Editor’s Note: Nominations for the 2019 OfficeNinjas All-Star Awards closed Thursday, February 28, 2019. We’ll be announcing the winners throughout Admin Week (April 22–26, 2019). Make sure you don’t miss a single minute by subscribing to our emails!
Name: Nicole Pillatsch
Title & Company: Administrative Business Partner, Google
Location: Mountain View, CA
# Years as an Office Ninja: 9
Fun Fact: Demoed Google Glass to Will.i.am!
Office Ninjas are known for having an air of mystery about them. They work enigmatically behind the scenes, pulling off amazing feats while their coworkers stand by—that’s a standard for a Ninja. But Nicole Pillatsch, Administrative Business Partner for Google’s Project Aura, takes it to the next level: she’s the first Ninja we’ve known who works in a legitimately top secret office. The inner workings of Project Aura are so under wraps that we had to do Nicole’s photo shoot in some of her favorite spots outside the Google office.
Only a handful of smart, innovative, super-special people get a behind-the-scenes look at Google’s products before they launch, and Nicole is one of those super-special people! Just listen to what her colleague said about her:
Nic has a stellar commitment to departmental goals, programs, and objectives. She works with senior managers and co-workers in planning and building an effective team. Nic always looks for new, more efficient ways to improve effectiveness and productivity and offers these suggestions to senior managers to implement within their teams. She is selfless and always available (no matter the time of day/night) to help our team out and puts our team first.
She is tactful and displays exemplary self-control when dealing with outside agencies and organizations. Any problems that arise with any aspect of her job are quickly resolved and desired results are ALWAYS obtained. Nic completes assignments in harmony with others and is a the epitome of a team player. She readily offers and is available to assist others at any time. Her organizational ability and ability to multitask is bar none. She is ethical and honest, a true example to others, and responsive and service-oriented to help our organization (which has grown in size to over 200+ employees). Nic is such a Ninja… she is powerful, versatile, and inspirational.
After working in corporate America for many years, I have come to know many admins. She is the best one I have ever worked with and a true example to others. She leads the organization and has a quiet confidence about her that is unmatched. I personally feel that admins do not always get the recognition that they deserve. Nic is the best admin there is at Google HQ in Mountain View, CA and a perfect example of an “Office Ninja.”
We love hearing such words of appreciation for the admin community, so we couldn’t wait to meet one of Google’s best! Here’s our Q&A with Nicole Pillatsch, 2016 OfficeNinjas All-Star!
OfficeNinjas: How long have you worked as an Office Ninja?
Nicole Pillatsch: Hmm, thinking back through the years, I have been an Office Ninja for almost 10 years. I started out working at a nonprofit as their program coordinator, doing program administration for community youth programs. It’s been so long, I almost forgot where I started! From there I moved into managing the administrative department and internal communications.
While educating myself on social media marketing (it was still new at the time), I stumbled on on an opening at a Bay Area startup. It was a scary leap into the unknown, having worked at the nonprofit for 15 years (I started folding towels at the front desk when I was 16 to pay off my first car), but I was ready for a change in scenery and more challenge.
The transition into tech from nonprofit was daunting. Everything moved at a much faster pace and the lingo was completely different from what I was used to. Almost immediately, I went from being the startup’s office manager, working with the finance team to keep expenses recorded and manage the facilities, to being the Executive Assistant. Not just the CEO, but also the entire leadership team—an additional four VPs.
At the time, I had no idea they were working on selling the company. Six months into the new job, the company was acquired by Google! After one year at Google, I found Glass, now Project Aura. It was with Glass when I decided I absolutely love what I do. I think it’s mostly because I’ve been able to create my own role here—event planning, coordinating community outreach that the whole team gets involved in… My team genuinely values the work I do.
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
NP: I get first-look! From the products the team dreams up and creates to the newest members to join our organization, I’m involved in a little bit of everything! It’s really very special.
When new team members join, I make sure they have a clean desk to find on their first day. point them in the direction of amazing resources like Google’s internal search site, show them how to join important group discussions and most importantly where to find the nearest (and best) cafes on campus.
One of the projects I support is Glass, Google’s wearable device. It’s a tough part to be in because I see all these amazing things and hear incredible ideas about what’s coming up next, but as soon as I walk out the door to leave, I can’t share any of it with anyone!
Because of my long history working in nonprofit, I’m also excited to be the team’s GoogleServe Ambassador, which means I help influence and recruit teams to support local volunteering.
A couple of events we’ve done as a team in the past are cleaning up an owl habitat along Shoreline Boulevard and packaging food at the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose. I’m in the early stages of planning this year’s event. I’m not sure yet what we’re doing, but I am certainly looking forward to it!
ON: What’s the one thing that’s always on your desk?
NP: I always have a few photos of my family (my hubby, three girls, and two dogs) framed in the corner of my desk. When I need a break from the screen, I’ll glance over, and it’s instant smiles for me. A mental reset, if you will.
ON: Tell us about the craziest day you ever experienced as an Office Ninja.
NP: I was getting ready to leave for the day and was pinged by another admin about getting a Google Glass device for a VIP guest, as requested by our co-founder. I reached out to a few people and got the device ready, but by the time I had it in hand, there was no one there to give the demo.
A demo is something I had never done, but it was suggested I do it myself. Not knowing who this VIP was, I was all nerves and trying to remember everything I could about the product. The co-founder walked out to the lobby and greeted a black car out front. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine one of the Black Eyed Peas would step foot into my building, let alone that I would be the one to demo Glass for him!
The Black Eyed Peas are in my top three music groups, so it took all my star-struck nerves to not act a fool! Will.i.am was super friendly, and my director even stopped him at the end of the meeting to have him take a pic with me.
ON: We understand that you manage several calendars. Any tips you’d like to share with fellow Ninjas?
NP: Whenever I take on a new calendar, I make sure to meet with the director to prioritize meetings. Then I can quickly scan the day or the week and reschedule as needed. Most importantly though, ALL scheduling must come through me. Ownership makes it easier to manage inevitable rescheduling.
I’m currently managing four calendars. I must have, at any one time, 30 tabs in Chrome open, but I have pinned up front my four directors’ gCals. I need access to them at any moment. I spend a great deal of time scheduling meetings—most of the time, my screen looks like four giant Tetris games.
Early in the morning, like 5am, I take a look at the day and scan for new meetings and conflicts. I’ll do some rescheduling if necessary, but I’m finished when there are no conflicting meetings. Then I take another look about 9am. Occasionally, a new meeting will appear and more rescheduling/reshuffling.
I glance at each throughout the day, but I take another good look later in the evening to set up the next day and look ahead at the next week. I like to get as far ahead as I can so my directors can confidently open up their view and see a nice clean schedule. Each calendar is a different color and within each calendar I’ll highlight important meetings with another color. For example, if the main calendar is green, the important meetings will be red, and weekly 1:1s are identified in a more muted color—like grey—solely for my reference because those are the easiest meetings for me to move around.
My favorite app besides all the Google apps (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, etc). is Postmates, a delivery service that I use on a weekly basis to get our favorite pretzel buns from Esther’s Bakery in Los Altos.
ON: How do your team members help you succeed?
NP: My team is amazing. I work with some of the most down-to-earth, exceptionally intelligent folks on the planet. Combined, we really make the best team. It’s a casual, close-knit group, and everyone’s success depends upon the next person’s.
We have dogs in the office almost every day, our weekly updates are done at the Aura Bar, and our team fun events—like bocce and our ski trip—are really like a group of friends just out having a good time.
From the quiet Optics Engineer to the extroverted Program Manager, I’ve never had anyone hesitate to assist in sharing knowledge and providing a helping hand. In one meeting I attend, I take minutes. The acronyms and technical language still has me heading to the Google Glossary to define what everyone is talking about, but there was one meeting, I actually sent a chat to a fellow meeting attendee asking what in the world a certain acronym meant. Without hesitation they replied and I was able to continue right along with my minute-taking. Team work!
ON: What’s your favorite afternoon pick-me-up?
NP: Oh, that’s easy—a grande skinny vanilla latte, hands down. The folks at our local shop know my name and my drink order. At the 2pm hour, I’m in need for caffeine and I also have a sweet tooth so the vanilla latte hits both at the same time. Sometimes, if the latte doesn’t take care of the sweet tooth, I’ll grab a TCHO dark chocolate from the Micro Kitchen. Dark chocolate is my kryptonite.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement?
NP: When I found out I won this award, I emailed my former director to tell him the good news. I wrote, “Becoming a well-respected colleague on Aura is, by far, my greatest professional accomplishment.” He immediately wrote back that this was “obviously well deserved”. I had the privilege of working with my former for almost 3 years. He just recently left Google. I remember the first few months and how rocky a start it was going into a hardware organization. I recall him asking me if he needed to give me more to do because I am sure he thought I wasn’t doing anything. Over the next couple of years I learned his style and habits and was able to predict what he would ask next “Nic, can you do xyz?” “Oh yeah, it’s already in your calendar”. The look on his face was priceless. I am sure any admin will agree, when you have a great partnership with your director/manager, your job is 100x more enjoyable.
ON: What do you do to de-stress?
NP: Our team is very active. We have road and mountain bikers, yogis, swimmers and runners. In the mornings before work or in the later hours of the afternoon, you might catch me leading a run with the Aura Run Group on the fitness trails behind our building. We have a large of group of runners, almost 50 and about 6-7 times a week, one of our run leaders has a nice route planned. Of course not everyone can make every run, but we do our best to get in a few runs a week.
ON: What would you say are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
NP: Diplomacy when communicating information, confidence in yourself (you’re going to need to make some pretty important decisions that affect the entire team every now and then), and, most importantly, a great sense of humor. Things rarely go as planned, and you can’t take things personally.
ON: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
NP: Take risks. The unknown is scary, and we like to be comfortable. But sometimes the biggest risks will lead to the greatest rewards. It’s actually the best LIFE advice I’ve been given.
Hitting my 15 year anniversary within the nonprofit world, I knew I was too comfortable and new challenges were coming far and few between. When I stumbled upon an opening at a startup company, it wasn’t my initial intent to apply, then interview and finally leave for that new company. I had many talks with my family and friends, asking myself if I was making the right decision. The startup world was new and scary and I thought “What if I’m not good at it?” I went in with a can-do attitude. What started out as managing the office turned into supporting the Founder and VP team. Six months later the startup was purchased by Google and as they say, the rest is history!
Great advice, Nicole! Congrats again on being a 2016 OfficeNinjas All-Star!
As part of her prize package, Nicole received $1,000 to spend on designer shoes from UKIES! Happy shopping, Nic!
You could win an awesome prize from UKIES too! Head on over to today’s Flash Raffle and enter by 11:59PM PST for a chance to win!
Today’s All-Star is presented by:
UKIES makes high style, affordable, Italian leather shoes that are actually comfortable to wear, thanks to its patented nanoGel® technology that provides two layers of shock absorbing material.
Photos beautifully captured by OfficeNinjas HQ’s resident photographer, Cheshire Isaacs. Based in SF Bay Area, Cheshire of Cheshiredave Creative has a knack for making Ninjas look GOOD. Click here to view the complete photo album from Nicole’s photoshoot.
Join us in congratulating Nicole Pillatsch, 2016 OfficeNinjas All-Star!