Rising Leaders: Reflections from 15 Years at Google

Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members were joined by Jan Grønbech, former head and longest serving Country Manager of Google Norway, for an impactful session on lessons learned throughout his career.

Grønbech passionately recounted the story of how he ended up leading the launch of Google Norway in 2005 after various positions in digital advertising both in the United States and Norway, including developing Norway’s first online newspaper at Aftenposten in 1995.

If you get an opportunity where you have no idea, always say “yes.” If I had not said yes back then, I would have never ended up at Google.

Jan Grønbech

Grønbech went on to outline several things he has learned during his tenure with Google; the importance of having a collective “why” for any company, the significance of purpose-driven employees, and that innovation should be the focus rather than perfection. Building on his experiences thus far, he also announced that he has launched a startup.


Jan Grønbech

Hiring Talent Now Versus 14 Years Ago

When asked what he looks for in talent now versus 14 years ago, Grønbech noted that today’s young professionals are very talented and ambitions. That said, they have training in many of the same subjects he studied 30 years ago.

The gap between what academia can provide and what employers are looking for is bigger than ever.

Jan Grønbech

Grønbech sees a big shift in companies’ hiring procedures. Today, any work experience is important – with less focus on degree and educational background. At Google, emphasis has transitioned from hiring talent with the most impressive resumes to prioritizing attitude and aptitude for learning.

Competencies Grønbech and his team looked for at Google were:

  • Role-related knowledge
  • Leadership, gravitas, credibility, and, using math and data, the skills to persuade
  • General cognitive ability – the process of problem-solving rather than the solution itself
  • The “Googliness” X-factor and the desire to work with a candidate, in addition to humility, constant curiosity for learning new things, and willingness to cooperate

He expressed that each work experience has shaped him in some way. His first real job was as a cleaner at Holmenkollen Park Hotel, where he experienced his first “leadership-wow moment.”

The session also touched on topics such as social platforms and media’s responsibility in combating misinformation, how to become a changemaker within an organization, and the future of news media in Norway with focus on diversity and inclusion.

About the Rising Leaders Program

Rising Leaders, a joint AmCham-US Embassy initiative, brings together entrepreneurs, young professionals, and student leaders in an innovative program to promote diversity and connect promising talent. Through the program, participants engage international business leaders, learn about AmCham member companies, explore careers, and gain business and leadership skills.

The 2020-21 Rising Leaders class – comprised of 17 women and 10 men between the ages of 23 and 35 – bring with them experience from healthcare, classical music, urban planning, organizational psychology, immigration, engineering, communications, technology, teaching, economics, finance, and marketing. All 27 program participants have demonstrated leadership, entrepreneurial, and/or business excellence in their educational pursuits and careers thus far.

For more information about the program, or to learn how your organization can get involved, please contact Madeleine Brekke.

Past Rising Leader Events

Rising Leaders: Be a premissleverandør and get yourself some handlingsrom

Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members were joined by Curt Rice of Oslo Metropolitan University for a virtual afterwork session.
Originally from Rochester, MI, Dr. Rice only intended to go to Norway for one year but ended up staying for the last 30 years and becoming the first non-Norwegian to be at the helm of an institution for higher education in Norway.
Dr. Rice shared how his career development has been driven by his conviction that discovery of new knowledge, research and education are essential to improving society. Making universities better, therefore, has the potential to make societies better. Yet at the same time, he sees growth in science and research skepticism – and the increased responsibility of research advocates.

Read More »

Rising Leaders: Leadership, Balancing Hard Core and Heart Core

Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members were joined by Elisabeth Hellemose, Branch Manager at AIG Norway, for the first virtual after-work session of the year.

Hellemose shared how each of her previous roles guided her to finding her passion for working with people and helping them bring their own passions into the office. She explained that as a leader you need to have a hard edge, but the bigger challenge could be to have a soft edge.

Read More »