Sheree Haggan is a Staffing Services Associate Lead at Google. She embraces an authentic voice as an empathetic advocate of diversity. She is an out and proud biracial lesbian, who aims to rekindle kindness in humanity through strategic event planning with transformational content and leveraging strong and diverse partnerships within the tech community.
She has worked in the mental health field as a life coach, in academia as a Multi-Cultural Program Coordinator, and has spent the past few years working to improve opportunities for underrepresented populations within her role at Google.
1. When did you know you wanted to be in tech?
My brother Sayid submitted my resume to tech companies when I was job hunting for a diversity role in academia. He saw my potential in the tech industry before I did. When I received an email that Google wanted to interview me for a role in People Operations, I decided to move forward purely to practice my interviewing skills, but I felt that the tech industry was out of my realm of expertise.
The moment I saw myself finding purpose in the tech industry was while reading Work Rules by Laszlo Bock, in preparation for my first interview. Suddenly, I was no longer interviewing for practice, rather to fulfill my purpose. Laszlo says, “If your goals are ambitious and crazy enough, even failure will be a pretty good achievement.” So, even if I didn’t get the offer, I knew I had to give it my best.
2. Who is a role model that you look up to?
My older sister has been a lifelong (s)hero for me. They say you can’t be what you can’t see. I could never see my own potential, so my sister has always been the person to show me who I could become.
As a child, I had a speech impediment. I was made fun of when I spoke, so I made the mistake of not speaking and was highly introspective. My sister became my voice and safe harbor until I found the strength and ability to speak my truth. I went through speech therapy, studied Communication, and was able to get the resources that I needed to tell my story. She not only brought me along, but involved me equally. I walk in her footsteps daily, using my voice to advocate for those without one.
Andrea Gibson has a poem where she says, “Fear is only a verb if you let it be.” My sister taught me that emotions are messengers meant to tell us something. Fear is meant to inform us and keep us safe. Sometimes, it misunderstands situations. Fear does not understand the difference between a situation that will grow us vs. break us. So, rather than take fear for face value, we have to use discretion and filter the fear with logic. Humans are unique in that we have the ability to operate with intellect whereas animals operate with instinct.
When I was afraid to speak, my sister taught me that fear is natural. She talked me through the fear and helped me discover that my fear was rooted in a false understanding of the situation and that the risk of not speaking held a stronger consequence than the risk of speaking and messing up. It was a total paradigm shift for me. Now, I crave public speaking because I know the power and impact of my own voice.
3. Where is your hometown?
I was born and raised in Southern Idaho. It is a small and conservative town. My family was one of very few black families in the community. We experienced a lot of racism. People filled my brother’s locker with KKK posters in high school, they wrote “n*gger” all over my campaign posters when I was running for student body President, and my dad was fired from his job solely because of the color of his skin. It was a tough place to be raised, but it taught me so much about privilege and oppression. I know what it’s like to be different, but I was also raised so conservatively that I know what’s it’s like to not know difference as well. This lens has allowed me to have empathy for people who do not know better and hold those who do accountable.
4. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey?
Coming from a low income close-knit family, every day away from them is a struggle. Sometimes I feel like I am choosing a career over experiencing life with my family. I miss out on a lot. I missed the birth of my nephew, countless birthdays, and so many everyday memories. With every visit, I am watching my parents and nephews age and realizing the great sacrifice I am making. However, I have to make these sacrifices so that future generations in our family can have and do more. I learned a term called “transitional character”. It is the person in the family who, in one generation, changes the course of the family’s lineage.
I come from a family who works very hard. However, I also come from a lineage where poverty, obesity, addiction, and a lack of education were all too common. My sisters and I have decided to change that for our children. I studied and worked hard to attend and graduate from college. I have one sister who is a nurse and another who is a Marriage and Family Therapist. I am very proud of who we have become and the impact we will continue to have. I have always had a job and a side hustle. I have to take risks because I didn’t give up living a life close to my family for mediocrity; even if mediocrity by society’s standards is better than the life that my family had before.
So, on top of working at Google, I’m currently writing a book and developing a speaking career. I am refining my character daily and challenging myself to be more kind, tenacious, and creative. It is hard. Sometimes I want to pack up my things and move to Idaho to live a simple life. However, when I think of my nephews, nieces, and the children that I hope to have — I remember that I was blessed with the responsibility and capability to transform their lives, and I choose to stay.
5. Describe a time you were proud of yourself.
I kissed a girl for the first time at age 14. My entire world changed. I had a closeted relationship for a few years and when we broke up due to religion, it was one of the most painful things I had ever experienced because it was not only my first heartbreak — but I had to suffer it alone.
I grappled with my sexual orientation and decided to try to change. I became immersed in church and thought that if I tried hard enough, maybe I could be attracted to men. I thought it was working, when in reality it was just that I hadn’t come across another girl that I was attracted to.
In college, I found myself attracted to a girl and it terrified me. All the years of trying to fight the way I felt and one girl walks into the room and it felt like it was all for nothing. I met with a friend who gave me several pages of Bible verses to meditate on. I did and the next week, the feelings I had toward this girl only intensified.
I had a choice to make. I chose to live my truth. I asked for her to stand by me when I came out. I knew what my life was but did not know what it would become. I mourned the loss of my friends, family, straight privilege, and the persona I had created. However, now I find joy in learning about and living freely as the person who I truly am. I am proud of myself every single time I choose to live my truth, knowing that it comes at a cost.
6. What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?
The ability to choose joy in what you do.
I carry a lot of responsibility. I feel I am the one who will transform my family financially. There is freedom in financial stability. I aim to provide my family and future generations with that freedom. So, sometimes I have taken jobs that I am not happy doing with the belief that it’ll be worth it because it is a ‘stepping stone’. However, I’m realizing that in doing work that I am not passionate about, I am not maximizing my potential. I can advance 10x faster doing what I love, even if it is a temporary setback. I suppose it is like a slingshot approach. One step back so I can spring 10 steps forward. So this year, I am focused on taking purposeful risks and not compromising joy and my passion for a stepping stone. I prefer to sling shot over stepping stones.
7. Favorite food?
Pão de Queijo is my addiction. It is a Brazillian cheese bread.
8. Mac or PC?
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I’ve always wanted to be a speech coach for people who are struggling to own their voice. I believe that the best speakers are those who are most afraid to speak. They have spent a lifetime listening — and it is from them that I feel the most wisdom is housed. I’d like to help provide the tools and develop the skills necessary to give power and a platform to those who fear public speaking the most.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Loving people does not mean giving them full access to your life. Sometimes the best way to love toxic people is to cut them out completely. There are people who take our joy and then there are those who amplify it. I wish at 18, I would have surrounded myself solely with those who amplify joy.