Author Archives: Megan Friedman

The Nest devices that save sleep-deprived parents

When my daughter Ruth was born this January, she was a handful. Literally. In the early months of her life, she refused to be put down, fussing and screaming unless we were holding her, walking up and down the hallways of our home. I became a sleep-deprived zombie, shuffling around with one arm free to get some much-needed coffee. And that was on a good day. 

I needed all the help I could get. And for me, some of that help came in the form of Google Assistant. Thanks to the Google Nest devices around my house, I was able to get things done a little easier by saying, “Hey Google, turn the temperature down” or “Hey Google, play some soothing music.”  

If you’re thinking about the frazzled parents in your life this holiday season, there are a variety of Nest products that might be just right for your gift list. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. 


For the parents who are music lovers

Whether your kid blisses out to classic rock or gets hyped up to the umpteenth playing of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” music is key to getting a little bit of peace in the house. The new Nest Audio can play songs via your favorite streaming music subscriptions with a simple voice command. Plus, it features Media EQ that automatically adjusts the volume based on the background noise in your home. Want to play white noise to soothe your crying baby while you get her bottle ready? It’ll be loud enough to hear over all that whining.  


For the nursery that absolutely must be perfect

In our house, the temperature can fluctuate depending on what time of day it is. That makes it tough to make sure Ruth is at a comfy temperature for naps and nights. Luckily, the new Nest Thermostat offers Quick Schedule, which lets you set a custom temperature at different times of the day. That way, we can make sure Ruth’s nursery is at the right temperature at night, but our office isn’t stiflingly hot during the day. Plus, the thermostat is simple to use and at an affordable price, which makes it an easy fit for many families.   


For the family looking for shows to watch together

With the COVID-19 pandemic making families stay home more than usual, that means it’s extra crucial to find shows everyone agrees on. Thankfully, the new Chromecast with Google TV gives you personalized recommendations based on what you like to watch. And its new remote lets you control your smart home using Google Assistant.  


For the couple constantly shouting across the house

We have various Nest devices throughout the house, and we use them to communicate with one another. If I’m feeding Ruth in the nursery downstairs and she’s hungrier than I expect, for example, I say, “Hey Google, broadcast to Kitchen Display: ‘I need another bottle,’” so my husband can bring down a bottle. And when tracking how much she drank, we’d ask the Assistant to convert milliliters to ounces, or just do basic addition and subtraction when we were too sleepy to calculate how much she had to eat. Data-loving parents like me can also use a list to track feeding amounts and nap times via Keep, Docs or other note-taking apps. 


For the grandparents who miss their little ones

My daughter was born in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, so we were lucky to have family come by and help out until she was about two months old. But by March, we were quarantined, leaving the grandparents sorely missing their granddaughter. With our Nest Hub Max, we can make hands-free video calls on Google Duo—and when the baby naps, we can quickly decline a few overenthusiastic calls from Grandpa’s Nest Smart Display or smartphone app. And the Hub Max’s camera angle moves with us throughout the room, so we can get chores done (or just keep Ruth happy) while we keep in touch. 

These days, Ruth can handle being put down. (Well, at least sometimes.) But I know that Nest will keep being a helping hand as she gets older—and especially when she asks me to play cartoons on repeat. 


The Nest devices that save sleep-deprived parents

When my daughter Ruth was born this January, she was a handful. Literally. In the early months of her life, she refused to be put down, fussing and screaming unless we were holding her, walking up and down the hallways of our home. I became a sleep-deprived zombie, shuffling around with one arm free to get some much-needed coffee. And that was on a good day. 

I needed all the help I could get. And for me, some of that help came in the form of Google Assistant. Thanks to the Google Nest devices around my house, I was able to get things done a little easier by saying, “Hey Google, turn the temperature down” or “Hey Google, play some soothing music.”  

If you’re thinking about the frazzled parents in your life this holiday season, there are a variety of Nest products that might be just right for your gift list. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. 


For the parents who are music lovers

Whether your kid blisses out to classic rock or gets hyped up to the umpteenth playing of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” music is key to getting a little bit of peace in the house. The new Nest Audio can play songs via your favorite streaming music subscriptions with a simple voice command. Plus, it features Media EQ that automatically adjusts the volume based on the background noise in your home. Want to play white noise to soothe your crying baby while you get her bottle ready? It’ll be loud enough to hear over all that whining.  


For the nursery that absolutely must be perfect

In our house, the temperature can fluctuate depending on what time of day it is. That makes it tough to make sure Ruth is at a comfy temperature for naps and nights. Luckily, the new Nest Thermostat offers Quick Schedule, which lets you set a custom temperature at different times of the day. That way, we can make sure Ruth’s nursery is at the right temperature at night, but our office isn’t stiflingly hot during the day. Plus, the thermostat is simple to use and at an affordable price, which makes it an easy fit for many families.   


For the family looking for shows to watch together

With the COVID-19 pandemic making families stay home more than usual, that means it’s extra crucial to find shows everyone agrees on. Thankfully, the new Chromecast with Google TV gives you personalized recommendations based on what you like to watch. And its new remote lets you control your smart home using Google Assistant.  


For the couple constantly shouting across the house

We have various Nest devices throughout the house, and we use them to communicate with one another. If I’m feeding Ruth in the nursery downstairs and she’s hungrier than I expect, for example, I say, “Hey Google, broadcast to Kitchen Display: ‘I need another bottle,’” so my husband can bring down a bottle. And when tracking how much she drank, we’d ask the Assistant to convert milliliters to ounces, or just do basic addition and subtraction when we were too sleepy to calculate how much she had to eat. Data-loving parents like me can also use a list to track feeding amounts and nap times via Keep, Docs or other note-taking apps. 


For the grandparents who miss their little ones

My daughter was born in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, so we were lucky to have family come by and help out until she was about two months old. But by March, we were quarantined, leaving the grandparents sorely missing their granddaughter. With our Nest Hub Max, we can make hands-free video calls on Google Duo—and when the baby naps, we can quickly decline a few overenthusiastic calls from Grandpa’s Nest Smart Display or smartphone app. And the Hub Max’s camera angle moves with us throughout the room, so we can get chores done (or just keep Ruth happy) while we keep in touch. 

These days, Ruth can handle being put down. (Well, at least sometimes.) But I know that Nest will keep being a helping hand as she gets older—and especially when she asks me to play cartoons on repeat. 


Music from the heart, with an AI assist

The next time you hear a popular song on the radio, listen to the beat behind the lyrics. Usually, a high-powered production team came up with it—but in the future, that beat could be created with help from artificial intelligence. That’s what Googler MJ Jacob predicts, as he combines his job as an engineer with his love for writing and performing rap music. 

Usually based in Google’s offices in New York City, MJ is working from his Manhattan apartment these days as a customer engineer for Google Cloud, helping companies figure out how to use machine learning and AI to accomplish their business goals. But in his free time, he’s writing lyrics, producing hip-hop tracks and creating YouTube videos detailing how he does it all. 

MJ has balanced an interest in technology with a love for hip-hop since he was a 13-year-old living in Virginia. His family was struggling financially, and he found rappers’ rags-to-riches lyrics to be inspirational. “Almost every rapper I listened to was broke and then they made it,” he recalls. “These rappers had very hard childhoods, whether it was because of money, parental issues or anger from insecurities, and all of that is what I felt in that moment.”

His favorite rappers felt like personal mentors, and he decided to imitate them and try rapping himself. He recorded songs using the microphone on his MP3 player; he says they were a crucial way for him to vent. “From when I was 13 until today, being able to write about my life and how I’m feeling, it’s the most therapeutic thing for me,” he says. 

Around the same time he discovered hip-hop, MJ became fascinated by technology. His family couldn’t afford a computer, but someone at his local church built a computer for them, complete with a see-through CPU tower. MJ first used it just to edit music, but always loved looking at the computer parts light up. One day, he spent six hours taking the tower apart and putting the pieces back together. “It was very overwhelming but exciting the entire time,” he says, “and I think that’s a similar emotion I feel when I make music.”

Most recently, he posted a video showcasing how he used AI to create a hip-hop beat. He collected instrumental tracks that he and his producer friends had created over the years, and uploaded the files to Google Cloud. Then he used Magenta, Google’s open-source tool that uses machine learning to help create music and art. (Musicians like YACHT have used Magenta to create entire albums.) Based on how he identified “hip-hop” in his dataset, the machine learning model created entirely new melodies and drum beats. MJ then used those new sounds to craft his track, and wrote and performed lyrics to go along with it.

Even though it was made with the help of machine learning, the finished product still sounded like his music. And that’s the whole point: MJ wants to show that AI doesn’t take away the human side of his art—it adds to it. “AI never replaced anything,” he explains. “It only assisted.”

Authenticity is important to MJ (whose musical alias is MJx Music), because he sees music as an important emotional outlet. His most popular song, “Time Will Heal,” which has more than a million streams, is inspired by his sister, a survivor of sexual abuse. The lyrics are written from her perspective. “She taught me so much about what it means to be a strong human, to go through hell and back and still be able to make it,” MJ says. “We decided it would be a cool opportunity to not only share her story, but also help anyone who’s ever been abused or felt they’ve been taken advantage of.”

Next, MJ is hoping to take his experiments with music and machine learning to a new level. In fact, he’s so inspired by the combination that he’s looking to create a three or four-track EP co-produced by AI. 


“Both music and tech are so fulfilling for me that they have the ability to intertwine so well,” he says. “Now I’m pushing myself even more musically, and I’m pushing myself even more technically. It’s cool to be able to contribute to a new concept in the world.”

Googlers get creative while working from home

When the going gets tough, the tough bake sourdough bread. Or take up knitting. Or just really get into a new video game. In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic left many of us working from home and social distancing cut down on our calendars, we’ve had plenty of time to pick up a few new hobbies here and there. Others have spent time figuring out how to adapt their passions to the inside of their homes. And that’s the case for Googlers, too, who are still playing in orchestras and working on arts and crafts in quarantine. Here are a few inspiring projects Googlers are working on in their spare time, from home. 

Dancing on their own, together

Incognito Mode dance troupe

Last year, a group of 20 San Francisco-area Googlers got together to compete in a local dance competition. They called themselves Incognito Mode and won second place. Since then, they performed in showcases both inside and outside the office, but the pandemic put a stop to performing in person anytime soon. Instead, they recorded a dance video from their homes, dodging friends, roommates and pets in the process. Each of the 18 participants choreographed a portion of the routine, and they later edited the footage together. “We faced new challenges of dancing together virtually, but it also allowed us to connect in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Jason Scott, head of Google’s U.S. startup developer ecosystem and one of the group’s creative directors. “Many of our members now live around the country, but remote dance projects have let them continue dancing with us.”

A work-from-home virtual orchestra

In the summer of 2016, around 30 Googlers picked up their instruments and played in The Googler Orchestra’s very first concert. Ever since then, they’ve rehearsed weekly and grown in numbers, with their last in-person performance featuring 80 Googler musicians. After Googlers started working from home, one orchestra member posted a call to get people to play together virtually. That started the Googler Virtual Orchestra, which has increased the group’s membership; their third recording will feature more than 100 musicians across three countries. 

Members each individually record their parts and then edit the footage together into one track. “It’s a logistical challenge,” says Colton Provias, the group’s lead audio engineer and a software engineer based in Sunnyvale, California. “It takes about three months from first discussions of what piece to play through the released video.”

The group intends to continue their work-from-home performances, and potentially adding other instruments or even a choir. “It speaks to the many talents that Googlers have, not just in the workplace, but outside of it too,” says Derek Wu, the orchestra’s founder and a software engineer based in Palo Alto, California. “The orchestra, for myself and others, allows everyone to unite together and create music that as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Comic relief from the pandemic’s stresses

Gao Fang comic

Gao Fang, who works in information security from Google’s Singapore office, had never drawn a comic before she started working from home in March. “Before the pandemic, I could roam around and sketch landscapes,” she says. “Then the lockdown happened and there was only that much I could sketch in my apartment. My hands got itchy for things to draw, and since I would like to keep a diary of this historical event, it's a natural step to record my days with some drawings.” 


She ended up drawing more than 80 comics while staying at home, and it ended up being a way to cope with living in isolation. Gao Fang’s comics touch on topics like awkward video chat moments and how stressful it can be to keep up with global news. Many of her sketches feature a rabbit as a main character, which she says was a stand-in for herself. “When I woke up everyday to frustrating news around the world, this little bunny did an amazing job keeping me company and guarding my sanity,” she says.

Focusing on the small things—the really small things

Miniature sculptures

Adam Stoves, who works on the Real Estate and Workplace Services team in New York, has been working from his 600-square-foot apartment alongside his wife and their toddler. Back in May, on a whim, he bought a pack of Play-Doh to entertain his daughter, but it ended up entertaining the parents, too. He and his wife started crafting miniature sculptures, which they now share online. They’ve created miniature foods, animals and even a teensy face mask. “Our daughter will pitch in from time to time, but her true talent lies indisputably in being the cutest hand model ever,” Adam says. “We have a limited window where she remains attentive, so we do a little chant: Big flat hand! Big flat hand!, when it’s time to photograph. It helps sharpen her toddler focus.” 

Kubernetes engineers keep your favorite software running

In Greek, the word "kubernetes" means "helmsman." In tech, it's a system created by Google that uses containers to help software work more efficiently with the server space it has. Just as someone helms a container ship, Kubernetes makes sure everything gets where it's supposed to be.

Containers are systems that have everything needed to run a piece of software: the code, the dependencies, and on and on. Companies build their products using containers so they’re standardized, whether it runs in the cloud or in a physical data center. Kubernetes manages the workloads and services associated with containers, so software efficiently uses server space. Kubernetes, which Google donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, is now one of the most active open-source projects ever. Google remains the top contributor for the project, including leadership and committee positions. 

Aug. 26 marks the five-year anniversary of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), our managed version of open-source Kubernetes, becoming available to everyone. GKE engineers contribute beyond Google Cloud to the Kubernetes community at large. Here, three of those engineers—Michelle Au, Janet Kuo and Purvi Desai—explain why Kubernetes is so important, and how it’s used in the real world. 

Google Kubernetes Engine turns five this year. How would you explain Kubernetes to a five-year-old?

Michelle Au:Kubernetes is a tool that helps many of your favorite games and websites run without problems, even when all your friends want to play at the same time. It makes sure that there are enough computers running to support everyone using them, they are restarted if they crash and that they update without problems.

Janet Kuo:Think of containers as plants. To grow a plant, you need to first find some pots, and then fill the pots with seeds and compost. Let’s say you have all the plants in one pot and there’s not enough compost in that pot. Then you need to move them to other pots. Kubernetes is like a gardener that helps you take care of your plants, check the compost levels of each pot, check the health of your plants, remove dead plants or transplant them when needed. Kubernetes can also grow more or less of certain kinds of plants (“I want at least two roses and at most 10 roses at all times”) based on your preferences. 

Purvi Desai:Imagine a child wants to build a huge city out of Legos. Deciding which Lego blocks needed would take significant time and hard work. Now imagine instead, the child vaguely describes the idea of the city, along with shapes and colors, to their mom. Mom buys Lego kits and builds them for the child. She also works with them every day to add more buildings, so the child can spend more time playing rather than working. Think of Kuberentes as the mom, applications that you use on your computer or tablet as the Legos and the child as the application developer.

And how would you describe your role in GKE to a five-year-old?

Michelle:As a software engineer on the storage team, I write computer programs that make sure your important information is safely stored in Kubernetes.

Janet:I’m the Kubernetes project maintainer. I review code, fix bugs and implement new features. I also build products and tools on top of Kubernetes. You can think of those products as equipment Kubernetes uses to do fancier work. 

Purvi: I’m a senior manager in GKE and Kubernetes development team. My teams build the plumbing or roadways, aka the networking, for Kubernetes. We do the heavy lifting for our customers. 

Why is Kubernetes so important?

Janet:In a world where customers need access to software—regardless of their location—Kubernetes allows applications to run at global scale. Another benefit of Kubernetes is that it runs anywhere, so you can move your applications around. Kubernetes also allows you to customize and manage any resources you want, even the ones that live outside of Kubernetes, using the Kubernetes APIs. 

Michelle:
Kubernetes makes it easier for users to adopt good practices for running applications. It provides basic building blocks for scaling workloads, monitoring their health and updating them. This enables teams to develop, roll out and test their applications faster—making those applications more reliable and dynamically scalable. Kubernetes took off because it’s portable across any infrastructure provider and flexible to extend it with custom APIs. 

Purvi: Kubenetes enables you to run cloud native applications anywhere consistently on various platforms. It’s become massively popular not only with developers of modern cloud native microservices applications but also with developers looking to move their traditional applications to a platform that isn’t dependent on the underlying infrastructure. It’s enabled developers and operators alike to run their test and production workloads in environments of their choice without needing to rewire the application. This will continue as more businesses become digital. 

What are some real-life applications of GKE? Tell us a story of a favorite customer use case.

Janet:One of my favorite customer use cases is Shopify. Shopify runs entirely on GKE. They chose GKE and Kubernetes because it allows Shopify to cope with huge spikes in traffic, such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday shopping events or when a celebrity shares a new product on their Shopify store. 

Michelle: I love hearing how GKE enables customers to push the limits of computing. My favorite customer story is this Kubecon keynote by CERN that included a live demo on GKE processing 70TB of data in five minutes to rediscover the Higgs boson. This was impressive not only because of the scientific achievement and processing power demonstrated, but also because they highlighted the portability of Kubernetes and the reproducible environment of containers. 

Purvi: My favorite use cases are when customers have successful massive-hyper growth in a matter of minutes and GKE helps them scale to those demands. We see amazing graphs during launch of new online games, Black Fridays, flash sales, during live events like the Super Bowl, when customers migrate traffic and during customers’ new product launches. It’s so satisfying to see our customers’ business growth and our platform’s role in seamlessly enabling it.

What has your experience been like as a woman in software development? What do you think the future will be like for women in the field?

Janet:A few years ago, I went to a developer meetup with a woman friend of mine who had never been to one before. She was surprised that we were the only two women there, but I didn’t even notice because I was so used to being outnumbered. Luckily, our industry is becoming increasingly diverse over time. 

Michelle: In college, I was part of a women’s engineering community where I established many long-lasting friendships. On the GKE team, I’ve been able to work with many great women leaders, and the leadership in general has been very supportive and accommodating to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable on the team. I know that my experience is unfortunately not the norm for a lot of women in the field. I hope that with more women role models and leaders, we can help build inclusive communities and encourage more women to take up a career in software. 

Purvi: When I joined a startup straight out of college, I was the only woman in the engineering and product group. But thanks to my upbringing and deep focus on my work, I never felt out of place in the field. I did, however, feel the pinch later at a different startup job when I had my kid and I was the first mother on the team. The company didn’t have support systems like paid leave or a mother’s room. Overall, things are getting better with more women in the field. I think the future for women in software development is bright.  

What’s your advice for aspiring developers who want to get started?

Michelle:It’s important to spend time learning about computer science concepts rather than deep-diving into specific technologies. The latest frameworks and programming languages will come and go, so it will be easier to adapt and learn if you have a good conceptual background.

Janet: Be hands on. Build something from what you’ve learned, and don’t worry if it’s “good enough.” Write articles about what you’re building or learning. This helps you grow and deepens your understanding of a new technology. 

Purvi: Find your passion or interest and explore how computer science can help you realize it. You have to lay the groundwork by learning programming languages, algorithms, data structures and such. This might get boring and tough, but these are fundamental skills just like reading or math. Once the groundwork is laid, the ability to turn your passion into reality will be exhilarating. 

Learn more about how to develop using Kubernetes. 


17,572 singers, in perfect harmony (from their own homes)

When you think of a choir, you likely put a descriptor before it: a school choir, a church choir, a community choir. Singing in a chorus usually means you’re standing within a large group of people, belting out songs and nailing those harmonies together. But what happens when you can’t gather in person to sing? 


That’s where virtual choirs come in. Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has been putting them together for more than a decade, long before the pandemic left us stuck at home—and his most recent collaboration, which debuted on YouTube July 19, is his biggest project yet. 


Whitacre started organizing Virtual Choirs in 2009, when a fan uploaded a video of herself singing one of his choral compositions. He saw the video, then asked others to record themselves singing the other parts of the same composition to form a “choir.” That first group featured 185 singers, and each one since has grown larger and larger, to more than 8,000 voices for the fifth performance in 2018.

Eric Whitacre Credit Marc Royce.jpg

Eric Whitacre (Photo by Marc Royce)

This year, signups for Virtual Choir have skyrocketed. More than 17,000 singers from around the world found a way to participate in the sixth recording from the isolation of their own homes. They all learned “Sing Gently,” a song Whitacre composed during the pandemic. “Even early on, you’d be walking down the street in masks and you’d go out of your way to not pass someone,” Whitacre says. “A random stranger would become a threat. That was hard to see, and I was feeling that all over.” So the lyrics to “Sing Gently” encourage people to “live with compassion and empathy, and do this together,” he says. 


The Virtual Choir team uses every video submitted, unless there’s a technical problem with the recording. That means there are thousands of videos to sync together, and thousands of sound recordings to edit so the result sounds seamless. This time around, the team featured three sound editors, six people reviewing each submission and two executive producers; the team was scattered through the U.S., the U.K. and South Africa. Across three different continents, they used Google Docs and Google Sheets to keep track of their progress, Google’s webmaster tools to manage thousands of email addresses and Google Translate to keep in touch with singers around the world. Singers checked the choir’s YouTube channels for rehearsal videos, footage of Whitacre conducting the song and Q&As with other singers and composers.

Sing Gently.jpeg

The video for "Sing Gently" features the song's lyrics and footage of the singers, who recorded from their homes.

It was also significant that these singers came together (figuratively speaking) at a time when musicians are suddenly out of work. “It’s an especially surreal moment for singers, because we’ve been labeled as superspreaders,” Whitacre laments, referring to a term for people who spread the disease more than others; in one instance, dozens of singers in Washington state were infected after a choir practice.  “Even just the act of singing is dangerous for other people.” He says he was struck by the number of participants who told him it felt good to sing with others again—even though they weren’t actually performing in the same room. 


Molly Jenkins, a choir lover based in North Carolina, was one of the 6,262 sopranos who took part in “Sing Gently.” She had always wanted to join a virtual choir, but never found the perfect time to give it a try. But since there’s no such thing as a perfect moment in a pandemic, she decided to figure out a way to make it work. 

This, I think, is the best of the promise of the Internet. Eric Whitacre
composer and conductor

With her phone in hand to hear the guide tracks, Molly practiced whenever and wherever she could: in the shower, at the kitchen table while working from home, in her front yard and while burping her baby. When it came time to record her track, there was one problem: finding a quiet place to record. “There was no space to record where a shrieking, gurgling baby wouldn’t interrupt the take,” she says. 

She ended up in her car on a rainy day, playing the conductor track on her laptop and recording her vocals on her phone. Sound engineers were able to isolate her vocal track from the background noise of the rain tapping on her windshield. “I’m just so glad I went for it,” Molly says.

Whitacre says that improvisational spirit is key to creating his choirs, and he’s grateful that technology can enable great collaborations despite social distancing. “It really speaks to the best of technology,” he says. “This, I think, is the best of the promise of the Internet.”

How sweet it is! This Googler carves fruit into art

During work hours, Leonard Ko collaborates with teams of engineers on Pixel phones. But he’s also known for a unique talent outside of tech: creating intricate sculptures out of fruit. It turns out fruit is just the latest medium for Leonard, who has been creating art for decades—and only recently decided to make his art edible. 

Leonard Ko kitchen

Leonard Ko in his kitchen.

Leonard has always been interested in expressing himself through art, and first worked on traditional Chinese paintings and oil paintings of landscapes. But eventually, his love of art translated into making art out of food. 

At first, his prowess in the kitchen came through baked goods. “I liked to bake cakes and pipe them with buttercream and chocolate, but they are so sweet and unhealthy,” Leonard says. He changed his materials to avoid all the junk food. “I chose the art of fruit, since it’s natural and healthy,” he says.

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

Leonard Ko with his daughter

Leonard’s daughter and number-one fan.

Usually, it takes around two or three hours for him to complete each fruit sculpture, though his most detailed ones, for parties or special events, take up to seven hours to carve. He once created a fruit sculpture for a team-building event at the office. “My coworkers thought the sculpture came from a professional chef, and couldn’t believe it was my work,” Leonard says. 

The biggest fan of Leonard’s work is surely his daughter, who often looks on with wonder as he creates little animals out of fruit. “She is very interested in what I am doing for the sculpture,” Leonard says. “She will stay with me and ask some questions, like, ‘Daddy, why did you do this? Could you use other fruits?’ After she saw the finished sculptures, she loved them.”

Since like most Googlers he’s working from home these days, Leonard is keeping busy working and taking care of his daughter, which doesn’t leave much time for fruit sculptures. But he’s still staying creative in the kitchen, cooking a decorated meal once a week. Recent dishes have included yogurt topped with a rainbow of fruit and purple sweet potato tarts. The watermelon sharks will have to wait a little longer. 

Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

 Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

How sweet it is! This Googler carves fruit into art

During work hours, Leonard Ko collaborates with teams of engineers on Pixel phones. But he’s also known for a unique talent outside of tech: creating intricate sculptures out of fruit. It turns out fruit is just the latest medium for Leonard, who has been creating art for decades—and only recently decided to make his art edible. 

Leonard Ko kitchen

Leonard Ko in his kitchen.

Leonard has always been interested in expressing himself through art, and first worked on traditional Chinese paintings and oil paintings of landscapes. But eventually, his love of art translated into making art out of food. 

At first, his prowess in the kitchen came through baked goods. “I liked to bake cakes and pipe them with buttercream and chocolate, but they are so sweet and unhealthy,” Leonard says. He changed his materials to avoid all the junk food. “I chose the art of fruit, since it’s natural and healthy,” he says.

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

Leonard Ko with his daughter

Leonard’s daughter and number-one fan.

Usually, it takes around two or three hours for him to complete each fruit sculpture, though his most detailed ones, for parties or special events, take up to seven hours to carve. He once created a fruit sculpture for a team-building event at the office. “My coworkers thought the sculpture came from a professional chef, and couldn’t believe it was my work,” Leonard says. 

The biggest fan of Leonard’s work is surely his daughter, who often looks on with wonder as he creates little animals out of fruit. “She is very interested in what I am doing for the sculpture,” Leonard says. “She will stay with me and ask some questions, like, ‘Daddy, why did you do this? Could you use other fruits?’ After she saw the finished sculptures, she loved them.”

Since like most Googlers he’s working from home these days, Leonard is keeping busy working and taking care of his daughter, which doesn’t leave much time for fruit sculptures. But he’s still staying creative in the kitchen, cooking a decorated meal once a week. Recent dishes have included yogurt topped with a rainbow of fruit and purple sweet potato tarts. The watermelon sharks will have to wait a little longer. 

Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

 Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

Why Ana Corrales loves ending meetings early

Many people remember a time in their young lives when they loved or at least knew about scrunchies. The colorful hair accessories were a staple both on wrists and around ponytails. While Ana Corrales loved them, too, she took things a step further. “When I was 15, I ran a little business selling scrunchies,” she says. “I think that was the first time where I was like, oh wow, I really love this stuff!” Creating products and organizing her business felt like “freedom” to Ana. “I knew I was really happy when I was in that environment.” 

Ana continues to find that same happiness today at Google, where she is Chief Operating Officer for consumer hardware, managing the detailed-oriented process of developing and delivering products like Pixel 4 phones and Nest Minis as efficiently as possible.  More recently, she is also supporting many of Google’s  community efforts in response to COVID-19.

At Google, Ana is in charge of not only managing numerous large-scale projects simultaneously, but also organizing her time as well as her team, who work in different offices around the world and have transitioned to working from home. Her team manages thousands of people all over the globe, and oversees an entire portfolio of products at once. All of this means she has to master her inbox, which can fill up with hundreds of new emails overnight. Since business never sleeps, here’s how she keeps her day-to-day life organized regardless of whether she’s in the Google office or at home. 

Expect the unexpected. 

Ana starts each day with a carefully curated calendar of meetings to attend with her team. But she knows it will end up a lot different than it looks. “In my typical day, I am 100 percent sure things will never happen the way they are scheduled,” Ana says. “I am not exaggerating, I don’t think there’s been a day in three years when it went as planned!” Because her schedule frequently gets interrupted, she’s learned to go with the flow and adapt to whatever last-minute issue comes up. 

But when there’s something important that can’t be moved—-say, her child’s birthday party at school—-that’s when she doesn’t budge. “You have to be really disciplined, because otherwise your calendar ends up running you rather than you running it,” she says. This can be especially true when working from home where the separation between work and life can easily blur. “It’s important to really prioritize and create windows you can dedicate to each area, you need to honor your boundaries.” 

Be strict about meeting times. 

If you’re in a meeting with Ana, and it starts at noon, expect it to start precisely at noon—-not 12:05, or 12:06, or whenever the last person sits down. And if you get things done efficiently in that meeting, expect the team to get out early, rather than fill up the remaining time with other topics. That’s because a few minutes of free time can be crucial during the workday. “Everyone gets to walk slower to their next meeting, or breathe, or get a coffee. Or, if you're working from home, get in a quick workout or take the dog out.” Ana says. She also loves a quick 15-minute, one-on-one walk to chat (more recently done via phone due to COVID-19), which can accomplish more than you may think. 

Get ruthless with your inbox. 

When Ana wakes up each morning, she’s greeted with hundreds of new emails in her inbox. And those keep coming throughout the day and into the night given the global nature of the team. Since she’s in meetings all day, there’s no way she can read every incoming message, let alone respond to it. So she’s not afraid to hit delete. “I try to extinguish email as much as possible,” she says. 

When a big product launch is coming up and she’s busier than usual, she has to prioritize, and won’t check emails that are related to different topics. “If it’s launch mode and I know it’s not related to launch, it’s out of my zone,” she says. There are some exceptions, including work related to her role as executive sponsor of HOLA, Google’s employee resource group for the Latino community and allies, as well as her work as a board member of [email protected],  a global network committed to empowering all women at Google. 

Even during quieter times of the year, she still makes tackling inbox clutter a priority. She will  rely on other members of her team to respond to an email, especially if it’s a topic more related to their expertise, and she’ll urge colleagues to not copy her on emails unless it’s necessary. And when she comes back from vacation, she deletes any email that's not urgent (in Ana's case, with help from an administrative assistant).

Take time away from your phone. 

When Ana’s work day is over (whether she’s at the office, or more recently, in her home office), she jumps into a packed evening at home with her family. But she makes sure to take some time away from her busy schedule, whether it’s taking a walk with her husband or going swimming. “When I swim for 30 minutes, it’s great, because you can’t have your phone anywhere near you when you’re swimming,” she says. “I think that quietness really helps me.” 

The Takeaway:

  • Start your meetings and video calls on time, always. But don’t be afraid to end your meetings early. 

  • Getting too much irrelevant email? Just ask to be taken off the list. 

  • Work still on your mind when you get home? Put your phone down and go for a swim—or a walk.