The women behind some of Google’s most impactful products
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we talked to two women who have shaped the history of some of Google’s most impactful products. From building Google Search crisis hotlines to improving Street View and Photos, these Googlers share more about their jobs, career advice and the responsibility they feel to help others.
From seeing patients in the ER to building crisis hotlines
Anne Merritt, a product manager for Search, started her career as a physician in the emergency room where she cared for patients in crisis. Now, she brings her passion for helping people to Google Search’s personal crisis hotlines, which connect people in need with resources that can change — and in some cases save — their lives.
How does being a woman impact the features you build?
As an ER doctor, I cared for women struggling with personal crises like suicide, sexual assault and domestic violence. As a mom of two girls, I empathize with the real-world challenges these women face, like keeping their children safe and finding time to get the help they need. Listening to their stories has challenged me to identify blind spots in our design process and make sure the features we build have real-world impact. For example, we know that timely access to different communication modes is essential, so we prioritized the simplicity and visibility of phone, chat and text services when designing our hotline features.
How do the skills you learned in ER translate to your current job?
In the emergency room — much like with crisis hotlines — you never know who will walk through the door or what their situation will be. In this environment — where time is of the essence — the ability to solve problems outside of your comfort zone, work together as a team, and be agile can save lives. Bringing these skills to my role has helped me be a more effective leader and drive greater impact across our features.
Google has an opportunity to empower people to take the next steps in their journey to find help. We can pave the path from helping people find information to connecting them with timely, life-saving resources and compassionate support.
What inspired you to leave the ER and work on personal crisis hotlines at Google?
I love helping people in a moment of need — or as my mentor, Dr. Brian J. Zink, says “Anyone, Anything, Anytime.” Becoming a product manager at Google challenges me to provide support on a global scale. In urgent situations, like personal crises, Google has an opportunity to empower people to take the next steps in their journey to find help. We can pave the path from helping people find information to connecting them with timely, life-saving resources and compassionate support.
Helping others see the world in Street View
Kristi Bohl, a product manager for Street View, loves helping people see the marvels of the world — from Machu Picchu to the Great Barrier Reef. Before working on Street View, she worked on Google Photos where she made recognizable features, like Memories, more inclusive. Kristi worked to showcase more activities and hobbies that people from different backgrounds enjoy and events that take place around the world.
What do you love most about building products and features at Google?
Part of my personal mission is to make people happier, healthier and more productive in their day-to-day lives. When people say “this product makes life much easier" or "this feature is a great improvement,” it’s really rewarding. It makes the world feel a little smaller when someone from a completely different background experiences the same joy as I do for something I’ve built.
Feelings are just another data point, and if you pay attention they can reveal a lot.
Woman to woman, what’s the best career advice you’ve gotten?
Women in tech often avoid talking about feelings for fear of coming across as “too emotional.” So, I really appreciated it when a female mentor helped me flip that narrative. Feelings are just another data point, and if you pay attention they can reveal a lot. Feelings alone don’t give you much information, but if you take the time to ask yourself, “Why am I feeling funny about this?” you can figure out if something going on is not aligned with your values, priorities or goals. Then you can then shift from the feelings space to the logic space to figure out what to do about it.
What impactful things are you working on with Street View?
Street View is immensely valuable for getting a sense of a new place before you visit — whether for vibe, navigation or safety. Understanding what to expect when you go somewhere new can give anyone more comfort as they get things done. Right now, I’m working with my team to improve how everyone can contribute to Street View so people can get even more information about a place before they go there.