Google’s Helen Kelisky has seen cloud go ‘from small iterations to global force’

2 Jun 2022

Helen Kelisky. Image: Google Cloud

Google Cloud’s Helen Kelisky discusses how this area of tech has changed, as well as the importance of tapping into niche customer needs and leading with good humour.

Helen Kelisky is the managing director for Google Cloud in the UK and Ireland. From her base in London, she is responsible for the development of Google Cloud’s go-to-market sales operations in the region and supporting customers with digital transformation.

Kelisky has more than 30 years of leadership experience in tech sales. She joined Google Cloud earlier this year from OpenText, where she was vice-president of B2B EMEA sales. Prior to that, she held a number of roles at Salesforce and IBM, spearheading cloud leadership strategies in the UK and Ireland markets.

‘With Covid as a catalyst, many industries previously reluctant to explore the capabilities of cloud technology have changed course’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The greatest challenge facing the tech sector at the moment is a very good challenge to have. Over the last few years, companies have accelerated, or in some cases kick-started, dramatic digital transformation journeys – and they can’t do it alone.

Organisations large and small have increasingly turned to cloud technologies to overhaul and advance their operations, and it’s the duty of the sector to deliver these now necessary solutions and services.

Meeting the specific and sometimes shifting needs of this growing pool of customers is no easy task, and Google Cloud’s channel partner ecosystem plays a vital part in our ability to do so. Partner resellers, independent software vendors, system integrators and more enhance Google Cloud’s offer by supporting custom implementations and ensuring the best possible customer value.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Accelerated demand means accelerated opportunities. With the Covid pandemic as a catalyst, many industries previously reluctant to explore the capabilities of cloud technology have changed course.

Customers across technologically advanced industries, like manufacturing, and regulated industries, like financial services, are looking to deploy cloud in new and innovative ways. This has made for a very exciting time in the market.

To meet the sophisticated and sometimes niche needs of these new customers, Google Cloud and its channel partners are focused on honing these specialisms and advancing industry-specific products and services.

This specialised approach saw Google Cloud increase uptake across all industries last year, developing solutions for brands including Vodafone, Ford and HSBC. Going forward, we will continue to respond to the market need, and drive digital transformation for all customers regardless of sector or size.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

My career in tech began the minute I left university. I craved a career in a fast-paced and exciting industry, so turning to tech made sense.

Before joining Google Cloud, I held a number of roles throughout a 30-year career at IBM and then Salesforce, where I developed my specialism in cloud business leadership. In that time I watched cloud transform from small-scale iterations to the global force it is today.

I have chased opportunities to learn at every stage of my career, and the significant growth and breakthroughs achieved by Google Cloud last year made it the perfect time to take up my current role as managing director for the UK and Ireland. I was thrilled to be able to bring my experience to Google Cloud, and hope to continue building on its considerable momentum.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

The biggest risk I’ve ever taken is leaving a company after three decades. Whilst there are many benefits to building a career at a single organisation, and leaving can be incredibly daunting, embracing change is sometimes necessary.

Since taking the leap from IBM to Salesforce and now Google Cloud, I have learned new skills, witnessed new innovations and discovered new interests every step of the way.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

More patience. Working in such a fast-paced industry, keeping up with the rate of change can feel overwhelming. I have to remind myself that as individuals we can only do so much, and taking a little more time often leads to a better outcome!

How do you get the best out of your team?

To get the best out of my team, I put myself at their service. I support and serve them at all times, giving and inviting real-time feedback and promoting a continued desire to learn.

Most importantly, I try to do this with good humour, and in a friendly and open work environment. I couldn’t do what I do without the talented people around me, and am always keen to reward and shout about their achievements.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

As in most industries, there are certain areas of the tech sector that still struggle with diversity. In hardware-focused subsectors, for example, more needs to be done to drive the diversity agenda.

This ultimately comes down to making the industry more welcoming and accessible to all. Through proactive attraction and retention strategies, implemented alongside mandatory unconscious bias and other training, channel businesses could become more inclusive and attractive to all.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

I’ve received a lot of advice throughout my career, but my most valuable lessons have always come from watching, rather than listening. I’ve been very fortunate to witness the progression of a number of inspiring tech leaders, and seeing their journeys, their mistakes and successes, has played a part in who and where I am today.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to always treat others how you would want to be treated. Clearly, this is just as true in life as in business, but it’s important to remember that resilience and drive should never come at the expense of kindness and compassion.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute is an important book for anyone, in any industry, responsible for leading a team.

The book offers a really accessible way of understanding how leaders can unpack their own self-deceptions and destructive patterns to improve teamwork, communication and ultimately their style of leadership. The book taught me how vital it is to hold a mirror up to yourself from time to time. If you’re in charge of other people, you must be able to be honest with yourself.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Firstly, and most obviously, I could not get through the working week without my phone, laptop and incredible Google Cloud team. Without them, there would be no working week.

Just as importantly, I need tools for my downtime, the most vital of which are my swimsuit, cap and goggles, running shoes, piano and books. The support of my husband would also fall into this category – though I’m not sure he’d appreciate being called a resource!

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