Unfiltered: #ChooseToChallenge with Yuki Richardson
Womenflare is celebrating International Women's Day, a global day commemorating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, by kicking off Women's Empowerment Month in March!
Join us to hear the insights and experiences of women in all stages on their journey, as they share with us how they #choosetochallenge and help create an inclusive and equitable world.
Guest: Yuki Richardson, Director of Finance, Google
Yuki Richardson is the Finance lead for a number of platforms products at Google, including Android. She’s a strong advocate for diversity efforts and holds leadership roles in several diversity advocacy groups within Google Finance. Her prior roles at Google included leading Financial Planning & Analysis for Google Cloud Platforms, Corporate Engineering, Core Infrastructure, and Research.
Prior to joining Google, Yuki held Finance leadership roles at NBC Universal and General Electric.
Hello, Cloudflare TV. And happy Women's Empowerment Month. I hope you've heard this a ton of times this month from us.
My name is Kalpana Ravinarayanan and I work in the data and business intelligence teams here at Cloudflare.
We are super excited to about the special Choose to Challenge edition, where we bring in amazing people, amazing women from across various fields to kind of chat, talk to us about their perspectives, their experiences, and how we're just getting along in the world, I guess.
Before we dive in further, a quick note to our viewers. If you have questions, feel free to submit them by emailing us at livestudio at Cloudflare .tv.
And you can also find the banner right below this video. So without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to one remarkable woman, Yuki Richardson, Director of Finance at Google.
Yuki, welcome to our show. Thank you for taking time to talk to us today.
Perhaps you can start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.
And I am at Google. I've been at the company for a little over a decade, and I currently lead the financial planning and analysis team for a number of Google's platform products.
The biggest one being Android, which is a platform OS for mobile phones, but also wearables, cars, TV, and other form factors.
Cool. So what kinds of things do you do day to day? That sounds very impressive.
That's an impressive list. So what does a finance person do to help the Android and wearables team?
Yeah, so at the end of the day, we do a variety of things, but they're all in service of guiding good decision making for Google with a focus on investment decisions.
And what that means, practically speaking, is my team works on providing transparency into financials and the performance of the business.
This could be in the form of weekly, monthly, or quarterly reports that we provide along with insights.
We also vet specific decisions, like if there's a commercial deal, we'll model out different scenarios and give the business team options and work with the team to come up with a deal structure that optimizes the gives and gets for the company and also users.
And the other thing we do is we'll also help with business strategy vetting, kind of thinking through what are potential business models we could be considering and what are the investments we need to drive that business.
Yeah, how many people on your team work on this? This sounds like pretty comprehensive in terms of all the decisions you support.
Yeah, so I think this is the thing that you might typically see in finance, but we're a pretty small team.
We're a team of 18 people growing to a little over 20, hopefully by the end of the year.
But the teams we support are a few thousand in number.
So one of the things we consistently think about is, you know, how can we be more efficient?
Are there opportunities for automation or outsourcing?
Because we are just so much smaller than the teams we support. Yeah, and the Women's Empowerment Month, so I got to ask you, what is the ratio of women on your team like or in general in finance?
Oh, yeah. So on my team, we're about 50-50.
Within financial planning and analysis as a function, though, the number is a bit lower, if I can, if I'm recalling correctly.
Within some other finance functions, though, the balance becomes, you know, more around 50-50 or maybe even higher than 50% for women.
And those functions are, you know, more focused on accounting and controls.
Oh, yeah. So that's a pretty, like, what do you say, friendly workspace, workplace to be in, at least in terms of having support, a support system.
Was it always this way? Like, what did you do before Google? Were you in tech finance all the time?
No, so Google is the first tech company that I've worked at.
Although I've been in finance my entire career, I guess, almost 20 years.
And so what I was before Google, or maybe I'll start from the very beginning. I started out right after college.
I studied economics and business administration in college.
And, you know, I ended up, actually, I didn't really know what I wanted to do after college.
And, you know, it was also around the time that Enron had shut down, and there were a lot of challenges in finding a job.
And I was considering going to law school, but I was tired of studying.
So I thought, oh, maybe I'll take a year off, you know, be a bartender, it looks like a difficult job market.
But I ended up actually going to a job fair in Boston for bilingual Japanese and English speakers.
And I went because, yeah. How did that happen? I was on some mailing list.
And this organization offered money, a scholarship, per se, for me to fly to Boston to attend a job fair for bilingual speakers.
And since I had friends who were also going, I thought, what a great opportunity, free trip to Boston, I should go.
And I went. And given my background, you know, and I was interested in numbers, I was always good at math.
And so I ended up interviewing for a couple of roles, and ended up with a job with GE in Japan, working on finance, a financial rotational program, where you took a different job every six months for two years.
And I decided to go for it. And so my first job out of college was in Japan, working in a financial rotational program with GE.
And in terms of industries, my jobs included being in a middle of nowhere industrial park in Japan, doing accounting for a business that produced plastic pellets, and powders and other, you know, things that go into the plastics business.
And also took me to a medical devices business on the outskirts of Tokyo.
So definitely not technology.
Yeah, and after that, I went into internal audit with GE, also working on different businesses, including aircraft engines, financial services.
And then at that point, I decided I want to work on something I can understand a little better and relate to.
And I ended, you know, I applied for a role with NBC Universal, working in a digital media group called iVillage.com.
So I did finance there.
And after that, by then, you know, I was in New York for that job. But my family and many of my friends, I grew up in the Bay Area.
So they were still in California.
And I was keen to get back to the Bay Area. So I applied for a job at Google, ended up, you know, getting the job.
And I moved back to the Bay Area and started my finance career here at Google.
Yeah, that's, that's quite a career, Yuki.
I mean, two continents, like, you know, several industries, it looks like you touched like what plastics, aircraft engines, like media and entertainment.
And now, at Google, you know, tell me a little bit like, traveling, especially working internationally.
And growing up in the Bay Area, was there a big difference in, you know, working in general, I'm sure there is, but also working as a woman?
Is that is there a difference between here and there?
Yeah, definitely. And I think Japan's work environment probably, you know, provides a stark contrast.
And I think things probably hopefully have evolved since I worked there.
But it was a reverse culture shock, I'd say, because when I was a young kid, I lived in Japan, of course, the work environment is quite different.
But when I started working in Japan, you know, there were certain things I just didn't know how to do.
How do you accept and present your business card, there's a certain way to do that.
I didn't, you know, I wasn't taught how to do that.
So I needed to learn from my co workers. Even things like where to sit in a conference room, there are rooms, new rules around that, that I didn't know that my co workers also had to teach me.
And, you know, just also, you know, as a woman, you know, I would be asked to be sent, I started noticing, like, I'm being asked to send go out on more errands than some of my other male colleagues.
Although in many of those instances, I think my managers noticed pretty quickly, they might be better off having me work on a spreadsheet.
Yeah, you know, you bring up something really interesting, right?
Like, you know, how do you navigate a situation like that?
So you're sent out for coffee, like, 10 times compared to twice with your male colleagues?
Like, how did you handle that situation? Like, what tips do you have for young folks who might be in similar situations to gently like steer?
I think I would do things much more tactfully now than I did back then.
Because at the time, I was grumpy about it, visibly grumpy.
And maybe that might have contributed to actually being successful.
But I think looking back, if I were to give myself advice, I might actually have a direct conversation with my manager about it.
Because I didn't at the time. I just, I was grumpy, but did it anyway.
And, you know, looking back now, I probably would have a conversation with my manager and say, hey, like, I have all these things that we need to do, that you'd like me to do, like, do you really want me to go out on this errand, maybe so and so is better positioned.
And, you know, I would take more of that type of a route than being visibly grumpy and angry about having to run errands all the time.
Yeah, that's, I think that's, you know, it's okay to stand up and talk. And I think a lot of work around even here in Cloudflare around allyship and inclusion is about is a lot also about talking, talking and expressing yourself saying that this is not okay.
Or I don't feel comfortable is like the start of the conversation.
So I think yeah, that's a valuable tip. So, you know, finance has been your career for, like you said, 20 years.
What was this what you dreamed about when you were growing up?
I'm always curious to see like what people thought they would do in their like, you know, teens and maybe college years.
Yeah, it definitely wasn't.
It's not something I really thought about before I ended up in it, really.
I don't think I really knew that corporate finance was a career option growing up or even in college.
And, you know, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
And when I was in high school, I wanted to be a diplomat. And and actually, when I went into when I started university, I actually wanted to major in computer science.
And I went in and, you know, with computer science as my declared contemplated major.
But I ended up not going into it. Why was that? Like, tell us more.
Yeah. So, so I did take all the prereqs my first year. And I took one computer science class.
And in my lab group, there was only one other woman. And, you know, I, I got to be very good friends with her.
But I had a really difficult time connecting with other people in my lab group.
And I also noticed that many of my friends were applying to the business school.
I went to school at UC, UC Berkeley.
And, you know, going into this is a little embarrassing. But when I applied for UC Berkeley, I didn't know they had a business school.
That was just not something I thought about.
Because I was intending, you know, it's so focused on I'm going to, you know, going to computer science, maybe I'll study economics.
And for me, it was really a decision based on, you know, I craved being, you know, making friends in my classes.
And I somehow wasn't able to do that in my computer science class.
And so I changed my intended major. Do you regret the change?
Do you wish that you were in computer science? Or are you happy? Yeah, I wonder what would have happened if I'd done that.
But I'm so happy with where I ended up.
Like, I love my job. I really appreciate, you know, being being in finance.
And so I guess you just don't know, you know, the thing, the path that you think might have been right for you might not always be the right one.
I went with, you know, what I thought would make me happy.
And it ended up, you know, working out for me.
Yeah, I mean, you know, this is such a worry. We had an allyship inclusion workshop recently at Cloudflare.
And you know, Andrew Fish, one of our people leaders brought up this quote saying, like, you know, diversity and inclusion are not the same thing.
You know, you can be invited, like, I think there's a Werner Mayer's quote that is so beautiful.
I think it's totally applicable to your situation.
It says, diversity is being invited to the party inclusion is being asked to dance and you made something that had a lifelong impact on your career because you didn't feel comfortable in a space.
Right? I mean, what would have made you like, kind of stick to computer science at that time?
Like, you know, just having more women in there or like people reaching out to you and including you and stuff.
I don't know. It's a long time ago. So maybe it's too much to ask to remember.
It's a long time ago, but I think now, you know, being in tech, I think has helped with that reflection and thinking about, you know, what really drove me to, you know, make the change.
And I think part of it is for me, I wanted to, you know, making personal connections with others right now, for me, that may be, you know, the workplace.
And at the time it was in the classroom was really important to me.
And I had a difficult time making that connection with many of the folks in the room.
Not sure if it was a hundred percent just gender driven.
It may have just been the mix of folks, you know, in the lab group as well. Because when I look at my sister actually ended up studying electrical engineering and computer science and she's an electrical engineer now, so she's stuck with it and loves it and came out of the program with a lot of friends.
And so, and the other thing too that I've reflected on also is I didn't have prior computer science knowledge.
And, you know, I'm just such a perfectionist by nature that, you know, just not being as prepared, I think also made me a little intimidated to continue to study computer science because I wasn't the perfect A student because there was so much I didn't know.
Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's also kind of interesting, right?
But sometimes it's like sticking with something that makes the difference.
I don't know how much, I know, I come from, both of us come from like, you know, Asian heritage and not having that A gnaws at us because we've been brought up thinking.
Yeah. No, I think that's right. You may have heard of the Asian, you know, the B as an Asian F.
We sometimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves as well. You know, maybe I should.
So very cool, Yuki. I mean, we have about 10 minutes left. I'm wondering throughout your career, what, what have been some of the things that have helped you like most as, as you've gone through, like, what are some things like you would say to young folks out there?
Yeah. So I think, you know, you hear a lot about mentors and sponsors being critical, and I agree with that.
But one thing that has really helped me is peer mentors.
So folks who are around the same level, similar levels of experience, but someone that, you know, understands the challenges you're facing.
I found those folks to be really helpful. And as an example, you know, I have a peer, he's also in financial planning and analysis at Google for a different area.
He also has a really different personal style to me, but I think we share some core values around things like integrity, and supporting our team.
And, you know, he's been really helpful to me whenever I've encountered challenges, you know, whether it's how to lead the team, or even on things like a specific project.
And so I think finding those peer mentors or, you know, people you can speak to, that's something that, that, you know, I, I've been, I found to be very helpful in my career.
Yeah, that sounds, yeah, I know, when we talk about mentors, sometimes it's intimidating, right?
It's like, you know, I have to ask this, like, really senior person to support me, how do I get the courage to go and ask them?
Like, what do I do if they say no, but this is kind of really cool. Like you say, you say that peer mentorships, people that are just like you, who are working through the same challenges could be just as valuable to the career.
And if I may say, I think there is a theme here, right? You're looking to connect with people, you know, when you were in labs in computer science, I think that was very critical for you, for your growth and for your decision making overall.
So this is probably a reflection on that, right? This is something that you value.
Awesome to hear you talk about it, Yuki, thank you so much for sharing your experiences.
Any last words of wisdom before we conclude here? No, no, I think for me, you know, thanks for all your questions, because they've all, they've also kind of helped me to reflect on some of the things that have worked for me.
And, you know, one of the themes, as you noted earlier, is just kind of, you know, in some ways, like going with the flow, and making the best of the opportunities you find yourself in.
And, you know, that that seems to have worked. And you never know, you know, I was convinced going into college that CS was the thing I was going to do, didn't, but I'm really happy with what I'm doing.
And who knew that finance was going to be the thing?
Yeah, I think that's an amazing note to end on.
Yuki, thank you so much for your time. Stay positive, go with the flow, find peer mentors.
You know, international experiences enrich your perspective.
So many good things from this call. I really enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you for taking time to be with us here today.
Of course, thanks so much for having me.
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