Visionary Women In Business: Ruth Porat, CFO, Google

After being an investment banker with Morgan Stanley for quite a long time, Ruth Porat became the CFO of Alphabet and its legendary subsidiary, Google in 2015.

Aside from the conventional duties the role of a CFO entails, at Google she is also in charge of the workplace and real estate services- which include the upkeep of some of the smartest business infrastructure in the world. Also included are the unique perks Google employees get- like the free gourmet meals the workplace provide them. Considering this last aspect alone, the firm’s employees-over 78,000 around the world- consume 178,000 company meals every single day.

Putting all these things together, you wouldn’t be mistaken in saying Ruth Porat has her hands full. But the fact is that she is doing a tremendous job, carrying out her significant duties.

This makes the 60 year old more than just another CFO, but also an icon among women entrepreneurs.

Here we look at some elements that make Porat such a unique presence in the modern business landscape.

A global outlook & a clear roadmap for progress underlie Porat’s vision

Uniqueness leading to better revenue

Whimsical, risk-taking, innovative...these are terms one often hears about Google. However, soon after Porat took charge of finances in 2015, she did something that was far from whimsical. Something that also demonstrated Porat’s savvy as a financial thinker.

Merely months into her tenure, under Porat’s initiative, it was announced that Alphabet would now become the holding company which would be the umbrella under which some of Google’s more whimsical-sounding projects would exist. These include the Loon Internet balloon projects and Waymo self-driving cars. It was also decided that Google’s ad-oriented business would remain as the driving force for the firm’s finances.

This move resulted in two things: The company started making more revenue than they thought they would, and also the noncore projects didn’t lose as much as they feared. Before this, the operating loss on the noncore projects were estimated as high as $11 billion. But with Porat’s move, that loss was contained at $3.5 billion in the first year of her tenure.

Porat’s ingenuity demonstrates her uniqueness- which is a change agent’s ability to see a container in a fresh perspective.

Discernment that led to streamlining

While the operating loss has been minimized on non-core projects, that’s not to say that such losses were curbed entirely. For instance, in the most recent quarter, the losses totaled $812.

Understanding the wisdom in devoting resources to key areas and cutting down those areas that are non-essential, Porat made decisions along the three lines of invest, divest and slowing things down.

One of the major areas where Google toned down their investment is the highly expensive Fiber Internet and Television service. Also, last year Google dropped their Terra Bella satellite imaging business as well. Porat believes it makes sense for the company to be the customer of such a business than an owner.

The decision-making which bolstered the key aspects of the company while downplaying the others is attributable to Porat’s discernment- a change agent’s ability to stay focused, without getting carried away by fantasies.

Connecting different silos, Porat streamlined operations

A pioneer who broke away from industry conventions

With the idea of a more streamlined and lean business, Porat brought more discipline to existing projects as well. For instance, under Porat, leaders should factor in the expenses of employees’ stock options and other compensation during routine budgeting. Keep in mind that this is highly unconventional compared to the typical norms of Internet-industry firms.

This break away from the well-trodden path makes Porat a pioneer- a change agent diligent in doing something in the container that’s not been done before.

Confluence of personal and shared vision

Under Porat’s guidance, from an organizational perspective, there are short term goals or collective vision to pursue.

For instance, she set six month agendas or targets for her team members should pursue. The simply question she asked to set this target is, What would you like to have achieved in another six months?

Also, she emphasizes the importance of every team member having a plan against which they are executing. If the plans are considered as personal vision of the team members, it then becomes a tool to achieve the collective vision of the team.

This confluence of the personal and collective vision is a key aspect of Temenos Vision Lab or TVL- a unique session created by Temenos+Agility that helps change agents discover their True Personal Vision and teams their Compelling Shared Vision.

From core financial aspects to employee welfare and from level-headed decision making to taking paths less trodden, Porat’s work with Google has seen her working across a wide mental spectrum. And we are sure that entrepreneurs would get to learn plenty more from watching this icon in action in years to come.

We at Temenos+Agility would be keeping an eye on the latest proceedings from Porat’s front. And if you are even the least bit interested in learning new things and staying inspired, so would you!

Temenos Vision Lab

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