Off Campus, Features

Atop The Summit: Google Exec Julie Rollauer, BC ’97, To Return For Own It

Editor’s note: In April 2014, Georgetown University brought together over 30 nationally reputable speakers and 400 attendees through its inaugural OWN IT Summit, a series of events aimed to inspire and provide networking opportunities for college-age women. On March 29, the University will host the Summit in Chestnut Hill through co-sponsors the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and BC Women in Business alongside other partnerships, joining founding institution Georgetown, the University of Notre Dame, and Washington University at St. Louis in efforts to teach, celebrate, and empower women.

“I think there’s definitely a place for women to be more assertive and confident. And you know, I would be lying if I told you that I was that assertive and confident person graduating Boston College … So, I would say that we have to learn how to interrupt more because we have great things to say. Leadership doesn’t happen on an individual basis, it really has to happen based on a community around us.”

For Julie Rollauer, BC ’97, all roads have led toward and back to BC. A legacy child who eventually married a fellow graduate of the University and has benefited from Eagle contacts and CSOM insights throughout her career, Rollauer—head of industry for consumer packaged goods at Google New York and facilitator for [email protected]’s new career growth program called “Stretch”—in her personal and professional life has repeatedly hearkened back to Chestnut Hill. Next week Sunday, she will return as an alumna for the Own It Summit, ready to share and expand upon Madeleine Albright’s advice to “learn to interrupt.”

Raised in Connecticut before moving to Bergen County, N.J. for high school—which, coincidentally, is where she currently resides—Rollauer was an eaglet from the very beginning. “I am a legacy child, a legacy alumna, in that my father graduated from Boston College in 1968. So, I have been attending Boston College football games since I was a fetus.” Her mother went to Regis College in Weston, Mass., which was then an all-female college, and she and Rollauer’s father initially met at a mixer on the Chestnut Hill campus.

“I had a bit of a project when I was in fifth grade, entitled, ‘In the year 2000, I will be ….’—you’ll get a kick out of this. In the year 2000—so let’s see, in fifth grade, it was 1985, so, when you’re 10 years old, 15 years in the future seems like a really long way away, when, you know, in reality it wasn’t all that far. But I wrote, ‘In the year 2000 I will be a graduate of Boston College, living in Beacon Hill, Vice President of a major company, engaged to a Harvard man—yeah, I don’t know why I put that, considering my dad is so pro-BC—and singing in nightclubs in my spare time.’”

Although she only went two for five on her predictions—she did graduate from the University and sang in a band with former BC bOp! members—Rollauer was certain from a very young age
that someday, she, too, would don the maroon and gold.

Fulfilling the early prophecy, Rollauer entered BC in 1993 as a freshman in the Carroll School of Management, eager to experience the Freshman First Week—a week that has since been discontinued—which was dedicated to welcoming freshmen through various Red Sox and art museum outings.

“I heard the BC Sharps sing at [the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum] … I also applied to the Emerging Leadership Program, ELP,” Rollauer said. “I arrived on campus a week before all the other freshmen, so I had a week of indoctrination to what life was like at BC through ELP and instantly had 50 friends, which was wonderful. And some of those—most of those—people I would say I’m actually still friends with today.”

Rollauer found her niche in ELP and the BC Sharps, which would inspire her to pursue singing through other vocal groups on campus. “All of a sudden, I had an entire a cappella community embrace me and welcome me to BC, which really led such a wonderful trajectory for the next four years,” she said.

Encouraged by her fellow Sharps to audition for the University Chorale, Rollauer would ultimately cite her time with the Chorale under the leadership of Director John Finney as particularly significant due to the group’s Spring Break trip during her senior year.

“We went to Puerto Rico with the Chorale [my freshman] year. My second year we went to Ireland, and then we did the Bahamas [the next year], and then we were afforded the opportunity to sing for Pope John Paul II in Rome my senior year, which was the pinnacle of my BC experience.”

In 1995, Rollauer’s younger sister Catherine Tucker Marshall, BC ’99, also came to the University, joining Rollauer in both the University Chorale and the BC Sharps. Together, the two will lead a discussion entitled, “Do What You Love, Love What you Do” at the Summit on March 29.

Aside from extracurricular activities, Rollauer noted the formative role that the Carroll School had in preparing her for her professional life. “I would say that academically, the Carroll School of Management certainly pushed me into outside my comfort zone, more than I thought I would ever be pushed. But given my career trajectory after BC, I think it very, very well prepared me for the working world, and certainly the world of business.”

Rollauer obtained her B.S. in marketing and, following her graduation in 1997, began working for a telecommunications company called Nortel—whose biggest competition includes Cisco among other technology companies—as her first introduction to the world of tech. Although she landed four interviews, Rollauer decided upon Nortel on a primarily financial basis.

“I made the somewhat shortsighted decision to work for the first company that gave me the highest paycheck,” Rollauer said. “I got four offers from the companies I interviewed with—all very, very different—and I picked the one that was going to pay me the most, which was probably the best worst decision I’ve ever made. But at the time, you know, I just … I wasn’t thinking long term, I was thinking very short term.”

Despite the monetary gains, however, Rollauer did not find her job particularly “glamorous.”

“Quite frankly, I stayed at the company because I was really good at learning these systems and how they were going to help businesses really grow and thrive, and because quite frankly, I was a woman in a sea of men,” Rollauer continued. “And I was living on Comm. Ave. right after graduation with some women who were in PR and advertising, which just sounded so glamorous to me … I was making three times as much money as my roommates, but it just wasn’t as glamorous.”

Yet, Rollauer did not immediately leave the company. Her mentor, a fellow BC alum who took Rollauer under his wing when she joined Nortel, gave her crucial advice whenever she expressed uncertainty. “He would say, ‘Don’t leave tech. Because tech will always be stable, and advertising and PR accounts won’t. And you don’t know that, and your roommates don’t know that, but their jobs are much less stable than yours.’ So, I’m so glad I took his advice, even though I didn’t want to at the time.”

Rollauer’s Eagle mentor then recruited her for a startup called MCK Communications located in Boston—conveniently very near MIT so that the company could take engineers fresh from college and graduate school. “We rode the wave up and down,” she said. “I had a great experience there, it was a very, very small company, and I was given a lot of responsibility at a young age. I was given the ability to thrive even though I had no clue what I was doing because those people, they really believed in me. I very much valued my time there.”

In another connection to the University, Rollauer met her husband at their five-year college reunion while at a popular BC bar. “I started talking to him, I had never seen him before. I gave him my business card, and the rest is history,” she said. They later got married and moved—her from Boston and him from New York—to Westchester.

One of Rollauer’s clients then hired her out of MCK. “They were doing something a little bit different in that they were helping hedge funds get up and running from a technology perspective,” she said.

“[Our wealthy clients] would call my company and say, ‘Okay, I need an office space. I need all of the technology that goes into running a hedge fund, and I don’t want to hire a chief technology officer, so can you lend me somebody from your company to oversee all of my technology a few hours a week? Or, for full-time, and we’ll subcontract that person for you.’

“So, I kind of got into the subcontracting business of human capital in engineers, but I also learned how to design back-end infrastructure from a technology perspective … and it was fascinating, but I definitely had a bit of a skewed view of money after three years, because with the hedge funds—I just had never experienced wealth like that in my entire life.”

This circuitous route eventually led her to Google, where she currently works as head of industry for consumer packaged goods. After attending a networking event sponsored by BC in 2007 with a former roommate and fellow ELP-er, Rollauer met her now boss, who had graduated from the University in 1999 and had by that time worked at Google for two and a half years. She subsequently gave him her business card and the next day received a call from recruiting. “And eight years later … here I am,” she said. “My roommate, who recruited me for the networking event also got a job at Google, and she’s in the training department now. And the guy who encouraged me to throw my business card in is now my boss.”

When she first started there, Rollauer worked with technology clients such as IBM, SAP, and Avaya, and Google needed an account executive for those exact accounts. “So, I was familiar enough with the clients to be able to speak the same language as the clients.” She later transitioned to the YouTube team around 2010, educating brands on how best to embrace the sensorial benefits of multimedia.

“I was introduced to people in this company like Andy Rubin, who is like, the founder of Android, whom I never would have gained access to had I not had the cache and the clout of a company like Verizon behind me. So, that certainly helped me build brand internally, because people said, ‘Oh, she’s the one who runs YouTube for Verizon.’ And Verizon is a very prolific partner on YouTube.”

She then went from being an individual contributor to being a manager, managing a portfolio of retail pure players from Telecom such as Net-a-Porter and Rue La La. “Very different pace, very different product, but no learning curve … I buy flowers, I buy jewelry, I buy clothes, it’s really easy,” Rollauer said.

Only six months after her stint in retail, Rollauer got tapped to take over one of the biggest beauty companies in the world: L’Oreal. “And that sounded really sexy to me,” she said. “Like, sign me up!”

Rollauer interviewed for and was appointed to the position, overseeing L’Oreal and a number of other advertisers in the consumer packaged space such as Colgate-Palmolive, Avon, Reckitt Benckiser, and Beiersdorf.

Working with L’Oreal for two years before the account split, she now focuses more heavily on her six other accounts, presently embracing the power of YouTube in marketing. “My father works for the company that created Lysol, [Reckitt Benckiser]. So, I literally have Lysol in my DNA, and now they are my biggest client,” Rollauer said, laughing.

“This is the stuff that gets me out of the bed in the morning: seeing advertisers really embracing what the Internet can do for them, and how they can make really meaningful connections, one to one with their high-end consumers.”

About her experience at Google thus far, Rollauer referenced the level of innovation, collaboration, and executive transparency as particularly beneficial. “I’ve never been in a company where, number one, the executives are so visible, they’re so transparent with where this company is going, they trust their employees so implicitly, that we’re not going to take some of these big, visionary ideas immediately to the press so that they get squashed by a competitor before we even have a chance to get them off the ground,” she said.

“I honestly felt like I came home when I came to Google—the like-mindedness of people here breeds innovation,” Rollauer continued. “I’ve never heard someone here say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that, that’s not my job.’ Everyone likes spending time outside their comfort zone, because they know that growing and developing in your own career is what’s going to propel you forward. And I never had that sense at another company, where I think there’s a bit of … learned helplessness at other companies, where people get very comfortable, and they don’t really know how to think outside of their own box, nor are they really encouraged to.”

Recently, Rollauer became a facilitator for “Stretch,” a new course through [email protected] created to support women and help them thrive within the organization by reaching up and outside of their comfort zone. “We talk about things like the gender landscape,” she said, “and the fact that Google is certainly no exception to the rule—that there are fewer women leaders at Google just like there are at other Fortune 500 companies—and how we can act as a community to change that … because diversity breeds clarity.”

She discussed issues prevalent in female communication behavior, noting how women tend to—literally and figuratively—shrink rather than making their presence known in the workplace through body language, tone, and aspects of their appearance.

Graphic by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic
Graphic by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

“We tend to be very self-deprecating, we tend to tear ourselves down more than we build ourselves up, and that goes for on an individual and group level,” Rollauer said. “We talk about how to write an effective email so that you’re not minimizing yourself. Taking out words like ‘basically’ and ‘actually’ —that stuff matters when you’re writing an email.”

Further, Rollauer talked about the need for women to be more proud and assertive—both in their professional and personal lives. “Men have no problem bragging with themselves. But women need to realize, it’s not bragging if you can back it up!”

At next week’s Own It Summit, Rollauer will address women through the business panel, articulating the necessity of diversity, problem solving, and productivity in the work place.

Most importantly, however, Rollauer will urge that women begin to contribute their opinions to the conversation, echoing Madeleine Albright’s popular assertion that it is imperative that they “learn to interrupt.”

March 23, 2015