Sabine Georg: Believe in Yourself

The Learning Economy
The Learning Economy
Sabine Georg: Believe in Yourself

The Learning Economy – Season 01, Episode 01

Sabine: I really had to learn to be vulnerable on one side and open on one hand, but on the other hand, become more and more confident and really fighting for your, yeah, for the right to continue trying.

Jeremy: Hey everyone. I’m Jeremy Abbett designer and former creative evangelist at Google. You’re listening to the Learning Economy podcast, a podcast about not what people know, but their capacity to learn through practical experience, self-taught skills, passion, and the courage to question the status quo.

[00:00:45] For today’s episode, I sit down with Sabine Georg , managing director at Miami Ad School Europe, as well as a 14 year veteran of Google and former colleague of mine.

[00:00:56] We talk about how her path from studying at one of Germany’s most well known art schools led her to work in at one of the world’s most valuable companies, which later led her to where she is today. This was recorded in December of 2019. Before  Covid-19 was but an idea based on a Steven Soderbergh film.

[00:01:16] I’m sitting here with Sabine. She’s my friend and ex-colleague from Google. We both left; she left after I and she started before I did. And we’re going to talk a little bit about creativity and her path to where she is now as the managing director for Miami at School Europe.

[00:01:33] Good morning Sabine

[00:01:34] Guten Morgan.

[00:01:36] Let’s start in the very beginning. I know you grew up in a small town near  Hanover.

[00:01:42] Richtig. In VW-land where Northern Germany is the most boring. And really it’s, it’s ugly. It’s an ugly town. *laughter* It’s an ugly town. An ugly town I always wanted to leave. When I’d been to Hamburg for the first time, it was clear that Hamburg should be my wahlheimat, this nice word made up by Goethe, I think

[00:02:05] Computer: Wahlheimat, translated to English means you’re elected home.

[00:02:09] Sabine: So it happened, and I came to Hamburg to study at HFBK Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste around the corner here at Kunst- und Mediencampus, and I started out studying to become a teacher for fine arts because I had no, not the courage to study fine arts only. So becoming an artist or something like, Oh my God, from a small town in an ugly part of Germany, I had another courage to do what I always wanted to do to become an artist. So, I started to become a teacher. And then I realized, Oh my God, I’ve been to school, I am at university, and I’ll be back to school to become a teacher. So I will spend my life teaching and I realized the age of 20 no, I don’t want to do that. I will not be forever in school.

[00:02:57] So, I applied with a new portfolio at HFBK. And then I studied fine arts, just the free fine arts without teaching and pragmatism. Another topic. And I did that for, for a while…for some years. And I have a diploma in fine art, and that brings me…nowhere I thought at the time, but I couldn’t care less.

[00:03:25] Jeremy: So, before you got to the…

[00:03:27] Sabine: Bildende Kuenste

[00:03:28] Jeremy: HFBK. Before you got to HFBK you were studying at a different university or you were setting up HFBK to teach art?

[00:03:38] Sabine: Yeah. What you do is you study at the HFBK, the arts part, and then you had to attend the university of Hamburg to do the rest, like the second topic. Which was French literature and French literature and language, because it’s höheres lehramt…

[00:03:54] Jeremy: At the HFBK  you could study to be a teacher?

[00:03:58] Sabine: Yeah.

[00:03:58] Jeremy: Oh, I didn’t know that. Okay.

[00:03:59] Sabine: Yep. You had to enroll at the university to do the ditactic and all the theory around how to teach, and then the topic itself was, was French literature and language, which was by accident because I wanted to enroll for German literature and language, but I couldn’t do that because of the numerous clauses. My abitur wasn’t good enough to do German literature and language, so I picked French literature and language. And that was a mistake. Anyway, so yeah,

[00:04:32] Jeremy: So then you decided, “Okay, this isn’t going to work out. I want to study just straight up fine art.”

[00:04:37] Sabine: Yeah.

[00:04:38] Jeremy: Cause the HFBK is pretty well known in the art world. Who were some of your professors that you studied under?

[00:04:45] Sabine: I knew them all, like Franz Erhard Walther. I went to his class, but I couldn’t relate to his ouvre and he couldn’t relate to mine. So I ended up being in Claus Boehmler class and Claus Boehmler is a bit the version of Sigma Polke…

[00:05:04] Computer: Sigma Polke, an influential German artist whose inventive paintings and photographs employed non traditional materials such as meteorite dust or detergent.

[00:05:13] Born on the 13th of February, 1941 in Oehls, Poland in the midst of World War II, he and his family were expelled to communist East Germany after the war. Growing up in the German Democratic Republic left a lasting impact on the artist, specifically the sensorial overload of consumer culture he felt after moving to West Germany in 1953.

[00:05:35] Sabine: In the sense that he’s always, he was, I think he’s, he’s dead. He died I think a few years ago. Very witty, always experimental guy. Very open towards what we now call new media. And he encouraged me to be ironic, witty, trying out new things. So yeah, it was mainly Claus Boehmler who for me…and Gustav Klüger. Not to forget heern Gustav Kluge.

[00:06:02] Computer: Born in 1947, Gustav Kluge is an artist interested in the interactions between the fundamental conditions of human existence and prevailing social relation; disregarding trends and movements in art. For 40 years, he has been working on his body of work, which can be described as heavy, gloomy, contemplated, and uncompromising in its manner of expression.

[00:06:23] Jeremy: Is he also, is he deceased or is he still alive?

[00:06:26] Sabine: He’s still alive.

[00:06:27] Jeremy: Okay

[00:06:28] Sabine: He’s still alive.  Gustav’s still alive. Maybe…Yeah, Claus Boehmler and Gustav Kluge were the most influential. Gustav a painter who painted or still does quite dark sinister, very German, very heavy paintings. So that there was Gustav, on one hand with his very German deep kind of paintings and then Claus with his more light-hearted kind of kind of art.

[00:06:57] Jeremy: Let’s go back a little bit. What triggered you to first study art and then later study fine art. At some point you were in this small town and what made you think, I want to pursue living within the art world?

[00:07:10] Sabine: So, so basically I had no clue what to do professionally. So I had no plan or outline for my future existence. Just like, like my friend who was quite the contrary, who always wanted to become a dentist. Who always wanted to own a Porsche.

[00:07:29] The future was clear and bright, and my future was not clear at all. And only bright if it comes to… I was keen on reading books, so I had a knack or a passion for literature and a passion for, for art. So I was always…

[00:07:47] I was always creative, sound so grandiose, but always, always scribbling, writing, painting, drawing. But I didn’t plan it out like, “Oh, I want to become an artist”.  Or no, it was just like an amateur, just dabbling in arts.

[00:08:05] When I’d been to Hamburg for the first time, I knew. This is the location I want to be at. And then I went with my best friend, who’s still my best friend, Heide. I went to a HFBK just to check it out, like, here’s Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste, oh let’s check it out. And when I came there, it felt like my temple. So really this is the place like my church.

[00:08:28] Jeremy: Let me take you back again. So since you grew up pretty active in the arts, drawing and painting and stuff, what did your parents do? Did they influence you in the way you’ve developed or what was their role in your development?

[00:08:41] Sabine: So I come from what we call kleinbuergerlich…

[00:08:45] Computer: Kleinbuergerlich, meaning lower middle-class.

[00:08:47] Sabine: Hard to  translate. So my parents don’t have a higher education. Not all, but both are smart people. But if you look at their CVs, like the former qualification is Hauptschule. So, really lower class background. And they never really supported me.

[00:09:05] Sounds like, “Oh, they never really supported me”. No. I don’t mean it in a bad sense, but they just said, yeah, if you want to do your A-levels, go for it. We can’t help you. Huh, you’re interested inart? That’s Brotlose Kunst…

[00:09:19] Computer: Brotlose Kunst means art that makes no income.

[00:09:21] Sabine: So that will not earn you anything, but if you want to do it, how we can’t help it. So passive aggressive. Now, to be honest, there was no, um, there wasn’t a role model, not from my mother’s side or from my father’s side. So I guess it’s just me being…

[00:09:43] Jeremy: You just found your passion for that. And then when you visited the HFBK, then you thought, okay, this is where I want to be. And then you started studying.

[00:09:53] Is it, is it hard to get into a school like that or was it hard at the time?

[00:09:57] Sabine: Yeah, it was a bit easier when you want to become an arts teacher. So Kunst pedagogic is a bit easier. You apply and they are choosy and picky, but not as choosy and picky as for the fine arts only. I think they have an intake of at most 20 with 500 applicants.

[00:10:19] So that’s the, that’s the rational. I wasn’t fully aware at the time how elite this is. I just went for it and was successful.

[00:10:28] Jeremy: At some point, you decided you want to switch from art education to fine arts. Who are your influences as far as artistically? Who were you looking at your inspirations?

[00:10:41] Sabine: It was always a collection of many because I was open towards many influences, like from Renoir, old stuff, even older stuff.

[00:10:51] Durer, even older stuff to Modern Art, like Pop Art. Of course I’ve looked at Warhol and found interesting his methods and the people he met and the way he did it. Sigmar Polke is one of my latest, greatest, like my Bob Dylan for the arts. He’s a total hero, but I wouldn’t have dare to say, “Oh, Sigmar Polke, I’m doing stuff like Sigma Polke”.

[00:11:18] No. Only in my, my Google interview, I said Sigmar Polke is my main influence.

[00:11:23] And the guy, “Who?”

[00:11:26] Sigmar Polke, one of Germany’s most popular artists.

[00:11:31] “Never heard”.

[00:11:32] And then, then Cindy Sherman; inszenierte photography was very influential at the time, and I copied her work for her for a while.

[00:11:43] Jeremy: While you were studying?

[00:11:45] Sabine: Claus  Boehmler said, “Yeah, then go ahead and copy her but, do your own thing, transform it and do your own thing.”

[00:11:55] Who else? No, I think that’s, that’s basically it.

[00:11:57] Jeremy: Okay. You were studying there and it was a formal, I guess as formal as an education, as anything could be as a fine art. What kind of things did you learn there? When you reflect back, what do you still carry with you?

[00:12:12] Sabine: What I learned and what was really hard at the time, because I was way shyer than I am now.  So I was, was a super pathologically shy kid. I didn’t dare speaking out in front of more than one person. So it was really, that was a journey. And in art school you had to present yourself. So what we now call self branding. It was a thing. And I realized that early on that you had to sell yourself not only what you do with your portfolio, but also the way you are.

[00:12:44] Jeremy: Was that in critiques or how would you do that?

[00:12:46] Sabine: Critiques and also to be allowed into a class, you had to do your pitch. I was never like the coolest girl around, but in my portfolio, the stuff I made was so original; so in between categories. Because all the influences I mentioned are reflected in my work. It was messy, you could say, or rich in references and yeah, in between categories and labels.

[00:13:12] So once I presented to Gotthard Graubner the painter in his class. And he was like the godfather of the painting masterclasses at HFBK. And he was, “Okay, that’s not for my class, but it’s, oh, it’s interesting. So always come back for critique if you want”. And that was like, oh, a compliment.

[00:13:36] Jeremy: The setup was, you would go there with your portfolio, your paintings, and it would just be a one on one?  It wouldn’t be in front of a group?

[00:13:42] Sabine: They were in front of the group…

[00:13:44] Jeremy: So you wouldn’t have to go and wow, that’s very. I mean, that leaves you, if you don’t have that self confidence, you’re very vulnerable. Right?

[00:13:51] Sabine: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s, it’s, you’re at your most vulnerable, uh, because, uh, what I’m doing right now is, is so with a distance from me compared to then, I was way more vulnerable because I was younger and shy and coming from a small town, I’m not so…so cool.

[00:14:10] Yeah, super vulnerable and I couldn’t help, but you have to open yourself and go for it.

[00:14:16] Jeremy: Yeah. Art is like that, isn’t it?  I think it really exposes some of your inner personality or emotions.

[00:14:23] Sabine: Yeah.

[00:14:24] Jeremy: You were there and you presented and this painter said, “Interesting, but not for me?”

[00:14:29] Sabine: Not for me. But he said, “Hmm, interesting.” and he meant it in a German way. So that was, that was good. And also, I can remember, I once threw away lots of my stuff. That was quite early in my studies at HFBK. And my professor, Gustaf Kluge, he had saved it from the trash bin. So I threw it away like in rage. I was so frustrated with not being good enough, not being interesting enough. And the next day I came and Gustaf said, “Can we talk?” Yeah. And he opened his drawer and showed me that he had saved all my work; had, put it out of the trash bin. “Sabina, don’t do that. Don’t throw it away because it’s, it’s good. It’s good. You have to believe in yourself.”

[00:15:17] Jeremy: Where did this, this self doubt come? Where did this feeling of, I don’t think I’m good enough come. Where did that come from?

[00:15:25] Sabine: I was a shy kid. My parents were not, they love me, but they were not supportive in a sense that the way you are with your kids it’s the total contrary, like really encouraging and uh, go for it and never give your, give your boys the feeling that they are not good enough.

[00:15:43] So my parents were like, ah, when you want to do your a levels, you have to do it for yourself and when you’re not good enough. So encouragement didn’t come from them. And for myself, it couldn’t come because I was too shy and too insecure. So what’s left then.

[00:15:58] Jeremy: At the HFBK? Because at that point you were painting, you were studying there.

[00:16:02] Sabine: At the HFBK, I was not amongst the coolest gang, but I wasn’t a loser either. So in between. I think what helped me immensely were situations like the one I described with, with Gustaf who saved my work from the trash bin saying, “Sabina, I believe in yourself because you’re, you’re good.” And I admired him.  He was like my, my idol at at the time. So that gave me a big push.

[00:16:31] Before that, I was always, Oh, they will like the imposter syndrome. Oh, they will find out that I’m here because of, I don’t know, it’s a lucky, lucky accident that had happened to me.

[00:16:44] I really had to learn to be vulnerable on one side and open on on one side and on one hand. But on the other hand, become more and more confident and really fighting for your, yeah, for the right to continue trying.

[00:16:59] Jeremy: Those are some of the learnings that you took away from your studies? So at some point you transitioned to Boehmler and you started working more with mixed media or were you doing paintings…?

[00:17:09] Sabine: Mixed media. Super eight films and I was doing photography and then scratching into the film, manipulating the negatives and then doing big poster formats and then painting on them. So like what do you do nowadays ,with Photoshop advanced with different layers, I did by hand manually.

[00:17:29] Jeremy: Right. Analog. So at some point you finished, how many years did you study under Boehmler?

[00:17:33] Sabine: Under Boehmler… Count count of four or five or five years.

[00:17:38] Jeremy: Then at some point you got your diploma. Correct? So you have your diploma in hand as a fine artist from a very highly regarded school.

[00:17:48] Sabine: Yeah. But that’s not reflected in society. Because in Germany when you have either at a party or wherever it is, when you say, yeah, I studied fine arts at HFBK. “Fine arts, so you’re a Brotlose Kuenstler? What are you going to do with it?” It brings you nowhere so you don’t get the recognition.

[00:18:05] You don’t get, the appreciation it’s always this niche thing, this weird, “Are you a freak?”

[00:18:11] Jeremy: You decided not to develop that artistic side?

[00:18:14] Sabine:  I did. I tried. I had a few exhibitions, smaller group exhibitions, and then my God uncle, I think it’s called. My paten uncle, he you worked as a manager in the automotive industry and he ran a marketing department at the time

[00:18:30] Jeremy: In Hamburg or…?

[00:18:32] Sabine: No, in Bavaria.

[00:18:33] Jeremy: Okay.

[00:18:34] Sabine: He said, “You know what, you’re, you’re creative and I need someone who helps me in doing a marketing campaign for one of the first airbags in Germany”. He sort of co-invented the airbag. I helped him to create a marketing campaign, like an ad campaign.

[00:18:52] Jeremy: You traveled to Bavaria or did you do it? Okay.

[00:18:55] Sabine: He was buying my stuff to produce an ad campaign, my motifs.

[00:19:00] Jeremy: So at some point you moved from fine arts more into the, I guess back then they call their commercial artists right, to design.

[00:19:07] Sabine: By accident. So I wasn’t fully aware of what it is. I wouldn’t have called it marketing at the time. Like, “Oh, I’m supporting, uh, my God uncle in, in doing a marketing or ad campaign.”

[00:19:16] I was just, okay, he needs my help. I give him an idea. So I have no professional framework for it. But thinking about it, I think it’s the first step into commercial art. And I did it for a while, so he then booked me again and again, but twice per year I supported him in giving him ideas and motives for his ad campaigns.

[00:19:37] Jeremy: So you were doing that and on the side, was that enough to support your life or were you doing other things?

[00:19:42] Sabine: I was doing odd jobs.  I worked at the postal office, not as a brieftraeger.

[00:19:46] Computer: Brieftraeger is a mailman, or postman/ or woman,

[00:19:50] Sabine: In night shifts at the big postal briefzentrum. Where you sort out letters.

[00:19:55] Jeremy: Letters. Okay. Wow. So you were doing side jobs and the idea was still to be pursue art?

[00:20:01] Sabine: Yeah. And I was happy about my life at the time, although I didn’t have much money but, it was okay. It sustained my lifestyle and I sort of set my alarm in the middle of the night to go into the really cool clubs. So I was enjoying this free life as an artist with some side jobs and some some gigs in arts, and I wasn’t giving it a second thought because I was happy and I fulfilled my passion.

[00:20:31] But then, I had a moment. I will never forget the moment where I realized, “Oh my God, this is my life. I’m doing odd jobs. I have some, some accidental art exhibitions, but that doesn’t give me money nor fame. So if I will not marry a rich man,” which hasn’t happened until today, and will probably not have at all, “I will lead a life”, there’s a German word for word like, “precariat”. Where, you have no money. You’re always in danger of being really poor and maybe become obdachlose.

[00:21:11] Computer: Obdachlose is translated as homeless.

[00:21:13] Sabine: I dunno. So I had a bit of a panic for five minutes, like, “Oh my God” maybe I end in a bad way. But then I forgot about it and continued doing what I did and forgot about it.

[00:21:27] Jeremy: Just for reference. Were you in the mid twenties or late early thirties.

[00:21:33] Sabine: Late twenties.

[00:21:34] Jeremy: Okay. So this is kind of like a midlife crisis, but kind of not really mid-life. So early midlife crisis. Okay.

[00:21:42] Sabine: Then I met, at a party, someone who worked in what was called new media agency. That was the late nineties. Late nineties and he said, “Yeah, why don’t you come by this agency I work for? They do new media and…”

[00:21:59] Hey, what are you doing here? “New media. We do things for the internet. And maybe because you’re creative, you can support us in creating banner ads.”

[00:22:08] Computer: A banner ad is a form of advertising on the World Wide Web first made popular on the 27th of October, 1994 in which Wired Magazine, digital affiliate Hotwired ran what later became known as the web’s first banner ad for AT&T.

[00:22:22] Sabine: “…or teaser copy text” Huh? What? Teaser, banner ads? I had no laptop. No, I had no clue. But I went there just out of curiosity. Oh yeah. I will check it out. Open mindset and then the people were nice and the culture was nice and really messy and wild and, yeah.

[00:22:42] Jeremy: Do you remember the name of the agency?

[00:22:44] Sabine: It was IMP; Interactive Marketing Partner.

[00:22:47] They later were bought by Focus Interactive. They became big and then they…

[00:22:55] Jeremy: You were there in the beginning, right?

[00:22:58] Sabine: In the beginning, and they had a client who needed an audio text quiz thing; like Trivial Pursuit where you had to come up with a funny questions and funny answers. Like, what is the Pope not: blind, Catholic or gay? Things like that. And you did that audio text quiz. It was later on, it was not allowed anymore. A telephone quiz like dial the four when you want to continue with that pop quiz. And if you answer the questions right, you win. Nothing. You win a trip to Hanover or something. So it wasn’t a very serious business thing, but I loved setting up the question and the answers, and I had to write a script and audio text script in Excel.

[00:23:49] I will never forget that because the friend of mine, he had rented out his laptop to me. Like, do it on my laptop. And then you open Excel. That’s a program, and then you type in that script and here’s the template. Huh, what? I really had no clue. And took me eight, nine hours to do that.

[00:24:06] In the end you’ve been asked by the machine like, “Do you want to save the changes you made?”

[00:24:12] And I thought, no, I didn’t make my changes. I said, no, and that was gone.

[00:24:16] Jeremy: You had to do it again.

[00:24:18] Sabine: I had to do it again.

[00:24:21] Jeremy: Then that’s where you learned as well. Right?

[00:24:23] Sabine: I learned it the hard way. And always the hard way. Like I never had an easy start. Even my birth was complicated and took long and it was complicated.

[00:24:37] Jeremy: Okay.

[00:24:37] Sabine: And that’s a pattern.

[00:24:38] Jeremy: That’s a pattern. Okay. But I think also a pattern is the learning through a life experience. I think that’s something that’s a lot of people, you know, for better or worse, they kind of miss out on it with all the media that’s out there today.

[00:24:53] Now you’re at EMP or IMP. How long were you there for?

[00:24:58] Sabine: Not so long because the bosses, they had an argument, so they separated. One of the bosses, one of the managing directors set up his own agency; millemedia. That was 1998 around that, and he asked me, “Do you want to join this agency? It’s a small, but we do below the line and above the line. So we do everything agency with a focus on digital. Do you want to join? But you can only join full-time.”

[00:25:26] Before that I did part time gigs and I was still free and I considered myself a fine artist with now more lucrative job to the side. Still free, not this nine to five or nine to nine mentality. But then that needed to change because he said, “No, you can only work for me, like with a contract, and from nine to nine. Think about it.”

[00:25:50] I thought about it and was a bit panicking like, “Oh, no! I don’t want to lead that kind of life that brings me to the office in the morning and back home in the evening. And then looking forward to weekends. Oh no!”

[00:26:04] Yeah. Look where I am now.

[00:26:07] Jeremy: You decided to not do that, take that off. You decided to say, “Okay, I think I’ll stay freelance, or what were your…”

[00:26:15] Sabine: I was thinking back and forth, but then I decided to do it because I saw it as a chance to earn more money and to lead a more regular life.

[00:26:24] So I did it.

[00:26:25] Jeremy: At some point you left and you were at a company called…

[00:26:27] Sabine: Freenet.

[00:26:28] Jeremy: Freenet. And can you. Explain what Freenet is?

[00:26:31] Sabine: Freenet is like AOL, so an internet service provider. And at the time when I started there in 2000, they were still in the beginning. It wasn’t much more than a phone number you could call to get internet service. And then they started to set up a content team and content partnerships and yeah. It was early stages of an internet service provider.

[00:26:55] Jeremy: How did you get there?

[00:26:57] Sabine: I applied for AOL Freenet and no, I think that that’s it: AOL and Freenet here in Hamburg. And AOL wanted to have me, but they, they called me when I had just signed the contract was Freenet. So, Freenet was faster in responding but I would have gone to AOL. If they been…

[00:27:16] Jeremy: How long were you at Freenet for?

[00:27:17] Sabine: Five years.

[00:27:18] Jeremy: What were you doing there?

[00:27:19] Sabine: Doing? I was a team lead in, in the end, being responsible for a few content channels. It’s like a redaktion, like Bild Zeitung for the poor.

[00:27:30] Jeremy: At this point you still doing art on the side or were you…

[00:27:32] Sabine: Still doing art on the side. And I always said, “Oh, I will always do that. I will always find time to do something in Photoshop or taking pictures with an analog Leica camera. So that was always happening to the side. Yeah. But when Google came…

[00:27:50] Jeremy:  Google came after five years at Freenet. And how did it, how did Google come? How did that happen?

[00:27:56] Sabine: That’s funny because everything is related. So my first client, when I worked for a Millemedia, this small agency with contract and everything in 98. My first client was Alta Vista , the  search engine.

[00:28:09] Computer: Alta Vista was a web search engine established in 1995 and became one of the most used early search engines.

[00:28:16] Sabine: Mathias Schimdt, the CEO said one day, “Yeah, you know what. Alta Vista is still popular but, there’s new search engine from Mountain View. It’s called Google.

[00:28:26] Computer: Google was founded in September, 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were PhD students at Stanford University in California.

[00:28:35] Sabine: It’s two guys. They’re doing their PhD in computer science and it’s totally new with Page Rank and how many pages refer to your own website. So that’s the new thing. That’s the hot shit.

[00:28:47] Jeremy: This was in 2000…?

[00:28:49] Sabine: That was in ’99 I think.

[00:28:52] Jeremy: ’99 okay. Right.

[00:28:53] Sabine: And then working for Freenet, all of a sudden, everyone just used Google as a search engine.

[00:28:58] So I knew Google as a search engine…

[00:29:00] Jeremy: As a user.

[00:29:01] Sabine: For what it is as a user. In Sueddeutsche Zeitung my team at Freenet was a girl, a woman Inger, who left Freenet to join Google as creative maximizer. I said, “What are you doing for Google as a creative maximizer?”

[00:29:16] Yeah, not so interesting. I set up AdWords campaigns for clients. That’s what I do. It’s really boring, but Google is fun actually. It’s a small team in Hamburg. Yeah. Okay. I didn’t give it a second thought. It didn’t sound interesting.

[00:29:31] Then one day on a weekend in Berlin, I read an article in Süddeutsche Zeitung about Google’s culture and about a female engineer called Monica something. Monica Herburzheim… I don’t know. She has left Google many years ago, but I totally liked what was described as, this is the culture Google is providing. And at Freenet there was no culture. I mean, there’s always a culture, but the culture at Freenet was very rustic. Not really…like taking care for the employees. Not this free and fun culture as it sounded with Google. And Inger, my former team member working for Google and I were good friends. So I gave her a call like, “Oh, I read this article about Google and the culture sounds so interesting.”

[00:30:17] She said, “Yeah, culture is okay. It’s Google Hamburg. It’s a bit more brittle maybe, but yeah, you can, you can check it out. Or maybe we have a job opening one day. Do you really want to leave Freenet?”

[00:30:28] Yeah, I want to leave it. I need a different culture.

[00:30:31] Jeremy: How long had you been at Freenet?

[00:30:32] Sabine: Five years.

[00:30:33] Jeremy: So it’s like 2005 right?

[00:30:35] Sabine: 2005 and I felt like a plant who needs a change of location and a change of culture. So I applied. Or better put, Inger referred me because Google has this referral system. And then I made this interesting application because I thought, “Oh, when I give Google what they wanted at the time there’s strong academic background, you needed to have a diploma or a degree. Degree, non diploma. Degree ideally with a named university.” So in the UK, it’s Oxford, Cambridge. In the US it’s a Yale or Stanford. In Germany, it’s not HFBK Hamburg. And not, this many years of doing fine arts.

[00:31:16] I thought, okay, I need to do it differently. So I set up an application that was really creative. And I downloaded the Google search results page and I manipulated it with Dreamweaver, the tool.

[00:31:29] Computer: Dreamweaver was one of the first WYSIWYG HTML editors. Created by Macromedia in 1997 and developed by them until Macromedia was acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005.

[00:31:40] Sabine: For example, one of the Google ads I used for saying Sabine Georg, wants some changed leading to my small website. So…

[00:31:53] Jeremy:  You built a website.

[00:31:53] Sabine: I built a website. Yeah. And Google’s 10 principles of innovation, I guess. Or the 10 principles of what is Google about I took to relate it to my own value system. Or the job requirements for creative maximizer like good presentation skills. I took and I put them on the left hand side, of the, I built a table. On the right hand side was: good presentation skills because when I went to school, I had the main role in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. There was not one single number in my application because I thought that I had spent eight years at heart because that’s weird. Google will never invite me for interviews when they just read my classic tabellarischer lebenslauf; I need to stand up and say that with creativity. And it worked.

[00:32:44] Jeremy:  Inger, referred you and then, you were applying as a creative maximist?

[00:32:48] Sabine: Creative maximizer.

[00:32:49] Jeremy: Maximizer. Right.

[00:32:50] Sabine: That was the job role at the time. It was changed into account strategist after two months or so.

[00:32:56] Jeremy: Google has a notoriously challenging application process. So you got referred, and then you got called in for an interview.

[00:33:04] Sabine: Nine interviews.

[00:33:05] Jeremy: Nine interviews?

[00:33:06] Sabine: So called onsite interviews. So I had to find an excuse at Freenet, to go there and spend a day.

[00:33:12] My hope was when they invite me, I can convince them in this onsite one-on-one situations. But the formal requirements, like with the tabellarischer lebenslauf, and my not academic background will not bring me there. So…

[00:33:28] Jeremy: You showed this demonstration, this website you built, all nine times? Or was it just the initial interview?

[00:33:34] Sabine: I showed it. I think to all of them, or most of them. And it was kind of a legendary thing because they didn’t get that kind of applications normally. So it was like, “Oh and Sabine, you sent us something really original and…”

[00:33:50] Jeremy: Which is ironic, right? Because I believe Google. If you think about it, it’s started by engineers and engineers build things. But I think in the office that you were applying to, which is a sales office, they probably are not used to people making things and building things.

[00:34:05] Sabine: It was a bit like a poker game because when my application was still…

[00:34:10] Jeremy: In the process?

[00:34:12] Sabine:  In process. I got an email like, “Oh, could you please send us also the conventional resume?” And I thought, oh shit. I won’t do that. So I ignored that email, which is not typical for me at all. I’m very responsible. I answer all emails. BUt I said, no, I need to do it like in a poker game; I’ve put it all on black and black needs to win. Because whether it was a conventional tabellarischer lebenslauf, I don’t think I’d made, I’d made it to get invite.

[00:34:46] Jeremy: How long were you at Google altogether?

[00:34:47] Sabine: Almost 14 years. Four-teen years.

[00:34:50] Jeremy: I think a lot has changed from since you started there to where you are now. Because I think now if you were to apply that way, it’s almost impossible because they have a website and then they have you fill things in….if I remember correctly. Unless you have a referral.

[00:35:05] What would you say for people that are interested in Google. What do you think is the biggest learning you took in your 14 years there? Because you’ve had several roles there.

[00:35:14] Sabine: I had several roles and I’ve seen the change or the journey from when I started out in Hamburg, there were 40 people. 40, 50 people.

[00:35:25] Jeremy: And how many altogether at Google do you think?

[00:35:27] Sabine: In sales? We were 6,000, because I remember the first international sales conference we had in January, 2006 in the Moscone center in San Francisco, with 6,000 people. And Larry and Sergei presenting…a standing ovation and they were totally irritated by seeing so many people.

[00:35:47] Like, “”Oh, what have we done?” And nowadays it’s 70,000 sales guys.

[00:35:53] Jeremy: Versus how many product /engineering people? Was it like half and half or no?

[00:35:59] Sabine: No, Google is two third engineers and only one third sales. But it feels totally different in Hamburg because it’s 99% sales and almost no engineers.

[00:36:11] Jeremy: And you spent almost 14 years in Hamburg, right?

[00:36:14] Sabine: With short stints in London.

[00:36:16] Jeremy: Oh, that’s true.  And in Austria, right?

[00:36:19] Vienna,

[00:36:20] Sabine: Vienna.

[00:36:20] Jeremy: What is your biggest takeaway from your 14 years at Google?

[00:36:24] Sabine: The only constant is change. Change is good…not always. There are things that have changed that are not so good, I think, for the company. I think Google needs to make sure that there’s spirit of being bold, courageous, being a bit crazy, being edgy. That this spirit doesn’t die down completely.

[00:36:52] And this super capitalist ambition is not the dominant thing. Sounds naive. And of course it’s capitalistic. I’m not anti-capitalist, but I think this grow more, grow more, grow more mantra, is not the way to go.

[00:37:12] Jeremy: So you were at Google 14 years. What was the trigger to make you leave?

[00:37:17] Sabine: Many triggers. I think in total, that’s what I have written in my exit note is:.

[00:37:22] Been there, done that. Loved it. Leave it

[00:37:26] Because it’s a bit like a relationship that had run its course. Keep up the marriage for another 10 years or so, but it would be not exciting anymore.

[00:37:37] Jeremy: There are people that I’d stay, even though they don’t have that same outlook that you have – I might not be learning anything, but the money’s great, so I’m just going to stay.

[00:37:45] You’re very atypical of that. You decided, okay, I’ve. Done everything I can’t learn anymore, so I’m going to leave. Which is very…It’s almost antithesis to what you did when you started studying at the HFBK. Right? At that point, you were less confident but,you still did it.

[00:38:03] Maybe there’s a thread through, even though you feel that you are not competent, you go ahead and you’re more consequential in your actions.

[00:38:11] So speak to that. So you decided to quit because you stopped learning, and  then what were your prospects?

[00:38:18] Sabine: I was very thorough in exploring my motive.  Like what keeps me? And I’m still free: I’m not married, I don’t need to pay bills I cannot pay. So I’m really, I’m free. I can roam wherever I want to roam.

[00:38:35] I can leave when I want to leave. So nothing is keeping me basically. And I explored what keeps me ?There is the people. Yes. But the people will not die. So my friends are my friends and whether they work for Google or not for Google anymore, like you, we can still meet and yeah, be friends.

[00:38:56] The culture? Mmmm. No, I will not miss that. I have it with me. Like things I learned how to be productive, how to maintain a fast paced open culture. I take that with me. And I was fully aware of that my last role at Google, creative agency manager, is ideal for me. So, it’s like a fish in a water tank and I couldn’t find a better role at Google. Industry manager for branding client or something like that? No way.

[00:39:29] So there’s been there done that, loved it, leave it rang true. And I felt that my energy level was lowering; not by the minute, but by the day. Because no excitement anymore.

[00:39:44] Jeremy: So at some point you said, “Okay, maybe it’s time for me to leave”. And in the end you left. So what did you do between leaving Google and becoming the managing director at the Miami Ad School Europe?

[00:39:56] Sabine: Yeah. That was happening very fast because I left Google on Valentine’s day this year. It feels like light years ago, but it’s still February 2019. And I had, I think three weeks I where didn’t do much. And the plan was, or the plan as it happened, like you start out in the role as admission director to get familiar with how the school works…

[00:40:23] Jeremy: At Miami Ad School?

[00:40:25]Sabine:  Because Nicholas, who had been the managing director for 16 years has said to me, “You know what? We are sort of running in parallels”. He was here for 16 years doing everything at Miami Ad School, like running that school in every possible way where I was for 14 years at Google doing all I wanted to do. And we were both like, okay, this is it so let’s give eachother break. And it totally makes sense that I’m now the new Nicholas and I learned an apprenticeship in my admission role to get familiar with the backbone of the school: like admissions, how the office works, all the processes in daily life. And then after three months, I took over from Nicholas doing the managing director duties.

[00:41:12] Jeremy: Did Nicholas offer you the job? How did that come around?

[00:41:15] Sabine: He offered me…

[00:41:16] Jeremy: He was ready to move to try something else?

[00:41:19] Sabine: And he, I guess, I hope or I know, that he was confident that I could be his successor. Successor is the word like now?

[00:41:28] Jeremy: Thats’ correct.

[00:41:29] Sabine: Because he has seen me coming here as a teacher and for many years. And he knows me quite well and he knows that my passion is in what the school offers, like creativity and exploring the field of creativity and encouraging creative talent. So that’s just my thing to work with the young creatives.

[00:41:50] Jeremy: What’s ironic is we started at the very beginning where you wanted to study art education and you were studying art education, and then you left to be a fine artist. At some time you joined the commercial world, but now you’re almost back to where you started in art education. Maybe explain what Miami Ad School is to those that don’t know.

[00:42:11] Sabine: Miami Ad School is..when you break it down: a place. Here in Hamburg, it’s a whole building in Berlin it’s just a loft apartment. A place where young, creative talent gathers to learn everything about the aspects of doing ad campaigns, but also aspects about digital marketing. Punkt.

[00:42:31] Jeremy: Excellent. Yeah. Crazy.

[00:42:33] Sabine: In two years. So it’s eight quarters, two years, and it’s very practical. So they, they learn by doing. Of course, they get some theory and some strategy input, but mainly it’s very learning by doing.

[00:42:47]  Jeremy: Exactly what you’ve done, basically your whole whole life. So just to wrap it up, let me ask you one last question.

[00:42:55] As this podcast is titled, the Learning Economy, what do you think is important for people today when it comes to learning?

[00:43:02] Sabine: When you break it down to one simple phrase: be open, be tenacious, be patient.

[00:43:10] Jeremy: Excellent. Thanks, Sabine.

[00:43:14] If you want to find out more or listen to previous episodes, you can go to the learning please also consider subscribing to the show in iTunes and do us a favor and write us a review while you were there. The show is produced by myself and introduction music by Andrew Apple pie. I’m Jeremy Abbett and you’ve been listening to the Learning Economy.