Experiencing the Rare by Google Leadership Academy

Alex Radu
8 min readDec 11, 2021

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Promotional graphic with a retro looking background and overlayed text saying “I’m a Rare Leadership Academy delegate” with a title of 2021 Rare Leadership Academy and subtitle of Rare with Google.

The Rare Leadership Academy is a program of talks, workshops, community events and resources for underrepresented voices in the creative industries. The Rare with Google initiative that the academy is a part of also provides other equitable opportunities for underrepresented creatives to thrive at every stage of their career. I encourage you to check out their website for what is suitable to the stage you are at in your career journey.

When first applying, and second time round applying, I tried to find some more details on the program but failed to do so with all my web searching skills! That’s why I thought I’d write about my journey in applying, getting rejected, then applying again and getting selected, as well as the experience of being part of the Rare Leadership Academy program (in EMEA).

I wrote this piece as an overview but also reflection, filling it in bit by bit as I experienced it!

Disclaimer: This is not meant to give you complete details on the program schedule and materials nor on how to hack to your application, the program is best experienced in person, so I won’t reveal all the exercises, resources or lessons, nor should you follow my application process to the letter, at the end of the day it is called “Rare” for a very good reason!

The application process

In this section I will briefly cover my journey in applying, getting rejected, then applying again and getting selected into the program with some tips and takeaways from the process.

The first application + being rejected

I first applied to the Rare Leadership Academy in 2020 and was not successful. Looking back, it was probably for the best as I don’t think I was quire ready for it nor did I put a lot into crafting my application, so I believe there were many other better suited and well-deserving applicants instead of me! That did not deter me from trying again though and making sure that I prepare better for the next year’s selection process.

3 key things I learned from my rejection in 2020:

  1. Understand the requirements and prepare your application with those in mind. The fact that I applied in 2020 gave me the opportunity to see what the application form required and I was able to prepare better with those in mind for the next year.
  2. Rejection is an opportunity to grow and improve, not give up. Having not been successful brings humility and an opportunity for self-reflection as well as growth, I did my best to shape the next year to align better to my goals and why I wanted to join this program.
  3. Perseverance is key in becoming successful. As long as you learn from rejection and unsuccessful experiences, the time you have dedicated to that will be useful, for example in applying the next time round, so I will persevere with the added knowledge the first iteration offered.

The second application + being selected

The second time I applied was in July 2021, applications open sequentially for APAC, NAMR then EMEA, however, you can use the form to submit from July for all 3. When the form opened in July for APAC, I was ready to apply again so I submitted mine ahead of the official selection cycle for EMEA, but that isn’t necessarily required, though if you are in the later geographical regions, you can see the form ahead of time so can prepare your application for a bit longer.

What were the questions in the form? I am not sure they won’t change from year to year, but here are the 2021 ones I answered:

  • Region and program dates selection
  • Name/ Email/ Country of residence
  • Job title/ Years in industry/ Career stage
  • What makes you Rare
  • What I hope to achieve by taking part in the program

The last questions are the most important and the ones you should focus on answering and crafting with care and patience! A few thoughts on how to make yours stand out from the experience of how I created mine:

1. Demonstrate interest in the topics and past program highlights by sharing how it’s impacted you already or inspired you to want to learn more
2. Clearly state what you are actively trying to achieve professionally or personally in terms of leadership development that aligns with the purpose of the program
3. Zoom in on the specific skills, knowledge or abilities that you hope the academy will be addressing and how those fit into your role at work
4. Show who you are, talk about your background, experience and career path, why you are Rare, a creative and what impact you want to make in the creative industries
5. Look to the future, address how you will take the learning from the Leadership Academy forward beyond the 3 weeks of the program and make a change for the better in the creative industries

And last but not least: be your authentic self and let your personality shine throughout the application!

The program

In this section I will provide an overview of the program experience, however, this will be at a high level, since you should really experience it for yourself and I don’t want to give any spoilers, because it is life-changing!

The core program schedule is divided into 3 weeks, with 2 sessions per week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) from 9–12 GMT for the EMEA one, and I believe the structure is the same for the rest of the cohorts in other regions as well. There are also tools and virtual meetings places (Discord, Slack, WhatsApp, etc) where you can connect and collaborate with the other participants outside of those core hours too, but the core sessions are in the times I mentioned before. I believe there are between 30–50 participants that get selected for each run, so it is not a very large group to foster connections.

The first week

The program started on Tuesday, and the first session we have is one to create connections with each other. One of the biggest and most valuable takeaways from this programme is the network of future Rare creative talents you’ll join. Therefore, the first week is focused on having us get to know each other and become comfortable working together as well as discovering our interests, stories and more.

The second session we had on the Thursday was focused on boundaries and mental health. During the time we were together we had a deep dive into what mental health is and how to support our wellbeing, also exploring in this how to set personal and professional boundaries with tools to help us facilitate this in our work life.

My impressions of the week: I loved this week’s connection sessions, I now know the majority of the other creatives that are on the program with me, I’ve learnt more about their background, culture, work and interests. Moreover, the personal boundary setting exercises and tools are fantastic and cannot wait to take them back to my team at work and start using them.

The second week

The second week started on Tuesday with a session on getting too know your worth and maximising your value, as well as building skills to understand and explore worth and acquiring the tools that will help maximise our personal value. We covered things like personal brand, negotiation, finances, impostor syndrome and creating a strategy toolkit for ourselves.

This week also had an hour learning circle on Wednesday, which was optional, in addition to the workshops. These provided a place for a smaller group of delegates to get together to reflect on what they learnt in the workshops so far, ask questions and create action plans for the future.

The final session of week 2 was on very important topic to myself, challenging dominant cultures in the workplaces. This was great as it covered what it means, the impact it can have and how to challenge and combat dominant cultures through actionable tips.

My impressions of the week: The sessions this week were very deep, they made us look within ourselves and confront some topics and issues that might be uncomfortable but which have allowed us to come on the other side better prepared and with a greater understanding of ourselves. I think the challenging dominant cultures session was the one that impacted me the most and helped me identify micro-aggression better, understand how and when to stand up for others and myself as well as reflect on my behaviour and actions.

The third and final week

The last week of the academy started with the Tuesday module on finding your Ikigai, a more inwardly focused way to describe purpose, it helps direct your energy and navigate challenges. Ikigai was developed in Japan and provides a wholehearted approach to living a more reflective and authentic life. Our session included quite a bit of pre-work and focused on using new tools provided by the facilitators to draft our own Ikigai manifesto.

On Wednesday this week we had another one hour learning circle, which was again optional. These are smaller groups of delegates that get together to reflect on what they learnt, ask questions and make action plans for the future.

The final week and program session was about being creative into the future and how to nurture our creativity to ensure its longevity and growth past the academy.

My impressions of the week: Finding your Ikigai was my absolute favourite session of the Leadership Academy. It is such a powerful concept and the tools and exercises the module included were excellent in helping me craft my own Ikigai manifesto and identify my purpose! As a result, I got the Courage to be disliked book to learn how I can liberate my real self and hopefully, find lasting happiness.

The graduation

Because even in a virtual world there’s always time and space for celebrating, the program team has organised two graduation events for all the 2021 cohorts!!! This was to account for the EMEA/APAC and EMEA/AMER timezone friendliness.

During these events, which are the week after our last program session they have prepared a program summary and takeaways, speed mentoring with special guests, what we can do next, thank yous and farewells!

The graduation events are so awesome because we get to meet and mingle with the participants from all the other regions and cohorts, expand our networks and meet some very cool guests from the creative industries.

The future

The program has ended, but the Rare community journey is just starting for us, as we have made connections and partners for the future during these 3 weeks on the program. I have learnt so much that I can now apply in my life and work, to better my team’s experience and steer my career in a more meaningful way in the future and ensure I am doing my part for an inclusive and fair future for creatives.

If you want to start your own Rare journey, visit their webpage and see what opportunities you can apply for, for me it’s been the best decision I made for my creativity and leadership development!

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Alex Radu

Best known as lover of unicorns and all things magical, including data, design and code.