Shelley Clifford Brophy, Google Austin’s software-engineering staffing manager, is leading her team’s charge to hire more diverse job applicants.
By Crystal Zuzek, Photo by Korey Howell Photography
When Shelley Clifford Brophy applied for a job at Google in 2014, she was in the process of rebounding from what she calls an existential crisis. She’d been working in the undergraduate admissions office at the University of Texas for the past year and abruptly quit her job when she realized she needed to change direction. She was engaged at the time, and her fiance, Joel Brophy, questioned her rash decision.
“I decided I was going to learn calligraphy, go to culinary school, plan our wedding and do some admissions consulting on the side to earn money,” Clifford Brophy says. “That lasted about a month.”
She applied for a job at Google and heard from a recruiter two days later. The position had been filled, but the recruiter invited Clifford Brophy to the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters anyway. A week after her visit, she was offered a job as staffing-services lead, running a training team in Google’s California office. She accepted and started in January 2015.
“I was on board but had never run a training team,” she says. “My entire Google career, people offer me opportunities and I say, ‘I have no idea how to do that,’ and then I figure out how to do that.”
Saying yes to new career opportunities in uncharted territory comes easily to the open-minded, dynamic, Ivy League-educated executive leading Google toward a more diverse workforce. Clifford Brophy attended Yale University as an undergrad and returned there to get her master’s degree after practicing corporate law in New York for three years.
Eventually transferring to Google’s Austin office and taking on the software-engineering staffing-manager role, she now heads up a team of 15 employees who help hire all front-end and mobile developers for Google.
“People ask me for career advice a lot,” she says. “I tell them to embrace opportunities when they’re offered.”
Working for change
Clifford Brophy guides her team to help them bring in job candidates from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, driving the charge to attract and hire more diverse job applicants in Google’s Austin office.
A public-relations representative for Google says the company was unable to provide diversity data for the Austin office. However, according to a Google national and global diversity report, men made up 69 percent of the company’s overall 2017 global workforce, whereas women accounted for 31 percent. When broken down by ethnicity for the 2017 U.S. Google workforce, 56 percent of all employees were white, 35 percent were Asian, 4 percent were Hispanic, 2 percent were African-American and less than 1 percent were Pacific Islander or Native American. Another 4 percent of U.S. employees reported belonging to two or more of the aforementioned ethnic groups.
Clifford Brophy is confident the workforce in the male-dominated tech industry will transform as time passes, pointing to some of Google’s efforts to spur young girls to take an interest in the sciences as a step in the right direction. For instance, Google’s Made with Code program encourages girls to take an interest in computer-science and technology careers, and the company is also working to integrate computer-science curriculum into elementary and middle-school classes in the Austin Independent School District through its CS First program.
“When girls enter high school, a lot of them lose interest in the sciences,” says Clifford Brophy, who also serves as a member of the Girl Scouts of Central Texas board of directors. “If you can get a girl to stay interested in the sciences throughout high school and to graduate with that interest, you have them for life.”
Clifford Brophy says she wasn’t always the empowered business leader she is today. She was born in Queens, N.Y, and her family moved to her parents’ native Trinidad when she was 4 years old. She lived there until she graduated from high school in 1995, when she returned to the U.S. to attend college at Yale.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics, she attended Columbia University Law School and practiced corporate law in New York. As a young lawyer, she says she executed commands, never questioning them.
“Only when I got to business school did I realize you can actually tell people what you want to do,” she says. “Once I started to find my voice, I cared more about my work. I vocalized what I was interested in and then got the opportunity to do those things.”
At Google, Clifford Brophy uses her leadership role to help empower other women.
“You can change and make things happen for you if you identify what you want to do,” she says. “Once you know what you want and the skills you want to develop, you can get help to accomplish that.”