Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Interview: Chris Hodgson brings entrepreneurial attitude to Google Canada


Chris Hodgson is head of industry retail for Google Canada. Abridged: Interview: Special Globe and Mail Update - Published Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 12:00AM EST

What’s your background and education?

I trained as a mechanical engineer at Queen’s University in Kingston and graduated in 1993. I worked at Imperial Oil in Toronto for five years. Then I decided to do a business degree at INSEAD in France in 1998. I moved to London to work for Accenture for four years. I did some consulting on my own and joined a company called Computacenter in 2004. I spent two years turning around a French business they owned and then returned to the U.K. to run their software partnerships with Microsoft and various other companies. I then left that to do my own startup called KidStart in 2007.

How did you get to your position?

After being in London for 12 years, my wife and I wanted a better quality of life for ourselves and our kids. I looked at setting up or moving my business to Canada but decided it was too much of a risk. The market here wasn’t really ready for the business I ran.

I realized I’d have to start working for someone else, which is an entrepreneur’s nightmare. I looked for a company that was open to an entrepreneurial attitude, and Google was top of that list. I networked, and through a friend of a friend I met Chris O’Neill, who runs Google Canada. He was in the process of building his management team and I interviewed for a role.

What’s the best part of your job?

Google is a fantastic company. The people and the support network are great. And being focused on the leading edge of retail in Canada, as an entrepreneur, excites me and keeps me interested.

What’s the worst part of your job?

It’s been a bit of a shock coming back to Canada. Google is a company that moves quickly. A lot of Canadian retailers don’t move as fast and that can be frustrating sometimes.

What are your strengths in this role?

It certainly helps coming from a culture that is leading edge. I can start presentations saying, “I come from the future.” The U.K. is so much more advanced when it comes to e-commerce. I can help retailers navigate where they’re going to be five years down the road.

Also, the entrepreneurial background that I have gives me experience and comfort in driving things through and making things happen.

What are your weaknesses?

It’s been 12 years since I lived in Canada so I don’t yet have as strong a network in Canada. It has helped to have a good team around me to fill in that gap.

What has been your best career move?

Making the decision to do my MBA in France opened my eyes to a whole different set of opportunities, and fundamentally changed the direction I was going with my career and even with my life.

What has been your worst career move?

It can be very easy to get trapped in an environment where you’re not happy and you settle. If you’re not happy, make decisions quickly, like ripping off a bandage. Don’t get caught up in trying to make things work for too long. If I look back, there are one or two stages of my career where I could have moved on more quickly.

What’s your next big job goal?

Helping retailers in Canada understand how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours. They’re now doing a lot of research online before they make purchases. My goal is to educate retailers about the shift that is going on in the marketplace and the opportunities available to them.

What’s your best career advice?

Never be afraid to dream big and follow your dreams. That is important when you’re thinking of making career transitions, when you’re looking at new opportunities that are available to you. It can be easy to say, “That sounds a bit risky.” But ... if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, quite often it’s worth that risk.

This interview has been edited and condensed. Dianne Nice is The Globe and Mail’s Careers & Workplace Web Editor.

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