Tag Archives: Googlers

Google Korea’s volunteering spirit runs deep

I grew up in a challenging environment, but I always felt fortunate to be surrounded by people who would always lend a helping hand when I needed it. Even at the young age of 10, their actions motivated me to extend help to people I interact with and that brought me joy. Thanks to the generosity of the people around me, I was able to complete my studies and build a career. Someone once told me that the best way to repay kindness was to pay it forward, and I made it a part of who I am today.

Since joining Google seven years ago, I’ve seen how Google has built a vibrant volunteering culture. Every year, we see Googlers around the world come together to participate in community service projects through GoogleServe — our annual volunteering event. I've led GoogleServe in Korea several times, encouraging Googlers to dedicate their time to volunteering. It’s incredibly motivating to hear positive comments from Googlers who have volunteered for the first time — and to see them return the following year to do more for their community.

I also became the local ambassador for Google.org, our philanthropic arm, helping Googlers understand how we can make a bigger impact by connecting our corporate grants with donations and volunteering activities. I truly believe that when we’re able to get everyone involved in doing good, we’re able to keep volunteering an integral part of our culture.

A photo of Googler Eunjin and Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org

As a Google.org ambassador, I had the opportunity to meet Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org while she was visiting the Seoul office

As we commemorate International Volunteer Day, I’d like to highlight other Googlers from our Korea office who share the same passion for giving back.


Narae Jeon

Site Administrative Business Partner

A photo of Googler Narae Jeon

What was your most memorable experience through GoogleServe?

I decided to take care of abandoned dogs as part of my volunteering experience. A long time ago, a dog I’d been raising died in an accident, and I felt guilty for not responding in the right way. I started deepening my knowledge of topics like animal protection and breeding, and looked for opportunities to get involved in the community. I started volunteering with an animal protection center, where I helped rescue an abandoned dog that resembled the dog I had raised before — and made snacks for other abandoned dogs. I also created a Google group named ‘Doglers’ for Googlers looking to get involved with animal shelters, and ran a donation drive to raise awareness among Googlers.

Photo of an animal shelter in Korea

Abandoned animal shelter in the Gyeonggi province where our ‘Doglers’ go to on a regular basis

Dogs at the animal shelter

I rescued the dog on the right in this photo from the highway.

What is one takeaway you’d like to share with others from your volunteering experience?

Take the first step. You can always start by going to a volunteering site and observing how others are helping the community. You’ll be surprised how being on-site can inspire you to take action. Once you experience giving back, you’ll realize what a rewarding experience volunteering can be.


Jaey Park

Strategy and Insights Manager, Korea

A photo of Googler Jaey Park

What was your most memorable experience through GoogleServe?

This year, I had the opportunity to mentor college students preparing for employment. I was able to share my experiences and knowledge in data analytics. We often think that we don’t have much insightful knowledge to pass onto others, but I was surprised that what I shared with these students was valuable. From this experience, I decided to continue volunteering in this space.

Group mentoring session with other Googlers as part of GoogleServe 2021

Group mentoring session with other Googlers as part of GoogleServe 2021

What is one takeaway you’d like to share with others from your volunteering experience?

Once you start volunteering, you’ll realize how you’re impacting not only others but yourself too. It helps you feel more connected, and it creates a sense of belonging and purpose. I truly believe when we come together to do good, we’re able to make a bigger contribution to the community we live in.

These Googlers stepped it up for Walktober

Yousuf Fauzan’s mother knew she’d be on the phone a lot this October. Every day during the month, she’d talk to her son for hours as he paced around his home in California. “She would get irritated, she would disconnect the call, then I’d call again 15 minutes later.”

Calling his mom — and pretty much everyone he knows — was how Yousuf, a YouTube software engineer, passed the time while getting his steps in for “Walktober,” Google’s annual employee walking competition. “I don’t talk to people on the phone often, but during October, I call anyone and everyone I’ve ever known.” After spending his workday walking during meetings, Yousuf would lap around the inside of his condo from 7:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. to hold his top spot on the leaderboard. By the end of the month, he’d accumulated more than two million steps.

Planning lead Tiffany Bartish-Katz says this is the kind of “fierce but friendly” competition that Walktober attracts. Started in 2011 as a local effort in Google’s Cambridge, Massachusetts office, Walktober quickly went global: This year, more than 26,000 employees across 190 offices joined the competition, putting in over five billion steps. “I’m always a little awestruck by the number of people who engage in this very simple, friendly, fun, grassroots project,” Tiffany says. And the planning team works hard to make sure everyone gets in the spirit — from ultra walkers like Yousuf, to those who are adding just a few more thousand steps to their routines.

Some Walktober participants decided to put their step counts towards a good cause. Last year, Greg Kroleski, a Google Cloud Product Manager, walked for 24 hours straight. As he considered doing another 24-hour challenge this year, a coworker suggested tying it to a fundraiser. “A lot of people paid attention last year. I wanted to direct that attention to something good.” Greg dedicated this year’s challenge, and his team’s entire Walktober effort, to raise awareness for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CF), a chronic disease that causes overwhelming fatigue. He and his colleagues ended up raising $14,000. As for the 24-hour challenge? Greg logged over 204,000 steps that day, breaking a Google Walktober record…for a few hours, at least. “Unfortunately, the next day, someone else broke my record.” All the more reason to give it another go next year. “You might see me again,” he says.

Ziad Reslan, a Product Policy Advisor at Google, also channeled his team’s Walktober efforts towards something good. “I wanted to spend the entire last day of Walktober walking as an ode to the journeys of millions of refugees who have no choice but to walk to get to safety,” he says. To raise awareness for LGBTQ+ refugees in the Middle East in particular, Ziad organized a walk from Google’s San Francisco office to its Mountain View headquarters — a familiar 38.8-mile route for California commuters. He received over $25,000 in pledged donations from fellow Googlers, with a handful joining him throughout the day.

When Ziad and his colleagues reached the Mountain View campus that evening, he was overwhelmed: “I teared up remembering the first time I had ever been [to Mountain View] wishing to become a Googler,” he says. “And now here I was, walking to it surrounded by other Googlers for a good cause.”

Honrar Dia de los Veteranos como Googler y Reservista

En Google soy miembro del equipo de Seguridad de la Información y Cumplimiento de la Ley (LEIS), donde trabajo con una variedad de asuntos jurídicos que van desde seguridad física hasta ciberseguridad. Pero, cada cuatro meses, delego mis proyectos a mis colegas y atravieso el país para ir a mi otra oficina: la Marina de los Estados Unidos en Washington, D.C. Allí soy comandante en jefe de una unidad del Cuerpo de Abogacía General (JAG) para la Reserva de la Marina de los Estados Unidos, que representa a marinos e infantes de marina que presentan recursos contra condenas en el sistema de tribunales militares.

Durante los cuatro años que llevo trabajando para Google, mi equipo ha sido un apoyo increíble para mi carrera en la Reserva de la Marina. Ellos me cubren, sin hacer preguntas y sin inconvenientes, cuando debo ausentarme para participar en alguna misión. Cuando hablo de mis próximas misiones, mi director me dice que me tome todo el tiempo que necesite, y cuando me ascendieron a mi rango actual de Comandante, todo el equipo de LEIS asistió a la ceremonia. Es tan sencillo como que no podría seguir trabajando en la Reserva de la Marina de no contar con su generoso apoyo y su voluntad de ayudar.

Si visitas la página de inicio de Google hoy, verás el doodle de Google en homenaje al Día de los Veteranos ilustrado por el artista invitado y veterano del ejército Steven Tette. Pero, Google no les rinde homenaje únicamente el Día de los Veterano; nuestro compromiso con esta comunidad se extiende durante todo el año mediante el apoyo a los veteranos y a los empleados de la Reserva Nacional o de la Guardia Nacional y a través de la organización de programas y formación para los miembros del servicio en transición, los veteranos y los cónyuges de militares.

Google Doodle for Veteran’s Day, featuring six veterans standing in front of the Google logo wearing a variety of military uniforms.

De hecho, la semana pasada anunciamos que Google.org financiará USD 20 millones en subvenciones y donaciones de productos en especie para fomentar la autonomía económica de los veteranos y de la comunidad militar. Esto incluye una subvención de USD 10 millones en efectivo a Hiring Our Heroes para poner en marcha Career Forward, una iniciativa que formará a 8,000 miembros del servicio en transición, veteranos y cónyuges de militares en los trabajos de mayor demanda por medio de los Certificados profesionales de Google. Estos certificados son un recurso valioso para la comunidad militar ya que son credenciales reconocidas por la industria, que preparan a las personas en empleos con alto potencial de crecimiento más allá de las fronteras estatales e internacionales, y no requieren diplomas ni experiencia relevante previa. El programa Career Forward también dará a quienes reciban el certificado una beca de trabajo de 12 semanas en una de las más de 400 empresas que integran la red de Hiring Our Heroes y les proporcionará apoyo permanente para la integración laboral.

Durante el próximo año, nuestra propia Red de Veteranos de Google (una comunidad de veteranos, cónyuges de militares y Googlers civiles aliados que apoyan el desarrollo profesional y el bienestar mental de los veteranos) colaborará de manera voluntaria con Hiring Our Heroes para organizar sesiones gratuitas de desarrollo vocacional, apoyo para la redacción de currículos y talleres de búsqueda de empleo para miles de miembros del servicio militar. Yo mismo participaré como voluntario en uno de los talleres y ayudaré a los solicitantes de empleo a prepararse para sus entrevistas futuras.

El anuncio de la semana pasada es el resultado de años de apoyo a veteranos y familias de los militares. Muchos veteranos han creado y desarrollado su propio negocio con la ayuda de los recursos gratuitos de Crece con Google. El año pasado, Google también se convirtió en socio oficial de la Alianza de Empleos para los Cónyuges de los Militares (MSEP) del Departamento de Defensa y anunció que se concederían cinco días de licencia paga a cónyuges de militares cada vez que su miembro del servicio reciba órdenes. Google también trabaja estrechamente con Cybercrime Support Network, una organización que ayuda a los consumidores, incluidos los que forman parte de la comunidad militar, a reconocer y protegerse de delitos informáticos como las estafas de empleo.

Durante mi carrera, muchas personas me han ayudado a reconocer las ventajas únicas que aporto al equipo como miembro del servicio militar. La camaradería y el trabajo en equipo no terminan cuando nos quitamos el uniforme, y al igual que muchos miembros del servicio militar, actuales y antiguos, es un placer para mí devolver el favor. Ya sea ayudando a los miembros del servicio militar en transición o retirados a construir su carrera como civiles, aportando recursos a los veteranos dueños de empresas o ayudando a los cónyuges de militares a tener éxito en sus carreras a pesar de los numerosos traslados, estoy orgulloso de formar parte de una compañía que rinde homenaje de manera activa a la comunidad militar.

Honoring Veterans Day as a Googler and Reserve Officer

At Google, I’m on the Law Enforcement and Information Security (LEIS) team, where I work on a variety of legal issues, from physical security to cybersecurity. But every four months, I hand off projects to my teammates and fly across the country to my other office — the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. There, I’m the commanding officer of a unit in the United States Navy Reserve Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps that represents sailors and marines appealing a conviction in the military court system.

Throughout my four years at Google, my team has been incredibly supportive of my Navy Reserve career. They cover for me while I’m away on assignments with no questions or fuss. Whenever I bring up an upcoming assignment, my director tells me to take as much time as I need. And when I got promoted to my current rank of Commander, the entire LEIS team attended the ceremony. I simply couldn’t continue my work in the Navy Reserve without their generous support and willingness to lend a hand.

If you head over to the Google homepage today, you’ll see Google’s annual Veterans Day Doodle, illustrated by Army veteran and guest artist Steven Tette. And Google doesn't honor veterans only on Veterans Day. We're committed to this community year-round through support for veteran and National Guard or Reserve employees, and through programs and training for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses.

Google Doodle for Veteran’s Day, featuring six veterans standing in front of the Google logo wearing a variety of military uniforms.

In fact, last week, we announced that Google.org is providing $20 million in grant funding and in-kind product donations to support economic empowerment for veterans and the military community. This includes a $10 million cash grant to Hiring Our Heroes to launch Career Forward — an initiative to train 8,000 transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses for in-demand jobs through Google Career Certificates. These certificates are a great resource for the military community because they’re portable, industry-recognized credentials that prepare people for high-growth jobs across state and international boundaries — no degree or relevant experience required. The Career Forward program will also place certificate graduates in 12-week, on-the-job fellowships at one of over 400 employers in the Hiring Our Heroes network, and provide full-time job placement support.

Over the next year, our own Google Veterans Network — a community of veteran, military spouse, and civilian ally Googlers who support the career advancement and mental wellness of veterans — will volunteer with Hiring Our Heroes to host free career development, resume support, and job search workshops for thousands of service members. I’ll volunteer at one of the workshops myself, helping job applicants prepare for upcoming interviews.

Last week’s announcement builds on years of support for veterans and military families. Countless veterans have started and grown their own businesses with help from free Grow with Google resources. Last year, Google also became an official partner of the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership and announced five days of paid leave for military spouses each time their service member receives orders. Google also works closely with the Cybercrime Support Network, an organization that helps consumers, including those in the military community, recognize and protect themselves against cybercrimes like employment scams.

Throughout my career, many people have helped me recognize the unique strengths I bring to a team because of my military service. Camaraderie and teamwork don’t end when we hang up our uniforms. And like many other current and former service members, I’m eager to pay it forward. Whether it’s by helping transitioning or retiring military members build a civilian career, providing resources for veteran business owners, or making it easier for military spouses to succeed in their careers despite countless moves, I’m proud to be a part of a company that puts its honor for the military community into action.

A Googler tells us how the world can show up for Afghans

In the early 1980s, Shahla Naimi’s mother arrived at a United States air force base in California as a refugee from Afghanistan. Weary from her journey, she was met by a group of volunteers who welcomed her to her new home. So began her new life in the United States.

40 years later, Shahla – a Senior Program Manager at Google – found herself at a government facility in New Jersey where she partnered with the International Rescue Committee to welcome 9,000 Afghans who’d fled the recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

“I didn’t realize how many times my heart could break,” says Shahla. “​​It was the most emotionally and physically exhausting experience I've ever had – and perhaps the most rewarding one as well. As an Afghan and as an American, it pushed me in unexpected ways to see my own people so newly displaced from their homes.”

We recently took some time to ask Shahla about her work with the IRC.

What are your ties with Afghanistan?

I am Afghan! I grew up in south L.A. in the wake of 9/11, fairly isolated from the broader Afghan-American community but surrounded by fellow immigrants from all over the world.

I traveled to Afghanistan for the first time in 2011, when my uncle encouraged me to visit him in Kabul. Walking around the city, I saw my parent’s faces everywhere I went. Similar features, same classic Afghan expressions. Afghans from the diaspora occupy a complicated space in Afghanistan, and I was grateful to feel so welcomed.

A picture of a woman playing with local children in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan.

Shahla on one of her recent visits to Afghanistan, playing with children from the Bamiyan Valley.

Why did you decide to volunteer with the International Rescue Committee?

When the Taliban takeover began, people started to flee through the airport. I tried to do what I could from my computer and phone, staying up all night trying to help family and friends in Afghanistan. Knowing firsthand the benefit of Afghans showing up for Afghans, I wanted to welcome people as best I could. I saw on social media that the IRC was looking for volunteers for the thousands of Afghans who would soon be arriving. Within a week, I was on my way to welcome new arrivals.

What was volunteering like?

It was a full-on emergency situation. My job was to work with the U.S. Government staff to lead reception services at a location we informally called the "Welcome Center.” Afghans would arrive — at any hour of the day or night — and I would help get their immigration process started by taking down their basic info.

We had to be quick on our feet about how we tackle unforeseen circumstances, like developing new ways of incorporating COVID precautions, or trying to reunite a husband with his wife without any identifying documentation to work off of other than their names.

This was nothing in comparison to what Afghans newly arriving were feeling. They were exhausted. By the time people reached us, they had been traveling for 20+ days, some separated from their families, many without a hot meal or shower for weeks. Someone even asked, “Where am I?” before collapsing on the ground. To see my own people so exhausted was devastating.

A picture of drawings made by newly arrived Afghan children on a bulletin board.

A bulletin board of drawings made by newly arrived Afghan children in the U.S.

What should someone know about refugees coming from Afghanistan?

This is going to be a long, hard process for Afghans — from identifying a path to immigration to resettling into a new home, all while so many grieve separation from their families and communities in Afghanistan. Show up for them today, but also show up for them and all people searching for a safer, better life in the years and decades to come.

You’re co-lead of the Afghan Googler’s Network. Can you tell us more about how this group came to be?

I met my co-lead, Fereshta, in a group chat at a Google event for women of color in tech. I was inspired by the great work of other Google employee groups, like the Black Googlers Network. Many Afghans had been informally meeting up for years, but we felt it was time to organize officially. We were in the early stages of formally launching the group when the Taliban takeover sped up our plans.

What’s next for you?

I’m partnering with an Afghan foundation called Boum Books to launch a series of children’s books in the United States in Dari, English and Pashto. The first book, called “Boum-e Dana wa Dokhtare Ba-hosh” (which translated means “The Wise Owl and the Clever Girl”) is about an Afghan girl building her confidence and sense of self. It’s fully written and illustrated by Afghans. Seeing ourselves in the books that we read is important – more so when you've been forced to leave your home and resettle in an unfamiliar place. We hope this book, and others forthcoming, will bring a sense of belonging to Afghan children in the U.S.

An illustration from Shahla’s upcoming children’s book of an Afghan woman watering plants, with a little girl by her side.

An illustration from Shahla’s upcoming children’s book, "Boum-e Dana wa Dokhtare Ba-hosh" ("The Wise Owl and the Clever Girl").

What advice would you give to the average person on how to show support regarding the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan?

I’d suggest following and listening to Afghan experts – and supporting organizations run and led by Afghans. Additionally, consider reading and amplifying local, grassroots news organizations. It’s critical to amplify voices from Afghanistan, as international headlines subside.Continue to seek news about what's happening in Afghanistan. Afghanistan may fall from the international headlines, but it's critical to continue seeking out information and remaining informed. Many Afghans are suffering from a nationwide humanitarian crisis — one that is likely to get worse as the winter approaches. The precursor to helping is understanding what's happening.

How 15 years in IT brought Subhasish to Google Maps

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 Subhasish Roy from our Hyderabad office. Subhasish shares how he brings the lessons he’s learned from over 15 years in IT to his current role as a Program Manager on the Google Maps team.

What’s your current role at Google?

I am a Program Manager on the Google Maps data moderation team, where I lead multiple projects to review the helpful content our users submit to Google Maps — like whether a business is still open, and if their hours, business name and other information are still accurate. What I love most about my role is working with a diverse team that is passionate about giving users the best experience possible.

Describe your typical workday.

I’m working from home like many others around the world. I generally start by planning and prioritizing my day with to-do lists and action items. Then, I usually have several video meetings with teams based in six offices across four time zones, including India, Ireland and the United States. Googlers are always collaborating using Google Docs, so I spend a good amount of my days working with my colleagues on strategy documents or reviewing proposals.

What made you decide to apply to Google?

I dreamed of working at Google ever since I learned more about the internet and its potential to impact millions of lives. Google continuously innovates to make people's lives easier, which inspired me to think big and want to work here.

How did you get to your current role?

I’ve had many roles during my 15+ year IT career. I started out as a software engineer and, from there, took on different positions — including team lead, project manager, development manager, and technical program manager. Along the way, I developed many skills, like managing teams, communicating and negotiating with customers, and eventually leading a large-scale enterprise application development team across multiple time zones and languages.

Despite all of this experience, I was still anxious about applying to Google because I didn’t study at one of the top-tier universities in India. I also wasn’t sure if I would be a good match for the culture or how my experience would fit into Google, since I hadn’t coded for 10 years at that point. However, once I got to Google, I was able to channel all of my experience and the skills I’ve developed throughout my career into leading teams, experimenting, and building products. I have access to world-class technology and talent, and the impact of my work has reached new heights.

What inspires you to log on every day?

More than a billion users every month use Google Maps for their daily commutes. I am inspired knowing that the work I’m doing is helping people. It's also a great feeling to work with so many smart people. It provides incredible learning and growth opportunities, and drives my daily energy.

Can you share any of the resources you used to prepare for the interview?

I used sites like LinkedIn Learning, online videos and training classes, and sessions from the Life at Google YouTube channel.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

Show your willingness to think outside of the box. It sounds cliché, I know, but the way you think can take you far. That expertise that you might think doesn’t apply to the role you want at Google may be exactly what gets you the job!

Prisha’s path from YouTube vlogging to digital marketing

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 post is all about Prisha Bathia from our London office, whose passion for creating YouTube videos led to an interest in digital marketing and eventually a full-time job helping customers at Google.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

One of my hobbies is filming videos for my YouTube channel, where I raise awareness of my rare chronic condition called Sturge Weber Syndrome. It’s a neurological condition that affects my eyes, brain and face. I have a vascular birthmark on the left side of my face (also known as a port-wine stain), caused by larger blood vessels in my brain. It's also why I have an eye condition called glaucoma, which means I have limited vision in my left eye due to high pressure and retina detachment.

Growing up, I wasn't the most confident person. I struggled with my visible difference and I didn't see many people in the media talking about it. I wanted to change that and help others feel more confident. Part of my channel includes videos on self-confidence, bullying and my hospital journey. I also film travel vlogs to show that my condition doesn't stop me from achieving my goals.

What’s your role at Google?

At 20 years old, I’ve recently transitioned into a full-time role on the Google Customer Solutions team as an Associate Account Strategist. I manage a portfolio of small to medium businesses, educating them on Google Ads and how to get the best return on their investment.

Before that, I had an apprenticeship on the Hardware marketing team, where I supported product launches, seasonal campaigns and paid media campaigns for over 15 countries. I loved using data and Google Analytics to plan campaigns.

How did you get interested in digital marketing?

In 2018, Great Ormond Street Hospital — the hospital I volunteer with, and the one that’s treated me since I was a child — offered me a position on their digital marketing team. The role included setting up and optimizing campaigns, and analyzing data. I loved that this work was helping to raise funds for the hospital and making a real difference! That experience, combined with my own background in content creation, showed me the impact of digital presence and inspired me to pursue it as a career.

How did the Google recruitment process go for you?

I vividly remember the interview day because I met so many other amazing apprentices. It was my very first job interview so I didn't know what to expect. It was simultaneously scary and fun.

I was worried I wouldn't get the job because of my condition. Growing up, I was always anxious about my career and if my hospital life would get in the way. I worried that missing school would keep me from opportunities and negatively impact my future career, but I am so thankful that hasn’t been the case. In a way, my condition created my passion for filming and posting on social media — which led me to my career in digital marketing!

Can you tell us about accommodations at Google for your work?

Everyone at Google is so supportive and shows a genuine interest in learning more about my condition and how they can help me. They understand that my condition can worsen on random days, and that I have frequent doctor appointments.

One of the main issues that I face, especially at work, is getting tired. Because I’m only able to use my right eye, my eyes often become strained — and I struggled in the first few months of my apprenticeship. But I worked with my manager, mentor, and our employee accommodations team to make some changes to my day-to-day routine. Now we make sure that I can take regular breaks, work from home, and have flexibility to leave the office early.

Working from home in the last year has been challenging. The screen time increased significantly and caused my condition to worsen at times. But by staying transparent with my team, we found solutions. If you are navigating something similar, my biggest tip is to speak openly to your manager or someone you trust.

With voluntary return-to-work at the London office, how has the hybrid model been working for you?

I love the hybrid way of working — it's been a great way to balance work and my condition. I've been able to go to the office recently, and it's helped me reduce my screen time and think less about my chronic illness.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

Take every opportunity you get. Each one is a chance to develop new skills and learn from mistakes. It's the best way to grow professionally and personally.

Why we should rethink accessibility as customization

As a Technical Writer for Google Cloud who’s worked in this industry for more than 20 years, technology has had a big impact on my life. It led me to a job that I love, and it keeps me connected to co-workers, friends and family scattered around the world.

But it also helps me to accomplish everyday tasks in ways many people might not realize. I have aniridia, a rare eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. Among other things, I’m light sensitive, have about 20/200 vision that isn’t correctable with lenses or surgery, and my eyes move around involuntarily.

Most people don’t realize the extent of my disability because I’m largely independent. The challenges I face on a regular basis are little things that most people take for granted — for example, I don’t experience eye contact, which means I often miss non-verbal cues. And for me, crossing the street is like a real world game of Frogger. Reading menus and shopping can be difficult. Navigating airports or locating my rideshare car can be stressful.

But I’ve used tech to create my own set of “life hacks.” I adjust the magnification of my view of a Google Doc during a meeting, which doesn’t change anyone else’s view of it. I zoom in on instructors during virtual dance classes. I regularly use keyboard shortcuts and predefined text snippets to work more productively. I do lots of planning before trips and save key navigational info in Google Maps. I take photos of menus and labels so I can read them more closely on my phone.

The technologies that help to mitigate the kinds of challenges I face don’t just benefit me, though — they benefit everyone. Features like Dark mode, Assistant, Live Caption — these benefit everyone and make their individual experiences using certain products better. And they can also support people with permanent, situational, or temporary disabilities.

The positive effect of disability-friendly design on a wider population is known as the curb-cut effect. A curb cut is a ramp built into a sidewalk that slopes down to a street. Their primary purpose is to provide access for wheelchairs, but curb cuts actually help many others, including people riding bikes, skateboards or scooters, people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage, and people walking with canes or crutches. So while they were made to help people with disabilities, they actually help so many others.

There’s an important lesson to learn from the curb-cut effect, one that I think about when we are creating new technologies here at Google: If you are involved in designing, creating, selling, or supporting products and services, I challenge you to reframe accessibility as customization. Many people typically view accessibility as an extra feature of a product that is specifically for someone with a disability. But features like Dark mode or captions are really a way to customize your user experience, and these customizations are beneficial to everyone. We all find ourselves in different contexts where we need to adjust how we interact with our devices and the people around us. Design that provides a range of ways to interact with people and our world results in products and services that are more usable — by everyone.

Why we should rethink accessibility as customization

As a Technical Writer for Google Cloud who’s worked in this industry for more than 20 years, technology has had a big impact on my life. It led me to a job that I love, and it keeps me connected to co-workers, friends and family scattered around the world.

But it also helps me to accomplish everyday tasks in ways many people might not realize. I have aniridia, a rare eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. Among other things, I’m light sensitive, have about 20/200 vision that isn’t correctable with lenses or surgery, and my eyes move around involuntarily.

Most people don’t realize the extent of my disability because I’m largely independent. The challenges I face on a regular basis are little things that most people take for granted — for example, I don’t experience eye contact, which means I often miss non-verbal cues. And for me, crossing the street is like a real world game of Frogger. Reading menus and shopping can be difficult. Navigating airports or locating my rideshare car can be stressful.

But I’ve used tech to create my own set of “life hacks.” I adjust the magnification of my view of a Google Doc during a meeting, which doesn’t change anyone else’s view of it. I zoom in on instructors during virtual dance classes. I regularly use keyboard shortcuts and predefined text snippets to work more productively. I do lots of planning before trips and save key navigational info in Google Maps. I take photos of menus and labels so I can read them more closely on my phone.

The technologies that help to mitigate the kinds of challenges I face don’t just benefit me, though — they benefit everyone. Features like Dark mode, Assistant, Live Caption — these benefit everyone and make their individual experiences using certain products better. And they can also support people with permanent, situational, or temporary disabilities.

The positive effect of disability-friendly design on a wider population is known as the curb-cut effect. A curb cut is a ramp built into a sidewalk that slopes down to a street. Their primary purpose is to provide access for wheelchairs, but curb cuts actually help many others, including people riding bikes, skateboards or scooters, people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage, and people walking with canes or crutches. So while they were made to help people with disabilities, they actually help so many others.

There’s an important lesson to learn from the curb-cut effect, one that I think about when we are creating new technologies here at Google: If you are involved in designing, creating, selling, or supporting products and services, I challenge you to reframe accessibility as customization. Many people typically view accessibility as an extra feature of a product that is specifically for someone with a disability. But features like Dark mode or captions are really a way to customize your user experience, and these customizations are beneficial to everyone. We all find ourselves in different contexts where we need to adjust how we interact with our devices and the people around us. Design that provides a range of ways to interact with people and our world results in products and services that are more usable — by everyone.

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.”