Google’s Tea Uglow on Identity and Creative Diversity
Head of Google’s Creative Labs Tea Uglow shares her thoughts on inclusion in the workplace, the value of individuality, and the challenges that come with being a transgender woman and activist.
My first impression of Tea Uglow is that she is someone who knows and owns her identity. Her approach to personal development, team building, and workplace culture lie in understanding our creative differences and the value of individuality in teamwork. From making yourself redundant as a leader, to crediting each cog in the creative process, it’s clear that Tea doesn’t subscribe to hierarchical structures or concrete results. She wants her employees to enjoy what they do, learn on the job and value what makes them unique.
Her personal journey as a transgender woman and activist has also impacted her perspective on identity in and outside of work. Here’s what I learnt.
As Head of Google’s Creative Labs in Sydney, Australia, Tea and her team work on the border between culture, technology and reality.
From books that cannot be printed to an interactive, global Shakespeare performance, Tea’s work is not driven by the corporate rule book, but by developing things which can be seen to be as technologically unique as they are culturally beautiful.
Tea doesn’t care for templates or convention and when it comes to her management style, she champions learning and development over traditional ideas of corporate success… Making mistakes is part of her creative process.
According to Tea, we should take inspiration from our childhood learning experiences and accept that perfection is unrealistic.
To Tea, the creative process is not about perfection, it’s about trial and error as we remain open to imaginative ideas and learnings. Allowing employees scope for experimentation, and to an extent failure provides security during the creative process, it signals that ideas are valued above generic goals.
In her perfect world, more companies would invest in teams that are simply dedicated to exploring, playing and even failing in order to innovate and find creative solutions.
Enabling creativity also extends beyond the freedom to make mistakes, it’s about giving your people the space to create.
The person that really needs to get out of the way is almost certainly the one at the top, because that’s the direction you grow in.
Allowing your employees space to grow will inspire an environment of confidence and self-worth, where each team member feels their contribution and perspective is valued.
The value of collaboration
Deep diving into the topic of collaboration, Tea believes that creativity is a team sport, and in order to succeed a team needs a diverse range of creative perspectives.
She continues, “We have this amazing process of crediting in films that you don’t get when you’re putting together a shoot, or even when you’re making a tin of baked beans.”
What would happen if we acknowledged each part of the process and each person in the process? Maybe we’d be more aware of how much work goes into one can of beans or just one project, maybe each person involved would feel more valued.
Strength in diversity
Having a mix of people from different backgrounds or with different skills will improve creative processes. They’ll be the people who see things which you can’t.
Tea recalls one team member who described herself as a logical thinker. She found it challenging to be in a room full of creatives when she was more analytical. Tea’s response: “You’re an essential part of that process just as much as they are.” Embrace what makes you different and what makes you valuable.
Tea explains that on the football pitch – as in the workplace – each team member has a different role to play.
“She hires people for what they are good at.”Sophia Obrecht
“One of my children is a center back. It’s not a glamorous position. Their friend is a striker and will always get the glory and the goals. They play football because they enjoy it and even as kids they see that you need different people with different outlooks in different positions. The trick is to value each team member for their diverse talents.“
The same is true when Tea is recruiting for her team. She looks for people with flair and dynamism, but also for people who are consistent and reliable. You need people who understand process but also people who have moments of creative genius. She hires people for what they are good at and not what they think they should be good at. People with potential and not people who have nowhere to grow.
Find out why Tea believes creating diversity is much like baking the perfect cake.
Embracing your labels
Championing diversity also means championing your own individuality and worth within a team.
Accepting yourself, embracing your individuality and unique perspective could help you understand that standing out is not a bad thing.
Finding strength and value in your skills and character is all about owning your identity and being open about what makes you different.
On a personal level Tea is someone who has embraced who she is. As a transgender woman, Tea is more outside of ‘the system’ than most and as a result is working to shift perspectives and negative labels into a more positive dialogue. From taking on transphobia in the UK media to speaking out on transgender rights, Tea is not one to shy away from standing up for herself and her community.
In fact, she turns the hate she receives into strength, using her pride and sense of identity to build her own self-worth. A true role model, Tea shows that embracing the things that make you different, whether it’s the way you work, your outlook or your broader identity, will help you on your way to feeling more empowered and valued at home and in your professional life.
Tea’s journey to self-acceptance and pride has not come without its challenges, especially when it comes to tackling the stigma surrounding the mental health condition she suffers from.
When it comes to the topic of mental health, Tea has used her perspective and platform to encourage discussion and better understanding for mental health issues in the workplace. Suffering from dissociative identity disorder, Tea understands the challenges that people with mental health issues face in the workplace when those around them fail to understand their perspective and struggles.
Viewed differently to a physical health condition, mental health problems are met with stigma as people seek to understand why someone is the way they are instead of understanding how the person feels and what challenges they might face.
When it comes to opening up about her mental health condition or her work as a transgender activist, it’s clear that Tea is very passionate and very ready to own her identity and take pride in her journey. That’s not to say that being so open and sharing her story is not challenging for an individual who doesn’t consider herself an extrovert.
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This time with make-up and politics… 1. Trans rights are human rights ð³ï¸âð ð¦ 2. See point 1. We really, genuinely, don’t want to erase anyone… Trans men and trans women, and non-binary folk of every flavour could be allowed to love and be loved, and to live, work, get sick, grow old, without being told, everyday, that we are a ‘mob’, that we are ‘terrorising’, ‘silencing’ debate, activists that indoctrinate, or sterilise children, or pervert societal norms. It’s possible.. we could; but we don’t get that right. Because? Sadly we have so little to lose that we will fight for any rights. Firstly the right not to be abused and dismissed simply for who we are. The UK is too toxic for me right now. That’s one of the saddest sentences I’ve ever written. #transpride #nailtransphobia #transisbeautiful 1. ð· =ð = @afclarkey 2. ð· =ð = @simontang.co.uk
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Tea is a woman who is inspirational in many ways, from her unique understanding of workplace culture to her readiness to value both her own and others’ diverse perspectives and identities.
As someone just starting on her career path, listening to Tea and her insights was utterly reassuring. From understanding self-worth at work, to knowing that growth and creativity comes from practice and not perfection, Tea’s attitude and her approach to skills and diversity is refreshing. It is a model that more companies should integrate into their corporate cultures, not only for the sake of greater collaboration but in order to inspire creativity and confidence in all employees.
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