Author Archives: Katie Malczyk

I’m using Google Maps to plan summer family fun

Due to COVID-19, this is the summer for staycations and local day trips. In London, where my family and I live, we’re trying to figure out what that looks like for us. We have a toddler, so our ideal day trip is somewhere she can run around and we can have a picnic—and where the public restrooms have reopened (or, failing that, a discreet wooded area…). 

So how do I find a destination that checks all our boxes? Here’s what’s worked.

Screenshot of Weald Country Park Google Maps listing


Meet at a fun halfway point

My cousin and her family live about a two-hour drive from us, and when lockdown lifted we were more than ready to meet up. But instead of driving all the way to them—a four-hour round trip is a struggle for even the most patient of toddlers—we had the idea to meet up at a halfway point. 


But how do you find that halfway point? That space between us was a no-man’s land where neither of us knew of any parks or nature reserves or anywhere that would be suitable for two energetic toddlers. So I used Google Maps to find the rough halfway point. Then I filtered by “Attractions” (you can also choose “Parks” or “Restaurants” or other categories) to see what came up. I quickly landed on Weald Country Park, which boasts a 4.5-star rating, almost a thousand reviews and a promising description: “Fallow deer, a visitor center & hiking.”

Screenshot of reviews of Weald Country Park.png


Read the reviews

Deer-watching had the potential to keep toddlers occupied for at least one minute. A visitor center indicated parking and bathrooms. And hiking probably meant that picnicking was easily an option. But to double-check these critical questions, I relied on the kindness of strangers who had posted recent reviews and ratings. Local Guides and other people who contribute to Google Maps are very helpful in offering information about how much they liked (or didn’t like) their trip, and many of them have the same topics on their mind that I do. Since you can sort reviews by date, it was easy to see the most relevant ones—i.e., those that have been filed since lockdown lifted—for current info on toilets (yes), parking (yes, but it’s expensive), and whether the playgrounds have reopened (yes, very recently). 

screenshot of photos from Weald Country Park.png


Browse the photos and Street View

To really get a feel for a place, sometimes there’s no replacement for a photo. Happily, many Google Maps contributors feel the same way, so it’s often very easy to find recent photos of the places you’re thinking of visiting. And for a 360-degree panorama, I can drop the pin and check out the scene on Street View. I soon discovered that, in addition to deer, Weald Country Park is home to cows and ducks, making it more or less heaven on earth for two two-year-olds.

Screenshot of list of saved places.png

Save places and make lists

I know that we’ll want to meet up with my cousin’s family again soon, and there were a few other nearby nature reserves that looked equally promising. So I tapped the “Save” button to start a list I could refer back to. I can even share it with my cousin so we can work on the list together. Google Maps puts a pin in them too, so the next time I’m scouting the area I’ll see little flags helpfully highlighting them for me.


Contribute your own review

If you found someone’s review or photos helpful, why not pay it forward by posting your own? If you’ve found information that needs updating, like a store’s opening hours, or if you want to let people know how your experience of a place matched up to expectations, click on the Contribute button at the bottom of the screen on the Google Maps app and share your knowledge.

This Googler is crocheting a royal dynasty

In recent months, many of us have been taking up eclectic new hobbies while stuck at home. But Danish Googler Christine Sørensen didn’t need social distancing to inspire her unusual passion project: She was already well on her way to crocheting all 54 monarchs in Denmark’s history. We spoke with her to learn what inspired her, and how it’s had some unexpected intersections with her day job.

Margrethe 1 - princess leia.jpg

Christine's first crochet project, Queen Margrethe I

What’s your role at Google?

I work in the Government Affairs team. I talk to politicians about how Google can contribute to the Danish economy and society with our innovations and ideas.

Where did you get the idea to crochet Danish monarchs?

One day, when I was visiting New York for business, I was in Chelsea Market and noticed a book teaching you how to crochet the Star Wars characters. I like Star Wars, so I got the book and started on Princess Leia. I also really like history, and as I was crocheting I realized that Leia looked a lot like Queen Margrethe I. I modified the dress, and there she was. And then I thought, we’ve had 54 kings and queens, why not do them all?

How far along are you now?

I started in 2017, but it wasn’t a priority. Then, at the end of the year, our queen made a speech that inspired me. Instead of always striving to accomplish something, she recommended doing something that wasn’t at all useful, something colorful. I thought, “That’s me!” and I really started in on the project.

Quuens birthday parade.jpg

Queen Margrethe II, the current queen of Denmark, giving a birthday speech to her assembled forerunners

It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn and think about the way our monarchy has evolved over a thousand years. It’s a story of hard power turning into soft power: In the year 1000, the monarch decided everything. They had all the power and the resources to enforce it. Now, monarchy is a very soft power—we send the queen to whatever country we’re trying to get a good trade deal with, for example.

I’ve done 27 of them now. Number 28  is King Christian X, who is portrayed on a horse. That played a very big symbolic role for the country: After the First World War, southern Denmark was finally reunited with the rest of the country, and he rode over the former border as a symbolic gesture. Then in World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he rode his horse around Copenhagen every morning at 10:00 as a reminder of Danish sovereignty. I’ll have him ready by July 10th the 100th anniversary of the reunification of Denmark.

So before this you’d never crocheted anything?

No, I just taught myself from the Star Wars book. Since then, I’ve realized that there’s a major crochet community online, and people are very helpful whenever I ask questions. For example, right now I’m at great pains trying to figure out whether King Christian will be attached to his horse or not, and how to even make the horse in the first place, and I’m getting tons of very good advice.

Christine with Queen margrethe 2.jpg

Christine poses with her crocheted Queen Margrethe II

Chat with Helle Thorning.jpg

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Christine's crocheted Queen Margrethe I

Has this project had any unexpected effects on your work?

A lot of my job involves talking to journalists and politicians, and many of them will check in on how the crocheting is going—there’s always a nice conversation to be had if you’re stuck waiting around with someone. And then there are some unexpected similarities between certain monarchs and some of the politicians I meet with. For example, I brought together Denmark’s first woman prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and my crocheted Queen Margrethe I for a “chat” about what it was like to be the first woman in each of their roles.

What are your plans for your collection when you’re done?

My moonshot is to get an exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark—stay tuned! For now, I’m slowly building up a community on Instagram. I travel a lot all over Northern Europe for work—or at least I used to—which means not only do I have time to crochet while I’m on a plane, but I can also bring the kings and queens to the places associated with them. Harald Bluetooth can go to the city of Jelling, where he marked his introduction of Christianity with a massive runestone. Christian IV can go to Oslo, a city he founded. Valdemar the Victorious can go to Estonia, where the Danish flag miraculously appeared to him in the sky. 

Recently, when coronavirus spoiled further celebrations, Christian I held an anniversary speech at the Copenhagen University Ceremonial Hall, which he founded 541 years ago. But the kings and I can’t wait to go explore the realm (and the past) again.

This Googler is crocheting a royal dynasty

In recent months, many of us have been taking up eclectic new hobbies while stuck at home. But Danish Googler Christine Sørensen didn’t need social distancing to inspire her unusual passion project: She was already well on her way to crocheting all 54 monarchs in Denmark’s history. We spoke with her to learn what inspired her, and how it’s had some unexpected intersections with her day job.

Margrethe 1 - princess leia.jpg

Christine's first crochet project, Queen Margrethe I

What’s your role at Google?

I work in the Government Affairs team. I talk to politicians about how Google can contribute to the Danish economy and society with our innovations and ideas.

Where did you get the idea to crochet Danish monarchs?

One day, when I was visiting New York for business, I was in Chelsea Market and noticed a book teaching you how to crochet the Star Wars characters. I like Star Wars, so I got the book and started on Princess Leia. I also really like history, and as I was crocheting I realized that Leia looked a lot like Queen Margrethe I. I modified the dress, and there she was. And then I thought, we’ve had 54 kings and queens, why not do them all?

How far along are you now?

I started in 2017, but it wasn’t a priority. Then, at the end of the year, our queen made a speech that inspired me. Instead of always striving to accomplish something, she recommended doing something that wasn’t at all useful, something colorful. I thought, “That’s me!” and I really started in on the project.

Quuens birthday parade.jpg

Queen Margrethe II, the current queen of Denmark, giving a birthday speech to her assembled forerunners

It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn and think about the way our monarchy has evolved over a thousand years. It’s a story of hard power turning into soft power: In the year 1000, the monarch decided everything. They had all the power and the resources to enforce it. Now, monarchy is a very soft power—we send the queen to whatever country we’re trying to get a good trade deal with, for example.

I’ve done 27 of them now. Number 28  is King Christian X, who is portrayed on a horse. That played a very big symbolic role for the country: After the First World War, southern Denmark was finally reunited with the rest of the country, and he rode over the former border as a symbolic gesture. Then in World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he rode his horse around Copenhagen every morning at 10:00 as a reminder of Danish sovereignty. I’ll have him ready by July 10th the 100th anniversary of the reunification of Denmark.

So before this you’d never crocheted anything?

No, I just taught myself from the Star Wars book. Since then, I’ve realized that there’s a major crochet community online, and people are very helpful whenever I ask questions. For example, right now I’m at great pains trying to figure out whether King Christian will be attached to his horse or not, and how to even make the horse in the first place, and I’m getting tons of very good advice.

Christine with Queen margrethe 2.jpg

Christine poses with her crocheted Queen Margrethe II

Chat with Helle Thorning.jpg

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Christine's crocheted Queen Margrethe I

Has this project had any unexpected effects on your work?

A lot of my job involves talking to journalists and politicians, and many of them will check in on how the crocheting is going—there’s always a nice conversation to be had if you’re stuck waiting around with someone. And then there are some unexpected similarities between certain monarchs and some of the politicians I meet with. For example, I brought together Denmark’s first woman prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and my crocheted Queen Margrethe I for a “chat” about what it was like to be the first woman in each of their roles.

What are your plans for your collection when you’re done?

My moonshot is to get an exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark—stay tuned! For now, I’m slowly building up a community on Instagram. I travel a lot all over Northern Europe for work—or at least I used to—which means not only do I have time to crochet while I’m on a plane, but I can also bring the kings and queens to the places associated with them. Harald Bluetooth can go to the city of Jelling, where he marked his introduction of Christianity with a massive runestone. Christian IV can go to Oslo, a city he founded. Valdemar the Victorious can go to Estonia, where the Danish flag miraculously appeared to him in the sky. 

Recently, when coronavirus spoiled further celebrations, Christian I held an anniversary speech at the Copenhagen University Ceremonial Hall, which he founded 541 years ago. But the kings and I can’t wait to go explore the realm (and the past) again.

This Googler is crocheting a royal dynasty

In recent months, many of us have been taking up eclectic new hobbies while stuck at home. But Danish Googler Christine Sørensen didn’t need social distancing to inspire her unusual passion project: She was already well on her way to crocheting all 54 monarchs in Denmark’s history. We spoke with her to learn what inspired her, and how it’s had some unexpected intersections with her day job.

Margrethe 1 - princess leia.jpg

Christine's first crochet project, Queen Margrethe I

What’s your role at Google?

I work in the Government Affairs team. I talk to politicians about how Google can contribute to the Danish economy and society with our innovations and ideas.

Where did you get the idea to crochet Danish monarchs?

One day, when I was visiting New York for business, I was in Chelsea Market and noticed a book teaching you how to crochet the Star Wars characters. I like Star Wars, so I got the book and started on Princess Leia. I also really like history, and as I was crocheting I realized that Leia looked a lot like Queen Margrethe I. I modified the dress, and there she was. And then I thought, we’ve had 54 kings and queens, why not do them all?

How far along are you now?

I started in 2017, but it wasn’t a priority. Then, at the end of the year, our queen made a speech that inspired me. Instead of always striving to accomplish something, she recommended doing something that wasn’t at all useful, something colorful. I thought, “That’s me!” and I really started in on the project.

Quuens birthday parade.jpg

Queen Margrethe II, the current queen of Denmark, giving a birthday speech to her assembled forerunners

It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn and think about the way our monarchy has evolved over a thousand years. It’s a story of hard power turning into soft power: In the year 1000, the monarch decided everything. They had all the power and the resources to enforce it. Now, monarchy is a very soft power—we send the queen to whatever country we’re trying to get a good trade deal with, for example.

I’ve done 27 of them now. Number 28  is King Christian X, who is portrayed on a horse. That played a very big symbolic role for the country: After the First World War, southern Denmark was finally reunited with the rest of the country, and he rode over the former border as a symbolic gesture. Then in World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, he rode his horse around Copenhagen every morning at 10:00 as a reminder of Danish sovereignty. I’ll have him ready by July 10th the 100th anniversary of the reunification of Denmark.

So before this you’d never crocheted anything?

No, I just taught myself from the Star Wars book. Since then, I’ve realized that there’s a major crochet community online, and people are very helpful whenever I ask questions. For example, right now I’m at great pains trying to figure out whether King Christian will be attached to his horse or not, and how to even make the horse in the first place, and I’m getting tons of very good advice.

Christine with Queen margrethe 2.jpg

Christine poses with her crocheted Queen Margrethe II

Chat with Helle Thorning.jpg

Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Christine's crocheted Queen Margrethe I

Has this project had any unexpected effects on your work?

A lot of my job involves talking to journalists and politicians, and many of them will check in on how the crocheting is going—there’s always a nice conversation to be had if you’re stuck waiting around with someone. And then there are some unexpected similarities between certain monarchs and some of the politicians I meet with. For example, I brought together Denmark’s first woman prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and my crocheted Queen Margrethe I for a “chat” about what it was like to be the first woman in each of their roles.

What are your plans for your collection when you’re done?

My moonshot is to get an exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark—stay tuned! For now, I’m slowly building up a community on Instagram. I travel a lot all over Northern Europe for work—or at least I used to—which means not only do I have time to crochet while I’m on a plane, but I can also bring the kings and queens to the places associated with them. Harald Bluetooth can go to the city of Jelling, where he marked his introduction of Christianity with a massive runestone. Christian IV can go to Oslo, a city he founded. Valdemar the Victorious can go to Estonia, where the Danish flag miraculously appeared to him in the sky. 

Recently, when coronavirus spoiled further celebrations, Christian I held an anniversary speech at the Copenhagen University Ceremonial Hall, which he founded 541 years ago. But the kings and I can’t wait to go explore the realm (and the past) again.

Street View is helping this tour guide stay in business

On March 24, government restrictions due to COVID-19 went into effect across the United Kingdom. With nonessential businesses forced to close, public gatherings banned, and most people required to stay at home, these regulations instantly transformed daily life. They also presented a serious threat to Katie Wignall’s business: Katie makes her living as a tour guide, showing curious visitors the highlights of London.

But instead of trying to simply wait out the crisis, Katie looked to technology for a solution to creatively keep her business going. We chatted with her to find out how she’s successfully managed to take her walking tours virtual.

Beaver statues on London's Oxford Street

One of the beaver statues on Oxford Street

Describe your business, Look Up London.

I provide walking tours all over London for public and private groups. I’m a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, which is the top accreditation for tourist guides in the UK. We do two years of training, pass 11 exams, and we’re the only guides that can take you inside the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Look Up London started originally as a blog and social media channels, where I shared quirkier bits of London history. The name is all about spotting the little details in the architecture around you, to tell the story of why something looks the way it does. For example, on Oxford Street, which is famous for its shopping, there's a building decorated with sculptures of beavers. They're a clue to the fact it used to be a hat factory—slightly gruesome, but a detail that is so often missed by passersby!

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and the government restrictions?

I’ve had to shut down, basically. I can’t go out; we’re not able to meet up in groups to deliver the normal tours. All of the work I had booked going into the summer—the busiest time—has just been cancelled or postponed. Literally overnight there was no work at all. 

Katie Wignall giving a tour of London's Guildhall

Katie giving a tour of the Guildhall

What gave you the idea for virtual tours?

It was actually a suggestion from a follower on Instagram who asked, “Is there a way you could do virtual tours?” I started out by going out myself and having my husband film me on London streets, but then as the situation escalated, we weren’t allowed outside.

So then I thought I’d experiment with Google Street View. If I couldn’t go outside, I could offer people the next best thing, through a screen. I was already using Street View a lot for my work—it’s really good for my research. I love the feature where you can go back in time. It’s not possible for every location, but for a lot of central London, you can select a place in Google Maps for desktop, drag the Street View pegman into the picture and click on the clock in the top left corner to explore imagery from the past. You can see where buildings have been demolished and what used to be standing where.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 PM London time, I use Street View to give a virtual tour on Instagram Live. And for anyone who can’t make that time, I post the recordings on my website. They’re all free, and if people enjoy them, they can make a donation.

What’s been the response?

People have been so lovely. From the comments, I think it’s been very helpful for people in lockdown, who maybe are older and can’t get out of the house as often, or people who’ve had to leave London and are feeling homesick. Lots have messaged me to say it’s made them feel like they’ve been outside. They’ve really learned something new and taken their minds off the situation for twenty minutes or so.

Any advantages to using Street View compared to being there in person?

The great thing about Street View is that you can hop about—you can jump a mile down the road and people don’t have to get on a bus or actually walk, so you can cover a lot of ground.

And then there’s that feature to go back in time and see things how they appeared years ago, back to 2008. On a normal tour, you can show pictures and give people an idea, but if people are on Street View and feel like they’re standing in a space and seeing the changes right there, it’s a different experience.

One example, on my Aldgate tour, is a garden space that has been relandscaped. The garden looks beautiful now, but three years ago you could see the cobbles of Victorian London. And those cobbles happen to have been the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, who was a victim of Jack the Ripper. That was an evocative thing to be able to show.

Any advice for other small business owners who are trying to figure out how to adapt right now?

I think you have to do the thing that you enjoy doing. I don’t think I’d be able to do these three times a week if I didn’t enjoy them. If you have something that you want to share, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that. Technology has made everything so accessible, and if you care about something, chances are others care about that as well.

Street View is helping this tour guide stay in business

On March 24, government restrictions due to COVID-19 went into effect across the United Kingdom. With nonessential businesses forced to close, public gatherings banned, and most people required to stay at home, these regulations instantly transformed daily life. They also presented a serious threat to Katie Wignall’s business: Katie makes her living as a tour guide, showing curious visitors the highlights of London.

But instead of trying to simply wait out the crisis, Katie looked to technology for a solution to creatively keep her business going. We chatted with her to find out how she’s successfully managed to take her walking tours virtual.

Beaver statues on London's Oxford Street

One of the beaver statues on Oxford Street

Describe your business, Look Up London.

I provide walking tours all over London for public and private groups. I’m a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, which is the top accreditation for tourist guides in the UK. We do two years of training, pass 11 exams, and we’re the only guides that can take you inside the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Look Up London started originally as a blog and social media channels, where I shared quirkier bits of London history. The name is all about spotting the little details in the architecture around you, to tell the story of why something looks the way it does. For example, on Oxford Street, which is famous for its shopping, there's a building decorated with sculptures of beavers. They're a clue to the fact it used to be a hat factory—slightly gruesome, but a detail that is so often missed by passersby!

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19 and the government restrictions?

I’ve had to shut down, basically. I can’t go out; we’re not able to meet up in groups to deliver the normal tours. All of the work I had booked going into the summer—the busiest time—has just been cancelled or postponed. Literally overnight there was no work at all. 

Katie Wignall giving a tour of London's Guildhall

Katie giving a tour of the Guildhall

What gave you the idea for virtual tours?

It was actually a suggestion from a follower on Instagram who asked, “Is there a way you could do virtual tours?” I started out by going out myself and having my husband film me on London streets, but then as the situation escalated, we weren’t allowed outside.

So then I thought I’d experiment with Google Street View. If I couldn’t go outside, I could offer people the next best thing, through a screen. I was already using Street View a lot for my work—it’s really good for my research. I love the feature where you can go back in time. It’s not possible for every location, but for a lot of central London, you can select a place in Google Maps for desktop, drag the Street View pegman into the picture and click on the clock in the top left corner to explore imagery from the past. You can see where buildings have been demolished and what used to be standing where.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 PM London time, I use Street View to give a virtual tour on Instagram Live. And for anyone who can’t make that time, I post the recordings on my website. They’re all free, and if people enjoy them, they can make a donation.

What’s been the response?

People have been so lovely. From the comments, I think it’s been very helpful for people in lockdown, who maybe are older and can’t get out of the house as often, or people who’ve had to leave London and are feeling homesick. Lots have messaged me to say it’s made them feel like they’ve been outside. They’ve really learned something new and taken their minds off the situation for twenty minutes or so.

Any advantages to using Street View compared to being there in person?

The great thing about Street View is that you can hop about—you can jump a mile down the road and people don’t have to get on a bus or actually walk, so you can cover a lot of ground.

And then there’s that feature to go back in time and see things how they appeared years ago, back to 2008. On a normal tour, you can show pictures and give people an idea, but if people are on Street View and feel like they’re standing in a space and seeing the changes right there, it’s a different experience.

One example, on my Aldgate tour, is a garden space that has been relandscaped. The garden looks beautiful now, but three years ago you could see the cobbles of Victorian London. And those cobbles happen to have been the site of the murder of Catherine Eddowes, who was a victim of Jack the Ripper. That was an evocative thing to be able to show.

Any advice for other small business owners who are trying to figure out how to adapt right now?

I think you have to do the thing that you enjoy doing. I don’t think I’d be able to do these three times a week if I didn’t enjoy them. If you have something that you want to share, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do that. Technology has made everything so accessible, and if you care about something, chances are others care about that as well.

Source: Google LatLong


Malou Aamund turns career advice into a popular novel

Malou Aamund is the Country Director for Google Denmark—a role that’s typically associated with sales strategy, not fiction writing. But she recently became the author of a new bestselling novel. 

Called Maria, it’s about two women who share the name. One of them chooses her family over everything else, only to find that she’s sacrificed and given away so much of herself that there’s nothing left of her own personality. The other Maria puts her career before everything and, in her determination to become a successful business leader, also loses herself.

“It’s about self help and personal development—this is fiction as a format for helping build your career,” Malou says. Typical career advice books—and there are plenty already—can be dry and detached. “I wanted to drive an experiment to see if you can get different emotions in people by putting this type of advice into fiction,” she says.

We (virtually) sat down with her to learn how her literary pursuits complement her day job—and vice versa.

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

I’m responsible for all of Google’s business in Denmark, all the amazing things we’re doing with Grow with Google, and helping build small businesses. And I’m also responsible for how disruptive we are in many industries.

Your career has taken some strange detours—what are some of those?

The red thread has been that I’ve spent more than 20 years in tech at Microsoft, IBM and now Google. But along the way I also spent four years as a Member of Parliament in Denmark, representing the then-leading liberal party.

The idea of a political career started after I’d been on an international assignment in the U.S. for a few years. I got back to Denmark and thought, compared to the U.S., there was a standstill in our innovation agenda. As a business leader I could make recommendations, but what I really wanted was to take leadership and ownership. After I helped craft some policy reforms for the party, they asked if I’d be interested in running for office. And from there it was a wild and rewarding experience.

cover of malou aamund's book maria

What made you decide to write Maria?

It started 10 years ago. I was 15 years into my career, and was constantly seeing the same patterns when I was mentoring younger women. They felt there was a big personal cost for them to pursue their career dreams. It was disproportionate compared to how men felt at the same point in their own careers. I saw these amazingly talented women struggle with lower self confidence than men. I could see that in terms of how often women asked for a raise—they lacked the confidence to go in and demand what they deserved.

So I had the idea of creating a story where you had these two opposite personalities—one person who’s thinking so much about other people’s needs that she forgets herself, and the other who’s self-centered and opportunistic. They follow the same life pattern, but react very differently at life-changing moments. I wanted to empower women to have an emotional response to the story and think about how they would actually react.

Is it based on real people?

Not really, but based on a lot of observations throughout my career, along with data and research that I’ve read. We now have so many insights into the fact that women have lower self esteem and how that unfolds in their career. It’s the same research that we focus on in the #IamRemarkable initiative, a Google program to build self confidence in women. It’s becoming an amazing movement, a life-changing moment for women to go through.

What’s been the response to the book? 

I’ve been touring universities and leading career and book discussions. The most positive thing is that I’m seeing so many younger women embrace it, and really resonate with the characters’ problems and emotions.

There have also been a lot of parents who read the book first, and then give it to their adult children. As parents we all want to impart some values, and help our kids not make the same mistakes that we have. Here, parents can actually give moral advice in a fictional format.

Will Maria be translated into any other languages?

The publisher had planned to bring it to the London Book Fair, which is now cancelled due to COVID-19. But they are actively working on bringing it to other countries and languages.

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?

One of the highest ranking female executives in IBM was my mentor when I was pregnant with my second daughter. She asked me to join her team when I was six months pregnant, and showed a very courageous and progressive view on female talent, and took a personal bet on me. She is still a great support and a good friend. 

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers? 

Choose the right partner. I have many girlfriends whose careers are not as highly prioritized as their partners’. Then, when they decide to pursue their career aspirations, it all of a sudden becomes a choice between their job and their marriage. Fortunately, there are many supportive spouses, but you need to discuss your dreams and aspirations up front to set the right expectations.

Malou Aamund turns career advice into a popular novel

Malou Aamund is the Country Director for Google Denmark—a role that’s typically associated with sales strategy, not fiction writing. But she recently became the author of a new bestselling novel. 

Called Maria, it’s about two women who share the name. One of them chooses her family over everything else, only to find that she’s sacrificed and given away so much of herself that there’s nothing left of her own personality. The other Maria puts her career before everything and, in her determination to become a successful business leader, also loses herself.

“It’s about self help and personal development—this is fiction as a format for helping build your career,” Malou says. Typical career advice books—and there are plenty already—can be dry and detached. “I wanted to drive an experiment to see if you can get different emotions in people by putting this type of advice into fiction,” she says.

We (virtually) sat down with her to learn how her literary pursuits complement her day job—and vice versa.

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

I’m responsible for all of Google’s business in Denmark, all the amazing things we’re doing with Grow with Google, and helping build small businesses. And I also work with many industries here in Denmark.

Your career has taken some strange detours—what are some of those?

The red thread has been that I’ve spent more than 20 years in tech at Microsoft, IBM and now Google. But along the way I also spent four years as a Member of Parliament in Denmark, representing the then-leading liberal party.

The idea of a political career started after I’d been on an international assignment in the U.S. for a few years. I got back to Denmark and thought, compared to the U.S., there was a standstill in our innovation agenda. As a business leader I could make recommendations, but what I really wanted was to take leadership and ownership. After I helped craft some policy reforms for the party, they asked if I’d be interested in running for office. And from there it was a wild and rewarding experience.

cover of malou aamund's book maria

What made you decide to write Maria?

It started 10 years ago. I was 15 years into my career, and was constantly seeing the same patterns when I was mentoring younger women. They felt there was a big personal cost for them to pursue their career dreams. It was disproportionate compared to how men felt at the same point in their own careers. I saw these amazingly talented women struggle with lower self confidence than men. I could see that in terms of how often women asked for a raise—they lacked the confidence to go in and demand what they deserved.

So I had the idea of creating a story where you had these two opposite personalities—one person who’s thinking so much about other people’s needs that she forgets herself, and the other who’s self-centered and opportunistic. They follow the same life pattern, but react very differently at life-changing moments. I wanted to empower women to have an emotional response to the story and think about how they would actually react.

Is it based on real people?

Not really, but based on a lot of observations throughout my career, along with data and research that I’ve read. We now have so many insights into the fact that women have lower self esteem and how that unfolds in their career. It’s the same research that we focus on in the #IamRemarkable initiative, a Google program to build self confidence in women. It’s becoming an amazing movement, a life-changing moment for women to go through.

What’s been the response to the book? 

I’ve been touring universities and leading career and book discussions. The most positive thing is that I’m seeing so many younger women embrace it, and really resonate with the characters’ problems and emotions.

There have also been a lot of parents who read the book first, and then give it to their adult children. As parents we all want to impart some values, and help our kids not make the same mistakes that we have. Here, parents can actually give moral advice in a fictional format.

Will Maria be translated into any other languages?

The publisher had planned to bring it to the London Book Fair, which is now cancelled due to COVID-19. But they are actively working on bringing it to other countries and languages.

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?

One of the highest ranking female executives in IBM was my mentor when I was pregnant with my second daughter. She asked me to join her team when I was six months pregnant, and showed a very courageous and progressive view on female talent, and took a personal bet on me. She is still a great support and a good friend. 

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers? 

Choose the right partner. I have many girlfriends whose careers are not as highly prioritized as their partners’. Then, when they decide to pursue their career aspirations, it all of a sudden becomes a choice between their job and their marriage. Fortunately, there are many supportive spouses, but you need to discuss your dreams and aspirations up front to set the right expectations.

Let Google be your holiday travel tour guide

When it comes to travel, I’m a planner. I’m content to spend weeks preparing the perfect holiday getaway: deciding on the ideal destination, finding the cheapest flights and sniffing out the best accommodations. I’ve been dreaming about a trip to Greece next year, and—true story—I’ve already got a spreadsheet to compare potential destinations, organized by flight length and hotel perks.

But the thing I don’t like to do is plot out the nitty-gritty details. I want to visit the important museums and landmarks, but I don’t want to write up a daily itinerary ahead of time. I’m a vegetarian, so I need to find veggie-friendly restaurants, but I’d prefer to stumble upon a good local spot than plan in advance. And, since I don’t speak Greek, I want to be able to navigate transportation options without having to stop and ask people for help all the time.

So I’ve come to rely on some useful Google tools to make my trips work for the way I like to travel. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Let Maps do the talking

Getting dropped into a new city is disorienting, and all the more so when you need to ask for help but don’t know how to pronounce the name of the place you’re trying to get to. Google Maps now has a fix for this: When you’ve got a place name up in Maps, just press the new little speaker button next to it, and it will speak out a place's name and address in the local lingo. And if you want to continue the conversation, Google Maps will quickly link you to the Google Translate app.

gif of Google Translate feature in Google Maps

Let your phone be your guidebook

New cities are full of new buildings, new foods and even new foliage. But I don’t want to just see these things; I want to learn more about them. That’s where Google Lens comes in as my know-it-all tour guide and interpreter. It can translate a menu, tell me about the landmark I’m standing in front of or identify a tree I’ve never seen before. So whenever I think, “I wonder what that building is for,” I can just use my camera to get an answer in real time. 

using Google Lens to identify a flower

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Get translation help on the go

The Google Assistant’s real-time translation feature, interpreter mode, is now available on Android and iOS phones worldwide, enabling you to have a conversation with someone speaking a foreign language. So if I say, “Hey Google, be my Greek translator,” I can easily communicate with, say, a restaurant server who doesn’t speak English. Interpreter mode works across 44 languages, and it features different ways to communicate suited to your situation: you can type using a keyboard for quiet environments, or manually select what language to speak.

gif of Google Assistant interpreter mode

Use your voice to get things done

Typing is fine, but talking is easier, especially when I’m on vacation and want to make everything as simple as possible. The Google Assistant makes it faster to find what I’m looking for and plan what’s next, like weather forecasts, reminders and wake-up alarms. It can also help me with conversions, like “Hey Google, how much is 20 Euros in pounds?”

Using Google Assistant to answer questions

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Take pics, then chill

When I’m in a new place, my camera is always out. But sorting through all those pictures is the opposite of relaxing. So I offload that work onto Google Photos: It backs up my photos for free and lets me search for things in them . And when I want to see all the photos my partner has taken, I can create an album that we can both add photos to. And Photos will remind me of our vacation in the future, too, with story-style highlights at the top of the app.

photo of leafy old town street

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Look up

I live in a big city, which means I don’t get to see the stars much. Traveling somewhere a little less built up means I can hone my Pixel 4 astrophotography skills. It’s easy to use something stable, like a wall, as a makeshift tripod, and then just let the camera do its thing.

a stone tower at night with a starry sky in the background

Photo credit: DDay

Vacation unplugged

As useful as my phone is, I try to be mindful about putting it down and ignoring it as much as I can. And that goes double for when I’m on vacation. Android phones have a whole assortment of Digital Wellbeing features to help you disconnect. My favorite is definitely flip to shhh: Just place your phone screen-side down and it silences notifications until you pick it back up.

someone sitting on a boat at sunset watching the shoreline

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Source: Google LatLong


“Clapping back” at racial stereotypes in a new book

Elijah Lawal just published his first book, but he’s been writing since he was 10 years old. Back when he was a kid, he wrote a story about a boy who ran away from home—and eventually became the president of Panama. His new book, published in the U.K. earlier this year, has very little to do with his imaginative works of little-kid fiction, but it came from a similar refusal to accept things the way they are. 

Elijah, who works in communications in Google’s London office, just wrote “The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling Out Racist Stereotypes.” He says it’s his attempt to debunk harmful stereotypes aimed at the Black community, and to give people the tools to respond when they are faced with such myths. 

Each chapter introduces a stereotype, explains its origins and shows why it’s harmful. “If there's a stereotype that Black people can't swim, and if I believe that false stereotype, then it means I'm very unlikely to go swimming,” he explains. “It means I’m very unlikely to take my kids swimming. That feeling is passed on to them, and they're very unlikely to take their kids swimming. Then before you know it there's not enough Black representation in Olympic swimming.”

Elijah certainly wasn’t drawn to writing for the glamour factor. “Writing a book is hard, lonely and often boring,” he acknowledges in his writing. He worked on the book every weekend for three full years, because he felt compelled to help others. “I just felt that I've been blessed with this knowledge, and so I've got to try and share it with other people,” he says. “I thought the best way to do it was with a book.”

Elijah Lawal poses with his book

Trying to get the book published was equally unglamorous. With a full first draft in hand, he started pitching his book to literary agents, trying to find the one who would represent his work to publishing houses. The rejections immediately poured in—so much so that Elijah had to change his way of thinking about them. A former colleague convinced him to think of it like he was seeking rejections instead of acceptances, and make it like a game. “Trick yourself into believing that the aim is to get 100 rejections,” Elijah recalls learning. “Then when you get rejected 100 times, go for 200 rejections.” 

Eighty rejections in, and more than a year later, Elijah finally got the response he’d been hoping for. In fact, he got three agency acceptances in quick succession. When the first one appeared in his inbox at the end of a long workday, he got up from his desk, ducked into the nearest meeting room and did a little dance. The hardest part was over, and the agent he chose helped find a publisher. 

In fact, things went so smoothly from there that he’s already got ideas brewing for two or three more books. “I kind of pictured this as a trilogy, so: debunking racial stereotypes, then debunking gender stereotypes, and then debunking religious stereotypes," he says. And a fellow Googler gave him the idea of turning “The Clapback” into a kids’ book, an idea he’s also considering.

The project has broadened Elijah’s horizons both personally and professionally. When he started working on the book, he was in a job that didn’t require much writing. Committing himself to a regular writing practice not only filled a creative void in his life, but also helped him be more creative at work.

And his colleagues have loved the result. “The reception of the book has helped me realize how willing people are to engage on this issue internally at Google—I’m amazed by how many people have been so supportive,” he says. “That’s been one of the joys of having this published.”