Hey George, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hello, I’m George Dong. I was born in Fuzhou, China. I’m an 1.5 generation immigrant, and I have called Ann Arbor, Chicago, and the SF Bay Area home at one point in my life. I studied English in college and received my MBA from Wharton. I enjoy reading business books, hiking in national parks, and going on road trips with my family.
Can you tell us what you do as a Senior Program Manager at Google for those who are unfamiliar?
I am a Senior Program Manager at Google. I often work behind the scenes to manage priorities (e.g. manage the OKR and annual planning processes), oversee internal operations (e.g. manage agendas and action items at weekly leads meetings), and spearhead special projects for senior leaders (e.g. lead an organizational process overhaul).
How did you decide to pursue your specific career?
Two pivotal moments in my career thus far:
1. I joined Teach For America after college and spent the next 7 years in the world of education non-profits - teaching high school English in the inner city of Chicago, serving as a Fulbright scholar to expand educational opportunities for ethnic minority students in China’s countryside, and co-founding a non-profit to provide free vision exams and eyeglasses for kids in need.
2. I pivoted from education to tech in 2016. I first joined Google as a technical recruiter and recruited 50+ software engineers.
What made you interested in your field? What do you like about it?
Working for Google has always been a dream for me. In the early 2010s, I also realized that the technology industry has played a more pivotal role in our daily lives and powered tremendous economic growth and employment. On the personal front, I also wanted to try something different after 7 years of working in education non-profits.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
As for getting hired at Google, my number one advice is asking a Googler for an internal referral instead of applying online. Because a referral can increase your odds by as much as 8x.
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Be confident. Be authentic. Be prepared.
What fuels you to continue to do what you do?
Professionally: The joy of getting things done and knowing that you have made an impact.
Personally: love, wisdom, and health
Most difficult thing about your job?
The most difficult part of being a program manager is influencing without authority. It’s also a golden opportunity to master the arts of influence and persuasion.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
1. Take risks early in your career and be willing to try different things.
2. When you’re in your 20s, you should take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training and worry less about prestige and pay.
3. You made a great decision in marrying your wife. :)
Best advice you've received/heard?
The best advice I’ve received is from my college mentor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an accomplished doctor who became a prominent voice in progressive politics. He told me more than a decade ago, “we first make our habits and then our habits make us”, and ever since then, I’ve been working on my habits such as writing down my goals every year, taking notes while reading a book, and breaking down daily tasks into achievable chucks.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to learn more about Program Management?
In the world of hyper-specialization, I’m a generalist. I believe there are benefits for being a generalist. Generalists can make connections across far-flung domains and ideas and take conceptual knowledge from one domain and apply it in an entirely new one. If you’re young, no need to rush into a specific domain and specialize too early.
Practice short-term planning to find the best match for you at the time because
1) the world is changing more rapidly and exponentially than ever fueled by globalization and technology
2) we often underestimate how much our own desires and motivations change over time.