Google Stories

Who Will Hold Your Hand? – Stories from 10 years at Google

Inês Paler, Coach, Mom, Traveler

Who will hold your hand?

My manager asked me this and I was caught off guard. Me, sick? Hold my hand? Are you kidding me? Can we go back to talking business, please?

“I’ll tell you what. It won’t be Google”. Bummer. My manager was not giving it up… “Okay. I hear you. It’s important to have friends and I am away from my family. I’ll make sure to join a club. ” My reply didn’t land very well and was obviously insufficient.

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In my case, I fainted and feel on my face in a public place.

Losing Balance

The reality is that I was in love with my job, readying my MBA and learning Spanish at the same time. A job at Google has, indeed, flexible hours. But that doesn’t mean “few hours”. For me, it meant long working days during the week and a few hours each day during the weekend. There was too much to do, and it was all important. I loved it all and knew others were counting on me to get their stuff done. The MBA also takes time and energy. A lot of it, actually. And because I was in Spain and classes were in Spanish, I was learning the language on the fly.
Fun and exciting times. I didn’t sleep much, I didn’t eat well and my notion of relaxing was to enjoy my latte while going through my work emails on a Sunday morning. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. Sure, it was not sustainable, but I was excited, happy and feeling energised.
Little did I know that I was acting like those overtired toddlers. They run around the house until suddenly they collapse and fall asleep.
In my case, I fainted and fell on my face in a public place.
When I woke up, I was surrounded by worried and excited faces. It was time to take me to the hospital and find out what was going on. My face got all swollen, I couldn’t open my eyes completely and I had a neck injury. This injury would get better, but according to the doctors, there would be a permanent pain and discomfort. Fortunately, I didn’t believe it and found out about Pilates. Spoiler alert: my neck is fully recovered.
My notion of relaxing was to enjoy my latte while going through my work emails on a Sunday morning.

Laying still

Anyway, I had to stay at home for a while to recover. Who will come to hold my hand?

Google did. Sure, some people from the MBA sent messages and a few came to visit. They were already my friends and late night companions for projects, study time and venting.

But my manager came and held my hand. My teammates came and brought food and chocolates. They offered their ongoing help to go to the pharmacy, change my bandages, talk or sit quietly. No one judged me or said “I told you so” / “I knew this would happen”. They gave me comfort and support.

Who will hold my hand? Those I connect with, either with work, love, studies, family ties or hobbies. And they did.

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Lesson Learnt

Google, as any company, is not a person. It can’t possibly hold your hand. But the people that work there, all of them, make Google.

It is more than the sum of the parts. The interactions, the environment, the context… it all becomes the company – far more than the products or services it sells.

And with that episode, as in many others, I knew I was in the right place. And that it was time to change and make significant changes to my life, if I were to remain healthy and be happy.

Struggling with Work-Life Balance? Coaching might be just what you need to find your equilibrium. I would love to help you so if you are interested, visit me at Coaching for Me or just email me at

If you are a manager and want to make sure you bring your teams to their best, visit me at Coaching for Work for coaching, team initiatives and Professional Assessments. You can also just email me at