Paul Galea and Gabe McCauley (2010)

Alumnus Gabe McCauley discusses his job at Google and becoming a dad.

Paul Galea: Hello, Gabe McCauley. Paul Galea from International Grammar, ringing to chat about what you’ve been up to since you left school.

Gabe: A pleasant surprise to speak to you.

Paul Galea: Thank you. So can you just fill us in? Tell us when you left school and then tell us what you’ve been doing since.

Gabe: I graduated class of 2010. So more than a decade ago now. We missed out on our 10-year reunion because of COVID. But that’s all right. I’m sure the 20-year one will be good.

Paul Galea: Hang on. Good news. There will be a catch up reunion at the end of this year. I’m going to put one on for the three years that have had missed their 10-year reunions through COVID. We’re going to have a big one at the end of this year. Stay tuned!

Gabe: Wow. Right now, I’m working at Google Australia. My role is to support marketing agencies that use Google’s products on their customers, who use Google products. So, we help them to use all things Google from advertising products like Google Search and YouTube all the way through to Google Cloud and just basically anything Google, we help them with that.

And then, outside of work, I’m a newish father. My daughter just turned one, and that’s pretty much most of my life between work and having a little baby girl at the moment.

Paul Galea: Okay, I know that because, disclosure; you and I live in the same apartment building. I’ll ask you about being a father and a husband a little bit later. But just tell me, how did you get into Google? Is it something that you were aiming at from school or you were always interested in the internet, and that sort of thing? Tell us the journey you took to get there?

Gabe: Google has always been something that’s been on the horizon for me. I think tech companies have always had a bit of an allure for most people in our generation to work for and they have a very cool culture and what not. My journey was pretty straightforward to get there. But I did leave school thinking that I was going to be a journalist.

I went to UNSW, did a journalism degree, and I really loved it. And I’m still hugely passionate about writing stories and definitely see that as some part of my future at some stage. I spent about a year interning in the industry in sports journalism but throughout the degree they were saying it was going be pretty difficult for us to get a job in journalism, especially in the fields that everyone wanted to work in, which would basically be travel journalism, sports journalism and investigative journalism.

So what I was looking at was probably about a decade of slogging to get to where I wanted to be. So instead, I decided to use my skills and start marketing, which is a little bit of a side step from there. I was basically writing articles to promote businesses to get found on a Google search. So I was still using some of those writing skills.

From there, I decided to pursue another passion of mine, which is ‘start ups’. I joined a company, which grew super fast and I learned a tonne about marketing. I spent three years in that business before deciding I wanted to give a big corporate business a try. I joined Google after some pretty intense interviews. It was a long process to join. I’ve been there for about four years now.

Paul Galea: I don’t mean to contradict you Gabe, but that doesn’t sound like a very straightforward journey at all. It sounds like a journey that had a few twists and turns. And you made some big decisions and some good decisions and, well, ended up in a pretty good place. I’m also interested in that there is the desire to keep writing at some stage there in the background. So we might come back to that. How do you think your schooling at IGS helped you prepare for this journey?

Gabe: I think it definitely helped. I think the amazing thing about IGS is it definitely made me a more rounded person, which has helped a lot throughout my career, and I think helped in even just understanding other cultures and different types of people.

It holds you in really good stead in the corporate world, just having that understanding, being able to empathise with people, helping them, helping to just really get perspectives right, and it helps a lot with collaborative thinking. I think that was a really strong benefit of IGS.

Lots of people have been impressed by the fact that I can speak a bit of German and reasonably good Spanish. I definitely would never have gotten to that level had I not done language all the way through to Year 12. The major benefit, which I mentioned earlier, has been the ability to understand diverse perspectives and really accept everyone for who they are, which I don’t think it is a feature of every school in Sydney.

Paul Galea: This is becoming a bit of ‘a unity through diversity’ moment.

Gabe: Yeah, I’m familiar with that phrase!

Paul Galea: But you know what? The other two guys I’ve interviewed so far said exactly the same thing. So there’s definitely something there. Your partner is an ex-IGS girl, too, I believe? You want to give us a quick story there?

Gabe: Yes, my partner and I met in Year 10. We didn’t start dating till the end of Year 12. But, yeah, we were high school sweethearts, have been dating ever since and we got married two years ago.

We just had our second wedding anniversary and obviously had a baby girl pretty much a year ago to the day. We’ve been together for a very long time, and really amazing, obviously, to meet someone in school who you click with so well and want to spend the rest of your life with.

Paul Galea: And have you found that being a father particularly, but also a partner, has changed your perspective on life a bit?

Gabe: Oh, definitely. I think being a father more so than having a long term relationship which is hard work as well in the best of ways. You need to have compromise and you need to work on your relationship. But I think becoming a father has 100 per cent massively shifted my life. Sage, my daughter, has given me a really different perspective on what actually matters.

I used to care about and used to be pretty one eyed about my career and going ahead and eventually starting my own company and all this stuff and doing every little thing to get ahead. But I’m in a bit of a phase now where I really don’t mind too much about doing things as quickly as possible. I think having a child has just given me the perspective that life is actually really long.

It takes a long time for a little girl to grow up, and there’s a lot of time to do all the things you want to do in your life, and I think she’s also really helped me so that I just understand my priorities. Everything falls behind her now, and luckily, I’ve been able to make that shift reasonably well. My work understands that, and they are very family oriented, which is really nice. But yeah, it’s certainly turned my world upside down.

Paul Galea: Ah, that’s lovely to hear. I’m exactly the same. I still say the birth of my twins was the most important day of my life. And that changed everything forever for me. So I’m hearing you big time.

Now you’ve obviously made a real go of everything you’ve done. Or it seems to me anyway, Gabe.

Have you got any advice for the kids at school? Because one of the things that I’ve learned is that our kids at school will listen to people who are their peers and have been through the school way more than anybody else. So, any words of wisdom or advice you’ve got for the kids at school, I’d be interested in.

Gabe: I think there are a couple of things. I think number one is to start knuckling down on your work and really enjoying your time at school as early as you can. I probably didn’t start focusing on work early enough.

You want to really enjoy the fact that you get to come to school every day and learn and be with your friends. I think for me personally, having really enjoyed school and having a really close group of friends that I still have now from school, you really kind of neglect the fact that it is a unique experience because you don’t really know that life actually changes.

You think that life is always going to be the same. That you’d still be seeing your friends every day, but it’s really not like that. You probably move to seeing your friends once a month or so. So really, enjoying and embracing both your studies and the people around you is important.

I think the other piece of advice that I was to start really thinking about what lights you up. As early as you can, find what you really get passionate about, so you can continue to do that once you leave school.

My year group is about to turn 30. But there are still so many of us, including myself, who never really took the time to deeply understand what our passions are and to really pursue them with a one-eyed focus.

People that I’ve seen who are successful around me found one or two things that they’re really good at, that really lit them up and they really stuck with them.

You get to a point in your life, which is where probably my group are now, and you’re pretty deep into a career and you think something like: what if I just did this or that back when there was no pressure and no other obligations in life. For me, I probably would have pursued something like music or creative writing more deeply when we didn’t have the pressure of having a family, having a job and all that sort of stuff. Not that I can’t do it now.

But I think it’s certainly easier if you find that passion early in life. I kind of feared failure and probably you should never really fear failure. Something that I mentioned earlier is something that you learn as you grow up; that life lasts a very long time. And you shouldn’t really fear failing because you have plenty of opportunities and time to fail and succeed multiple times, throughout your entire life.

Paul Galea: I couldn’t agree more because I think one of the things that we’ve got to learn is that you often learn by working through failure. So you learn by having a crack and then making mistakes and learning from that. And even if it’s a big mistake, like you say, lifelong, you can always bounce back. One last thing, can you give me your best memory of anything that really stands out from your time at school?

Gabe: I was really lucky to have so many happy memories from school. Like l said, some of my closest friends are still kids from my year and obviously, Tam and I have been together for so long now school is really a big part of our lives. I still reminisce a lot about it. A few of my friends are bigger reminiscers than others, which is funny.

It was great fun. And it got super fun once you were trusted with a bit of freedom and learnt things that were aligned with your passions from Year 9 and 10 onwards. And it was so good to have the senior campus at school and we were able to form a really tight bond.

But I think for me, nothing stands out more than ArtsFest in terms of iconic memories. It’s such a special event that combines the talent in the school and as well as the deep house competitiveness.

But you speak to people from other schools about having something like ArtsFest and people are kind of blown away by the fact that we do that. It was always such a fun day. It was definitely something that stood out to me.

Paul Galea: It’s the defining day of our High School, without a doubt. It just encapsulates what our School’s about. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you, Gabe. I’ll see you around the units hanging up the washing or something!