Author Archives: Molly

Porsche Taylor puts women in the driver’s seat

Porsche Taylor’s first time riding a motorcycle alone could have gone better. “That first ride, I had absolutely nothing on right: My helmet was too big, I didn’t own a jacket. I might have had on some baseball gloves; everything was just totally upside-down wrong,” she says. “But I wasn’t afraid, it was exhilarating. It was trying something new, being in control. It was that initial feeling of the freedom of the wind.”

Porsche was one of the participants in the Women Riders World Relay, a relay ride that spanned the globe, beginning in February 2019 in Scotland and ending February 2020 in London. WRWR organizers used Google products like Maps, Sheets and Translate to make sure riders not only had constant, up-to-date access to their routes, but also were able to explore and connect with one another along the way. 

Video showing women riding motorcycles across the world.

“The whole team did phenomenally with the amount of time they had to put together the route and figure out the baton passes,” says Porsche. Google Maps was particularly useful for creating Porsche’s route. She and her fellow riders rode from Sept. 25 to Oct. 14, starting in Maine and heading west across the Canadian border, then down through the Southwest to the Mexican border in Texas. They crossed the country, occasionally riding through snowstorms and dropping temperatures. “When you consider the seasons we were riding through, it was a definite challenge for organizers to find routes that weren’t closed down.” 

While Google Maps could help the riders along their journey, it couldn’t do anything about inclement weather. “I quit about four times,” laughs Porsche. “Riding in the cold is not my favorite thing to do. But it was a positive experience all the way around; I don’t know that I would ride in the freezing cold again, but I would do a ride with those women again for sure. I always say the bonds are built on the ground: You’re going to love the folks you ride with to death or you won’t be so cool, and I’m happy to say I love those ladies to death.”

Porsche is vocal about the need for more representation for women in the motor sports community, and she says that things like social media visibility and technical tools like Google Hangouts have helped women who may have felt alone in their shared passion find each other. This idea is in part what inspired her to found Black Girls Ride, a magazine and community originally launched as a place for women of color who ride, which has since grown to include all women. What inspired her to launch Black Girls Ride was the lack of representation she saw when she first started riding—especially in long-distance riding. Traditionally, women filled support roles during these cross-country expeditions, taking a literal backseat to men. In fact, Porsche’s first experience on a bike was sitting behind a man, on the back of her cousin’s bike. “I didn’t so much like the feeling of being a passenger...but I loved the feeling of riding.” 

Thanks to women like Porsche and the WRWR riders, the world of motor sports is changing. “Women have become fearless and bold enough to take long distance biking trips on their own. We’re witnessing the explosion of the all-female long distance ride, where women take it upon themselves to create rides that cater to them instead of being a subset of an all-male ride. It’s where we get to take our power back.” 

Talking about these rides and seeing women taking them via social media and internet communities are crucial, says Porsche, who also mentions using Google Hangouts to connect with riders across the country. “You’re able to see the growth of female riders; women taking these long distance trips and riding solo have always been there—there are women riding today who have been doing this since the 60s—but social media is now shining a light on them.” 

That increased visibility is part of Porsche's work with Black Girls Ride. “I knew from riding in LA that there were more of us than the community would admit to. There was no representation in mainstream media, even for women who were riding professionally, there was very little to nothing,” Porsche says. Now "women all over the world are connecting to the Black Girls Ride brand. We have readers in London, Nigeria, France, just about every country you can name. I’m motivated by these women.” Black Girls Ride has become more than a publication, hosting trainings, workshops and events. And while both men and women are included, it’s Porsche’s focus to make sure women riders are invited to the table and that they are given the same representation, advertising and sponsorship opportunities. 

Most of all, she just wants women to feel welcome in this world. “It’s always been my goal to create safe spaces for women to ask questions and get the help they need without fear of ridicule,” she says. “And I’m glad I can be a part of creating that.” 

Learn more about the women behind WRWR and how they planned their relay at goo.gle/womenriders.


Source: Google LatLong


Anna Vainer knows what makes her remarkable

Even as a teenager, Anna Vainer knew what she wanted. “I remember, at 14, telling my sister ‘I’m going to be working in marketing,’” she says, smiling. “I don’t know how I knew that.” She was right: Anna is the head of B2B Growth Marketing for Google in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and runs the regional team for Think with Google, a destination for marketing trends and insights. Anna says she’s truly driven by working with people, and it’s her other role as the co-founder of #IamRemarkable where she truly gets to flex this skill. 

#IamRemarkable is an initiative that empowers women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond. The goal is to challenge the social perception that surrounds self promotion, an issue that not only affects individuals, but also hinders progress when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

#IamRemarkable also has a workshop component, which to date has reached more than 100,000 participants in more than 100 countries with the help of 5,000 facilitators; many participants credit the workshop with helping them make real, positive career and personal growth. 

The idea for #IamRemarkable came to Anna during a training that asked women to write down and read lists of their accomplishments. She was shocked by her own reaction. “I remember sitting there, looking at the women reading their achievements and I was thinking to myself, ‘wow, why do they brag? Why do they have to show off?’” she says. “And then it started to hit me that there was something wrong with this feeling. They were asked to stand in front of the room and talk about their achievements; that was the exercise.” Today, Anna helps others learn to acknowledge and announce what makes them great—while also making sure to practice what she preaches. 

What was your career path to Google?

At university, I studied economics and management and then I kind of rolled into doing an internship at a pharmaceutical company working as an economist. I told myself, “you know what, I studied economics, let’s see what it means to be an actual economist,” but soon enough I realized this was not going to be my preferable field of professional engagement. Shortly after that, I applied for an internship at Google and got it, and that was it. I’ve been at Google for nearly 10 years. 

In a parallel universe, what’s a different career you would have pursued? 

I would love to run a boutique hotel in the countryside of Israel, where I grew up. I think about my grandparent's summer house in Minsk, Belarus and the amazing summers we spent as a family in the countryside every summer until we moved to Israel. And running a hotel means I could create this experience for travellers from all over the world in one place. 

How did #IamRemarkable first get started?

After that training where I felt like the women reading their achievements out loud were bragging, I talked to a colleague of mine, Anna Zapesochini, who had the same feeling when she took the course. She told me we should make a video about the process people go through during this exercise. I went to my previous manager, Riki Drori, and said, “I need to make this video, we have a really great idea to help women overcome their confidence gaps and their modesty gaps.” She said, “I’m going to give you the budget for the video, but if this is as important as you say it is, how are you actually going to bring it to every woman on the planet?” That question led to so many ideas. Soon after that conversation, Anna [Zapesochini] and I, with a ton of support from my managers Janusz Moneta and Yonca Dervişoğlu, founded the #IamRemarkable initiative, at the heart of which lies a 90-minute workshop aimed at empowering women and underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements and break modesty norms and glass ceilings. 

The original #IamRemarkable video that Anna requested the budget to make.

The original #IamRemarkable video that Anna requested the budget to make.

What’s your favorite part of the workshop?

After we ask people to fill out a whole page with statements about what makes them remarkable, we ask them to read it out loud. And the moment you ask them to read it out loud you hear “hhhuuuuhhh!”—like the air is sucked out of the room. That’s definitely my favorite part. 

Have any of them in particular really stuck with you? 

One of the most memorable ones was in the past year at Web Summit in Lisbon. It was my first week back from maternity leave and we ran a workshop for 250 people. The room was packed, people were sitting on the floor. After we asked people to read their lists of what makes them remarkable in their small groups, we invited 10 brave people to stand on stage and read one of their statements out loud, and everybody wept. It was such a high level of intimacy for such a large room, I was astonished. 

My baby and husband were actually at that workshop, which was so great. It made me think of the future generation and how I want the workplace to be for my daughter, and I think we’ve made really good steps in the past couple of years. #IamRemarkable is creating really great tools for people. 


Without putting you on the spot, what are some things that make you remarkable?

Professionally, there are a few achievements I’m proud of. The first is that I created #IamRemarkable; another is that I started a campaign similar to Black Friday in Israel to drive e-commerce in the country. And personally, I’m remarkable because I was part of the Israeli national synchronized swimming team. You won’t see me in the pool with a nose clip now, but I did that for seven years. 

What’s one piece of advice you have for women who struggle with self-promotion? 

The piece of homework we give to people after the workshop is write down your three top achievements from the past month or past period, and practice saying them in front of the mirror. Then practice saying them to a friend or colleague who you trust. Then, put down time down with your manager to go through that list. 

The most recent I Am Remarkable video featuring Anna.

With today’s overload of data—whether it’s email, ads, whatever—you can’t assume people see and understand what you’ve worked on. The ability to talk about your personal contribution is critical, and many times, women specifically use team-based language; “we” as opposed to “I.” Learning to use self-promoting language is important as well. Practice, practice, practice. It’s like flexing a muscle; it’s going to feel awkward the first time, and even maybe the third time—but the tenth time, it will feel natural. 

Was there a time in your life when you could have benefit from these skills? 

To be honest, to this day I still have those moments where I need to practice those skills. I don’t think it’s that you just learn it and then you’re amazing at it. But it definitely would have benefit me earlier in my career, and during school as well. It’s really important to learn from a young age to talk about achievements in an objective way. You see this in the workshop, where people look at their full page and see their lives unfold, all of their achievements on the page, and suddenly it fills them up with so much pride; it gives you this sense of ability and confidence that you can achieve anything. The original video we made with that scrappy budget ends with a woman saying, “I wonder what else I can do.” I think that’s a pretty important feeling to have at any stage of your life. 


Math gave Lilian Rincon a voice, and led to her passion

When Lilian Rincon was 9-years-old, her family moved from Venezuela to Vancouver, Canada. Lilian, who’s half Chinese and half Spanish, didn’t speak any English, and found herself as the only Spanish-speaking student in her ESL (English as a second language) class. “It was a very lonely time since I couldn’t speak with many people at school.” That struggle steered her toward a more welcoming environment: math. “Math is kind of a universal language, so it was the only subject I could keep progressing in without having to start from scratch because I couldn’t understand what people were saying,” Lilian explains. Her love of math led to a career in computer science, and today she works as a senior director of Google Assistant, where she runs the team that creates new features and functions for the product. 

We recently had the chance to talk to Lilian about her personal time management tips, how her team cultivates creativity within a productivity tool and even heard about some of her favorite Assistant Easter Eggs—right in time for International Women’s Day. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Google Assistant is so complex; it’s the hardest product I’ve ever worked on, many people on the team feel the same way—but we are excited by that, too. For me, the thing that’s most challenging is prioritizing what I need to work on and how I need to be available to support my team on the projects they are working on—I'm proud that I can lean on them. And I’ve also realized that for me to be the best I can be it’s about making time for myself, whether that’s reserving 30 minutes in the morning for a workout or taking a quick walk in the afternoon. I can recharge, get a fresh perspective and set the example that we all need to have breaks and focus on ourselves. 

What’s the most rewarding part? 

Seeing how many people Assistant is helping and how much impact we're having is so rewarding. 500 million people worldwide use Assistant each month; in some places, it’s even available to people without internet access. It’s also been incredible to see how Assistant is helping the world become more accessible to everyone

What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I started playing volleyball when we moved to Canada when I was nine. Although I could barely speak the language, I was able to figure out what to do. It became a lifeline in helping me make friends. I played through high school, earned a college scholarship and became the captain of my university’s team. 

Was it difficult to manage your time as a college athlete?

When you play on a varsity team, you’re getting up early to train in the morning, you go to class, then after class there’s more training. I didn’t have a lot of time to do homework or go to the library. I'm proud I kept my academic scholarship the whole time. When I switched majors from biochemistry to computer science, I ended up taking a year longer to graduate. During my fifth year when I was finishing up my major, I wasn't playing volleyball, and it was actually the most challenging year! More time wasn’t necessarily the thing I needed, it was focused time. 

Do you have any advice for women entering the technology field?

Look inward, figure out what you’re passionate about and what you want. You need to identify these things, and then tell your colleagues and your managers. If you don’t tell them, it’s hard for them to help you. When you communicate your goals and passions, people will step in to help you. 

How has productivity changed for you as your career has progressed?

Earlier in my career, I focused on execution and the day-to-day management of making sure the right tasks were being done and the right opportunities were identified. As I’ve become more senior, it’s more about being thoughtful about my time and making sure I’m focused on the important things that matter to my team and for the product. It’s really easy to get into a mode where you’re spending the entire day in meetings reacting to things, but it becomes much more important to be more proactive and less reactive. 

Do you have any favorite Google Assistant Easter Eggs?

Yes! Too many of them, to be honest. I love the simple ones like “Hey Google, can you beat box?” or “Hey Google, can you rap?” But then we have some really cool temporal ones, too. For International Women’s Day, we have some amazing stories from Google Assistant if you say,  “Hey Google, Happy International Women’s Day” or “Hey Google, tell me about an inspiring woman.” 

Has there been a feature that people were more excited about than you thought they would be?

Yes, interpreter mode, our real-time language translation feature. This was something we announced at CES 2019, and rolled out on phones at the end of last year. I was in New York showing press, and we were overwhelmed—in a good way—at their reactions. People were like, “wow this is incredible!” 

For me, it was important to bring translation features to Assistant because I went through a point in my life where I really couldn’t communicate, where I couldn’t be heard.  I couldn’t be understood by others and I also couldn’t understand what they were saying—which felt crippling. For me, it’s a personal thing. 


One man’s mission to add civil rights history to Google Maps

“I think in another life, I would have been a private investigator,” says Paul Kang. The Nashville resident is a paralegal for an immigration law firm, but it’s his hobby as a Local Guide on Google Maps that’s brought out his inner detective, turning him into something of a historian.

Paul and his family moved to Tennessee in 2012, and it was out of necessity that he was first introduced to Google Maps and soon after Local Guides, the community of everyday people who are passionate about sharing their experiences on Google Maps with reviews, photos, videos and more. Their efforts end up making Maps better for everyone. “My wife wanted to know where the post office near her work was, so I looked it up and sent her the map listing,” he says. “And when she went there, she told me it was all closed up.” The post office wasn’t open for business anymore. This sort of thing happened a few more times, and after becoming slightly frustrated, Paul realized he could use Google Maps to edit information. “I started closing things down, replacing duplicate listings,” he says. Eventually, Paul was doing much more than correcting listings. In 2017, the 1955 murder of Emmett Till resurfaced in the news when an interview with the woman who’d accused Till of harassing her—which led her husband and an accomplice to murder Till—admitted it wasn’t true. The tragic, senseless killing of the 14-year-old boy had been a catalyst in the civil rights movement, and the confession reignited interest in the story for Americans everywhere. 

Paul first learned about what happened to Emmett Till when he was a young adult. “I think one of the things I still remember is that the jury acquitted Till’s murderers in 59 minutes, but that they would have [done it] faster if they hadn’t all gone together to get a bottle of pop before rendering the verdict.” 

When he used Google Maps to try and find the site where Till’s body was found, a listing appeared—but didn’t seem like it was in the right spot according to what Paul had read. After using historical resources to learn more about the location, he was able to find it himself on Google Maps—and he decided that everyone else should be able to as well, so he loaded up his wife and kids and started the two-hour road trip south. 

“I just thought, you know what, I’m going to do this, I’m doing to drive my whole family down there,” Paul says. When they got there, he says they discovered a museum dedicated to Emmett Till, but it was only open by appointment--information that hadn’t been listed in Google Maps. Fortunately, the museum was holding an event, and Paul’s family was able to go in. What Paul didn’t realize is how important the experience was for his wife, who was learning about Emmett Till for the first time. “We talked about it as she was going through it. It was shocking to her. It was a big download of information for her, and I know it’s stuck with her and informs her when she’s reading the news today, too.”

Using a 360-degree camera, Paul also took Street View photos of the site where Till’s body was found, and updated the Google Maps data so others can find it. He was even able to find the barn where Till was tortured and added that information to Maps.

Paul's gone on to add more historical information to Google Maps; he thinks he’s added some 50 historic landmarks, give or take. In 2018, for the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, various sites and memorials in Memphis were being constructed. “I waited to see if the city or some nonprofit maybe was going to add them to Google Maps, but I didn’t see anything,” he says. “So I just started adding them.” 

He also made a point to update information about other memorials to Dr. King, including “I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” a sculpture unveiled in 1976 that was moved to a more prominent part of downtown Memphis. I AM A MAN plaza, an open air installation that opened in 2018 and dedicated to the sanitation workers’ strike of 1968, also wasn’t on Google Maps; Paul made sure both of these sites would surface, complete with historic information. Once when he went to take photos for Street View with his 360-degree camera, a few police officers acting as security at a site asked what he was doing. “I was like, ‘I’m making sure this gets on Google Maps, so people can find it!’” 

News archives and web research power Paul’s exploration of the history of his new state and  he says there’s work to be done to make sure this information remains accessible for future generations. “A lot of the websites cataloging information about these kinds of places with descriptions and photos are volunteer-led,” he says. “What if they decide not to or forget to renew their domain? Those websites could go away.”

Fortunately, Paul’s work won’t be going anywhere. “Even if all these websites go away, Google Maps will still be here.”

Source: Google LatLong


Annie Jean-Baptiste keeps asking, “who else?”

As a child, Annie Jean-Baptiste wanted to be a pediatrician. But when her freshman year of college rolled around, her dream took a turn. “I started taking some of the classes and thinking ‘I don’t know if this is really what I should be doing…’” she laughs. Now, as Google’s Head of Product Inclusion, Annie helps teams make sure Google products are made for everyone. She’s not wearing scrubs, but she says she’s found another way to help people live fuller lives. 

“I feel most alive when I’m interacting with people and really connecting with them,” she says. Annie, who’s Haitian-American, knows what it’s like to be underrepresented in the world, and brings this perspective to her work. “I’ve discovered that when technology is done correctly, it has such potential to amplify peoples’ lives in a positive way.” 

In our latest installment of The She Word, we talked with Annie about diversity and intersectionality, her vision-boarding process and what she loves most about Haiti.

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

I help teams that create Google products—so things like Pixel, Chrome, Assistant—bring an inclusive lens to the design process. Because we’re building for billions of users who may not look or act or think like the teams building them, we need to make sure we’re bringing different perspectives to the table at key points in the process. 

What's the hardest part of your job? 

We try to focus on multiple dimensions of diversity, and then also the intersections of those dimensions—and that can be challenging. I always say “I’m not Black on Monday, a woman on Tuesday, and left-handed on Wednesday.” All of those things are always within me and affect how I move through the world. When you apply that to billions of users, it can get complicated. 

What we don’t want to do is rank dimensions of diversity, or look at them individually; we really want to look at people in a complete way. We want to ask, “who else?” And it can be challenging to ask “who else?” and bring people into the fold at critical points while also balancing deadlines and needs of product teams. 

Thankfully, teams are super excited to do this work and they’ve been really awesome partners in taking the feedback, in asking “who else?,” in bringing other people in, in changing the way they’re doing their work—even changing products or features. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? 

Hands down, it’s hearing from people who say they felt seen or validated in a product. “The Pixel camera takes really beautiful pictures of my family, and we all feel seen,” or “I asked the Assistant to tell me something about Pride and it said something really beautiful to me and it made me cry”—those are the things that make the work worth it. It’s a testament to the incredible efforts of our product and design teams. 

You touched on it earlier, but how would you describe “intersectionality” to someone who’s never heard the term before?

Intersectionality looks at the intersections of dimensions of underrepresented people and acknowledges how those intersections can potentially result in negative experiences. 

The easiest way to describe it is that I'm a Black woman, right? Both of those things are always within me and both of those demographics—women and Black people—historically have experienced barriers. If a Black woman also has a disability, those barriers might be amplified further. You have to think about what that means in terms of what you’re building, especially if that isn’t the background you come from. 

What’s one habit that’s made you successful?

Relationships are the core of everything. When people trust you, they’re more likely to take risks with you and try new things with you. That’s really important to my work, including with users who share their experiences with us. When we get feedback from users and they tell us how they use a product  with their family, that’s really personal stuff. There needs to be a baseline of trust, mutual understanding and empathy. Working with Google teams, it’s similar: Relationships are important, so I make sure I take time to get to know product teams. 

What's something most people don't know about you?

I’m definitely an introvert. Presenting to teams does not come naturally to me; it’s something I have to work at and psyche myself up for. I recharge by spending a lot of introspective time alone. I’ve also been trying to read more. When I was younger, my parents didn’t allow my brother and I to watch TV on weekdays until my senior spring of high school. Looking back, that was such an amazing thing because I was a voracious reader! Now, being able to watch TV as much as I want…there are times where I’m like, “why am I watching this?! I could be doing so many other things!” I’m trying to balance that decompression time with more focused activities. I read 10 pages a day last year and I ended up reading 15 books. I want to constantly be curious and for that to be part of my me time. 

I scanned your Twitter, and have to ask: What is your vision boarding process?

I love vision boarding! I’ve hosted vision boarding parties for the past five years. My approach is to first reflect on the past year: What went well, what didn’t go well, what am I proud of. Then, decide on what you want the themes of the year ahead to be. It’s helpful to have a baseline of what you want to accomplish in different areas of your life, whether it’s family, relationships, work or giving back. 

Annie Jean-Baptiste vision board

I tried vision boarding with a friend once without any direction, and she had a minor internal crisis! 

It can be emotional! I’m a Pisces, I get it! 

Your parents are from Haiti and moved here when they were young adults. What are some ways you keep Haiti with you? 

Haiti courses through my veins and I’m intentional about being proud of my heritage. I mentor people at and outside of Google, and I’ve been really surprised how many people tell me, “It’s so nice to see you being so proud of being Haitian and it’s inspired me to be proud of who I am and my heritage, too!” 

What was it like for you when the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010?

I had family there; it was terrifying. Haitian people have had so many things thrown at them. It was sort of like “how is there another devastating thing happening?” You’d think something like that could make people cynical about life or unhappy all the time, and that’s just not the case. They’re the warmest, most positive, brilliant people. Even looking at all the technology that came out following the earthquake to mitigate this disaster; it’s a testament to Haiti’s resilience.

What’s the first thing you do...

[Laughing] Eat. 

...when you go back to Haiti?

Definitely eat! Rice, beans, plantains. Obviously the food is delicious, but it also reminds me of my family. And then of course, going to the beach. Ideally if I could eat on the beach, that would be the first thing I’d do.

What is one of your favorite memories of Haiti?

When I was around 11, we went to my grandparents’ house for a month. Every afternoon, I would sit on the porch and eat sugar cane with my grandfather, and it was so simple and so nice to just be outside and spend this quality time with someone I love. It felt like the epitome of island life and I treasure those moments.