I’m grateful to be working at Google — ask anyone who’s met me and they know I’m super positive about the people, life lessons, and how we’re making a difference in the world. I’m still in awe of how God has had his hand in my 12+ year career as a Googler. And, even though I have been walking in faith for over two decades, the past ten years have held the most growth and learning as a follower of Jesus.
I understand that wearing your faith on your sleeve isn’t for everyone; it can be alienating or risky to share beliefs in the workplace. In this blog post, I’ll share how I covertly and overtly lay my faith out there in the hopes that these tips can be used by you in your workplace.
My Work Has Helped Shape My Faith
As a Program Manager, I’ve led many projects across the company from our internal systems in Financial Systems to Data Centers, to consumer products like Google+ and YouTube Kids. My job is to organize, align, and execute plans shared across global teams with software engineers, product managers and designers, business teams, and more.
Many things I’ve learned at Google have shaped my faith. For example, I’ve applied the same principles of collaboration, organization, and communication I’ve learned at Google to mobilize teams from my church and deliver on projects that benefit the church.
Practical Tips for Building a Community of Faith, No Matter Where You Work
Being at such an open-minded company like Google where personal and business can easily blend together, has opened up many doors and opportunities to grow my faith.
Regardless of your specific work environment, these simple tips can help you integrate faith with your work. I’d like to encourage you to try integrating at least one of these ideas into your workflow as soon as this week.
Tip #1: Get Your Faith Out There
Getting a community of faith around you is vital to thriving as a Christian. But, how do you meet other Christians in the office and be more open about your faith? Here are a couple tips that work well for me:
- When people ask me ‘How was your weekend?’, I lead with “I heard a great sermon on Sunday about XYZ.” I’ll see if they inquire more about it, but if not, they now know I go to church and would love talking about it.
- I book 30 minute prayer/meditation slots on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. If people try booking meetings with me, they’ll see those reserved quiet times for me and God. I’ve had a few people inquire why do I have that and what do I do during that time. I let them know I like starting off the day with getting organized and that I lean on Him to help make this happen. I’ll also share that I journal during that time to help me focus and prioritize what’s important.
- Pray during lunch — I need to work on this one a lot as most of the time I’ll forget or not want to draw much attention to it … but I know I want to be bold and use this as a small instance to witness and let others know my priorities.
- When somebody shares they’re going through a difficult time, I sometimes offer if I could pray for them.
Tip #2: Get a Group
For more than seven years, I’ve been a part of a Life Group (Bible Study) with five to seven Googlers spread across the company. We meet every other week and discuss how can we be more like Jesus in the office. We also pray for each other in the middle of the day!
If you are not a part of a group like this, start small by finding another believer in your workplace and meet together over lunch or coffee. Getting into a regular cadence of meeting up will help build habits of talking about God in the office. I’ve found having God-centered conversations in the office to be extremely calming and inspiring. It’s great to share the praises, yet also wonderful to have co-workers pray over tough times on the job, or even personal things going on.
While God is always with us, it’s comforting to have a colleague who understands your team and company that is walking with you on the journey.
Tip #3: Embrace Learning Opportunities
Personally, and with your “group” seek out opportunities to learn about your faith and then be intentional about having conversations about what you are learning.
Google is at the heart of the Silicon Valley in Mountain View, CA. It’s a major hub for attracting talent and collaborating on things to drive change. I find it so exciting to hear of celebrities (i.e. Taylor Swift and Kevin Durant) who want to come to Google and use their platform to share what they’re passionate about.
Because Google doesn’t discriminate, we’ve brought in many great Christian leaders. During my time at Google, I’ve attended some amazing talks on campus hearing directly from Francis Chan (pastor), Jeremy Lin (NBA athlete), Gary Haugen (CEO of IJM).
Even if your company doesn’t provide learning opportunities at this level, there are plenty of resources that you can tap into. Look for tech talks happening in your city, listen to podcasts, take an online class or start a book club.
Our small group discusses the talks and shares how we can apply their teachings in the office. This practice inspires us to learn more and involve our families in our thoughts and conversations. This part of learning is vital, it helps us integrate what we are learning into our daily lives and workflows.
Tip #4: Utilize Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
Our Employee Resource Groups, like Christians at Google or the Asian Googler Network are all grass roots initiatives led by volunteers. We all have our day jobs but we’ve been fortunate to have people volunteer their time to make events and conversations like these happen. I’m thankful Google allows their people to pursue their passions and allows us to be wholly there in spirit and mind.
You might be thinking, “but my company would never support this or we’re just smaller in size — what can I do?”
Begin to look for opportunities at some point during the work week to dedicate time to hear inspiring talks on YouTube or reading an enlightening article. Perhaps it’s a you gather a small group to do this. Maybe a lunch break once a week could be used on hearing podcasts or connecting on video chat with others from church.
If you want to know more about starting a faith based employee resource group at your place of work, I would encourage you to read this blog post by, Sue Warnke, who started Faithforce, a faith-based ERG at Salesforce.
The point of having these talks is so that we can be fed with new ideas and have other intrinsic opportunities that allow us to focus on other parts of our life.
What Does This Really Look Like?
As Christians, we are held to a higher standard. Work environments can cause a lot of stress, but I feel called to a standard to have faith that God uses situations to help us grow, witness to others, and to show that life is better with Him. Better doesn’t mean easier or richer, but when I’m more connected with God, I can be that light for others.
There have been seasons in my life and career that I have faced hard times and even fallen down. I am thankful for the people around me, my family, fellow Googlers and my church (Echo Church) to help point me back to God. I believe God has put these groups of people in my life to help me get back up and keep living the life that Jesus has called me to live.
My job isn’t to convert people, but I can be used to plant seeds that let others know that when they are going through trying times, there is a God who wants to help by being at the center of their life.
The tips that I have shared in this post I have learned from experience. However, just because I try to live by these principles of faith, doesn’t mean I never struggle with stress or fear.
Recently, during extreme duress at the recent shootings at the YouTube campus (my personal journal entry is here) I feel that I did not do a good job relying on God in that scary moment. I was right above the patio where it happened and hid in a room fearing the shooter was coming to get us. I felt ashamed for not immediately turning to God in prayer and having that peace. I thought about God and I thought about praying but I never did. I don’t know why at one of the scariest times of my life I didn’t rely on Him. But afterwards, there was an outpouring of love and support from Googlers, especially Christian Googlers who set-up prayer vigils and prayed over me for weeks. I share this story because, this experience was another step in growing my faith. I’ve used what I learned through this to reach out to others and address mental health while praying and crediting faith for helping with the healing process. It also speaks to our need for community, I am so thankful for those who gathered around me during that time of processing and healing.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to my family for being so full of grace with me and showering me with love and unconditional support. I love the guys in my Google small group as well as my Life Groups at Echo Church (and staff!) — you guys continue to inspire and teach me with such humility and openness. Lastly, a big thank you to Google for creating and encouraging an environment where I can live out my faith in the open.
This post was originally published on Open Digerati as part of a four-part series. Check out parts one, two, and four.