“A College Grad’s One Way Ticket to Google….via Spain”

When we first met one of our Sages, Adam Greenberg, he was working at a seemingly random suburban startup in Chicago. He had graduated from the University of Iowa with a journalism degree….and now he runs business development for Google’s Payments and Commerce division. So how did he do it? He bought a one-way ticket to Spain.

“I knew that after graduation from college, I wanted to spend time working abroad. I thought international work experience would connect me with a community and set of experiences that mere traveling would not afford.”


Adam landed a consulting role with the Government of Spain (as a 22 year old!), working in Andalucia for its grammar school system….and as a bare-bones Spanish speaker. “Working abroad was the best decision I could have made. I spent time in teachers' lounges, with city officials, other teachers from around the world, and students between the ages of 10 and 18, all in a language I spoke only proficiently. In Spain, I built many things - most notably, a bilingual program for a school district. Surviving...and eventually excelling in that foreign environment gave me a boost of confidence - it made the projects I undertook once I returned to the U.S. far less daunting.”

Sweet home Chicago

“A year later, I landed a job with a Chicago startup called Ifbyphone, which had 8 people working in a small suburban office. I had a classic early stage startup role: I handled customer support, wrote blog posts, created marketing materials, edited presentations for the CEO - whatever was needed.”

How did he leverage his international experience into a job at a local tech startup?

“My time abroad was key to feeling capable in this ‘jack-of-all-trades’ role at Ifbyphone. In Spain, I had no choice but to dive into what I didn't yet understand. Back home, I just carried on with that mentality.” Ifbyphone grew - quickly, from those 8 employees in the suburbs to an Inc 500 company with almost 100 employees by the time Adam left 4 years later.

And then Google called

“Google wanted me to help build out a local daily deals business. Three years later, I still love building things - from the daily deal model to my current role doing business development for new payments and commerce products.”

So all college grads should buy one-way tickets abroad?

“A global perspective was critical for my career. It made the world smaller and more understandable. It made me curious about everyone and everything. It taught me to appreciate cultural differences amongst people. Now, I feel excitement (and not fear) about the opportunities afforded by a new environment. Building a business is a lot easier now.”

-Adam Greenberg, Google - Strategic Partnerships for Google Payments & Commerce