- Helen Kelisky is Google Cloud’s newest managing director for the UK and Ireland.
- Her appointment follows an exodus of exec departures at Google Cloud EMEA.
- Insider sat down with Kelisky to discuss her career, management, and the future of work.
Google has made a significant appointment to its cloud business to shore up its fight against rivals Amazon and Microsoft.
Helen Kelisky is Google Cloud’s new managing director for the UK and Ireland, having previously worked at the enterprise IT firm OpenText after a stint at Salesforce and 30 years at IBM.
Does she have a challenge on her hands? Her predecessor, Pip White — also an ex-Salesforce executive — took the role in 2020 but left for Slack after a year. Her exit from her coincided with the exit of Chris Ciauri, the group’s EMEA chief, and his former VP of operations, Sanj Bhayro, the same year. Each of the three was in their post for less than two years. Adaire Fox-Martin, a board member at SAP, replaced Ciauri in July.
“One thing that I learned early on is to take the job where you feel you can make the biggest difference and can learn the most,” Kelisky told Insider.
“That includes not being afraid to take the job that isn’t the most popular or the one that everyone wants.”
Over the past few decades, Kelisky told Insider she had curated a reputation as a “promoter of people.”
“My approach is to serve and support the people that work for me because I can’t do the work that I do without the support of a talented team of people.
“I’ve received so much advice throughout my career — some good, some not so good — but all of it’s contributed to get me to where I am today. You could say I’ve grown up in cloud.”
After three decades at IBM, Kelisky was approached by Salesforce, where she was “responsible for establishing and leading the cloud-sales organization for the UK and Ireland.”
She said: “I knew I had to take the opportunity for my own personal development. It’s so important to continue learning at each stage of your career.”
The COVID-19 pandemic afforded Kelisky an opportunity to relax and relearn some old skills.
Stuck at home due to lockdown, she quit her Salesforce role and worked for the UK’s National Health Service as a volunteer responder, helping out at vaccination sites and assisting vulnerable residents by shopping for food and delivering prescriptions.
“I also used some of my time to pick up the piano again, which I played when I was much younger,” Kelisky said. “I even took my Grade 5 exam.”
Google’s official return to office has been repeatedly delayed over the past year, with execs pushing for a hybrid model in which employees work face-to-face at least three days a week, in sharp contrast to rivals allowing workers to continue working remotely. Kelisky is sympathetic to those less keen to come into the office.
“It’s so important for businesses to make room for employees to do whatever is best for them,” she said.
“While there are employees that are eager to come into a physical office, there are many of us that enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently ,” she said, adding that companies should “accommodate for all of these possibilities.”
Insider’s Rosalie Chan reported in September that Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian was quietly reshuffling the unit, with longtime Googlers leaving and handpicked hires from rival firms taking their spots. Google Cloud still lags Microsoft’s Azure and AWS by market share. It’s also unprofitable, though revenue in the fourth quarter grew 45% year on year to $5.5 billion.
The division’s clients in the UK and Ireland include HSBC, Unilever, and Vodafone.
“I’m thrilled to be joining Google Cloud at a time when the company is accelerating towards the next stage of growth,” Kelisky said.
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