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12 things you may have missed from Google this year

It’s been a busy year, from our second generation of Made by Google hardware, to our efforts to create more opportunity for everyone. But before we head into the new year, we’re taking a look at a few things you may have missed in 2017. Here are 12 things that caught our attention:

1. From drawing to playing piano, and from new cookie recipes to better GIPHY search, machine learning came to life in unexpected ways.

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2. #TeamPixel gave us a new perspective through photos captured with the Google Pixel and Pixel 2 phones. Through their lens, you can travel the world, play with light, meet some new friends and live in color.

3. We met dozens of interesting Googlers from across the company—like Hector Mujica, who manages disaster relief giving for Google.org; creative director Tea Uglow; Google AI Resident Suhani Vora; Seth Marbin, the creator of our annual volunteering program GoogleServe; and a handful of Googlers who shared their stories on National Coming Out Day. We even got to ride along with Google Cloud luminaries Diane Greene and Fei-Fei Li on their way to work.

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4. With Google Arts & Culture, we explored some of the world’s cultural treasures from anywhere. Pore over the details of the Ghent Altarpiece, an early Northern Renaissance masterpiece, in ultra-high resolution; scale the undulating roof of the Guggenheim in Bilbao; see 30,000 fashion pieces on the virtual catwalk with We Wear Culture; and rumble with the Jets and the Sharks from “West Side Story.”

Bending Gravity at the Museum Guggenheim Bilbao

5. We launched a variety of updates aimed at making the internet better for the next billion users coming online—like Tez and Files Go in India, YouTube Go in Nigeria, health answers in Indonesia, Google Duo audio calling in Brazil, Android Oreo (Go edition), Datally, and lots more.

6. Nat and Friends took us behind the scenes of our technology and products to learn how undersea internet cables work, explain Google Earth’s 3D imagery, find out how the Pixel 2 camera was built, understand Wi-Fi and explore what’s possible with VR today.

Nat and Friends

7. Street View celebrated its 10th anniversary and went to places as remote as Greenland and the northernmost park in Canada; rappelled into the heart of a volcano in Vanuatu and stopped by Australia’s sacred site of Uluṟu; got down on its claws with migrating crabs in Christmas Island; and braved the warring factions in Westeros.

9. When Android Oreo sprung on the scene, we welcomed a new set of emoji and said a sad goodbye to the (sometimes) beloved “blobs.” 

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Later, we said goodbye to the cheese below the burger.

10. We welcomed all kinds of visitors to Google’s campuses—including the winner of the National Spelling Bee; the talented young women finalists of the Technovation Challenge; two Golden State Warriors and 250+ local kids at a sports-themed Tech Slam event; countless authors, actors and thinkers for Talks at Googlestray dogs at our data center in Chile (who all found homes!); and even our parents

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai with Technovation Challenge finalists

11. Doodles shed light on amazing people, discoveries and moments from history and today. We celebrated Selena’s legacy and the birth of Hip Hop; learned about Komodo dragons and pangolins; commemorated the first Pride flag and the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade; cooked up kimchipunched holes and lots more. Check out more Doodles from this year in our Doodles archive.

12. We spaced out—literally. From using machine learning to find exoplanets, to celebrating the Cassini mission, to more exoplanets, to the Great American Eclipse and the accompanying Eclipse Megamovie, to visiting Mars in VR, to visiting the International Space Station in Street View and planets in Maps, something was in the atmosphere.

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And that’s a wrap on 2017! Happy new year!

An AI Resident at work: Suhani Vora and her work on genomics

Suhani Vora is a bioengineer, aspiring (and self-taught) machine learning expert, SNES Super Mario World ninja, and Google AI Resident. This means that she’s part of a 12-month research training program designed to jumpstart a career in machine learning. Residents, who are paired with Google AI mentors to work on research projects according to their interests, apply machine learning to their expertise in various backgrounds—from computer science to epidemiology.

I caught up with Suhani to hear more about her work as an AI Resident, her typical day, and how AI can help transform the field of genomics.

Phing: How did you get into machine learning research?

Suhani: During graduate school, I worked on engineering CRISPR/Cas9 systems, which enable a wide range of research on genomes. And though I was working with the most efficient tools available for genome editing, I knew we could make progress even faster.

One important factor was our limited ability to predict what novel biological designs would work. Each design cycle, we were only using very small amounts of previously collected data and relied on individual interpretation of that data to make design decisions in the lab.

By failing to incorporate more powerful computational methods to make use of big data and aid in the design process, it was affecting our ability to make progress quickly. Knowing that machine learning methods would greatly accelerate the speed of scientific discovery, I decided to work on finding ways to apply machine learning to my own field of genetic engineering.

I reached out to researchers in the field, asking how best to get started. A Googler I knew suggested I take the machine learning course by Andrew Ng on Coursera (could not recommend it more highly), so I did that. I’ve never had more fun learning! I had also started auditing an ML course at MIT, and reading papers on deep learning applications to problems in genomics. Ultimately, I took the plunge and and ended up joining the Residency program after finishing grad school.  

Tell us about your role at Google, and what you’re working on right now.

I’m a cross-disciplinary deep learning researcher—I research, code, and experiment with deep learning models to explore their applicability to problems in genomics.

In the same way that we use machine learning models to predict the objects are present in an image (think: searching for your dogs in Google Photos), I research ways we can build neural networks to automatically predict the properties of a DNA sequence. This has all kinds of applications, like predicting whether a DNA mutation will cause cancer, or is benign.

What’s a typical day like for you?

On any given day, I’m writing code to process new genomics data, or creating a neural network in TensorFlow to model the data. Right now, a lot of my time is spent troubleshooting such models.

I also spend time chatting with fellow Residents, or a member of the TensorFlow team, to get their expertise on the experiments or code I’m writing. This could include a meeting with my two mentors, Mark DePristo and Quoc Le, top researchers in the field of machine learning who regularly provide invaluable guidance for developing the neural network models I’m interested in.

What do you like most about the AI Residency program? About working at Google?

I like the freedom to pursue topics of our interest, combined with the strong support network we have to get things done. Google is a really positive work environment, and I feel set up to succeed. In a different environment I wouldn’t have the chance to work with a world-class researcher in computational genomics like Mark, AND Quoc, one of the world’s leading machine learning researchers, at time same time and place. It’s pretty mind-blowing.

What kind of background do you need to work in machine learning?

We have such a wide array of backgrounds among our AI Residents! The only real common thread I see is a very strong desire to work on machine learning, or to apply machine learning to a particular problem of choice. I think having a strong background in linear algebra, statistics, computer science, and perhaps modeling makes things easier—but these skills are also now accessible to almost anyone with an interest, through MOOCs!

What kinds of problems do you think that AI can help solve for the world?

Ultimately, it really just depends how creative we are in figuring out what AI can do for us. Current deep learning methods have become state of the art for image recognition tasks, such as automatically detecting pets or scenes in images, and natural language processing, like translating from Chinese to English. I’m excited to see the next wave of applications in areas such as speech recognition, robotic handling, and medicine.

Interested in the AI Residency? Check out submission details and apply for the 2018 program on our Careers site.

The She Word: Tory Voight’s climb through her career

Editor’s note: Last week we hosted a Women who VRock panel at the Google Pop Up space in Los Angeles, bringing together women across the VR industry. Tory Voight, an engineering program manager on the Google AR/VR team (and oil painter and rock climber on the side), moderated the discussion. Today shares her own perspective for the She Word, our Keyword series focused on amazing women at Google.

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Women who VRock

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

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I work closely with engineers and creators to dream up new ideas and ways to use VR. I spend most of my time building the Artist in Residency (AiR) program, which engages creators to use our products in new ways and provide valuable product feedback to push VR forward.  

What advice would you give to women starting out in their careers?

If you’re interested in something, don’t hesitate to reach out. Many great relationships, lessons, and even job positions have resulted from doing just that. Back in 2015, I contacted the VR team and offered to lend 20 percent of my time to help out with Cardboard. I did that for a few months, and eventually got a full time job on the team. If I had never sent that first email, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. Offering to help with projects helps you understand the field you want to be in—and what to expect.

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?

From an early age, it was my mother, a single parent of five children who worked two or even three jobs to support our family. I learned the value of perseverance through the adversity we faced together, and through all the wonderful women I met in our various jobs—from cleaning houses, to working in a truck stop Wendy’s. They inspire me to give back in my career as a purpose-driven individual, and to work for a company like Google that builds tools to democratize experiences and opportunities, regardless of one’s background. That’s why I’m so excited about VR products we’re building—they give people access to experiences.

You've mentioned that giving back is important. How do you give back to the community?

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Tory and Sookie at the top. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV.

As a rock climber, I love volunteering for the Yosemite Climbers Association’s “Facelift” program. I help pick up trash around Yosemite Valley (volunteers have collected more than 10 tons of trash over the past 14 years!), and I feel like this small contribution makes the park more enjoyable for everyone.


I also spend time mentoring young women in high school and college. When I was their age, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up—higher education and a career seemed like an unobtainable, abstract idea for a kid from my background. Now I want to take my experience and help them understand what to expect and encourage them, despite any perceived odds or barriers. I give back in honor of all the individuals who pushed me think I could do anything, even if it seemed insurmountable at the time.

What’s an experience you’ve had in VR that really had an impact on you?

This is Bears Ears National Park” opened my eyes to how VR can be used to inform and build empathy over an issue. The park is stunningly beautiful, but continues to face a lot of political and environmental threats. And because I love being outdoors, this content had a particularly strong impact on me. I’m proud that we’re lending a hand to Bears Ears through our Jump Start program, which pairs filmmakers with the resources to create their own stories in VR.

Related Article

The She Word: Tea Uglow, a "pebble in the landslide"

We’re talking with dynamic female Googlers about who they are, what they do and why they inspire us.

Read Article

What do you find most challenging about working in VR? 

The exciting and the challenging thing about VR is that it’s still in its technical infancy. We're in a new field where there aren’t necessarily answers. We have to find them and validate them, and we're learning all the time. That’s why programs like AiR, and taking user feedback to heart while we play with concepts, are important.

Why is it important to have a wide variety of people and artists explore VR as a medium?

For the past year, I’ve worked closely with artists from different disciplines and mediums—graffiti artists, painters, illustrators, graphic designers, and cartoonists—in the AiR program. When building products, a diverse set of voices is essential to ensuring that those products are delightful and useful for everyone—a successful product simply can’t be achieved from a homogeneous atmosphere.

October Talks at Google: a month of celebrity sightings

It was a star-studded month for Talks at Google, our very own speaker series. A few celebs stopped by to chat about what they’re up to on the screen and the stage. Check them out below: 

Reese Witherspoon, Jon Rudnitsky, and Hallie Meyers-Shyer visited Google NYC to talk about their new movie "Home Again.” The interview reveals the celebrity history behind the house where the movie was filmed, Reese’s mission to “show a girl she can be the center of her own story” as well as the story behind why Reese started her own production company.

Reese Witherspoon, Jon Rudnitsky, and Hallie Meyers-Shyer stop by Google NYC to talk about their new movie "Home Again.”

DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis and Denis Villeneuve discuss his new film "Blade Runner 2049,” and how “cinema can evolve when we capture life in front of the camera.” Villeneuve explains that it’s important to give actors the space to create things that weren't planned—he calls this the “chaos of life.” If you can’t get enough of Blade Runner, check out Harrison Ford's talk, too.

DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis and Denis Villeneuve discuss his new film "Blade Runner 2049."

Watch the cast of Broadway's Miss Saigon perform a few songs, and discuss how the play—which takes place in the 1970s during the Vietnam War—is relevant today, and helps create an open dialogue about issues we’re facing nearly 50 years after the story takes place.  

The cast of Broadway’s Miss Saigon perform a few songs

Executive Producers Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary discuss CBS's “Madam Secretary” as Season 4 kicks off, sharing their personal histories,why they created their powerhouse production company, Revelations Entertainment, and Lori’s amazing history as one of the first women to bring computer technology to the motion picture industry.

Stars of “A Bad Mom’s Christmas” Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn stopped by Google HQ to discuss their new movie, parenthood, and how they recharge.

Stars of “A Bad Mom’s Christmas”

Actress, singer and author Anna Kendrick chats about her book, "Scrappy Little Nobody,” and (naturally) brings the laughs with funny anecdotes from her life and career.

Actress, singer and author Anna Kendrick chats about her book, "Scrappy Little Nobody."

As always, to see more talks, subscribe to Talks at Google on YouTube, follow them on Twitter or browse their website.

Healthy eating, with sustainability in mind

Today, the United Nations, Google and many others celebrate World Food Day, which promotes worldwide action on food security and ensuring nutritious diets for those who suffer from hunger. At Google, food is central to our culture and something we think about every day. Feeding more than 70,000 people around the world breakfast, lunch and dinner is a pretty big undertaking, and we strive to make healthy eating an easy choice for our employees and do so in the most sustainable way possible.


One of our priorities is to minimize the environmental impact from the production of the food in our cafes. This is particularly important given that agricultural activities in the U.S. are estimated to generate 9 percent of greenhouse gases. We start by sourcing our food from suppliers that raise, farm, and harvest food responsibly. This means thinking about nutrition, as well as environmental, and social factors such as food quality, food safety, employment practices and environmental impact.


Once we have the food and supplies in hand, we focus on reducing waste. On the pre-consumer side (the ingredients we use to prep food prior to serving), our food team looks for ways to reduce waste before food hits the plate, by cutting down on over-purchasing and creatively repurposing leftover ingredients to make new dishes. In April 2014, we formalized this effort by partnering with LeanPath, a technology that helps us understand exactly how and why food is being wasted in order to improve to our process.


Today we have 129 cafes participating in the LeanPath program across 11 countries. Since the start of the partnership, these efforts have saved a total of three million pounds of food. Our Food Team has analyzed the food waste data generated from this program, enabling chefs in Google cafes to try out new strategies that reduce food waste while serving healthy and delicious meals to Googlers.


Many Google cafes include two-sided salad bars and hot food lines. Now, multiple cafes are breaking down two-sided food stations when traffic starts to slow down. So, when fewer people are visiting the cafe, staff will shut down the duplicate side of a station to adjust the amount of food being served. We’re also opening more cafes that have made-to-order choices instead of buffets, and have started serving food in shallow pans that are refilled more frequently. Not only does this reduce the amount of food being prepared and ultimately wasted, it also results in fresher food being served.


As part of our partnership with LeanPath, we’re piloting a measurement program on the post-consumer side (after food has been served and enjoyed) in five of our cafes to track the food waste from each individual plate. Since food is self-served in these cafes, we’d rather Googlers come back for second helpings instead of taking more food than they can eat.  At the dish drop area in each of these cafes, a station is available for Googlers to scrape the excess food from their plate onto a scale telling them how much food they’re wasting.

While our priority is to reduce food waste from the start, it’s inevitable that there will be excess food prepared. In these situations, we want to ensure that the food is put to the best possible use. We participate in a program called Chefs to End Hunger, where we send untouched, edible food to local shelters and food banks in our communities. Through this program, we’ve contributed approximately 1,000 pounds of food per week from more than 40 Bay Area Google cafes to a transitional homeless shelter in Oakland, CA. After donating, our next step is to compost. In almost all Google cafes and buildings we have composting and recycling bins. As a result, we’re able to compost about 80 percent of waste in our cafes.


Plus, we’re always looking for new and creative food innovations. One example is our partnership with CoffeeFlour, a company that uses the discarded byproduct from the coffee-making process and grinds it into a flour. The flour can then be used in both sweet and savory dishes. CoffeeFlour is a nutrient-dense flour, so it’s a great alternative to traditional flour used in cooking and baking. This is a great example of how the food industry can be both sustainable and create healthy ingredients. The producer also employs local people in coffee-growing regions, so it has social benefits too. In addition to partnering with sustainable suppliers like CoffeeFlour, we've also made it a global priority to purchase imperfect produce—imperfect aesthetically on the outside but perfectly delicious on the inside—so that we can use produce that might otherwise go to waste.


We stand with the UN on their goal to halve global food waste by 2030 and create sustainable and resilient food systems that deliver for all people and the planet. We know it will take a huge amount of effort and are committed to doing our part and help raise awareness for this imperative work. At Google, we like to tackle the biggest problems by starting with our own impact. Food is a precious resource, and we’ll always look for ways to conserve what we use and share what we learn.

How an X program manager writes her own history and preserves her Ecuadorian legacy

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the fascinating stories and important contributions of our Hispanic Googlers—their histories, their families, and what keeps them busy inside and outside of work. Today we hear from Gladys Karina Jimenez Opper, an audacious moonshot catalyst and collector of world experiences, whose curiosity rivals Nancy Drew’s.  

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What is the 10-second explanation of your job?

I am a Program Manager at X—I plan and execute internal projects that support the launch of moonshot technologies that we hope will one day make the world a radically better place.

What does Hispanic culture and heritage mean to you?

No matter your ethnicity, country of origin, or language, we all have a cultural heritage—a history written by those who came before us and a standing legacy for those yet to come. Culture represents our innate desire for community; a social framework that connects us to people with whom we share something in common. Heritage is generation-upon-generation of cultural experiences passed on by our parents, forefathers, and their ancestors before them, and traditions are the way we pass that heritage down. Sometimes preserved in song or in dance, food or artifacts, our cultural heritage and traditions keep our past, present and future connected at all times.

What is your favorite cultural tradition?

Dinner is always better when we eat together! Family dinners are a tradition in my household. Growing up, my great-aunt Emilia (“Mami Mila”) would cook the most heavenly dishes and no one was allowed to start dinner until everyone was present at the table. You usually don’t think of food when you think of mindfulness, but a shared meal is an extraordinary way to cultivate connection, allowing us to be present for ourselves and hold space for each other.

When did you (or generations before you) immigrate to the U.S.?

I was born in Ecuador. My parents were born in Ecuador. My grandparents were born in Ecuador. And that history goes back as far as we’ve been able to trace. When I was three years old my parents decided to move to the United States in pursuit of our American dream—it was surely the most difficult decision they ever had to make.

Tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today, and who helped you get there.

Knowing where I come from is a key part of knowing who I am and what I stand for. It helps me stay rooted and centered no matter the circumstance.


As a kid, many people disparaged my dreams of attending college. They would tell me,“Those things don’t happen to people like us,” but my parents encouraged me to persevere, work hard and retain hope. I was valedictorian of my high school class and attended Stanford University, where I graduated with both undergraduate and graduate degrees.


A couple of years later, I decided to pursue my dream of working at Google. My parents and husband continuously reminded me of the power and strength of conviction. Even the most audacious dreams can come true if you believe in yourself and work relentlessly toward your goal. That’s true at X too. What some deem impossible, we see as an opportunity to create impact. Not a bad fit for me at all.


What has been an important moment for you at X?

Important moments arise in everyday interactions; I am continuously humbled by the brilliance, kindness and generosity that surrounds me. And that’s more meaningful than one specific moment. “Meraki” is a Greek word for “doing something with soul, creativity, or love,” and that describes my colleagues, partners and friends at X. Every day is an opportunity to present a different perspective for our projects and products, to exemplify leadership, camaraderie and compassion.

What Googlers were up to at GHC ‘17

The 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing wrapped up last week. The largest conference for women in tech with more than 18,000 attendees, it’s also one of our favorite moments of the year for Google. Eight hundred Googlers joined the thousands of other attendees at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, to demonstrate some of our products, meet aspiring Googlers, and connect with talented women (and men) from around the world. Here’s a quick glimpse at what we did at GHC ‘17:

#GHC17 was a blast, and we’re proud to be there every year. Even if you weren’t able to make it, you can still learn more about our careers!

Google industrial designer Alberto Villarreal talks hardware, mole and marathons

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the fascinating stories and important contributions of our Hispanic Googlers—their histories, their families, and what keeps them busy inside and outside of work. Next up is Alberto Villarreal, creative lead for hardware and student of his wife (a historian) and 6-year-old daughter, who teach him about history and how to speak German, respectively.

Give us the 10-second version of what you do at Google.

I lead a team of industrial designers responsible for defining the creative direction of Google’s hardware mobile devices. We launched our latest work—the Pixel 2 phone, the Pixelbook laptop and PixelBook Pen—last week. 

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What is your favorite Mexican tradition or food?

I’m a big big fan of curry in general, so mole is my favorite Mexican dish. Mole is basically a type of curry sauce, just with different ingredients than the Indian or Thai curries. It’s a perfect example of my sweet yet spicy personality. In this photo, I'm holding an original molcajete that we brought over from Mexico when we moved here—we use it to make salsa from scratch. It was from my grandma and I inherited it when she passed away at the age of 101.

How did you find your way to Google?

I am originally from Mexico City, and moved to the U.S. four years ago to work on the Nexus hardware team, which has evolved into the mobile industrial design team under the Hardware design group. Growing up in a vibrant city with a mix of cultures (the hyper-modern and the ancient traditions co-existing), shaped my method of problem-solving and tackling challenges. One of the most interesting challenges of my job is translating Google’s brand values—being “approachable,” for example—into physical objects.

You just helped launch the Pixel 2—what’s your favorite feature?

The Pixel’s power button has a pop of color, which I love. It’s a touch of optimism and a way to visually guide the user, so that the button is easy to find.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

With my wife and 6-year-old daughter. Otherwise I spend a lot of time running. I’ve been an avid mid-distance runner for over 25 years, but lately I’ve been training more seriously for my first full marathon in Ventura, CA, at the end of the month.

Celebrating Coming Out Day: Portraits of LGBTQ+ Googlers

As someone who identifies as non-binary, transgender and gay, I’ve come out a lot. As the co-creator of a "Transgender 101" course that introduces Googlers to trans issues, I come out to my coworkers every time I facilitate a session. Yet I still feel nervous every single time I do it.


Growing up in Orange County, CA, I didn’t know any gay people in my high school and I never saw any gay people who seemed like me. For years, I hated myself, wishing I could be straight and “normal."

Ironically, it was while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Gambia, a country where being gay is punishable by death, that I made my first LGBTQ+ friends and felt proud of being gay. 

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While becoming comfortable identifying as gay, I noticed how uncomfortable I was being feminine. I wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I was wearing a dress. Then I realized it felt strange when someone referred to me with female pronouns. The more I noticed it, the worse it felt. Having taken so much time to accept being gay, I knew very quickly after meeting some trans people that I was trans, too. Over time, I found gender-neutral pronouns felt best and I discovered that people who cared about me used the pronouns that made me feel comfortable, even if it was (and is!) hard.


I still worry what people think and often feel uncomfortable in my body, but today, on Coming Out Day, I come out as non-binary and trans for those who can’t. And I remember the LGBTQ+ people, especially trans women of color, who risked everything to make it possible for people like me to be visible today.


I hope my story and those below, from LGBTQ+ Googlers around the globe, will show you that there are LGBTQ+ people everywhere—and none of you are alone.

Clarice Kan, Hong Kong

I came out to my parents 10 years ago by writing a letter and putting it on their bed before I left for a vacation with Cleo, my then-girlfriend (now fiancée). I was worried about them not understanding my life and not accepting me for who I am.

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Days passed with no word from my parents, and I was starting to freak out. So I finally gave in and called them. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done; I was lucky my parents responded with understanding and soon embraced Cleo as part of our family.


While I’m out today, with the full support of my family and friends, not everyone is as fortunate. For many people around me, including some of my closest friends and family members, I'm the only gay person they know.


Many people don’t understand that coming out is not a one-time thing. It’s something that LGBTQ+ people must keep doing, consciously and unconsciously, every day for the rest of our lives. It's every time I introduce myself and it's every time I take a stand for the community.

Daniel Castelblanco, Bogotá, Colombia

When I was younger, the idea of coming out to my family and friends in Colombia was scary. I felt like I was hiding a part of myself but I was worried about how my family and other people would react. When I started attending university in Bogotá, I met other LGBTQ+ people and I started to realize that being gay was normal.

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I finally gained the confidence to come out to my family. Coming out was an emotional rollercoaster, but my family tried their best to understand and support me. My sister was especially helpful. In fact, coming out to her made us closer, because she understood that I trusted her with an important part of my identity.


By being visible and out in my community, I can live my life to the fullest and show that anyone’s child, parent, boss or neighbor could be LGBTQ+. If I could speak to my younger self today, I’d tell little Daniel, “What are you waiting for? Be yourself, and most importantly, be happy and share that happiness with the world!”

Andrea Barberà, Spain (works in Brazil)

Growing up in a small town in Spain, I was uncomfortable exploring my identity, and insecure about what my community would think of me if I ever came out. At 20, I ventured to Dublin as a student and met an LGBTQ+ group. Right away,  I felt drawn to these confident, out and proud people. Through the group, I came around to accepting myself and built the confidence to tell others that I was a lesbian. 

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There are still many places in the world where people make incorrect assumptions about LGBTQ+ people. Despite being out, I feel like I'm forced to come out every time I have a personal conversation as some assume I date men and have other questions about my sexuality. In these moments, I’m reminded of why the visibility of LGBTQ+ people is important. I feel empowered when a close friend or acquaintance tells me that they were more comfortable coming out because of my own life story.

I wish that in the future we won’t need Coming Out Day, because everyone should be loved and accepted for who they are. But for now, we must empower individuals to share their full selves with their loved ones, friends and the world.

Best commute ever? Ride along with Google execs Diane Greene and Fei-Fei Li

Editor’s Note: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is coming up, and Diane Greene and Dr. Fei-Fei Li—two of our senior leaders—are getting ready. Sometimes Diane and Fei-Fei commute to the office together, and this time we happened to be along to capture the ride. Diane took over the music for the commute, and with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in the background, she and Fei-Fei chatted about the conference, their careers in tech, motherhood, and amplifying female voices everywhere. Hop in the backseat for Diane and Fei-Fei’s ride to work.

(A quick note for the riders: This conversation has been edited for brevity, and so you don’t have to read Diane and Fei-Fei talking about U-turns.)

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Fei-Fei: Are you getting excited for Grace Hopper?

Diane: I’m super excited for the conference. We’re bringing together technical women to surface a lot of things that haven’t been talked about as openly in the past.

Fei-Fei: You’ve had a long career in tech. What makes this point in time different from the early days when you entered this field?

Diane: I got a degree in engineering in 1976 (ed note: Fei-Fei jumped in to remind Diane that this was the year she was born!). Computers were so exciting, and I learned to program. When I went to grad school to study computer science in 1985, there was actually a fair number of women at UC Berkeley. I’d say we had at least 30 percent women, which is way better than today.

It was a new, undefined field. And whenever there’s a new industry or technology, it’s wide open for everyone because nothing’s been established. Tech was that way, so it was quite natural for women to work in artificial intelligence and theory, and even in systems, networking, and hardware architecture. I came from mechanical engineering and the oil industry where I was the only woman. Tech was full of women then, but now less than 15 percent of women are in tech.

Fei-Fei: So do you think it’s too late?

Diane: I don’t think it’s too late. Girls in grade school and high school are coding. And certainly in colleges the focus on engineering is really strong, and the numbers are growing again.

Fei-Fei: You’re giving a talk at Grace Hopper—how will you talk to them about what distinguishes your career?

Diane: It’s wonderful that we’re both giving talks! Growing up, I loved building things so it was natural for me to go into engineering. I want to encourage other women to start with what you’re interested in and what makes you excited. If you love building things, focus on that, and the career success will come. I’ve been so unbelievably lucky in my career, but it’s a proof point that you can end up having quite a good career while doing what you’re interested in.

I want to encourage other women to start with what you’re interested in and what makes you excited. If you love building things, focus on that, and the career success will come. Diane Greene

Fei-Fei: And you are a mother of two grown, beautiful children. How did you prioritize them while balancing career?

Diane: When I was at VMware, I had the “go home for dinner” rule. When we founded the company, I was pregnant and none of the other founders had kids. But we were able to build a the culture around families—every time someone had a kid we gave them a VMware diaper bag. Whenever my kids were having a school play or parent teacher conference, I would make a big show of leaving in the middle of the day so everyone would know they could do that too. And at Google, I encourage both men and women on my team to find that balance.

Fei-Fei: It’s so important for your message to get across because young women today are thinking about their goals and what they want to build for the world, but also for themselves and their families. And there are so many women and people of color doing great work, how do we lift up their work? How do we get their voices heard? This is something I think about all the time, the voice of women and underrepresented communities in AI.

Diane: This is about educating people—not just women—to surface the accomplishments of everybody and make sure there’s no unconscious bias going on. I think Grace Hopper is a phenomenal tool for this, and there are things that I incorporate into my work day to prevent that unconscious bias: pausing to make sure the right people were included in a meeting, and that no one has been overlooked. And encouraging everyone in that meeting to participate so that all voices are heard.

Fei-Fei: Grace Hopper could be a great platform to share best practices for how to address these issues.

...young women today are thinking about their goals and what they want to build for the world, but also for themselves and their families. Dr. Fei-Fei Li

Diane: Every company is struggling to address diversity and there’s a school of thought that says having three or more people from one minority group makes all the difference in the world—I see it on boards. Whenever we have three or more women, the whole dynamic changes. Do you see that in your research group at all?

Fei-Fei: Yes, for a long time I was the only woman faculty member in the Stanford AI lab, but now it has attracted a lot of women who do very well because there’s a community. And that’s wonderful for me, and for the group.

Now back to you … you’ve had such a successful career, and I think a lot of women would love to know what keeps you going every day.

Diane: When you wake up in the morning, be excited about what’s ahead for the day. And if you’re not excited, ask yourself if it’s time for a change. Right now the Cloud is at the center of massive change in our world, and I’m lucky to have a front row seat to how it’s happening and what’s possible with it. We’re creating the next generation of technologies that are going to help people do things that we didn’t even know were possible, particularly in the AI/ML area. It’s exciting to be in the middle of the transformation of our world and the fast pace at which it’s happening.

Fei-Fei: Coming to Google Cloud, the most rewarding part is seeing how this is helping people go through that transformation and making a difference. And it’s at such a scale that it’s unthinkable on almost any other platform.

Diane: Cloud is making it easier for companies to work together and for people to work across boundaries together, and I love that. I’ve always found when you can collaborate across more boundaries you can get a lot more done.

To hear more from Fei-Fei and Diane, tune into Grace Hopper’s live stream on October 4. 

The more things change, the more the pastrami stays the same: a Talks at Google roundup

As the seasons change, we started thinking about other types of change. This month’s Talks at Google roundup delves into everything from changing habits to how two famous Jewish delis balance classic dishes amidst a changing food scene.

Author, podcaster and expert habit-former Gretchen Rubin talks about “Better Than Before,” her book that offers a new perspective on habits. She explains how to form habits, why we break them, and the four types of habit tendencies.

Gretchen Rubin's Talk at Google

Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar wanted to do something about the mounting violence against women in the world. He shares how he used creative arts to create social change, and talks about his creative process along the way.

Farhan Akhtar's Talk at Google

Hear from Matthew Claudel—author of “City of Tomorrow”—whose job is to imagine the future of cities, and how technology is changing that future.

Matthew Claudel's Talk at Google

Jennifer Brown, author of “Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change,” shares her strategies for empowering employees and harnessing the power of diversity in today’s ever-changing world of business.

Jennifer Brown's Talk at Google

Disclaimer: this one might make you hungry. Jake Dell (owner of Katz’s Deli in New York) and Evan Bloom (co-owner of Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco) chat about the evolution of the Jewish deli, and how they maintain tradition while staying current (especially when it comes to pastrami sandwiches). They may not be in lox-step in their approach to food, but we think you’ll like this talk a latke.

The Evolution of the Jewish Deli

Googler Adriana Jara doesn’t accept “fine”—she changes things for the better

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the fascinating stories and important contributions of our Hispanic Googlers—their histories, their families, and what keeps them busy inside and outside of work. Today we hear from Adriana Jara, software engineer, passionate dancer and dog lover, who thinks life is too short to wear matching socks.

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Give us the 10-second, one-sentence version of what you do at Google.

As a software engineer, I help build the infrastructure to make shopping ads on Youtube.com more relevant and useful.

When did you immigrate to the U.S.?

When I got the job at Google, I moved to Sunnyvale, CA from Candelaria de Naranjo, a small town in Costa Rica. I got on a flight on September 27, 2013—exactly four years ago today!

How has the Hispanic community been a part of your experience at Google?

For me, it’s extremely important to have a group of people who are “like me,” who share my cultural background and can speaking Spanish with me sometimes. It gives me a sense of belonging at Google.

What is your favorite Costa Rican tradition or food?

I love “olla de carne.” It’s a kind of soup with a bunch of vegetables and meat (of course, the best one is my mom’s).

Have you always pictured yourself working at Google?

It’s been a dream since Gmail came out while I was in college. I remember trying it out and thinking “I really want to work with the people who built this thing.” I thought email was fine as it used to work, but wow, they took a thing that was “fine” and improved it so much. I want to be one of those people that doesn’t accept things that are fine, but changes them for the better. Years later, I heard about an opportunity at Google, thought back to those college days and decided to give the dream a try.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My entire family. But the things that have pushed me the most were first given to me by my father. He gave me a love for books—he is always reading—and taught me to be a self-learner. He always talks about wonderful places around the world and he took me in my first trip outside of Costa Rica, planting in me the hunger to see the world.

What has been a big moment for you at Google?

I went to a recruiting event at a high school in Costa Rica. When I was introduced, they mentioned my small hometown, and I heard a solitary but enthusiastic “Woo!” from the crowd. After the talk, one of the students (the source of the “woo”) approached me and said, “I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that someone from our hometown could work at Google. This is awesome, I now want to work for NASA and I think I can do it.” That moment made me feel like I’ve come so far, and that I’m helping people see it is possible to work for big companies, no matter where you’re born.

Hector Mujica on “showing grace to those in the margins” and his social impact work at Google

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the fascinating stories and important contributions of our Hispanic Googlers—their histories, their families, and what keeps them busy inside and outside of work. 

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Any Venezuelan football fans out there? Here I am showing some love for "Vino Tinto."

Next up is Hector Mujica, social justice champion, enthusiast of the outdoors, and self-proclaimed acronym inventor (SPAI).

Give us the 10-second, one-sentence version of what you do at Google.

I work on Google.org, Google’s philanthropy team, where I manage our programs across Latin America, and support our disaster relief giving and volunteering work globally.

When did you (or generations before you) immigrate to the U.S.?

My family immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela when I was a young child, after my dad landed a job at Oracle in Miami. Of all the places to start in America, South Florida must be one of the best—with the rich cultural diversity and ample Latin food, it made the transition smooth, and kept me close to my Hispanic heritage.

How are you involved in the Hispanic community at Google, and why is it important to you?

I worked closely on the founding of HOLA, our Hispanic employee resource group (ERG). Through HOLA, I’ve gotten to meet many of our Latino Googlers over the years—all of whom continue to amaze me with their stories, talents, and passions to make this company, and the world, a better, more equitable place. The Hispanic community is vital to Google because it brings in people who might otherwise feel like cultural strangers and tells them, “come as you are—you belong.”

The Hispanic community is vital to Google because it brings in people who might otherwise feel like cultural strangers and tells them, “come as you are—you belong.”

How did you find your way to Google? Have you always pictured yourself working here?

I actually never had ambitions to work in tech or at Google. While in my junior year of undergrad at Florida International University, I looked for internships around the country, and was intrigued by working at company that was breaking all the established norms in corporate America. I applied to Google’s BOLD internship program, thinking it was a long shot, and after a few interviews, I found myself living out the coldest summer of my life in San Francisco, interning at Google on the People Operations team. I fell in love with Northern California and Google, and anxiously awaited the opportunities that lay ahead.

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Day one of my BOLD internship at Google in 2010, before I learned that dress shirts and ties are not part of the dress code at Google.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My dad’s hustle, grit, passion and optimism have taught me much about life and the world. As a first-generation immigrant, he taught me about risk-taking and tenacity. As a man of faith, he’s taught me about unapologetically straying true to my convictions. As a family man, he’s been a caretaker and steward of not only his nuclear family, but—like a good Latino—his extended family as well. He’s always balanced family life with the needs of the community. Whether it meant taking immigrant families into our home while they got on their feet, working with the homeless to help them rehabilitate, or volunteering to feed the needy at nearby shelters, my dad never turned down a chance show grace to those in the margins. These experiences shaped my worldview and gave me sense of social justice and altruism, which continues to influence the work I do today at Google.org.

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Sunrise on top of the world, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Climbing mountains is tough, but the summit is always worth it.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Outdoors. Or traveling to experience the outdoors in the rest of the world. I’ve always been in awe of nature. Oceans and mountains both scare me and inspire me. Whenever I have a chance to see the natural world from a new angle, I usually take it. That wanderlust has taken me to nearly every continent (Antarctica, I’m coming for you!), 51 countries, and from the deepest depths (I’m a scuba diver) to some of the highest highs (just did Kilimanjaro last year!).

What career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Invest wisely in people and moments. The networks of people around you will help shape your perspectives, career and open doors to new opportunities ... and when these opportunities present themselves, capitalize on the moments. They will teach you more than any classroom can.

What has been a big moment for you at Google?

I’ve had many Google “magic moments,” but the one that comes to mind was Googlers’ collective reaction to the travel ban earlier this year. Within days of the ban, Googlers organized a demonstration and showed up in full force, with messages of encouragement and enthusiasm during grim times. My team and I assembled a $4 million crisis fund to support key organizations that were leading the way in fighting injustice and intolerance. This moment reinforced in me the power of unity and comradery at Google, and within immigrant communities, who bring their best selves to this great country of ours.

As a Venezuelan-American that has benefited from ample opportunity, I am compelled to give back to my community. That’s why I’m so thankful of the opportunity I have at Google.org to invest in a better, most just, and more equitable world, for everyone.

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