Google CFO Ruth Porat urges students to be open to career opportunities

Reagan Ritterbush

People who don’t open themselves up to new career opportunities will have more regrets than those who do, said Ruth Porat, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.

“My whole life has been about embracing new opportunities that help me,” Porat said. “You should always love what you’re doing, but if you change or your work life changes, don’t be rigid. Never think that you are doing everything that you’ll ever be able to do.”

In a speech hosted by the McCombs School of Business’ VIP Distinguished Speakers Series on Thursday night, Porat said having breast cancer taught her the most important part of being happy in her work life is never being afraid to take risks.

“There was a time when I wasn’t sure how much longer I had, and I began to think back on whether I had any regrets,” Porat said. “I don’t, and it’s because I always took the risks people told me not to.”

Porat, who joined Google in May 2015, was previously executive vice president and CFO of the global financial service Morgan Stanley. She said before she went to Google, she never believed she would go anywhere beyond Morgan Stanley.

David Platt, associate dean for McCombs and speech moderator, said his professors have trouble telling students that they do not need to make a permanent career move right out of college.

“A common fear is that you have to have everything figured out before you even step out the door,” Platt said. “But having doubt is normal, and we should always be aware that change is possible.”

Aerospace graduate student Arjun Ram said remembering that he does not have to do one thing with his life will help later on in his work.

“I cannot forget about all the options open to me and that, over time, changes in myself may result in a change in career,” Ram said.

Porat, in conclusion, said having a work-life balance is not possible, and the idea that people can equally do both sets them up to fail.

“I often say life should be like a kaleidoscope,” Porat said. “If it’s one color, then it’s boring and if its two colors, it’s still boring. The prettiest ones have a multitude of colors. That’s how you balance work and life, knowing when one is more important than the other and structuring your life accordingly.”