Posted by Manoranjan Padhy - Developer Relations Lead, India
Six years ago, Aditi Soni was new to computers and programming when she learned about Google Developer Groups (GDG) and Women Techmakers (WTM) from a senior at her university, the Shri Vaishnav Institute of Technology and Science, Indore. Then, everything changed when she joined a Google Developer Group in Indore, the largest city in Central India, which began as a 16th century trading hub.
“Initially, it was extremely overwhelming for me to be in that space, where so many accomplished professionals were present,” Aditi says of her first experiences attending GDG Indore. “I was very hesitant to go and have a conversation with them.”
But Aditi felt determined. Her friend Aditya Sharma taught her C and C++, and she practiced her programming skills on her smartphone, using tools like the C4droid Android app, because she didn’t have a laptop. By the time she got a laptop, she was off and running. Aditi began teaching herself Android development and landed an internship after her second year of college.
“I consider myself as an opportunity grabber,” Aditi writes in a post on her Medium blog. “ I never miss a single chance to become a better version of myself. I used to attend all community meetups and did not miss a single one.”
All her hard work paid off. In 2017, she became a Women Techmakers lead in Indore and took her first flight on an airplane to the WTM Leads Summit in Bangalore. The same year, she became a Microsoft Student Partner and attended Google Developer Days India. In 2018, Aditi earned the Google India Udacity Android Developers Nanodegree Scholarship, as one of the top 150 students from India, and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree in computer science. In 2019, Women Techmakers awarded Aditi a travel grant to Madrid, Spain to attend the Firebase Summit.
Using the experience of being a woman in tech to encourage others to pursue STEM careers
Now, Aditi is a full-time software developer at Consultadd Incorporation, India, and a Women Techmakers Ambassador, and a GDG organizer for her local chapter in Pune. She contributes to the community as an organizer, speaker, and mentor.
“We organize monthly technical meetups to empower women and provide them with a platform to achieve their goals,” Aditi explains. “Being able to help others feels like I am giving it back to the community.”
Aditi says GDG and WTM have helped her develop technical skills and have also positively impacted her personal life.
“I had significant life experiences because of the Google Developer Group and Women Techmakers communities, including my first flight, my first hands-on experience with Google's trending technologies, and one-on-one interaction with Googlers and many great personalities while attending global summits,” she says. “All these things have helped me to be a person who can guide and help others and share my knowledge and experiences with hundreds of professionals today.”
Aditi describes herself as a community enthusiast, using her platform to encourage other women and students to pursue careers in technology, even if they’re brand-new to the field. She also enjoys mentoring new programmers.
“I am passionate about making an impact on others’ lives by sharing my journey and experiences and helping people face hurdles like mine with courage and confidence,” she says. “I enjoy helping people who are struggling to learn to code or who want to switch their careers to tech.”
Supporting budding developers
Aditi acknowledges the adage, “Change is not easy,’’ especially when preparing for a career in technology.
“You may try very hard, give up so many times, and go through all that frustration, but remember not to quit,” she advises. “The moment you feel like quitting is the moment you need to keep pushing and get your reward.”
She has specific suggestions for making it easier to build new tech skills, too.
“Before learning a specific technology, understand yourself,” she suggests. “What works for you? What's your learning process? Then look for the appropriate resources. It can be a simple one-page tutorial or a full-fledged course. Everything is easy when the basics are clear and the foundation is strong.”
Aditi plans to continue contributing to the tech community in India and around the world, by sharing her insight, connecting with new people, and developing new technical skills. She recently welcomed a new member into her family–a baby girl–and she is growing her own regional tech community and providing so much to others in her area and the STEM field.
Posted by Erica Hanson, Global Senior Program Manager, Google Developer Student Clubs
Have you ever thought about building an application or tool that solves a problem your community faces? Or perhaps you’ve felt inspired to build something that can help improve the lives of those you care about. The year ahead brings more opportunities for helping each other and giving back to our communities.
With that in mind, we invite students around the world to join the Google Developer Student Clubs 2022 Solution Challenge! Where students from around the world are invited to solve for one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals using Google technologies.
About the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
Created by the United Nations in 2015 to be achieved by 2030, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon by all 193 United Nations Member States aim to end poverty, ensure prosperity, and protect the planet.
If you’re new to the Solution Challenge, it is an annual competition that invites university students to develop solutions for real world problems using one or more Google products or platforms.
This year, see how you can use Android, Firebase, TensorFlow, Google Cloud, Flutter, or any of your favorite Google technologies to promote employment for all, economic growth, and climate action, by building a solution for one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
What winners of the Solution Challenge receive
Participants will receive specialized prizes at different stages:
Top 50 teams - Receive customized mentorship from Googlers and experts to take solutions to the next level, a branded T-shirt, and a certificate.
Top 10 finalists - Receive additional mentorship, a swag box, and the opportunity to showcase solutions to Googlers and developers all around the world during the virtual 2022 Solution Challenge Demo Day live on YouTube.
Contest Finalists - In addition to the swag box, each individual from the additional seven recognized teams will receive a Cash Prize of $1,000 per student. Winnings for each qualifying team will not exceed $4,000.
Top 3 winners - In addition to the swag box, each individual from the top 3 winning teams will receive a Cash Prize of $3,000 and a feature on the Google Developers Blog. Winnings for each qualifying team will not exceed $12,000.
How to get started on the Solution Challenge
There are four main steps to joining the Solution Challenge and getting started on your project:
Welcome to #IamaGDE - a series of spotlights presenting Google Developer Experts (GDEs) from across the globe. Discover their stories, passions, and highlights of their community work.
Gaston Saillen started coding for fun, making apps for his friends. About seven years ago, he began working full-time as an Android developer for startups. He built a bunch of apps—and then someone gave him an idea for an app that has had a broad social impact in his local community. Now, he is a senior Android developer at Distillery.
Meet Gaston Saillen, Google Developer Expert in Android and Firebase.
Building the Uh-LaLa! app
After seven years of building apps for startups, Gaston visited a local food delivery truck to pick up dinner, and the server asked him, “Why don’t you do a food delivery app for the town, since you are an Android developer? We don’t have any food delivery apps here, but in the big city, there are tons of them.”
The food truck proprietor added that he was new in town and needed a tool to boost his sales. Gaston was up for the challenge and created a straightforward delivery app for local Cordoba restaurants he named Uh-Lala! Restaurants configure the app themselves, and there’s no app fee. “My plan was to deliver this service to this community and start making some progress on the technology that they use for delivery,” says Gaston. “And after that, a lot of other food delivery services started using the app.”
The base app is built similarly to food delivery apps for bigger companies. Gaston built it for Cordoba restaurants first, after several months of development, and it’s still the only food delivery app in town. When he released the app, it immediately got traction, with people placing orders. His friends joined, and the app expanded. “I’ve made a lot of apps as an Android engineer, but this is the first time I’ve made one that had such an impact on my community.”
He had to figure out how to deliver real-time notifications that food was ready for delivery. “That was a little tough at first, but then I got to know more about all the backend functions and everything, and that opened up a lot of new features.”
He also had to educate two groups of users: Restaurant owners need to know how to input their data into the app, and customers had to change their habit of using their phones for calls instead of apps.
Gaston says seeing people using the app is rewarding because he feels like he’s helping his community.“All of a sudden, nearby towns started using Uh-LaLa!, and I didn't expect it to grow that big, and it helped those communities.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants struggled to maintain their sales numbers. A local pub owner ran a promotion through Instagram to use the Uh-Lala! App for ten percent off, and their sales returned to pre-COVID levels. “That is a success story. They were really happy about the app.”
Becoming a GDE
Gaston has been a GDE for seven years. When he was working on his last startup, he found himself regularly answering questions about Android development and Firebase on StackOverflow and creating developer content in the form of blog posts and YouTube videos. When he learned about the GDE program, it seemed like a perfect way to continue to contribute his Android development knowledge to an even broader developer community. Once he was selected, he continued writing blog posts and making videos—and now, they reach a broader audience.
“I created a course on Udemy that I keep updated, and I’m still writing the blog posts,” he says. “We also started the GDG here in Cordoba, and we try to have a new talk every month.”
Gaston enjoys the GDE community and sharing his ideas about Firebase and Android with other developers. He and several fellow Firebase developers started a WhatsApp group to chat about Firebase. “I enjoy being a Google Developer Expert because I can meet members of the community that do the same things that I do. It’s a really nice way to keep improving my skills and meet other people who also contribute and make videos and blogs about what I love: Android.”
The Android platform provides developers with state-of-the art tools to build apps for user. Firebase allows developers to accelerate and scale app development without managing infrastructure; release apps and monitor their performance and stability; and boost engagement with analytics, A/B testing, and messaging campaigns.
Gaston looks forward to developing Uh-La-La further and building more apps, like a coworking space reservation app that would show users the hours and locations of nearby coworking spaces and allow them to reserve a space at a certain time. He is also busy as an Android developer with Distillery.
Gaston’s advice to future developers
“Keep moving forward. Any adversity that you will be having in your career will be part of your learning, so the more that you find problems and solve them, the more that you will learn and progress in your career.”
Posted by Brian Shen, Regional Lead for Mainland China Developer Communities
Every developer’s path to pursuing a career in tech can be traced back to a single moment. Such is the case for Ning Zhang, a developer from China, who found his early interest in web development as a high schooler at the age of fifteen. Ning built his first website for his English class to help his classmates succeed with their studies. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was only just getting started. Throughout high school, he played with Google Webmaster Tools (now Google Search Console) and Google Adsense to create and manage numerous other websites for fun. Like so many aspiring developers before him, Ning knew he’d found his passion, but the path ahead remained unclear.
Enter Google Developer Groups
To grow his skills further and turn his hobby into a viable career path, Ning majored in data science at university in Qingdao. Here, he participated in data-modeling competitions like Kaggle Days, and other events that gave him more exposure to the tech community and allowed him to learn from his peers. It’s also where he first heard about Google Developer Groups (GDGs) and their many opportunities for learning, networking and collaboration.
It was perfect timing too. After graduation Ning got a job with a financial services firm in Shanghai, home to a very active GDG. He jumped at the chance to engage in activities and workshops to further his abilities and knowledge, especially in data science, which constitutes a significant part of his work responsibilities.
While Ning enjoys the formal learning opportunities the GDG offers, he finds the sense of community and support—the opportunity to learn from others and share his expertise as well – even more valuable.
“This kind of atmosphere is actually more inspiring than learning a new technology, new programming ideas, and new algorithms.”
“Everyone has different hands-on experience and expertise in different companies,” Ning explains. “GDG provides an environment where people can share their experience and listen to each other.”
The combination of community, developer success, and social impact has made a huge impression on him both personally and professionally. The international nature of GDGs also provides an expanded perspective and different ways of thinking about problems and solutions. “GDG really gave me a lot of new and fresh information and opened our eyes to more global approaches,” says Ning.
Group photo of GDG Shanghai Activity Center
Tapping into a global community
As the importance of technology continues to grow, the GDG community can play an even greater role by helping people learn valuable tech skills, supporting the dissemination of knowledge, and spurring innovation. Offerings that focus on sharing knowledge and other events can assist members in achieving their career goals as they have done for Ning. “I hope every member of GDG will experience the good atmosphere of the group in the future so that their value can be magnified,” says Zhang.
Welcome to #IamaGDE - a series of spotlights presenting Google Developer Experts (GDEs) from across the globe. Discover their stories, passions, and highlights of their community work.
Evelyn Mendes, the first transgender Google Developer Expert, is based in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and has worked in technology since 2002. “I've always loved technology!” she exclaims, flashing a dazzling smile. As a transgender woman, Evelyn faced discrimination in the tech world in Brazil and relied on her friends for emotional support and even housing and food, as she fought for a job in technology. Her excruciating journey has made her a tireless advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as she works toward her vision of a world of empathy, acceptance, and love.
Meet Evelyn Mendes, Google Developer Expert in Firebase
Current professional role
Evelyn works in systems analysis and development and currently focuses on Angular, Flutter, and Firebase. “I believe they are technologies with frame frameworks and architectures that have a lot to offer,” she says.
As an architecture consultant and specialist software engineer at Bemol Digital, Evelyn manages development teams that work with many different technologies and led Bimol Digital, through the process of switching their mobile app, originally developed in React Native, to Flutter. Now, Evelyn supports the migration of all Bimol Digital’s mobile development to Flutter. “Today, all of our new mobile projects are developed in Flutter,” she says. “I’m responsible for the architecture. I'm a PO and a Scrum Master, but I also enjoy teamwork, and I love helping the team work better, more efficiently, and most importantly, enjoy their work!”
Evelyn’s kindness toward others is reflected in her advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the IT and tech world. She takes a broad approach to diversity, advocating for safe spaces in technology for mothers, women in technology, Black founders, immigrants, and Native Brazilians to learn. “Diversity and inclusion are not just values or attitudes to me; they are a part of who I am: my life, my struggles,” she says.
Evelyn views technology as a way to help underrepresented groups achieve more, feel empowered, and change their own lives. “Technology will give you a better shot to fight for a better life,” she says. “I want to bring more trans people to technology, so that they have real chances to continue evolving in their professional lives.”
When Evelyn came out as transgender, she experienced intolerance that kept her out of the workforce for over a year, despite her innumerable skills. “Brazil, especially the southern part where I’m from, is still, unfortunately, not a very tolerant society,” she says. “Due to who I was, I wasn’t able to find a job for over a year, because people didn’t want to work with someone who is transgender.”
Evelyn was fortunate enough to have friends who supported her financially (there were times when she didn’t even have enough money to buy food) and mentally, helping her believe she could be true to herself and find happiness. She encourages others in her position to seek financial and emotional independence. “In terms of your emotional wellbeing, I’d recommend starting with identifying the abusive relationships around you, which can come from different sides, even from your family,” she says. “Try distancing yourself from them and those who hurt you. This will help you in your evolution.”
Evelyn recommends trans people in Brazil connect with groups like EducaTransforma, which teaches technology to trans people, and TransEmpregos, which helps trans people to enter the labor market. For trans and cis women in Brazil, Aduaciosa Oficial facilitates networking (tech 101 for women, classic dev community, meetups workshops), and B2Mamy supports women’s entrepreneurship.
Evelyn often speaks to companies about diversity in IT and how to be welcoming to women, LGBTQIA+ people, and other underrepresented groups. “I like it because I see that more and more companies are interested in the subject, and I think I can be a voice that has never been heard,” Evelyn says. “I support inclusive events, and when invited, I participate in lectures, because I know that a trans woman, on a stage where only white, ‘straight,’ cis people are normally seen, makes a lot of difference for many people, especially LGBTs.”
At BrazilJS 2017, Evelyn invited every woman at the event to join her on stage for a photo, to show how many women are involved in technology and that women are integral to events. She called her fellow speakers and attendees, as well as the event’s caterers, cleaners, and security personnel to the stage and said, “Look at the stage. Now, no one can say there aren’t any women in tech.”
At her current company, Evelyn approaches diversity as a positive and transformative thing. “I know that I make a difference just with my presence, because people usually know my story.”
In addition to her technology work, Evelyn is involved in the Transdiálogos project, which aims to train professionals to end discrimination in health services. She is also part of TransEnem in Porto Alegre, an EJA-type prep course to help trans people go to college. “I don't miss the chance to fight for diversity and inclusion anywhere,” Evelyn says. “That's what my life is. This is my fight; that's who I am; that's why I'm here.”
Evelyn said she was drawn to Firebase because “Firebase is all about diversity. For poor, remote areas in Brazil, without WiFi or broadband, Firebase gives people with limited resources a reasonable stack to build with and deploy something to the world. Firebase uses basic HTML, is low code, and is free, so it’s for everyone. Plus, it’s easy to get familiar with the technology, as opposed to learning Java or Android.”
To demonstrate all the functionality and features that Firebase offers, Evelyn created a mobile conversation application that she often shows at events. “Many people see Firebase as just a NoSql database,” she says. “They don't know the real power that it can actually offer. With that in mind, I tried to put in it all the features I thought people could use: Authentication, Storage, Realtime Database with Data Denormalization, Hosting, Cloud Functions, Firebase Analytics, and Cloud Firestore.”
Users can send images and messages through the app. A user can take a picture, resize, and send it, and it will be saved in Storage. Before going to the timeline, messages go through a sanitization process, where Evelyn removes certain words and indexes them on a list called bad_words in the Realtime Database. Timeline messages are also stored in Realtime. Users can like and comment on messages and talk privately. Sanitization is done by Cloud Functions, in database triggers, which also denormalizes messages in lists dedicated to each context. For example, all the messages a user sends, besides going to the main list that would be the timeline, go to a list of messages the user sent. Another denormalization is a list of messages that contain images and those that only contain text, for quick search within the Realtime Database. Users can also delete and edit messages. Using some rules Evelyn created in Cloud Firestore, she can manage what people will or will not see inside the app, in real time. Here’s the source code for the project. “I usually show it happening live and in color at events, with Firebase Analytics,” Evelyn says. “I also know where people are logging in, and I can show this working in the dashboard, also in real time.”
Becoming a GDE
When Evelyn first started learning Firebase, she also began creating educational content on how to use it, based on everything she was learning herself—first articles, then video tutorials. At first, she didn’t want to show her face in her videos because she was afraid she wasn’t good enough and felt embarrassed about every little silly mistake she made, but as she gained confidence, she started giving talks and lectures. Now, Evelyn maintains her own website and YouTube channel, where she saves all her video tutorials and other projects.
Her expertise caught the attention of Google’s Developer Relations team, who invited Evelyn to apply to be a GDE. “At first, I was scared to death, also because I didn't speak any English,” Evelyn recalls. “It took me quite some time, but finally I took a leap of faith, and it worked! And today, #IamaGDE!”
As a GDE, Evelyn loves meeting people from around the world who share her passion for technology and appreciates the fact that her GDE expertise has allowed her to share her knowledge in remote areas. “The program has helped me to grow a lot, both personally and professionally,” she adds. “I learned a lot and continue learning, by attending many events, conferences, and meetups.”
Evelyn’s advice to anyone hoping to become a GDE
“Be a GDE before officially becoming one! Participating in this program is a recognition of what you have already been doing: your knowledge, expertise, and accomplishments, so keep learning, keep growing, and help your community. You may think you’re not a big enough expert, but the truth is, there are people out there who definitely know less than you and would benefit from your knowledge.”
Posted by Merve Isler, Regional Developer Relations Community Manager, Turkey
Some challenges affect everyone regardless of borders or nationality, and combating climate issues is no different. Aysu Keçeci, a student in Turkey with an avowed reverence for the sea, found herself increasingly distressed by the growing amount of plastic in the world’s oceans. She notes, “As an Aegean, the seas are a big part of my life, Unfortunately, I have grown up observing that our waters are polluted daily, and I know that plastics now make up 80% of marine garbage, and if we don't take precautions, there will be more plastic in our seas than fish in 2050. That's why plastic pollution has always been a problem I wanted to address.”
As part of a global community, Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSCs) members are empowered to make an impact on the issues that matter both on the global and local scales. She decided to join the 2021 Solution Challenge, and took part in a local hackathon organized by the GDSC Solution Challenge Incubation Program. She and other GDSC members at Bogazici University on her team chose to create an app to encourage plastic recycling, never guessing it would lead to mentorship, guidance, and tools to launch an environmentally-focused social enterprise start-up.
Choosing the features and functions
When building the app, the team leveraged Flutter for its cross-platform advantages and used other Google tools such as Firebase, Firestore, Cloud, Maps, Fonts, and Analytics. In the app, users locate and open dedicated recycling bins by scanning a QR code or using a smartwatch or wristband. They can earn “coins” based on the amount of plastic they recycle and by engaging in challenges. Meanwhile, the app, called WE, displays tangible benefits to the environment from the users’ recycling efforts.
Encouraging behavior change with gamification
Aysu acknowledges that designing an app is one thing--bringing it into reality is another. Keçeci shares, “in real product development, user experience, ease of learning, and convenience become more critical than when you are designing a prototype.” To drive adoption, the WE App team chose gamification as a framework for the recycling app, looking to engage and motivate users by adding competition, social interaction, and feedback into the UI and help make recycling easy and fun. Aysu was particularly inspired by entrepreneur Colin Huang, who integrated gamification into Pinduoduo, an e-commerce company that encourages user collaboration.
From idea to impact
After three intense days of working at a feverish pace on little sleep, Aysu and the team presented their idea--which won the hackathon! The WE app then got selected as one of the top 50 projects in the Solution Challenge(with the support of Solution Challenge Incubation Program), landing the team special mentorship sessions with Google developers. This support on many levels led to their acceptance in one of Turkey’stop incubators:İTÜ Çekirdek İncubation Center, which offered a working space and exposure to the center’s network of companies and entrepreneurs. The project was also accepted into the Arya WIP Investment Preparation Acceleration Program, which supports women entrepreneurs, earning the team even more credibility and traction.
Perseverance makes all the difference
Aysu acknowledges that working with a small team of three developers can present new problems and opportunities every day--but support from Google mentors, jury members, and GDSC helps. “It's very bumpy, but it's been a journey that we've learned a lot about and enjoyed,” she says. The team is currently working with Borusan Mannesmann, one of the largest industrial companies in Turkey, to provide the app and bins to employees. They’re also competing in the semifinals of the İTÜ Çekirdek İncubation Center’s Big Bang Startup Challenge and talking with other potential corporate partners.
Looking towards the future
The team is already thinking about WE’s next stage. She and the other founders plan to redesign the WE bins to look more stylish and start producing simple products from the plastics collected, perhaps by partnering with innovative companies around the world that value sustainability.
“I've actually seen that people value living in a sustainable world. So it was surprising and gratifying for me to realize that they were ready to do something about it and take action because even people who did not recycle in the old status quo adapted very quickly.”
As she considers the progress she’s made so far, Aysu credits the GDSC’s culture of innovation, support, and feedback for playing a big part in WE’s creation and success. “You can quickly get involved in a community,” she says, “and thus you have a better opportunity to pursue things that excite you.”
The Google Developers Experts program is a global network of highly experienced technology experts, influencers, and thought leaders who actively support developers, companies, and tech communities by speaking at events and publishing content.
“I’ve been involved in projects related to asset delivery and NFC in mobile development and projects about data visualization and automation processes in companies,” he says. “In 2022, I want to be more involved in the open source community.”
Getting involved in the developer community
At university, one of Joel’s instructors organized events related to Linux, like Install Fest, with his students.
“With time, I became one of their students, and he motivated me to share knowledge with others and be brave and go beyond the university and my comfort zone,” Joel says. “I started to organize events and talks and got to know people in other communities.”
Gómez enjoyed sharing with his community and received encouragement from other GDEs to apply to the GDE program to share his knowledge more widely.
“I love to share with my community, but sometimes the knowledge just stays in your community,” he says. “Diego DeGranda, a GDE specializing in web technologies, encouraged me to apply and go beyond my community to share with communities outside of my country.”
As a GDE, Gómez has met other developers from around the world, with whom he talks about technology and shares experiences. Another benefit of being a GDE is the opportunity to learn from other GDEs and Google employees.
“In 2020, I had more activities, because location wasn’t a limitation anymore,” he said. “For speakers, virtual meetings are sometimes complicated, but we are adapting to this situation and using and creating tools to get and provide a better experience.”
“I think it’s a cool feature and has a lot of potential to create better applications,” he says. “I have some projects where Local Context helps me with some features, and I don’t need to develop by myself. In 2020, I gave some talks about the new features, wrote blog posts about them, and made videos about them.”
Joel plans to create more content about Local Context, Plus Codes and other features in Google Maps Platform.
“I’m planning to start with a podcast about Maps and how to use it to create better applications,” he says. “I’ve been doing this in Spanish, so I need to create content in English, too.”
He has three professional goals: start to contribute to open source, create a little startup, and start projects that use Google Maps Platform.
Welcome to #IamaGDE - a series of spotlights presenting Google Developer Experts (GDEs) from across the globe. Discover their stories, passions, and highlights of their community work.
In college, Krupal Modi programmed a robot to catch a ball based on the ball’s color, and he enjoyed it enough that he became a developer. Now, he leads machine learning initiatives at Haptik, a conversational AI platform. He is a Google Developer Expert in Machine Learning and recently built the MyGov Corona Helpdesk module for the Indian government, to help Indians around the country schedule COVID-19 vaccinations. He lives in Gujarat, India.
Meet Krupal Modi, Google Developer Expert in Machine Learning.
GDE Krupal Modi
The early days
Krupal Modi didn’t set out to become a developer, but when he did some projects in college related to pattern recognition, in which he built and programmed a robot to catch a ball based on the color of the ball, he got hooked.
“Then, it just happened organically that I liked those problems and became a developer,” he says.
Now, he has been a developer for ten years and is proficient in Natural Language Processing, Image Processing, and unstructured data analysis, using conventional machine learning and deep learning algorithms. He leads machine learning initiatives at Haptik, a conversational AI platform where developers can program virtual AI assistants and chat bots.
“I have been there almost seven years now,” he says. “I like that most of my time goes into solving some of the open problems in the state of natural language and design.”
Krupal has been doing machine learning for nine years, and says advances in Hardware, especially in the past eight years, have made machine learning much more accessible to a wider range of developers. “We’ve come very far with so many advances in hardware,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to have a great community around me.”
Krupal is currently invested in solving the open problems of language understanding.
“Today, nobody really prefers talking with a bot or a virtual assistant,” he says. “Given a choice, you’d rather communicate with a human at a particular business.”
Krupal aims to take language understanding to a new level, where people might prefer to talk to an AI, rather than a human. To do that, his team needs to get technology to the point where it becomes a preferred and faster mode of communication.
Ultimately, Krupal’s dream is to make sure whatever technology he builds can impact some of the fundamental aspects of human life, like health care, education, and digital well being.
“These are a few places where there’s a long way to go, and where the technology I work on could create an impact,” he says. “That would be a dream come true for me.”
COVID in India/Government Corona Help Desk Module
One way Krupal has aimed to use technology to impact health care is in the creation of the MyGov Corona Helpdesk module in India, a WhatsApp bot authorized by the Indian government to combat the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Indian citizens could text MyGov Corona Helpdesk to get instant information on symptoms, how to seek treatment, and to schedule a vaccine.
“There was a lot of incorrect information on various channels related to the symptoms of COVID and treatments for COVID,” he explains. “Starting this initiative was to have a reliable source of information to combat the spread of misinformation.”
To date, the app has responded to over 100 million queries. Over ten million people have downloaded their vaccination certificates using the app, and over one million people have used it to book vaccination appointments.
As a GDE, Krupal focuses on Machine Learning and appreciates the network of self-motivated, passionate developers.
“That’s one of the things I admire the most about the program—the passionate, motivated people in the community,” Krupal says. “If you’re surrounded by such a great community, you take on and learn a lot from them.”
Advice to other developers
“If you are passionate about a specific technology; you find satisfaction in writing about it and sharing it with other developers across the globe; and you look forward to learning from them, then GDE is the right program for you.”
Posted by Alessandro Palmieri, Regional Lead for Spain Developer Communities
Google Developer Groups (GDGs) around the world are in a unique position to organize events on technology topics that community members are passionate about. That’s what happened in Spain in July 2021, where two GDG chapters decided to put on an event called AI Fest after noticing a lack of conferences dedicated exclusively to artificial intelligence. “Artificial intelligence is everywhere, although many people do not know it,” says Irene Ruiz Pozo, the organizer of GDG Murcia and GDG Cartagena. While AI has the potential to transform industries from retail to real estate with products like Dialogflow and Lending DocAI, “there are still companies falling behind,” she notes.
Irene and her GDG team members recognized that creating a space for a diverse mix of people—students, academics, professional developers, and more—would not only enable them to share valuable knowledge about AI and its applications across sectors and industries, but it could also serve as a potential path for skill development and post-pandemic economic recovery in Spain. In addition, AI Fest would showcase GDGs in Spain as communities offering developer expertise, education, networking, and support.
Using the GDG network to find sponsors, partners, and speakers
The GDGs immediately got to work calling friends and contacts with experience in AI. “We started calling friends who were great developers and worked at various companies, we told them who we are, what we wanted to do, and what we wanted to achieve,” Irene says.
The GDG team found plenty of organizations eager to help: universities, nonprofit organizations, government entities, and private companies. The final roster included the Instituto de Fomento, the economic development agency of Spain’s Murcia region; the city council of Cartagena; Biyectiva Technology, which develops AI tools used in medicine, retail, and interactive marketing; and the Polytechnic University of Cartagena, where Irene founded and led the Google Developer Student Club in 2019 and 2020. Some partners also helped with swag and merchandising and even provided speakers. “The CEOs and different executives and developers of the companies who were speakers trusted this event from the beginning,” Irene says.
A celebration of AI and its potential
The event organizers lined up a total of 55 local and international speakers over the two-day event. Due to the ongoing COVID-10 pandemic, in-person attendance was limited to 50 people in a room at El Batel Auditorium and Conference Center in Cartagena, but sessions—speakers, roundtables, and workshops—were also live-streamed on YouTube on three channels to a thousand viewers.
The event made a huge impact on the developer community in Spain, setting an example of what tech-focused gatherings can look like in the COVID-19 era and how they can support more education, collaboration, and innovation across a wide range of organizations, ultimately accelerating the adoption of AI. Irene also notes that it has helped generate more interest in GDGs and GDSCs in Spain and their value as a place to learn, teach, and grow. “We’re really happy that new developers have joined the communities and entrepreneurs have decided to learn how to use Google technologies,” she says.
The effect on the GDG team was profound as well. “I have remembered why I started creating events--for people: to discover the magic of technology,” Irene says.
Taking AI Fest into the future—and more
Irene and her fellow GDG members are already planning for a second installment of AI Fest in early 2022, where they hope to be able to expect more in-person attendance. The team would also like to organize events focused on topics such as Android, Cloud, AR /VR, startups, the needs of local communities, and inclusion. Irene, who serves as a Women Techmakers Ambassador, is particularly interested in using her newly expanded network to host events that encourage women to choose technology and other STEM areas as a career.
Finally, Irene hopes that AI Fest will become an inspiration for GDGs around the world to showcase the potential of AI and other technologies. It’s a lot of work, she admits, but the result is well worth it. “My advice is to choose the area of technology that interests you the most, get organized, relax, and have a good team,” she advises.
Posted by Rodrigo Hirooka, Regional Lead for Brazil Developer Communities
Perceiving that one is not like everyone else can be painful. Yet, the experience can also be illuminating. As a child in Brazil, João Victor Ipirajá, lead of the Google Student Developer Club (GDSC) at the Federal Institute of Science and Technology of Ceará (IFCE), knew he was different. He often felt overwhelmed by physical sensations and missed social cues. When he was eventually diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, he was actually relieved. Far from being a limitation, the realization gave him a new perspective on his intellectual strengths—such as his ability to perceive mathematical concepts in a highly visual way and his capacity for logical thinking and computer programming. “I was reborn to a full life shortly after I received this diagnosis,” he said in a video he made about his experiences as a person with ASD.
This newfound understanding of how his mind works helped guide him on his educational path as well as career direction. Instead of attending a traditional high school, which he felt would not play to his natural talents and strengths, João decided to study at IFCE, a technical college that also offered a high school program. There, he learned computer science and computer engineering, picking up new programming languages and honing his developer skills.
But most importantly, he felt he had “discovered his place.” His success at IFCE solving problems, using new tools, and working successfully with others soon outweighed his fears about meeting new people and not fitting in. The experience of finding a community convinced him of the need to encourage others to find theirs--and to help build them as well.
Joining GDSC and expanding awareness of neurodiversity
After high school, João decided to continue at IFCE for college to focus on computer engineering, where he learned new programming languages and tools like TensorFlow and Flutter. He also joined IFCE’s GDSC chapter, which further exposed him to new people and ideas. “It’s an honor to be part of this program, meeting people from all over the world and improving my speaking skills, especially in English,” he says. “For me, it’s something magical. I learned so much.”
At the same time, João was beginning to recognize the lack of understanding about neurodiversity in Brazil, even among technical audiences and employers in general. “Some people think we are crazy or we’re unable to do big projects,” he says. Even “good” stereotypes can be harmful--for example, many neurodiverse people have an ability to “hyperfocus” and work or study uninterrupted for hours on end. “People think it’s a superpower,” he says, but such extreme periods of concentration can also be unhealthy and lead to burnout.
Planting the seeds of change with GDSC events and projects
As the IFCE GDSC lead, João decided to concentrate his efforts on expanding awareness of neurodiversity, as well as other types of diversity—sexual, racial, religious, etc.—to help others find the sense of freedom and belonging he has experienced. “Many people don’t feel free to be whoever they want to be,” he says.
The chapter’s efforts include planning speaker sessions with diversity activists and specialists from the community, creating social media content in partnership with IFCE, creating workshops with other Brazilian GDSC chapters, and making diversity a priority when choosing core positions on the team.
He recently spoke at a DevFest event on the topic of “Understanding the autistic spectrum universe,” in which he explained the range of characteristics and abilities autistic people can display. He also wants to do more speaking events in Portuguese to break stereotypes about autism in Brazil specifically. “It’s just a student club, but we are trying to deconstruct stereotypes and prejudice that are so culturally strong in Brazil,” he says.
Cultivating understanding and acceptance in Brazil and beyond
Ultimately, João feels that providing more opportunities and platforms for diverse people will help others. As the community continues to come together, he might be able to help those who have that same sense of difference João remembers having as a child. João and others on his GDSC team especially hope that these efforts will advance a greater understanding around how to elevate and celebrate members of marginalized groups in his home country. However, his goals go beyond mere acceptance: he notes that people who feel more comfortable about who they are also feel more confident to fully participate in all aspects of society. People with diverse abilities and characteristics offer unique skills and perspectives that can also translate into advantages, especially among technical audiences and employers.
“It’s very important for people to have this opportunity to share their stories, to have these environments to make people understand,” he says. “For me, it’s very important, and I’m very honored.”