As head of product inclusion at Google, Annie Jean-Baptiste works to ensure that the products and services Google offers are inclusive and reflective of the diverse audience the company serves.
Since starting at Google nine years ago, the 31-year-old has served as an account manager and a diversity programs manager before stepping into her current role two years ago. When reflecting on the books that have influenced her the career the most, Jean-Baptiste tells CNBC Make It Adam Grant’s “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” comes to mind.
“Just given that sometimes you’re in a space that’s new and a little bit uncharted, I think that reading about people who have started something from scratch or started something that people didn’t totally get at first is interesting,” she says. “It’s just really interesting to see how they build that consensus up from the ground floor.”
In Grant’s bestselling book, the Wharton School professor uses data and research to show readers what it takes to bring an original idea to life. He also challenges the belief that you have to take a crazy amount of risk in order to birth a great idea.
“You don’t have to be a round peg in a square hole to be original,” Grant said on CNBC’s “On the Money” in 2016. “In fact, many originals hate taking risks.”
For example, he says, “If you look at the data, entrepreneurs who avoid risk by saying, ‘You know what, I’m going to keep my day job before I go all in’ are 33% less likely to fail.”
Though Grant’s book may be perceived as a read that focuses on entrepreneurship, Jean-Baptiste can relate to the idea of building something from the ground up, considering her current role at Google was non-existent a few years ago.
“Product inclusion” includes elements of business, product and diversity, and Jean-Baptiste had worked in all of those areas, she says. But that doesn’t mean the transition was easy. “It’s a culmination of a lot of the work that I’ve been lucky enough to do and learn at Google,” she says. “So seeing there was an opportunity and an opening to do that and to build that out, even though it hadn’t been something that was happening before, can sometimes be scary.”
In her two years as head of product inclusion, Jean-Baptiste and her team have launched several products including Google Assistant, Gmail’s Smart Compose feature and Google’s Pixel Camera. When developing the Google Assistant, which is an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant that can hold a two-way conversation with its user, Jean-Baptiste and her team worked tirelessly to test the product for racially and gender-insensitive language before its launch.
“Google has always said focus on the user and all else will follow,” the tech executive says in a video about the product launch of Google Assistant. “If you’re thinking about a challenge or product, you need to make sure that you’re intentional about expanding who your users could and should be.”
Similarly with Gmail’s Smart Compose, Jean-Baptiste and her team tested the product before its launch to ensure that the predictive text feature wouldn’t create any negative or offensive messages. They also tested Google’s Pixel Camera before its launch to ensure that the lens accurately reflected all skin tones.
“I think, you know, the crux of this work is to really ensure that everyone feels seen and valued for their differences and feel like they were thought of,” she says. “We know that we have work to do and that we’re on a journey, but we’re really excited and committed to making sure that we’re building for everyone and with everyone.”