourself! You got this!

DW: Describe a leadership lesson you learned early in life.

MP: Competency may not provide the great equilibrium, but it definitely creates access. When people reapply your work, even if they aren’t honest about it, it validates your competency. Knowing how to leverage your competency will provide access to people and positions that move you forward. DW

“There is never one challenge that you face at any given time. There are always several working against you. I have learned to expect them, which helps me be prepared and ensures that my emotions do not make decisions for me.”

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