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.

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.

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 Afterwork with PortalOne

For the last afterwork of 2022 and the program finale, Rising Leaders participants and AmCham members had the opportunity to visit hybrid gaming company and Norwegian unicorn, PortalOne’s brand new offices at Aker Brygge.

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