Welcome to another edition of the award-nominated breadwinning, six figure, millionaire women series. Today I’m honored to bring you the story of Bethanie Baynes – she started her career the pre-digital photo industry, and today has risen the ranks to become an executive at Google.
She came to New York twenty years ago with about six months rent in her pocket – and today is an executive and mother of two. Her husband is a stay at home dad like mine, and she even grew up in CT like me! She’s a strong advocate for female breadwinners in the workplace and women in tech.
I know you’re going to love her story, as well as her advice for succeeding in your career. I particularly liked her third piece of advice – it’s so important but infrequently discussed.
Lets meet Bethanie!
Tell us about yourself!
I began my twenty year career working in the photo industry (before it went digital – gasp!). I’ve spent the past fourteen years with Google – where I’ve grown from humble beginnings of reviewing text ads and selling the first-ever ads on YouTube, to becoming an executive working in our Global Partnerships division. Throughout my career at Google, I’ve launched and (sometimes) sunsetted new products, negotiated billions of dollars worth of first-of-their-kind deals and now oversee New Business Development, Revenue Management and Analytical Insights.
A strong women’s advocate, especially around the topic of breadwinning women, I’m an active mentor and present leader for many women in tech. I hold a BA in Human Services (the study of Psychology and Sociology, since everyone asks) from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. I’ve also attended several global leadership conferences for women including Women Transforming Leadership at Said Business School at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the Women’s Director Development Program at Kellogg.
I was born in rural Northwestern Connecticut, moved to Boston for college, and haven’t left urban life since. I’ve lived in Spain, San Francisco, Boston and New York. My husband and I are long-time, die-hard residents of Brooklyn, NY where I’ve lived for the past 20 years. We’re in the midst of raising an 11 year old son and 7 year old daughter. My husband retired about 5 years ago and is now full-time Dad-ing while pursuing his passion as a songwriter. In my spare time, I’m obsessed with hot yoga (any and all disciplines), real estate and home renovation. I also try to get to the beach as often as possible, because … the beach.
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there?
As a long time Googler, I’ve been very fortunate. However, I didn’t get in that early – I still need to work! I began my career at Google in a very junior position, and have been promoted 6 times over my 14 years, accelerated my earning power with each advance. I became my family’s primary earner around the time my son was born. Shortly after my daughter was born, about five years later, I became my family’s sole earner.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I came to New York in 1999 with six months of rent in my bank account (at the time my rent was $450/month!). I never thought I would live in NY but have mostly lived here ever since except for a few years in California when I began working for Google. Anyone who has spent any time in NY knows how expensive it can be, so I quickly signed up with a temp agency to start earning immediately.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was passionate about photography. My first job was with a division of Polo Ralph Lauren as a temp helping them with their inventory for home décor. While there, I applied for a full-time position in their photo department. It was a traditional photo lab and photo archive of all past commercial shoots.
I then jumped around to a few other jobs early on in my career. All my positions were focused in the photo industry; mostly in stock photography, which licenses photographs to advertisers and publishers for commercial and editorial use. As I watched this industry struggle with the digitization of assets, I realized I wanted to work in an industry which was much more innovative and comfortable with emerging technology.
That’s how I found a little company in the valley named Google! Didn’t hurt that I also heard they gave away free ice cream on Fridays! CMO Note – yum, ice cream!
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
When I began at Google, it was such early days. There was so much to do, and they just needed people to grab the reins and create structure. This really gave me my sea legs in terms of being a self-starter and problem solver. I quickly rose to a management position, and learned a ton about how to motivate a team, how to help your team feel appreciated, and how to respect work/life balance (very tough in early start-up days).
Throughout my time at Google I’ve been a part of five different organizations. In most cases I moved to an organization as an individual contributor and grew into management positions. This helped me to really understand what my team was doing and excel as a player/coach.
However, my last two areas of responsibility have been for teams where I did not begin as an individual contributor. As such I’m not as close to nor familiar with my team’s day-to-day. Surprisingly, this has been successful in a different way. It’s much easier to delegate when you’re not able to get into the weeds and it’s also a great way to bring a fresh perspective to your team’s projects.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
For my career, I am eager to continue to grow and find new challenges. I don’t know where my next move will take me, but I am excited to continue to grow in my career, whether at Google or elsewhere. I always try to keep my options open as I know I have a lot to offer other organizations.
With two young kids and an expensive educational path ahead, I am not sure that financial independence or early retirement are in the cards for me, but I hope to be able to scale the intensity down in my mid 50s.
What’s the biggest challenge in being the breadwinner? What’s the best part?
It’s hard to pick the biggest challenge. I would say being a senior woman in the business world, and in tech specifically, is not easy. That said, I try to see the challenges as opportunities to speak up for myself and other women who are the breadwinners for their families.
The best part is my amazing husband. I didn’t know when we got married what kind of father he would be, but I am in awe. He is such a supportive and steady guide throughout my career and our family life, that I don’t know where we would be without him. I would not be able to do what I do without the confidence and security I have because of the nurturing and laughter-filled environment that my kids and I get to relish in each day.
This is a growing segment of our society and their unique challenges and opportunities need to be addressed, understood, and supported. CMO note – yes! Very much this.
Becoming a millionaire is a dream of many people. How did you get there?
I would say diversifying your investments is the most important part. Markets are volatile and if you only have stocks in one sector, or are only invested in real estate, you are more vulnerable to market shifts. With a diversified portfolio you have more confidence and stability, which in turn allows you to take more risks.
What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
My path to my earnings has been through organic and ambitious growth within a single company so it may not be an applicable path for most. I know of many industries where in order to get an earnings bump, you need to change companies.
That said, I always encourage young people to live below your means while you can. There are long periods of life where it seems every penny of your earnings is accounted for. If you’ve made smart investments when you could, then you have more confidence and calm during the more expensive, cash-heavy parts of your life.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
Certainly. Some are unintentional, so I always try to take people aside to explain how it could be a double standard or considered sexist. That said, I’ve seen men get tapped for opportunities which I wish I had the chance at, and I’ve seen the ‘buddy system’ work to my disadvantage.
There are some areas which are harder to step up and say something, but I feel I’ve found my voice on most.
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
We try to diversify as much as possible across real estate, short and long term positions in stocks, 401(k) and cash. As my husband likes to say “cash is a position”! We are also up to our eyeballs in private school tuition payments, which I like to think of as an investment in our children.
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
- Live below your means for as long as you can
- Make sure you understand your company’s benefits and offerings. The more money you can save before your net pay and the more you get matched, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
- Work for people you admire and respect; what you do is not as important as who you do it for. Make sure you find empathetic, smart, decisive leaders whom you can emulate, and who you know have your back when you make inevitable mistakes.
Where can people connect with you?
CMO Here Again!
Thank you so much to Bethanie for stopping by to share her story! It’s wonderful to hear from another woman in the tech field. I’ve spent the last sixteen years in IT, and although it can be challenging at times to be a woman in a male-dominated field, technology has become such an integral part of our lives over the years that it’s also an exciting and interesting place to be.
I also love how her husband is a stay at home dad, just like mine is. One of the reasons I started this site is that it was hard to find families like mine in the “real world”. Being able to connect with other successful women in the virtual world has been a pleasure, and getting the opportunity to share their stories is a privilege.
I agree with her that breadwinning, high income earning women in the workforce is a growing and under-served segment of our population. So much of the mainstream media in this space is negative. Women need positive role models, and real, practical advice on navigating with so many competing priorities.
Be sure to leave Bethanie a comment below!
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