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A Google engineer’s tips for thriving amid change

When Chaitali Narla was in her 20s, she left her childhood home in India to fly across the world and study computer science in the U.S. “As a first-generation immigrant, this was a big moment for me personally,” says Chaitali. “Not only was I learning a new culture, lifestyle and vocabulary, but I was adjusting to a style of academia and work focused on exploration — all while also learning how to open potato chip bags the ‘American way,’” she laughs. (Which, FYI, means pull apart the top versus poking a hole in the bag.)

This monumental shift in her life motivated Chaitali to come up with a system to cope with major changes — and it’s become something she’s used throughout her life and career. “I’ve become willing to tackle major challenges and complex problems with the belief that you can conquer anything as long as you organize your life with a productive mindset.”

While finishing grad school in 2010, she took an internship as a software engineer with the Google Talk Video team (a precursor to Google Meet). “I was most excited to work for a company making a difference in so many people’s lives. I love making things more productive and delivering magical moments, and Google gave me the opportunity to do just that.”

More than a decade later, Chaitali continues tackling new, big challenges. “I’ve worked in Google+, Cloud, Chrome, Workspace…you name it.” Today, she leads the engineering productivity organization for Google’s real-time communication products such as Google Meet, Duo, Dialer, Messages and Google Voice. Along the way, she’s learned a thing or two not only about productivity tools, but how to thrive on change, instead of fearing it. Here are a few things she shared with us:

  1. Set your own boundaries.
    For Chaitali, taking charge of her mental health means setting a clear work-life balance and sticking to it. “When it’s family time, I switch off the flood of emails and calendar notifications to be present with my husband and daughter,” she says. “Work-life balance is what you make of it. Changing habits can be difficult, but it’s important to disconnect. Work will always be there when I’m ready to work.”

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