- Caroline Rainsford is Google’s New Zealand country director based in Auckland.
- She’s also overseeing 1,800 Googlers in Australia to cover the managing director’s year-long maternity leave.
- As a single mother, Rainsford advocates for working mothers: “You can absolutely be both and make it work.”
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Rainsford, who previously worked at L’Oréal, Philips, and GE, got a recruiting call from Google in 2017. At the time, she was three months into her maternity leave for her second child.
After a five-month interview process, Google offered her the role and asked how long she intended to take for her maternity leave. (In New Zealand, parents are entitled to one year of maternity leave — six months of which are paid.)
She told the recruitment team that she was planning on taking the full year, but for this opportunity she would end it early if necessary.
“And they said, ‘No, we’re happy to wait for you,'” Rainsford said. “And so I started in this company with just the best experience. Being a mother was always first. So in my approach as a leader, I feel like I’m this custodian to make sure that everyone has that experience now if they want to be a working mother.”
On top of her New Zealand duties, Rainsford has been managing more than 1,800 Googlers in Australia for the past several months while their managing director is on a year-long maternity leave.
She’s been flying to Sydney once a month ever since Australia and New Zealand opened a travel bubble in April.
“With working more closely on the Australian business, it was important that I got over to Sydney to get valuable face time with some of the team,” she said.
Here’s a look at Rainsford’s daily routine in Auckland while she oversees both Google New Zealand and Google Australia.
6 a.m: “On a weekday I usually wake up at 6 a.m. naturally thanks to two small children-shaped alarm clocks,” Rainsford said.
Rainsford said she tries to get eight hours of sleep each night so she’s at her best for a full day of parenting and working.
“The kids and I usually have Vegemite toast for breakfast — a classic in any Kiwi household,” she said.
7:45 a.m: Rainsford drops her son William, four, and daughter Olivia, six, off at school three mornings a week. “I love doing this as they tell me all the good stories in the car on the way,” she said.
Rainsford employs a nanny who takes the kids to school the other two days of the week.
As a single mother, Rainsford’s message to young women is that you can “have it all.”
“I think that it’s really about integration.” she said. “… Everybody at Google New Zealand and a lot of Australia know my two children. The nice thing about the last year and a half is it’s made us all way more vulnerable and it’s made us more open to who we actually are as people.”
On the days she doesn’t do school drop-off – or if the traffic isn’t too bad – Rainsford takes a morning walk around the waterfront of Auckland.
“The eastern bays are stunning and it hasn’t been too bad getting through the past 12 months with this on my doorstep,” she said.
On Friday mornings, Rainsford plays golf.
“I used to play golf before I had children,” she said. “One of my goals since joining Google has been to sharpen my skills, so every Friday morning I go and play. Sometimes I only have time for 40 mins of chipping but it is amazing mindfulness!”
9:30 a.m: Rainsford starts her work day by answering emails and preparing for the day ahead before her meetings kick off.
“I’m a huge planner so I always know the most important things I need to get done during the day,” she said. “I also have a sign above my screen in my home office that says, ‘Are you doing what matters?’ and it helps keep me focused on the important stuff.”
Since Googlers were allowed to return to the office in November, Rainsford is working three days a week from home and two days a week at the office.
10:30 a.m: Rainsford heads into the office and has a virtual meeting with Google leaders from the Singapore and US offices.
Rainsford said her number of daily meetings has increased by about 20% since she took over Australia, so she now has an average of eight to 10 meetings per day.
“This has been a really great stretch opportunity for me — something that I encourage everyone to think about in their career and work life,” Rainsford said. “It’s important to feel challenged … it can be where you see the most growth in your abilities.”
11:15 a.m: Rainsford takes 10 minutes to pop over and check on the progress of Google’s new office, which – like the current office – is in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter.
“The views are stunning from this vantage point, across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour,” she said.
The building will be targeting a 5 Star Green Design from the Green Building Council of Australia and will feature a vertical planted green screen with native species and rainwater harvesting, she said.
Rainsford heads back to the current office for a client meeting before lunch.
12 – 12:30 p.m: Rainsford has lunch at the office with some of the Google New Zealand team. “Since we’ve been back in the office, I know the team (and I) have really appreciated this space again,” she said.
When she’s in the Auckland office, Rainsford schedules fewer meetings so she can spend informal time with her team. During the pandemic, she’s tried to be more open with them as a leader about how she weathers challenging times.
“I think there’s going to be a new breed of leadership,” she said. “We will see more vulnerability coming from leaders.”
The biggest lesson she’s learned during COVID-19 is how important it was to reset expectations for her employees, Rainsford said.
“I have this amazing exec business coach and he said to me, ‘OK, you’re in lockdown now across Australia and New Zealand. How are you thinking about resetting expectations with your team? Because they’re not going to be able to achieve like what they would normally, given this pandemic,'” she said. “And so we spent ages in the teams talking about really leveling expectations.”
After lunch, Rainsford heads to a session of a week-long director training course she’s taking through New Zealand’s Institute of Directors.
“This was a one-off course so I can learn about governance,” she said. “I really want to join a few Australia-New Zealand boards in the coming years to support New Zealand business growth and transformation.”
Google helped cover the cost of the course.
3 p.m.: She dials into a Women & Google panel held in Sydney, where she was one of six women participating in a Q&A.
“We spoke about the intensity of work in the first few months of 2021 as well as some of our career highs and lows,” Rainsford said.
Then Rainsford heads to watch her daughter Olivia’s after-school activity: rugby.
“Since COVID I have learned that it is possible to make time to attend my children’s most important moments,” Rainsford said. “Like when my daughter got player of the day at rugby. She is six and plays in an all-girls team. She is very good at chasing the other team!”
5:45 p.m: Rainsford speaks at a Digital Boost Launch Event at The Mind Lab, an education center in Auckland.
In New Zealand last month, Google searches for “online learning” spiked more than 600% from the year before, showing a growing appetite to learn new skills, according to Rainsford.
5:30 to 7:30 p.m: Rainsford spends time with and has dinner with her children.
“I have a tradition that once a week we have a family roast and the kids have to sit at the table with me,” she said. “It means we talk about the day. I cherish it.”
Rainsford tries to limit her kids’ screen time throughout the day, but while she’s cooking dinner, she lets them watch YouTube Kids on the tablet. “Some of their favourite local creators are Rainbow Learning and BBC Earth for the volcano content,” she said.
After the kids are asleep, Rainsford gets back on her computer and takes some time to get any “life admin” done.
“That’s birthday presents for friends, or ordering flowers for my Mum to say thank you, or even booking our next New Zealand staycation,” she said.
Before bed, she spends some time watching Netflix (right now it’s “The Queen’s Gambit”) or reading. “I am currently reading a book called ‘Mental Fitness — Build Your Mind for Strength and Resilience Every Day.’ It’s so relevant given our current environment.”
Rainsford said that despite her busy schedule, her two young children, and the pandemic, she doesn’t regret taking on the challenge of leading Australia for a year.
“Sometimes doing these things that are out of your comfort zone are really, really good, and you should embrace them,” she said. “But I think a lot of particularly young females would say no to a lot of this. So I’m hoping that Australia will convey that you can take on these additional challenges even at the most unusual time.”