Meet Tina Lin of Google

From a small startup on Xinhai Road to the 73rd floor of Taipei 101, Tina Lin’s career journey tells a story of curiosity, resilience, and courage – qualities she learned from a young age. As the Managing Director of Sales & Operations at Google Taiwan, Lin helps customers and partners achieve their goals in Taiwan and all over the world. 

Lin connected with TOPICS Editor Julia Bergström via Google Meet in July. The two discussed the importance of adopting a business-owner mindset, her devotion to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and what qualities make a successful tech player. An abridged version of their conversation follows: 

What drew you to the tech industry? What do you enjoy the most about your field? 

I don’t have the background you’d expect from someone working at an international company. Most people who work at international firms have overseas experience, but I was raised and educated in Taiwan and never lived abroad before I was 22. I got my first passport at the age of 23 because I needed to go on a business trip to the U.S. Since I come from an underprivileged background, my priority early in life was to become self-sufficient and support my family, so I started working right after college and never pursued a graduate degree. 

In college, I was passionate about topics like business and management. Close to our graduation, one of my classmates who majored in computer science told me he wanted to start his own business and asked me to join his company. That was around the “dot-com bubble,” when everyone wanted an internet business. I saw it as a rare chance to be part of building something from scratch, so I jumped on the opportunity. We were cramped up in a small apartment on Xinhai Road, and everyone had to help with everything, from pitching our business plan to potential investors to taking out the trash. 

That experience cultivated a business-owner and accountability mindset that I still carry with me today. Having a sense of ownership motivates you to see the problem, own it, solve it and execute it. That’s also how I entered the tech industry.  

What I really enjoy about the tech industry is how fast things move – there’s always something new to learn, and you get the sense that you are at the front end of innovation because tech enables every other industry. Technology has also enabled me to connect with people worldwide, despite being born, raised, and educated in Taiwan. Through my job, I’ve worked with people of all sorts of nationalities and cultures, and working in that type of international environment excites me. Lastly, I love the fact that you don’t need to wear a uniform or even follow a strict dress code – you can just show up as yourself. 

You’ve worked at some of the world’s most influential tech companies. What were the major lessons you brought from your various positions, and why did you decide to join Google?  

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, but you can only connect them looking back. Looking back, I realize it was a series of serendipitous events that brought me to each position.  

Each of my positions taught me different things. At my first job, I learned how to think like a business owner and how to start a new business. I joined Asus just as the PC business experienced its growth, and it taught me the true meaning of globalization. I have been to around 50 countries for work and pleasure, and working internationally requires you to understand and respect different cultural aspects. Being at Microsoft taught me about B2B (business-to-business) and software business, and Intel taught me about customer growth. 

I used Google for the first time during my fourth year of college. I remember trying to finish my homework, and I was impressed by how useful this search tool was. I was fascinated by how knowledge could be universally accessible to everyone, including an underprivileged student like me.  

My career in the tech industry is all about international business development, and I’m particularly interested in the growth of the digital economy and international competitiveness. I was thinking about how I could dedicate my efforts to assisting Taiwan’s business, brands, content, and even culture with digital transformation to bring the world to Taiwan and Taiwan to the world. I finally joined Google because it allows me to achieve this goal right in the center of the digital world. Working at Google also allows me to have a fully immersive experience and to constantly learn new things in an international working environment – it checks all my boxes. 

How would you describe the Google culture and leadership philosophy?  

At Google, we call it “Googleyness,” which means the mindset to adapt and thrive in ambiguity, value feedback, effectively challenge the status quo, care about the team, put users first, and do the right thing. We look for people who strive for excellence and even “10x think big,” so we naturally find people who put a higher standard for themselves and want to make a greater impact. It’s also a very diverse working environment – we look for talent of different backgrounds, perceptions, and styles because we believe that diversity will also bring creativity and innovation.  

At Google, we know that everyone has leadership within them. A true leader can collaborate with others to make things work as one team with a strong ownership and proactiveness mindset. Not only do they strive for self-development, but they also empower others through building an inclusive working environment and culture, which will encourage creativity and innovation. Lastly, as a leader, you need to proactively take care of others – not just in business, but also care for your team as individuals.  

You’re an active promoter of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). How do you work with DEI at Google? 

Women are usually minorities in the tech industry, but I’ve been fortunate enough not to face major adversities since I’ve had a lot of supporters around me. But when I joined Google, it opened my eyes to other people’s experiences, and I realized just how lucky I’d been. I wanted to contribute and help others to unleash their potential without having any unconscious bias. We have a group called Women@Google, where we bring together female and male employees that want to learn how to support their female coworkers. Women@Google is not only dedicated to supporting and empowering female and other minority talents through various programs within Google – we also think Google can have a positive impact on workplace culture and society, so we collaborate with NGOs and local communities to share our experience.  

What advice would you give to young professionals looking to break into the tech industry?  

I’m a fan of philosophy, and Kant asks the question, “who am I?” I would say that before you start your career, you need to ask yourself, “who am I, where am I, and what am I looking for?” Understand yourself with a high degree of self-awareness. My second advice is to always be curious and open-minded. The modern working environment is so dynamic, and you won’t necessarily be able to use past experiences to fix future challenges. Lastly, be courageous. Looking for progress, not perfection is the mindset that helps you move forward and accomplish your goals. If you treat every experience as a learning or growth opportunity and never look for a perfect answer, you will have the courage to embrace any possibilities that come your way.  

Is there anyone that has influenced you in a particular way? What did they teach you about doing business?  

My biggest influence was actually my mother. She didn’t teach me much about business, but she taught me a lot about life. She taught me that impatience is a hindrance. If you try to take shortcuts, the final destination will rarely be as satisfying and may even be unattainable. This self-discipline and self-management mindset is about how you manage your emotions, delay gratification, and stay focused. Secondly, she always tries to find answers to questions she doesn’t know the answers to. Although she doesn’t have a strong academic background, she’ll ask or search for answers with curiosity and a hunger for knowledge. Lastly, she taught me resilience. Although she didn’t come from a well-off family, she raised my brother and me on her own and never gave up on whatever she set her mind to do. Every time she encounters a problem, she rolls up her sleeves and tries to find a solution. That determination mindset influenced how I approach challenges in and outside the office. 

Photo courtesy of Womany

I believe that success is determined more by your character than your technical skills. You can always gain new knowledge and capabilities, but you build your character and mindset from a young age. And to conquer challenges, you need a strong and curious mind. 

What do you do in your spare time to recharge?   

I love to read – I read about five or six books per month. I’m always motivated and recharged by learning something new, so I also like to listen to podcasts and follow educational YouTubers on my commute to work. That’s one key motivator and energizer to me. I also really enjoy traveling. Whenever I can, I will take some days off work to travel to a new place.  

I feel like I’m a lucky person who’s received so much love, wisdom, and encouragement along my life journey, so I want to give back to my community. For example, I’m a mentor to underprivileged students through a local NGO, and once a month I will have dinner with my mentees and share my learnings. I always learn something new from them as well, so I feel like we really help and energize each other.