July 7th, 2021

Adrienne McCallister has built teams from the ground up and envisioned wildly successful go-to-market strategies for companies like Google, AOL, and Associated Content. She is an expert in building global partnerships, negotiation, new business model deployment, and digital media. 

Below, read Adrienne’s executive story from investment banking to leading partnership development for Google Workspace. Adrienne shares her insights on networking, partnerships, and technology—and how being intentional in her career allowed her to follow an untraditional path to success.

Tell me about your early career. 

My early work with investment banking gave me an amazing work ethic. It taught me how to understand an industry deeply enough to value and promote a company. I then got very interested in technology, working for UBS and Credit Suisse in areas of consulting and business development. 

I went on to earn my MBA from UC Berkeley where I tried to cement my pivot from financial services to media technology. I worked at AOL for four years doing technology partnerships and eventually joining their strategic partnership team.

Technology was changing so rapidly and it was impacting the business models of companies; I loved being in the middle of it. 

Let’s talk about your current role leading partnerships at Google. 

In 2011, I joined the team working on the first iteration of Google TV managing our strategic partnerships like Netflix and Hulu. This evolved into working on Google’s streaming products from Chromecast all the way through Google Home. This was a very formative time in my career because we were all playing so many different roles. 

I grew my career at Google, moving from New York to the Bay Area and filling various business development and partnerships roles. The more I learned, the more excited I became. In 2019, I was asked to take on North America Carrier Partnerships for Android, managing partnerships with companies like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. It wasn’t always easy, but it was valuable work. 

Recently, I gave up the North America Partnerships work, kept the communications work, and am now taking on partnerships for Workspace. Currently, I’m rebuilding a partnership team from the ground up so the Workspace products can work better with other productivity software. 

What’s next for you? 

I am pursuing board service. I have been at Google for just over 10 years now and—while I can’t predict the future—the goal of my career is to contribute to the technology space beyond Google. I’ve considered doing C-level work at a small or medium-sized company, teaching at the university level as an adjunct professor, or even consulting. It may be one of these paths, or a combination. 

What’s the unique value you bring as a leader?

I manage my career by being successful across a variety of disciplines. I am a competent and confident executive who can be successful in a number of situations. The diversity of my experience allows me to start pattern matching. I can look at a situation and say, “This is not directly applicable, but there are similarities I’ve seen before.” Having that variety makes me flexible. 

You’ve talked about being “intentional yet opportunistic” in navigating your career. What does that mean?

At one point, I was working in augmented reality and virtual reality and I thought I would become a pioneer in that burgeoning space. I was then offered an opportunity to lead Google’s consumer communications partnerships. While it wasn’t my original goal, I decided to take the new role as it was compelling to work on a product that was truly scaled. I call this “intentional yet opportunistic” because you can have a goal in mind, but reconsider if something interesting comes up. 

It’s hard when you’re faced with two choices that both look good on paper. You’ll never know what would have happened had you chosen the different path, and you can reassure yourself when good things happen that you made the right decision for you. Remember to be convicted in your ultimate decision. 

How has the shift to virtual work affected your work in the partnership space?

We are still very effective in building partnerships, but we’re not quite at the same level of efficiency. On one hand, it’s easy being able to just do a video chat with someone across the country—or the world—every day. However, it would have been faster and more efficient to sit down and work it out in person.

We’re at 80% efficiency living in a remote world for partnerships. Building relationships is harder because you don’t get the same level of intimacy over calls and video chat. My personal approach to negotiation is to build the relationship on more than just work-related topics, and that’s more difficult to do remotely. It hasn’t changed our approach, but we are slightly less efficient in getting things done. 

What parts of your Athena membership have been most impactful for you so far? 

Coco [Athena’s Founder & CEO] spoke to some Google women executives and it was very beneficial. I took copious amounts of notes on everything from how to pitch myself to how women approach board service differently than men. Athena also helped me pull together my board resume.

What advice do you have for women leaders who are rising through the ranks? 

Be very proactive in managing your career. I’ve spent 10 years at Google and worked with extraordinary people, but ultimately what I have found is that you have to be the captain of your own career ship. 

Sometimes you get an amazing supporter, mentor, or sponsor who pulls you along. More often than not, though, that doesn’t happen. You are the one who has to decide what direction you want to sail, speak up about what you want, and ask for help. I encourage women to network and talk about their goals. You can’t wait for others to do it for you. 

Athena provides comprehensive learning and support as you rise to the top of your field. Learn more about making Athena your competitive advantage as you reach the next level in your executive career. Athena members can connect with Adrienne by clicking “Request Introduction” on her profile.



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