Tag Archives: Google in Africa

This Googler is dedicated to making a difference

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns 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 story is all about Lerato Seopela from our Johannesburg office. Lerato shares her path from management consultancy to marketing at Google, plus her passion for sustainability and beekeeping at home.

What do you do at Google?

I’m an Associate Product Marketing Manager (APMM) for the Ads Marketing team in Sub-Saharan Africa. My work often comes to life through local tool launches and events that share insights and practical tips with clients to help them reach their business goals.

The Google APMM program is a unique career path on the Google Marketing team. As a cohort-based, two-and-a-half-year rotational development program, it provides an active community, leadership roles, and job rotations to help you discover different marketing teams across Google.

I’m also an inclusivity advocate. Since joining Google, I have helped create inclusive marketing campaigns, research, and business training specifically for the LGBTQ+ community in the region.

What have been the driving forces behind your career?

My family has had a huge impact on my career. My parents, aunts and uncles have all achieved success and happiness despite the adversities they faced during the Apartheid regime. The values they’ve instilled in me have influenced how I empower myself and others through education. I feel fulfilled in my career when I know that I’ve contributed to improving the lives of others, whether that’s through supporting people’s business needs or helping them develop new skills.

How would you describe your path to Google?

Before Google, I was a marketing consultant at Discovery Health, an insurance company that encourages people to live healthier. Towards the end of 2019, I decided to look for a new job that would give me the opportunity to build my problem-solving skills, develop strategies and work with different people around the world. At the beginning of 2020, I started a new job as a management consultant at a local management consulting firm. Just before I transitioned to this new role, a recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn about an open Associate Product Marketing Manager role at Google. After a quick call with her, I immediately began the application and interview process, which all took place virtually. And I was lucky enough to get the role! I joined Google in April 2020, soon after the world was thrust into a global pandemic. Despite not seeing a Google office yet, it’s been an incredible experience working with so many talented people.

What surprised you about the interview process?

I was surprised by the rounds of interviews and the amount of communication from my recruiter throughout the whole process. It was reassuring to have someone to reach out to with questions, and who would proactively keep me updated. Everyone throughout the interview process was so lovely and made an effort to help me feel comfortable. It was a really human experience, and I could get a sense of the company culture from everyone I met.

What gets you most excited in your role?

What excites me most about my role is the breadth of work available, my amazing colleagues, and the tangible and positive impact we are making in the region. I’ve contributed to projects like the Economic Recovery campaign, which helps small businesses, jobseekers, educators and students find their feet and recover during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts gave me a sense of purpose during a challenging time, and showed me that I can make a difference in my job. It was inspiring to see how some of the small businesses we worked with not only recovered, but thrived under very difficult circumstances. And working alongside a team dedicated to helping as many people as possible has been one of the proudest moments of my career.

And what excites you outside of your role?

My guilty pleasure is reality TV! I love watching the Real Housewives franchise. I’m also a huge foodie, and I like finding new places to try new food and hang out. To keep level headed, I enjoy Pilates, yoga, and hiking, and recently discovered the benefits of meditation. I’m also an advocate for sustainability and environmental preservation. In fact, I’ve taken up beekeeping to support the declining population of bees around the world.

Any tips for anyone hoping to join Google in Africa?

Have confidence in your ability. Don’t doubt the amazing things that you can do, and the impact you can make across the continent.

Supporting journalism in Africa

Citizen journalism is playing a crucial role in helping South African communities unite. Food for Manzi is one organization which tells the untold stories of rural communities and agriculture in South Africa to challenge stereotypes and spread positivity. With support from the Google News Initiative, they set up the Sinelizwi citizen journalism project which trained 62 citizens from all nine Provinces to tell local stories to empower and unite local communities.

Projects like this are why Google invests in the Google News Initiative (GNI), and this week we held the first GNI for Africa event.

The event is an opportunity for journalists, publishers and content creators in Africa to find out more about Google’s training programmes for journalists and news business professionals. From understanding how small and medium size news organizations can grow their digital business to how to use consumer insights and data to better understand reader preferences and increase profitability and engagement, the event brings together experts from Google and the industry to share tools, training and best practices.

The news landscape in Africa is changing fast. In five years, the number of people accessing digital platforms for news content has almost doubled, opening up access to news and supporting a new generation of independent and digital media. Yet not everyone has the opportunity to access digital media, and many more people and communities are not represented in the news. Organizations working to change this, like Pulse in Nigeria, were also part of the event. They spoke about how they have used new digital formats to engage a mass youth audience and developed formats like Explainers to provide additional — and very much needed — context to the flow of information.

At the event, we also announced a partnership with UNESCO to further invest in training for journalists in Africa. Using its networks of established journalism schools, UNESCO will launch a collaborative programme to update journalism education and training programmes run by over 100 expert institutions in Africa, enabling them to better respond to the major changes in journalism and publishing in recent times. This new training initiative will roll out over the next 18 months.

Google is increasing its investment in and support of journalism in Africa, including hiring a News Lab Teaching Fellow who provides locally relevant training for journalists in Southern Africa and programmes such as the Digital Growth Programme andInnovation Challenges which support publishers in their digital transformation. To be part of this training send an email to [email protected]

Watch the sessions from the event on YouTube.

Celebrating frontline photojournalist Mohamed Amin

This week, Kenya is celebrating Mashujaa Day, or National Heroes Day, when we honor people who have made great contributions to our nation and the world. A true son of Africa and one of our heroes is frontline photojournalist Mohamed ‘Mo’ Amin, who moved the world with his extraordinary work and dedication spanning four decades.

Today, I am honored to unveil the project Mo Amin: The Eye of Africa on Google Arts & Culture, which features over 6000 photographs, some of which have not been seen by the world before. It also features more than 50 stories, showcasing the key moments, places and people he documented. It has been created in collaboration with Mo’s son, Salim Amin, and the team at the Mohamed Amin Foundation.

Even though Mo was proud to call Kenya his home, his work, his impact and his reputation transcended national and cultural boundaries. He mobilized the conscience of mankind through his coverage of the squalor and death at a camp in Northern Ethiopia during the famine of 1984. Galvanized by the brutal reality so powerfully witnessed through Mo’s camera lens, governments, celebrities, humanitarians and everyday people all came together to raise money for the famine in one of the most spontaneous and widespread acts of giving the world has ever seen.

What many people might be less familiar with is that, more than anything else, Mo spent a lot of time documenting the beauty, wildlife, culture, people and leaders of his motherland. For more than a generation, Mo used his cameras to bring Africa’s most powerful stories into view.

Much like Africa, Mo was caught up in a tide of change from an early age. From humble roots in Eastleigh in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, he was swept up both by the beauty of Africa’s people and natural heritage and by the turmoil of a continent locked in a wave of independence revolutions and power struggles. And like Africa, his professional journey is a catalogue of beauty and majesty, crisis and chaos, and a deep, resonant passion for documenting and protecting the best of the continent while moving fearlessly forward into an uncertain future.

In my early years, I grew up as part of Kenya’s first presidential family, under the towering shadows of my parents and the political landscape that was new post-independence Kenya. I remember the vintage figure of Mo in his multi-pocketed vest and with cameras slung on his neck as he just barely breached the frontline among a retinue of journalists while covering national events hosted by my late father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who was Kenya’s first president. Later, like most of the world, I followed and became enthralled with Mo’s work as he pushed the frontiers of frontline and documentary journalism to bring us stories that touched, moved and inspired many. After Mo lost one of his arms while in the line of duty in Ethiopia in 1991, I was inspired by his fortitude and surprised by how quickly he went back to his duties. When the news broke of his tragic death in the crash of a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane five years later, our collective sense of loss as the family of humanity was deep and painful.

Later, I came to know Salim Amin, Mo’s son; we both share the experience of taking on the challenge of continuing in the footsteps of a towering father figure. Because of what we have in common, and also because Mo’s work included his coverage of some of my father’s occasions, I did feel a sense of kinship with Salim when he shared with me his book about some of his father’s finest work, “Kenya: Through My Father’s Eyes.” This book is both a valued part of my personal collection and among my gift items of choice to state and diplomatic visitors.

I like to remember Mo not just as a photojournalist, but also by the strength of his character and his passion for his work. There is something to be admired and emulated in the integrity of someone who strives to do their best not for reward but for the love of expressing all that he has to contribute to the human experience. I think that is Mo’s true legacy.

I congratulate Salim and his team at the Mohamed Amin Foundation for both the excellence of their own journalism and their generosity; the latest installment of Mo’s legacy is now being shared with the world through the Google Arts & Culture platform. Mo Amin: The Eye of Africa features both artistic and journalistic coverage of culture, conflict, political upheaval, wildlife, entertainment, historical observation, and an unparalleled visual chronicle of the daily life of people and places from around the world. For the first time, it includes a machine learning- powered experiment from the Google Arts & Culture Lab which provides an interactive visual chronicle of Mo’s work. This work and Mo’s legacy is at the very heart of Kenya’s heritage and indeed the heritage of humanity.

Meet the Googler championing startups in Africa

Onajite Emerhor sits in her living room in Lagos, Nigeria, where she has been working since the start of the pandemic. “I did my hair and makeup myself this time,” she jokes, as she sits down with The Keyword for an interview about the blossoming startup scene in Africa and her role as Head of Google for Startups Accelerator Africa.

It’s been an exciting few months for Onajite and her team. They had been preparing for the Google For Africa virtual event that took place on October 6, where alongside other big announcements, they unveiled the 50 startups who received the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa.

First, some background

It’s no secret that, despite the growth of investment in Africa, startups still struggle to land venture capital. And a lot of that money goes to non-African expatriates on the continent. In fact, in 2020, 82% of African startups reported difficulties in accessing funding.

The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa invests $3 million to fund startups on the continent, providing 50 startups in Africa with up to $100,000 in equity-free cash awards. The winners also receive up to $220,000 in Google Ad Grants and Cloud credits, as well as mentorship, technical and scaling support from Google. Applications for this year’s awards opened in June 2021, and after months of review, 50 founders have been selected for the program.

According to Grow for Me founder Nana Opoku Agyeman-Prempeh, one of the Fund’s recipients, international interest in the startup scene should hopefully prompt investors on the ground to take notice: “If Google is paying attention to African startups, local investors should be paying attention as well.”

The challenges, according to the founders

Different industries have different challenges. One big area of growth for African startups is the agricultural technology field (or “agritech”). However, Nana Opoku says that the difficulties in raising agritech capital can often come down to educating investors about the impact technology can have on the farming industry.

There’s also an additional barrier to funding as a female entrepreneur in Africa. Medsaf founder Vivian Nwakah, another Fund recipient, reflects that this is no easy task: “As a Black and female founder, I have had to work a thousand times harder and do so much more to prove myself in comparison to some of my counterparts. When you look at what I had to have ready and the numbers I had to show to even get a $5,000 check, compared to my male counterparts, there is a huge disparity.”

A lot of it also comes down to investor confidence. While it’s common in the United States to raise money simply based on an idea, Tatenda Furusa of Imali Pay, a founder and recipient of the Fund, says that’s not the case locally: “In Africa, that experience is not enough to convince investors, and the journey to access funding has not been easy.”

The future of the startup scene

The startup scene in Africa is growing every day, but there are still some big shifts that need to happen to sustain it — from building investor confidence, to creating an ecosystem where startups are set up to succeed. As Onajite points out, “startups are critical to socioeconomic development and progress across so many sectors, from farming to healthcare. The startup ecosystem also needs continued growth and funding for tech hubs, accelerators and incubators, and ongoing interest and investment from tech companies like Google.” Attracting and training digital talent in the continent also remains a challenge, as well as internet accessibility and connectivity.

Despite these hurdles, Onajite remains hopeful for Africa's startup scene: “We’re seeing progress. And with continued global and local support, big ideas and new products will continue to follow.”

Explore the Cradle of Creativity on Google Arts & Culture

Creativity in Africa is not something new — it dates back thousands of years and continues into the present day. In fact, some of the earliest paintings by humans were found engraved in a cave in South Africa 20,000 years ago. The Cradle of Creativity, a new project on Google Arts & Culture, explores how creativity evolved in Africa from rock art to contemporary brush strokes. In collaboration with the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art (YSMA) in Nigeria and the Origins Centre in South Africa, you can now explore 50 expertly-curated stories, featuring over 60 high-resolution Gigapixel images of artworks digitized using the Google Art Camera, 17 Street View virtual tours and, for teachers and students, a dedicatedlesson plan.

Here are 4 fun ways to get you started on a journey of creativity in Africa:

Early human inventions

Image of ochre in various forms: as a rock, as powder and as liquid. Image is in hues of red, yellow and brown.

Ochre, paint and the past

There is evidence that humans became culturally modern, or cognitively complex, around 100,000 years ago and the beginnings of creativity this brought about originated in Africa. It is also possible that the world’s first artists and their workshops can be found in Africa, with evidence of art and ochre production found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa, Porc Epic in Ethiopia, Sibudu in South Africa and Twin Rivers in Zambia.

Image depicts a stylised sculpture of a female head. This figure has triangular eyes with holes in its eyes and mouth and hair parted into mounds. The sculpture is created in a light brown material with flecks of white .

NOK Head

How sculptures evolved

Did you know that in Yoruba Philosophy, the head is seen as the shell that houses the essence of an individual? Or that the occupational and political status of the deceased determined the material that was used in making bronze heads? You can now explore these and more interesting facts about Nok, Benin, and Ife art. You can also walk around the YSMA and explore the evolution of sculptures using Google Street View.

An ivory etching in hues of cream, gold and dark red. Cream figures including horned animals, skeletons and female forms take up most of the frame and are surrounded by dark red and black pigment.

Bruce Onobrakpeya, Panel of 5: Oshare Me jevwe, Omote kporovwe, Adje Ewenvwe kpo, Igurube, Eyame Jevwe.

Storytelling through art

People across the continent have explored different methods to pass on their stories and express themselves through art and creativity for thousands of years. Whether it is to tell stories of the spirit world through the communal trance dance of the San People, or to raise awareness about urgent issues and arguing for change today, Africans continue to find creative ways to tell their story.

This image shows a  work comprised of sections of different fabrics which have been joined together to form a patchwork wall hanging. Indigo is the predominant color of this work, but white black and light blue are also present Each piece of cloth has geometric shapes woven into it.

Nike Davies-Okundaye, Cycle of Life

Learning from the brushstrokes

Paintings can hold so much meaning and symbolism behind colors, figures, style and brushstrokes. Thanks to the experts at the YSMA and the giga-pixel resolution images captured by Art Camera, you can now learn more about the masterpieces of renowned artists like Ben Enwonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Nike Davies-Okundaye. Zoom into the details to spot the onlookers in Uche Okeke’s ‘The Conflict’, and explore how Ben Osaghae depicts spiritual contradictions in his painting 'Miracle for Sale'.

Are you a student or a teacher? We have also created a dedicatedlesson plan for you. Visit g.co/google4africa21 if you want to continue your exploration, or download Google Arts & Culture’s Android or iOS app to further immerse yourself in the cradle of creativity!

Our $1 billion investment in Africa’s digital transformation

Editor’s note: Today at Google for Africa, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a $1 billion investment in Africa over five years to cover a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investments in startups. Below is an edited transcript of his remarks. Watch the full event above or on YouTube.

There is so much momentum happening across Africa, and we’re excited to showcase it at our first Google for Africa event.

Of course, there are also significant challenges. The pandemic continues to deeply impact communities across the continent and around the world. I hope everyone is taking care during these difficult times.

One thing we’ve seen is how technology can be a lifeline, whether you are a parent seeking information to keep your family healthy, a student learning virtually or an entrepreneur connecting with new customers and markets. Being helpful in these moments is at the core of our mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Expanding opportunity through technology is deeply personal to me. That’s because I grew up without much access to it. Every new technology — from the rotary phone to the television — changed my family’s life for the better. That’s why I’m a technology optimist. I believe in how people can harness it for good.

I see so many examples across Africa today, whether it’s startups like Tambua Health that are using machine learning to help doctors diagnose and treat diseases, or entrepreneurs like Tunji, whom I had the chance to meet when I was in Lagos in 2017. His company, Gidi Mobile, is helping low-income students in Nigeria access online learning.

Sundar Pichai and Gidi Mobile’s Tunji Adegbesan at Google for Nigeria in 2017

Sundar Pichai and Gidi Mobile’s Tunji Adegbesan at Google for Nigeria in 2017

Increasingly we are seeing innovation begin in Africa, and then spread throughout the world. For example, people in Africa were among the first to access the internet through a phone rather than a computer. And mobile money was ubiquitous in Kenya before it was adopted by the world.

This momentum will only increase as 300 million people come online in Africa over the next five years. Many of them are young, creative and entrepreneurial, and they’re ready to drive new innovation and opportunity across the region.

It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change in a short amount of time, and be a partner on that journey. Since we opened our first offices in Africa, we’ve enabled 100 million Africans to access the internet for the first time and empowered millions of businesses and creators with digital tools.

A big focus has been on expanding opportunity through digital skills. In 2017, we committed to help 10 million Africans get the digital skills they need to grow their careers and businesses. So far, we’ve trained six million people. We’ve also trained 80,000 developers from every country in Africa and supported more than 80 startups to raise global venture capital funding, creating thousands of jobs.

In 2018, we opened an artificial intelligence research center in Accra. The team is focused on solving challenges relevant to Africa and the world, like using AI to map buildings that are hard to detect using traditional tools and adding 200,000 kilometers of roads on Google Maps.

And we continue to build for Africa’s unique needs. Products like Android Go and Files Go ensure that everyone can have a great smartphone experience. On YouTube, we are supporting Black creators and artists with our Black Voices Fund.

These are just a few examples of how we're investing in, and building for, Africa. We know there’s more we can do to help bring the benefits of technology to more Africans.

So today I'm excited to announce that we plan to invest one billion dollars in Africa over five years. It will cover a range of initiatives, from improving connectivity to investing in startups.

These investments will support the continent’s digital transformation in four key areas:

  • Enabling affordable access and building products for every kind of African user.
  • Helping businesses with their digital transformation.
  • Investing in entrepreneurs to spur next-generation technologies.
  • Supporting nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa.

As we make these investments, we know we can’t do this alone. We look forward to partnering with African governments, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs and businesses. We have so much opportunity ahead as Africans shape the next wave of innovation. Thank you for the chance to be a part of it.

News Brief: August updates from the Google News Initiative

Last month, we focused on a number of strategies to empower journalists. Our projects included increasing access to technology, enabling press freedom, supporting prospective and emerging digital journalism founders and sustaining learning opportunities. Read on for August updates.

Supporting journalists in Afghanistan

Google and Googlers are providing more than $4 million in support to front line organizations aiding those who are particularly impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan. As part of these efforts, the Google News Initiative has donated $250,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists to aid Afghan journalists.

Training aspiring journalists through the GNI Fellowship in Europe

The Google News Initiative Fellowship logo, along with the Google News Initiative and European Journalism Centre logos, on an abstract colored background.

Illustration by Roselyne Min

In partnership with the European Journalism Centre, we announced the 2021 class of the Google News Initiative Fellowship in Europe. Through the fellowship, 30 aspiring journalists from diverse backgrounds will be placed at participating newsrooms across 14 countries. During a period of eight weeks, these young professionals will develop skills in areas ranging from technology, multimedia and design to data, audience development and fact-checking.

Teaching small news organizations about artificial intelligence

Twenty journalists and media professionals from Africa, Europe and the Middle East have been selected for JournalismAI’s first-everAI academy for small newsrooms. Selected participants come from 16 different countries, including Nigeria, Lebanon, Denmark, Kenya, Turkey and Spain. They work for investigative journalism organizations, newspapers, news podcasts, financial news outlets and more. The academy was developed in partnership with POLIS, the journalism think tank at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Celebrating innovation in journalism around the world

Building on the Digital News Innovation Fund in Europe, Google News Initiative Innovation Challenges have supported more than 180 projects that bring new ideas to the news industry. Around the world, we’re learning from former Innovation Challenge recipients who are using their funding to drive innovation in news.

A screenshot of Tiempo Argentino's open-source membership platform, which gives readers the option to become members through different contributions amounts.

Innovation Challenge recipient Tiempo Argentino, the biggest cooperative media outlet in Argentina, has launched an open-source membership platform. It is also sharing instructions so that any nonprofit news organization can take the tools and do the same. Each component of their GitHub repository includes a tutorial with screenshots, pictures and FAQ guide for developers on how to use the tools. 

Lighthouse Journalism: Shine a light on stories that matter! www.lighthousejournalism.com

TheIndian Express has launched Lighthouse Journalism, a crowdfunding platform to showcase and bring to light stories that are otherwise ignored or under-reported in mainstream media. Users can suggest topics for a journalist to cover and can raise money and support by campaigning through social media. The launch was coordinated to mark India’s 75th Independence Day.

Breaking down the basics for news entrepreneurs

We launched a live and on-demand video workshop series in North America to support prospective and emerging digital journalism founders. The Startups Workshop series demystifies the process of launching a startup, breaks down the business basics of running an organization and showcases available resources from the GNI, like the Startups Playbook, GNI Startups Boot Camp and News Entrepreneur Slack Community. More than 500 publishers have tuned in so far for presentations led by founders like Candice Fortman ofOutlier Media, Kara Meyburg Guzman ofSanta Cruz Local and Megan Raposa ofSioux Falls Simplified.

Enabling the development of news products

We launched a series of product development through the Google News Initiative Digital Growth Program. More than 500 news organizations joined the first week of workshops across North America and Latin America. The workshops will expand to other regions and continue through October, covering topics such as “Executing your Product Vision” and “Best Practices in Product Thinking.” News organizations can also apply to participate in our Product Labs, which provide hands-on guidance over several months on developing new products, with support from the Google News Initiative and industry experts.

Backing the next generation of journalists on YouTube

In April, we opened applications for two new YouTube programs focused on supporting the next generation of reporters and newsrooms: a creator program for independent journalists, which aims to help independent reporters succeed on YouTube, and the Sustainability Lab for digital-first newsrooms, which provides support for digital native news organizations to start and expand their video operations. Last month, we announced the selection of nearly 50 independent journalists and 40 digital-first newsrooms across both programs.

That’s a wrap for August. For more updates, stay in touch on social and through our newsletter.

South African Googlers get moving for good

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have spent too much time on the sofa — but Artwell Nwaila changed that for himself and some of his colleagues. Artwell is the Head of Creative and co-lead on Google’s Disability Alliance in South Africa. This week The Keyword spoke to Artwell about getting Googlers moving for a great cause  — the Nappy Run — over the next few months. For those looking to inspire their own organizations with creative, competitive ways to fundraise, do try this at home.

First, what’s the Nappy Run?

The National Council for People with Disabilities (NCPD) based in South Africa hosts a few major initiatives in the country to promote and protect equalization of opportunities and realization of human rights for people with disabilities. One of the main annual events they host is the Nappy Run, an initiative to raise money and ongoing awareness for children with disabilities who are in need of essential nappies — known elsewhere in the world as diapers. When the world was open, people would gather in November to run, walk, wheel or stroll to raise funds. This year will look different — with a virtual event — but we’re hoping to give them a big head start with Googlers running through September and October to raise money for stacks of good quality nappies.

How did you get involved?

I sit on Google’s Disability Alliance in South Africa with my co-lead Stephan Schoeman, and came across the Nappy Run last year. There are many ways to give back at Google but this was an area where I really wanted to have an impact. We chose to work with NCPD to get their guidance in the area and make sure we were respectful to what people actually need and where we can meaningfully help. The Nappy Run resonated with me — not least because I have kids and can’t imagine them in a situation where they didn’t have access to nappies. This is the initiative we are working hardest to get attention for. We pitched them the idea of our group holding an internal event, using their name and getting together enough money so that by the time they start the Nappy Run, they have a good baseline to fire things up.

How are you raising the money?

From September 1 to the end of October we’re asking Googlers to rack up kilometers traveled, with a suggested donation of $16 or 250 rand per 10 kilometers. That’s the cost of a good pack of nappies in South Africa so it’s a nice way to understand how much they have contributed. We’re using the Strava app, so people will join the group, wrack up their kilometers and see how everyone else is doing. One of our Googlers is an ultramarathon runner so there’s no way we are pushing the competition element too hard. For those who can’t do something active, they can just donate directly and Google is going to match the donations dollar for dollar.

What’s next for the Disability Alliance in Sub-Saharan Africa?

After our first sign language class last year, we’re now working on a series of sign language classes for Googlers to make our region more inclusive. We’re partnering with an organization in the U.S. to find region-specific teachers, since  sign language  differs in Kenya versus South Africa for example. And Google is paying for employees’ classes for employees. It’s a six class course to get an entry level amount, with the option to proceed to advanced levels afterwards, which I’m hoping some will do!

From startup founder to product manager in Nairobi

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

This week we spoke with Andrew Kamau, a Noogler — new Googler — who recently joined as a Product Manager in Nairobi. Learn how Andrew’s career took him from startups in Kenya to creating products at Google.

What do you do at Google?

I’m a product manager working on the Privacy team for Chrome Browser. Product management typically involves wearing multiple hats, but I can summarize it as supporting my team in ensuring that we are delivering product features that help our users stay and feel safe while using Chrome to access the web.

I work closely with a team of engineers, designers, product managers and other cross-functional roles to anticipate our users’ needs such as easy-to-use privacy controls and protection from online threats. We then design product strategy that meets those needs. This usually involves weaving together inputs from our users and colleagues across different teams and then making product decisions that align with the company’s mission.

How would you describe your path to Google?

I’ve had a somewhat unusual path compared to most folks in my position. My career background is largely in tech startups. I live in Nairobi, which has a thriving community of creative talent from which I’ve benefited from and to which I’ve contributed. My time as an entrepreneur working on financial technology exposed me to opportunities that helped diversify my experiences and build up the empathy and skill set that is extremely invaluable as a product manager.

Coming from a startup background, I was — on one hand — nervous about moving to a global corporation. I worried that I might not fit into the culture, having not worked at any organization with more than 40 people in the entirety of my career before this. On the other hand, the interesting thing about working at Google is that I’m still able to channel my scrappy, entrepreneurial approach to experimenting and building products. The difference is that I now have access to world-class technology and talent to support me every step of the way and the impact of my work has increased exponentially.

What’s the one thing that surprised you about the interview process?

Considering that I went through the entire process in the midst of the pandemic and working from home, I was pleased to find that everyone involved was gracious enough to accommodate my preferences, so I didn’t have to worry about awkward situations like my son barging in on our video calls.

I did have some preconceived notions about what the recruiting process would look like. One that took me by surprise was how helpful and supportive my recruiter was. She helped make the process less jarring and more rewarding; even going so far as to set up calls with product managers and engineers who work at roles similar to the one I was interviewing for. They voluntarily provided guidance and advice, which helped me be better prepared for the technical interviews.

Andrew and his son smile at the camera holding a Noogler hat.

Andrew and his son

What gets you most excited in your role?

Chrome is used on over three billion devices across the world to access the web. Building and maintaining safe and reliable product experiences for our users at this scale is a huge responsibility and source of motivation for me. I enjoy working on technical solutions to advance our mission and deliver value to our users. I’m particularly fortunate to work with incredibly smart engineers and designers on our teams.

In my role, every day is different. Some days are spent largely on meetings, chat and email with my colleagues brainstorming and planning, while others are heads-down working on synthesizing feedback from users and developing product requirements. 

I regularly carve out time on my weekly calendar for virtual coffees and lunches where I get to meet folks in the company based in Munich, London, Dublin, and other locations globally. Due to the diversity of backgrounds and experiences in the company, there’s always something fun and interesting to learn from others.

Any tips for aspiring Googlers in Africa?

First and foremost, focus on being great at your craft while maintaining a low ego. I strongly believe that confidence, ambition and humility can co-exist.

Having mostly worked in the African tech industry, I’m constantly blown away by the talent and creativity that I encounter. I’d encourage anyone who aspires to make the jump not to doubt themselves and apply. You don’t need to know anybody (I didn’t!) or pull any strings.

It’s also important to take time to find a role and team that is an ideal match. For example, I had to delay my process for a few months until I found the role and team that best matched my interests. Eventually, I ended up interviewing for a different role from the one I was invited to apply for — and it worked out great.

Ripples Nigeria and the power of geojournalism

In 2015, Samuel Ibemere and his colleagues founded Ripples Nigeria, an online newspaper that aims to bring data journalism into the mainstream. And they’re particularly focused on geojournalism: the harnessing of earth data to accurately report on big stories and important changes in the environment. “The media sector cannot stand by idly while other industries in Africa are contributing to help protect the environment,” Samuel tells us. As well as bringing geojournalism into the mainstream in Nigeria, the hope is that it will also help track climate change.

In 2021, Ripples Nigeria received funding from the Google News Initiative Innovation Challengefor its latest project, Eco-Nai+, Nigeria’s first digital geojournalism platform. The Keyword sat down over Google Meet with Chinedu Obe Chidi, Assistant Editor of Ripples Nigeria, Programme Director of Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ) and Team Lead of Eco-Nai+ to find out more about the work being done. 

How would you define geojournalism and its importance today?

Geojournalism uses scientific data on the earth to report the environment. It’s a fusion of journalism and earth sciences to create a brand of journalism that allows us to have objective, visual, measurable, interactive yet broadly accessible coverage of issues surrounding the environment. Without it, people could still write about the environment. But by relying on technical tools — like image geotagging and authoritative open data sources like Google Earth —  we can better communicate from a scientific perspective how best to interpret changes to the environment. It’s about getting more informed, more reliable coverage of issues like rising sea levels, droughts, rainfall, erosion — the many issues tied to the question of climate change, where technical reporting is vital. 

What’s the origin story behind Ripples Nigeria? 

In 2014, two slightly unrelated developments acted as a pull on a group of young Nigerian professionals in the media space. After years of struggle, Nigeria finally entered the internet age - and the media industry rushed to take advantage of new digital opportunities. With that, investigative and data journalism became even more important, helping resolve local and global concerns around corruption, illiteracy, diseases and the environment.

Ripples Nigeria was a product of these fundamental shifts. Realizing the gaps and opportunities at the time, the plan was to build a fiercely independent multimedia platform that would rise to speak truth to power, stay committed to the ideals of solution journalism and become Nigeria’s most influential news source.

Can you tell us about your initial work in data journalism?

We’ve been focusing on data journalism for the past five years. There’s a huge lack of familiarity with the subject on the continent and the more esoteric area of geojournalism is even newer to writers and editors. In 2017, we set up Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism (RCDIJ) to equip journalists, primarily through our Data Journalism Masterclass, to effectively and accurately embark on data reporting and investigative stories  in key areas like the environment. The Masterclass, in its third year now, has graduated more than one hundred journalists. 

How does Project Eco Nai+ use data?

We rely on three main sources of data. First, we work with user-generated data from those most impacted by environmental changes, like farmers and other rural workers. We thought that if we could get these people to tell their own stories — what things within their natural operating environment were like five to 10 years ago versus today, for instance — they could contribute valuable data to the platform and help document these changes. Second, we use authoritative sources of data such as Google Earth, data from meteorological agencies, and other third-party official or trusted open data sources. Third, we use data collected by people we deploy to the field — researchers, analysts, data collectors, data and investigative journalists — who look at the environment in different communities where irregularities or changes have attracted our interest. These three sources represent a very broad data set that will form the rich database of Eco-Nai+ digital platform. 

The Ripples Nigeria team stand in front of a minivan smiling to the camera in corporate jumpers and work attire.

The Ripples Nigeria team

What do the next few years look like for Ripples Nigeria?

Beyond creating Nigeria’s first geojournalism digital platform with Eco Nai+, we want to launch Nigeria’s first geojournalism lab, a center where journalists can access our tools, training and resources. It’s about empowering journalists across the country to be “geojournalists in practice,”  and contributing collectively to more accurate, responsible reporting on the environment. Eventually, we intend to scale the project to cover journalists across the African continent.

Ultimately, we want to be able to mobilize different interest groups across Africa to buy into the idea of using data to protect the environment. Yes, we’re well aware of our commercial objectives, but as a social enterprise, we believe that at its core — at a time when climate action is needed and fast — Eco-Nai+ is about much more than profit; it is about lasting social impact. We believe that our social mobilisation agenda is good for the country, good for the continent, good for the industry and good for the environment.