Well, 2023 just took an interesting turn!

I am well known for being able to juggle a high profile job at Google, train like a professional athlete, and still be a good Dad. Well, this just took an interesting development. On Friday I was laid off along with 12000 of my colleagues. I always thought I was reassuringly expensive, like a Dimond Mogul, Specialized S-Works, Remy Martin Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac, Emirates First Class etc etc. You get the picture – these things are expensive, but reassuringly so.

Likewise, my team at Google was expensive but reassuringly so. We achieved higher output than many teams that were literally 10 times the number of people. I made many friends, and learned a lot along the way. But is has now come to and end.

In 2023 I will be a full time athlete and also grow my coaching business. I’ve already got a good lineup of races for the first half: In April I have Ultra355 Mexico (355 miles non stop) and Ironman Texas, and in June I have the Comrades Marathon. Once I get back from SA, I will focus on preparing for the Ultraman World Champs which take place in November in Hawaii.

I will now have time to actually post stuff of social media and hopefully also do some cool YouTube videos.

Below is a longer version of my LinkedIn post (which was limited to 3000ish characters)

Friday was my last day at Google. Technically, Mar 31, 2023 will be my last day, exactly 13 years to the day after my official first day. I say official first day, because I actually started working in the London office at Belgrave House 6 months before that, when the new consulting company that I had founded snagged Google as the first big client. I was brought in to assist with the marketing strategy and execution for Google Enterprise, a little-known and frankly underfunded part of Google that had fewer than 400 employees and no significant amount of revenue. For perspective, Google Drive did not even exist back then. A few days a week turned into 4 days a week, then 5 and often 6. It was just like working at a startup, except with rich parents who could bail you out if you got it wrong. Before I knew it, Dave Armstrong had somehow convinced me to join as a full time employee, and wow it has been quite the adventure!

I started in London, moved to California, and now live in Colorado. I went in as a marketing leader and I came out the other side running a product management team, a knowledge / learning team, and an M&A integration team. I went in having never done an Ironman race and I come out the other side having done over 20 Ironmans, 5 Ultramans, winning the Ultraman World Championship in 2017. And possibly the best work/life story of all: With 7 of my Google colleagues, we broke the world record for the longest swim relay in 2019 (we swam 959km in the Google pool at “The Quad” in Mountain View). That’s a reflection on the amazing culture of this company that I absorbed and embraced. 

Whatever mistakes I made along the way, I always learned from them and made sure that I used those learning opportunities to become the best version of me. When I started managing people back in 2012, I was not great at it. I was kind of in corporate drone mode and had a “company first” approach to how I managed the team. I soon realized that this approach did not get the most out of people and that I had to adapt. I’m proud to say that by viewing my team as humans, with human needs, aspirations and goals that go way beyond their job, I have become a much better people manager. I’ve learned as much from them and they have learned from me.

 My proudest measurable achievement is not related to growing revenue, boosting profits, and optimizing an organization. Yes, I am passionate about all those things and love that part of my job. But no, the most meaningful measure of success for me was achieving a manager feedback score of 100% for the past few years. I am confident that even now, if you had to survey my team (including those that were affected by this layoff), I would still hold their vote of confidence. My relationships with them transcend that of the company, the quarterly objective or the performance rating. And guess what? This approach builds a trusting, loyal, passionate and productive team that will in turn lead to greater revenue and profits. 

So what is next for me? Not getting another full time job, that is for sure! The silver lining of getting laid off is that it forces me out of my comfort zone into doing the things that I should be doing anyway. I will be spending 2023 as a full time athlete, coach, dad, husband, pro pizza chef and amateur barista. 

I’ve run a part time coaching business for the past 8 years, but I’ve never had the time available to add more clients or to scale that business. I now do have time to take on 2-3 athletes (or aspiring athletes). If someone you know wants to do an Ironman, a marathon, or simply wants to get fitter and healthier, I would love the opportunity to work with them. I know first hand the struggles of trying to perform at a high level job and also be a good parent and spouse. I would get great satisfaction from helping others to become the best possible versions of themselves. You can send them to https://robgray.org/coaching/ 

I have really enjoyed speaking at events. I’ve spoken at a number of annual kick offs and corporate team events, where I talk about the parallels of winning at Ultraman and winning at business: creating the right strategy, building a great team, knowing your competition, technology as a competitive advantage, and the discipline to bring it all together. Working at Google, I was limited in terms of what public speaking I was allowed to do, but now I am Free! Free at last! For me this is high impact work that only requires a few days of time commitment, and is personally very fulfilling. 

I would like to thank all the people who continue to reach out in support. As is hopefully clear, I am not looking for another full time job. But many of the people that worked for me are. These are some of the best people I have ever worked with. They were hand picked by me and are in the top 1% – if you need people to run sales productivity tools (including salesforce), learning and knowledge platforms (LMS / CMS admins), technical architects, product managers, please let me know. This is really a golden opportunity to acquire top talent.

This coming Thanksgiving, I will leave no stone unturned in my efforts to win a second Ultraman world championship title, at the age of 47! It will be a massive undertaking, but it’s now or never and I need to seize this opportunity. If there is anyone in your network who runs a brand that would like to be involved in this project, please reach out. In this modern world of content marketing, it’s a fantastic opportunity to create amazing content around an incredible story. 

Finally, thank you to all the Googlers that have become my friends over the past 13 years. You know who you are. You are more than colleagues; you are friends, mentors and muses. I will miss the time we had, but our time together is far from over.

My Infinite Quest

I often get asked the question “Why do you race Ultraman and what keeps you motivated to keep coming back?”

Rob Gray about to swim in ocean

For me, it’s simply to achieve my ultimate human potential. I’ve discovered something that I’m good at, and my quest is to be the very best that I can be through detailed analysis, wise planning, smart execution, an extremely strong work ethic, and a positive attitude. All of this is underpinned by surrounding myself with experts who contribute to the goal, and most importantly making sure that the quest I’ve chosen continues to bring me joy.

Joy is an incredibly important part of this, and is an often overlooked aspect of people’s lives. I see many corporate executives who are on a quest to be “successful” without really thinking about what that means to them. Often, the focus is on status, money and possessions, neither of which directly result in joy. In my 20s and early 30s, I was obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder. I got promoted multiple times, and then at one point, when I was in a relatively senior position leading a global product marketing team, I looked at my boss and realized that everyone more senior than him spent an inordinate amount of time focused on their work. That’s what made them successful; regardless of how much they talked about work/life balance, the reality is that they were successful because they spent a huge amount of their energy focused on the job.

I often think about the legacy that I will leave for my kids. The interesting thing that I observed, being around the kids of successful people in Silicon Valley, is that kids don’t care at all about money, or whether their parents are CEOs of some huge tech company. They are more impressed if their mom or dad can do a cool magic trick! Or at least, spend some time with them! When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who worked from home, and could spend a lot of time doing cool things with me. On many days after school, I’d be practicing rugby with my dad or playing music with my mum. After I had kids, I realized that making time for them is one of the most valuable things that I could do. At the same time, when they look at what I’ve achieved in my life, it dawned on my that they couldn’t care less if I was “Senior Vice President of XYZ”, and that they would be more inspired by observing me accomplish feats of human performance.

When I think about the lessons that I want my kids to learn, I want them to choose a path in life that brings them and others joy, I want them to choose a path that aligns with their god-given abilities and traits, and I want them to leave no stone unturned to reach their maximum human potential in that area. Whether is sports, art, music, science or entrepreneurship, I want them to have a strong work ethic, believe in themselves, and do everything in their power to achieve their goals. I want them to know that on their quest there will be really tough times, and really great times, but that neither of those lasts forever. Persevere through hardship, and bask in the happiness, but don’t let either of those affect you too much.

I want my kids to choose things in life that bring them joy. Not to say that they never do things that are boring, difficult and unpleasant, but that the path they choose is one that will ultimately bring them joy. For me, I love riding my bike for hours, swimming in the ocean and running through hot lava fields. I realize that is certainly not for everyone, but it does bring me joy. I feel alive. In the throes of a competition like Ultraman I feel like my mind, body and soul are deeply connected, working in unison to push me towards my goal. This year, I’m better than last year, and the year before that. It’s a long, slow process of continual improvement that honestly has no end. I cannot see a time when I say “I have achieved my full potential”. But this year, I’m one step closer.