The name "Google" comes from the word "googol," a theoretical number consisting of the numeral 1 followed by a hundred zeros. According to the company, "Google's use of the term reflects our mission to organize the world's immense (and seemingly infinite) amount of information and make it universally accessible and useful."
At a company based on invented words, Miriam Rivera has her own: "Googleyness." That's what she calls a culture that has combined legal and business skills, technical knowledge, and a team approach to problem-solving to produce one of the most successful corporations in history. Those same qualities explain why Ms. Rivera is a finalist for the 2006 Hispanic Business Magazine Woman of the Year award.
Exciting Work, Incredible Workload
"My favorite aspect of the job is that it's an exciting company and I work with about 160 lawyers who are really talented people," says Ms. Rivera, vice-president and deputy general counsel at Google. "What makes it hard is the incredible amount of work and the time away from family every day."
Ms. Rivera leads the legal teams for Google's corporate, commercial, international, and technical operations. Previously, she served as associate general counsel, managing the legal side of the company's many commercial and strategic alliances. She has personally closed a number of strategic partnerships including AOL and AOL Europe, as well as earlier partnerships with Yahoo! and Yahoo Japan. She has supervised the completion of thousands of commercial strategic alliances.
A typical day begins with Ms. Rivera checking e-mails on her Blackberry at home for any big crises. Then comes a full day of meetings, ranging from negotiation sessions to conference calls with stock analysts on "earnings day," when the publicly traded company announces its financial results. Phone calls vary from supervision of Google operations in Asia and Latin America to specific talks with important customers. She also will monitor her staff working on large deals. The day also might include having Hispanic students or others "on campus," as Google headquarters is called.
Deals Google's Bread & Butter
At some companies, strategic deals are major events, but at Google they form the company's bread-and-butter business. "I have a large staff doing deals, but I oversee almost all the company's strategic deals," Ms. Rivera says. "Keep in mind, when I started, we had about $85 million in revenues. Now that's $8 billion. In that time, I've had to do the paperwork for the deals that generated all those revenues."
One of Ms. Rivera's biggest days came on August 19, 2004, with Google's initial public stock offering. As the second attorney ever hired at the company, she had a personal interest, as all Google employees receive stock in the company. Fortunately, Google rose 18 percent on its first day of trading from the initial price of $85. It currently trades in the range of $375 per share, giving the company a market capitalization of $111.2 billion.
But the big payday didn't come easy. Indeed, Ms. Rivera's advice for other Hispanic women professionals boils down to two words: hard work. "I've been working for 28 years, starting at age 14," she says. "A lot of people want to become an overnight success. But as far as I'm concerned it took me 28 years to get here."
A colleague described Ms. Rivera to Corporate Counsel magazine as "COO of the legal department." In fact, she runs the operation, reviewing the legality and implications of multiple agreements, while her bosses concentrate on other aspects of the business. Last year the magazine named her one of the top 10 corporate attorneys most likely to become a general counsel at a Fortune 500 company in the next five years.
Scrapper in a Scrappy Culture
Ms. Rivera ranks Google's culture as a major benefit. "It really feels more like a start-up company – not a lot of administrative work, no private dining room for officers, that sort of thing. For many people who come from other companies it's bad because they're used to executive perks. But Google is a more scrappy culture; they have to roll up their sleeves to help build the company."
Raised by a single mother in Chicago, Ms. Rivera won scholarships to Stanford University. She earned degrees in sociology and Spanish, then a combination law degree and MBA from Stanford Law School and Stanford Graduate School of Business.
After school, Ms. Rivera worked as a strategy consultant for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and as an associate in the business and technology practice at the dot-com law firm of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Later she co-founded On Your Mind (also known as Outcome Software), a venture capital-backed business software company. Prior to joining Google, she worked as in-house counsel for Silicon Valley-based software maker Ariba Inc.
Now Ms. Rivera supports charitable organizations that serve students and women. She is an active supporter of A Better Chance (for minority high-school students) and La Casa de las Madres (San Francisco's oldest and largest shelter for battered women). She also serves as secretary to the board of the Google Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm.
Another attraction for Google stems from its diversity, starting at the top. One of the founding partners is Russian, and the CFO is George Reyes. "I see Google as a very diverse company and that was one thing that attracted me," she says. "I have a diverse team that includes a large number of Asians, Hispanics, African Americans, and Anglos, and a lot of women, which is unusual in a lot of corporate legal departments."
World Wide Work
Because Google exists on the World Wide Web, it functions as a global business, with about 100 sites in every major language. For Ms. Rivera, that creates "an environment where if you do the work, you could be recognized." She maintains it's easier to get into Stanford Law School than to get hired at Google. In her words, "the company has to seek the best people wherever they live in the world, because we have a truly global brand."
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