Author Archives: Nia Carter

Planning a family reunion with Google Workspace

For my Texan family, anything is an opportunity to barbecue: a long weekend, some good weather, or just a good day in general. For years, a barbecue has been our simple way to get our loved ones together — and there wouldn’t be much planning involved.

We’d have an invitation sent around with a date and a suggested time, and that’s about it. Yet after years of barbecues, questions like “who’s coming again?” and “can someone send me the group photos?” still circled the picnic table. Somehow we didn’t have a system for our tradition, which got frustrating when we started having more guests than space.

I decided to do something about it. Encouraged by memories of our growing tradition (and the chance to become the favorite grandchild), I started researching tools to plan family gatherings. Thanks to lessons from Google’s Applied Digital Skills program, I’ve learned how to add some coordination to our barbecues. Now, I can easily keep track of plans and many of my family’s memories using some of my favorite apps in Google Workspace. Here’s how to do it when you’re planning your own family barbecue or reunion picnic.

Kick off your planning with Google Calendar

The most important part of any family reunion is… family! If it’s your responsibility to invite them, you want to let them know early, even though you might not have all the details finalized. Thankfully, Calendar lets you send modifiable invitations. So if later you decide to hold the picnic in your aunt’s backyard instead of the park, you can easily change the location in the invite and send an email update to guests.

And to make sure you’re on top of everything, Calendar helps you remember events and things on your to-do list through notifications and Google Tasks. To learn how to use both features, I took the Organize Your Day with Google Calendar and Create Task in Calendar lessons. Afterwards, I knew how to customize notifications that only alerted me about an event when it was most helpful for me. I also learned about calendar entries called Tasks that you can use to prompt yourself to remember small things like “pick up groceries for the family reunion.” Like events, you can even make these entries repeat for the tasks that require frequent attention.

How to make a Task repeat in Google Calendar

Use folders in Google Drive to organize your memories and documents

Once you’ve scheduled everything, you’ll want a place to store your important documents and memories. Fortunately, Drive offers a place to keep all of your family reunion files, and a way to organize them through folders, subfolders and color coding.

With so many options, I took the Use Google Drive to Organize Files and Folders lesson to learn the best way to organize my family’s memories. I needed a system that made the Google Sheet with everyone’s contact information and all of the photos from the barbecue easy to find. I started with one overall folder to share with my family and then created color-coded subfolders to separate order receipts from recipes and nostalgic videos. Before I knew it, our family reunion folder started to resemble a digital scrapbook. As pictures of my grandpa as a child, a candid photo of my mom hugging my sister, and my grandma’s pound cake recipe poured into the folder, my heart began to melt. And with the option to star files that especially remind me of home, I’m able to easily revisit those memories when I miss family.

A folder to hold family reunion files with color-coded subfolders

Use Gmail to stay in touch

Whether it’s to organize the potluck or make travel arrangements, you’ll need to send information to family members. Gmail can help you keep up with all your communication. Worried that everything might get buried in your inbox? The Communicate Using Email lesson teaches you how to label and look up emails so you can keep up with it all.

With labels, you can tag emails so they’re organized into folders where you can easily find them later. You can also search for an email by subject line, contact name or even a keyword. This comes in handy when you’re looking for all those pesky order confirmations. And when the reunion is over, you can archive all of the emails you don’t need anymore to take them out of your inbox. But they’ll still be available in a folder named “All Mail” if you need to look at them again.

Keep making memories

Since I’ve taken the Applied Digital Skills lessons, I’ve taught my family to use Google Workspace to keep track of guests, events and memories. It’s become a way to digitally log our growing family interactions. If you want to learn even more about Calendar, Drive and Gmail, check out the Google Calendar for Beginners, Google Drive for Beginners and Gmail for Beginners in the Google Workspace for Beginners collection.

Perseverance led this engineer to Google on his second try

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns, apprentices and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today’s post is all about Kevin Lozandier, a user experience engineer (UXE) based in San Francisco who has overcome personal obstacles and made it to Google on his second try.

How would you describe your role?

As a UX engineer on the Responsible Innovation team, I have a background in design and programming. This helps me work with designers and engineers so they can better understand each other. I can clarify the intent of a design to an engineer or explain technical constraints of an idea to a designer. But my main responsibility is advocating for our users. My role requires me to think through every way a person might use a product so we can make it better.

Kevin holds up a peace sign while wearing a surgical mask in  an abstract patterned shirt

Kevin takes a selfie while holding up a peace sign

Can you tell us a bit more about your background?

I grew up as a child of first-generation Haitian immigrants in Denver but by high school was designated an independent student. While at times I felt isolated waking up in foster homes and even a homeless shelter, I found comfort in surrounding myself with good people to keep me motivated. My troubled youth encouraged me to take a “no stone unturned” approach to life, creating every opportunity I could for myself.

In elementary school, Denver’s Gifted and Talented program provided tutoring sessions with a web developer that taught me to code and helped me discover my passion for programming. Then, the summer before sixth grade, I was part of a tech education program that taught me the basics of building a desktop and allowed me to keep the computer afterward. I didn’t otherwise have access to a computer at home, so this enabled me to build my web and UX skills throughout my youth. In college, I focused on learning how people interact with products through classes on consumer behavior, sociology, digital entrepreneurship, web technologies and psychology. But I also worked on my web development skills and taught others to web develop through two coding communities. Beyond that, I attended conferences where I met mentors who shared helpful industry insights. These mentors also provided me with invaluable freelancing and consulting experience.

Did you plan on getting a bit more work experience after college before you applied to Google?

No, I actually applied to Google in the middle of college as a front-end software engineer. But I didn’t make it past the application stage. My first year and a half after college was difficult. I surfed couches while I waited for my first gig in tech. Thankfully, I finally got a break working for a web design agency that helped businesses improve their products through extensive user research and their popular front-end framework library. Although I was barely making ends meet, I was able to learn about modern user interface (UI) concepts and network with web developers who helped me get referred to Google the second time I applied.

A selfie of Kevin wearing a gray hoodie standing in front of white walls

Kevin in a gray hoodie at his home

What encouraged you to apply to Google again, and what was the experience like?

A Googler I met at a conference introduced me to the UXE role and later, referred me for it. During the interview, my experience working at agencies had well prepared me for the questions. The modern UI and programming techniques I learned even allowed me to teach my interviewer something new. I knew I aced the interview, but it wasn’t until I finally got the offer letter that I felt a sense of relief. I had become a Googler at 26, only one year later than I ambitiously planned.

Any tips for aspiring Googlers?

In any role, prioritize empathizing with users so you can advocate for them. As a UXE specifically, being curious and open-minded as I collaborate with people has been so rewarding. I constantly remind myself that the hardest problems require a solution focused on people rather than technology — the people I work with and the people I’m doing my best to provide with a delightful user experience.

Finally, embrace continuous learning and evolving. My life is a prime example that it doesn’t matter where you begin, but where you end up.