Tag Archives: Googlers

Navy veteran Meghan Wilkens finds camaraderie at Google

Welcome to the latest installment of “My Path to Google.” These are real stories from Googlers, interns  and alumni highlighting 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 Meghan Wilkens, a Navy veteran who’s now a Program Manager on the Google Technical Services team (known as gTech). Meghan started her journey to Google by attending what has become Google’s Veteran Career Series, an annual career development event for the U.S. veteran community. (If you're interested in learning more about Google culture, job opportunities, and more to help your job search like Meghan did, you can register for the series here.)

You grew up in a Navy family. What was that like?

I grew up all over the world. I spent a lot of my childhood moving from country to country and experiencing different cultures. It was an amazing way to grow up, because it really opened my eyes to the world.

After graduating from Marquette University with a degree in advertising, I decided to follow my father's footsteps and enter the Navy. I commissioned as a Supply Officer and served in the Navy for nearly 10 years. It was an incredible experience and I attribute much of the person I am today to the experiences I had in the service.  

As I began looking at shifting out of the military, I completed my MBA from UNC Chapel Hill and, for the first time, looked at opportunities outside of the service.

What was it like to attend the Google Student Veteran Summit? 

When I attended the Google Student Veteran Summit back in 2018, the group of vets that came in to speak to us shared their stories on how they arrived at Google. The truly surprising part was how many different paths and various walks of life people came from. Being in the military full time, I knew that getting an internship at Google would be a stretch for me. But the shared experiences from the veteran panelists and the conversations I had with current vet employees inspired me. I decided I had nothing to lose and I applied anyway. Looking back, I am so very glad I did!

During my internship, I made a point to volunteer at the 2019 Google Student Veteran Summit. Being on the other side of the panel was a very different experience but no less rewarding. I am so glad to be back at Google full time and I intend to make veteran engagement a big part of my life at Google.

What’s your role at Google now?

I am currently a Program Manager on the gTech Central Functions team. I work on business planning and cost management within my team. Things have been very different in this new COVID-19 environment and, as a mother to two young children, it has been challenging at times.  My team has been nothing but supportive as I manage my work and my children during their remote learning.  

What inspires you at work every day?

I truly appreciate how we work to make information accessible and practical for everyone, everywhere. Coming from a mission-centric and service-driven role in the military, it is awesome to be at a company where I feel like my work is still in service to others. Being part of such a great team of people who are all working towards that same mission is really wonderful, and it creates an aspect of camaraderie that I felt during my time in the Navy.  

How did the recruitment process go for you?

Once I entered the interview process, I was so nervous about not answering in the best way or not making a good impression, but I was also thrilled to be interviewing with such a cool company and with some really unique teams. My recruiters were incredibly helpful and were dedicated to finding a team that matched my skill set.  

Following the MBA internship, I entered the conversion process to convert from an intern into a full time employee. That process was also exceptionally smooth and I felt the conversion team I worked with was really looking out for my best interests.

Anything you wish you’d known when you started the process?

I wish I had more knowledge about some of the departments and teams within Google prior to starting here. Google has so many different product offerings and the roles people have within the company vary so vastly. It is incredible to see the different projects people work on within Google.

Finally, do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

I think my biggest takeaway during this process is to not doubt myself. I didn't think I would get past the application process and, after getting interviews, I still thought I wouldn't get into the internship program.  I'm so glad I had enough gusto to at least try.

I hope aspiring Googlers apply for the positions they want without doubting themselves. You have nothing to lose by applying. Go for it!

How Awa Dieng found her passion for machine learning

Welcome to the latest installment of our blog series “My Path to Google.” These are real stories from Googlers, interns and alumni highlighting 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 Awa Dieng, an AI Resident on the Google Brain team in our Ghana office. Awa shares her path to working in research and machine learning at Google and how her work ensures AI systems are beneficial for everyone. If you’re interested in learning more, applications for the Google AI Residency will open in early 2021.

What first sparked your interest in working in research?

I was born and raised in Kaolack, Senegal, a country in West Africa. In school, I was always drawn to science in general and mathematics in particular. After high school, I received a government scholarship to study in France, where I received a broad education in math, physics and computer science.

As a student specializing in applied math, I started to get interested in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). I was excited about the possibilities surrounding emerging AI and machine learning (ML), and given my background and interests, research in ML seemed like a great fit. 

So I pursued my first research experience—interning with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) team at Cornell University. I also worked on ML research in an academic setting at Duke University, but I was looking to diversify my experience by working in an industry research lab, which led me to apply to work at Google.

Of course, I was aware of the Google Brain team, which is highly respected in the community and publishes important work at all major ML conferences. The AI residency seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn from these researchers and explore different areas of machine learning. 

How would you describe your role at Google?

I work on the Brain team as an AI resident. The Google AI Residency is a year-long program designed to train and support the next generation of deep learning researchers. My time is spent identifying interesting problems in machine learning and working with my collaborators to solve them. This includes reading the existing literature on ML, running experiments and writing papers. 

Specifically, my research is centered around machine learning and causality, which aims at identifying cause and effect and answering “what if” questions. Indeed, while machine learning has led to a lot of progress in recent years, its widespread use has highlighted issues regarding bias, reliability and transparency. These are particularly important when ML systems are used to make consequential decisions that impact people’s lives. I believe a causal perspective can address these failures, and my work aims to draw strength from these two fields to build better decision-making systems.

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What inspires you to log in every day?

As part of the Brain team, there is a lot of freedom in which problems you choose to work on and what contributions you want to make to advance the field. For me, this is important because I get to work with knowledgeable collaborators on problems that I find important.


Google, as a company, provides a platform to conduct research that could potentially reach a lot of people and have a large impact, guided by our AI Principles. I’m inspired by my fellow residents who come from different backgrounds and from whom I get to learn and expand my horizons. 


Tell us about the process of becoming an AI resident.

The process was quite straightforward. I applied directly through the Google careers website and a recruiter reached out to me. The process included both a research component and a traditional coding interview. Given my experience and preparation, I felt I was well-equipped for the interviews. Fortunately, they went well and I received an offer. 


I think the best preparation is to be clear about what research questions and areas you are passionate about. Convey that passion to your interviewers by either showcasing work you have done or work you have read and are excited about. 


What do you wish you’d known when you started the process?

What I have learned in the past months is to not hesitate to reach out to researchers in the company whose work you admire. Google has a breadth of excellent and distinguished researchers who are, for the most part, very approachable.


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

Please, do not be afraid to apply!


It’s common for members of groups that are historically underrepresented in tech to self-censor and not even apply to great opportunities they are well qualified for. If you are interested in AI research, I encourage you to consider applying to Google’s AI Residency Program — your perspective is important!


Googlers get creative while working from home

When the going gets tough, the tough bake sourdough bread. Or take up knitting. Or just really get into a new video game. In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic left many of us working from home and social distancing cut down on our calendars, we’ve had plenty of time to pick up a few new hobbies here and there. Others have spent time figuring out how to adapt their passions to the inside of their homes. And that’s the case for Googlers, too, who are still playing in orchestras and working on arts and crafts in quarantine. Here are a few inspiring projects Googlers are working on in their spare time, from home. 

Dancing on their own, together

Incognito Mode dance troupe

Last year, a group of 20 San Francisco-area Googlers got together to compete in a local dance competition. They called themselves Incognito Mode and won second place. Since then, they performed in showcases both inside and outside the office, but the pandemic put a stop to performing in person anytime soon. Instead, they recorded a dance video from their homes, dodging friends, roommates and pets in the process. Each of the 18 participants choreographed a portion of the routine, and they later edited the footage together. “We faced new challenges of dancing together virtually, but it also allowed us to connect in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Jason Scott, head of Google’s U.S. startup developer ecosystem and one of the group’s creative directors. “Many of our members now live around the country, but remote dance projects have let them continue dancing with us.”

A work-from-home virtual orchestra

In the summer of 2016, around 30 Googlers picked up their instruments and played in The Googler Orchestra’s very first concert. Ever since then, they’ve rehearsed weekly and grown in numbers, with their last in-person performance featuring 80 Googler musicians. After Googlers started working from home, one orchestra member posted a call to get people to play together virtually. That started the Googler Virtual Orchestra, which has increased the group’s membership; their third recording will feature more than 100 musicians across three countries. 

Members each individually record their parts and then edit the footage together into one track. “It’s a logistical challenge,” says Colton Provias, the group’s lead audio engineer and a software engineer based in Sunnyvale, California. “It takes about three months from first discussions of what piece to play through the released video.”

The group intends to continue their work-from-home performances, and potentially adding other instruments or even a choir. “It speaks to the many talents that Googlers have, not just in the workplace, but outside of it too,” says Derek Wu, the orchestra’s founder and a software engineer based in Palo Alto, California. “The orchestra, for myself and others, allows everyone to unite together and create music that as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Comic relief from the pandemic’s stresses

Gao Fang comic

Gao Fang, who works in information security from Google’s Singapore office, had never drawn a comic before she started working from home in March. “Before the pandemic, I could roam around and sketch landscapes,” she says. “Then the lockdown happened and there was only that much I could sketch in my apartment. My hands got itchy for things to draw, and since I would like to keep a diary of this historical event, it's a natural step to record my days with some drawings.” 


She ended up drawing more than 80 comics while staying at home, and it ended up being a way to cope with living in isolation. Gao Fang’s comics touch on topics like awkward video chat moments and how stressful it can be to keep up with global news. Many of her sketches feature a rabbit as a main character, which she says was a stand-in for herself. “When I woke up everyday to frustrating news around the world, this little bunny did an amazing job keeping me company and guarding my sanity,” she says.

Focusing on the small things—the really small things

Miniature sculptures

Adam Stoves, who works on the Real Estate and Workplace Services team in New York, has been working from his 600-square-foot apartment alongside his wife and their toddler. Back in May, on a whim, he bought a pack of Play-Doh to entertain his daughter, but it ended up entertaining the parents, too. He and his wife started crafting miniature sculptures, which they now share online. They’ve created miniature foods, animals and even a teensy face mask. “Our daughter will pitch in from time to time, but her true talent lies indisputably in being the cutest hand model ever,” Adam says. “We have a limited window where she remains attentive, so we do a little chant: Big flat hand! Big flat hand!, when it’s time to photograph. It helps sharpen her toddler focus.” 

Zain Masri went from globe-trotting intern to marketing lead

Welcome to the latest installment of our blog series “My Path to Google.” These are real stories from Googlers, interns, and alumni highlighting how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

In today’s post, meet Zain Kamal Masri from our Dubai office and learn about some of the many paths to joining the Google marketing team. You’ll also find out why she once carried a Street View trekker through the ancient city of Petra.

What first sparked your interest in working at Google?

When I was a university student, I participated in the Google Ad Grants Online Marketing Challenge, where students get real-world experience creating online marketing campaigns for nonprofits. I created my first-ever Google Ads campaign and experienced how the web can help any nonprofit, business or individual reach a global audience. 

I wanted to learn more about Google products, which led me to take part in Google AdCamp. I competed in a team-based advertising challenge: we went through a market and consumer analysis, developed a creative strategy and presented a final proposal to sales product experts. 

This motivated me to apply for an internship with Google’s marketing team while I completed my master’s degree. One of my internship highlights was helping capture the ancient city of Petra, Jordan for Street View—you can catch a glimpse of me carrying the Street View trekker (a device with a built-in 360-degree camera, hard drive and batteries to capture Street View imagery) in the launch film which was narrated by Queen Rania!

Zain in Petra 2

Zain with the Street View trekker in Petra, Jordan

Tell us about becoming a full-time Googler.

After completing my internship, a full-time role became available and I applied right away. While I was super nervous, I was (and continue to be) passionate about working at Google. I tried my best to reframe my nervousness as excitement and hoped that my passion and dedication would shine through. When I received the job offer email, I had to read it several times to fully register what I was reading. I felt so proud and immediately called my parents to share the good news. They were over the moon!

What do you wish you’d known when you started the process? 

Google has a wealth of programs for students and fresh graduates to gain experience and knowledge. I wish I knew more about the Associate Product Marketing Manager (APMM) program back when I was a student. As an APMM, you become part of a diverse community of the next generation of marketers and can access unique opportunities like rotations, bootcamps and mentorship.

What resources did you use to prepare for your interview or role?

Reading through the Google Arabia blog was extremely helpful as it gave me a deeper perspective on Google’s role in the Arab world and the top priorities and products in the region. It also helped to browse through the global Keyword blog and social channels.  

What’s your role at Google now?

I am currently the Head of Brand and Reputation at Google in the Middle East and North Africa. My role focuses on programs like Maharat min Google, which is a digital skills education program that helps youth, especially women, gain the skills they need to succeed in an increasingly digital economy. As part of the program, we created a series of short films that follow the journeys of six Arab women who have become entrepreneurs, women’s rights advocates and groundbreaking YouTube creators. We’ve trained more than 800,000 individuals, of which 50 percent are women, and 54 percent have found a job or grown in their business or career as a result of the program.

What inspires you to log in every day?

As part of my role, I manage Google Doodles for the Arab world. My main focus has been increasing female representation. Some of my personal favorite Doodles include Doria Shafik (one of the leading activists who helped women in Egypt win the right to vote) and Zaha Hadid (first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize). 

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Zain and her fellow Googlers at the Dubai office

How sobriety has helped me cope through a pandemic

I never considered myself an addict until the day I found myself huddled under my covers at four in the afternoon, hungover and wishing my surroundings would disappear. This wasn’t the first time that had happened—in fact, it had become a weekly occurrence—but as I curled up into a ball, feeling pathetic and utterly alone, I realized I had no other options. I grabbed my phone from my nightstand and searched “rehab centers near me.”

I’d been dealing with major depression for years, and up until that moment I thought I had tried everything to find a cure. Special diets, an alphabet soup of antidepressant regimens, group therapy, solo therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, ketamine infusions. The only thing I hadn’t tried was sobriety. Drugs and alcohol were my only escape. I couldn’t fathom giving up the one thing that freed myself from the darkest grips of my own mind.

My Google search surfaced a number of local treatment centers, and after making some calls, I found one with a program that could help me. That was more than two years ago. Since then, thanks to hard work that continues today, I’ve remained sober and depression-free. 

Most people in recovery would agree: you can’t do it alone. It’s a reciprocal relationship—my recovery community helps to keep me sober, and my sobriety allows me to play an active role in that community. Twelve-step programs, new habits and the support of others with similar experiences provide a foundation, and then I can build a life I never thought was possible to live when depression controlled my every moment.

That foundation has carried me through COVID-19. Staying sober during a global pandemic is a bit of a paradox. During a time when people are more isolated than ever before, turning to substances to self-soothe seems like a natural response. And the data backs that up: Google searches for “how to get clean” reached an all-time high in June, and “how to get sober” surged in June and then again in August. In the past 30 days, searches for “rehab near me” hit their second-highest peak in recorded history.

And yet sobriety—in an era where it’s harder than ever to stay sober—is precisely what’s gotten me through this time. Staying sober has let me be present with my emotions, to face my anxieties and difficulties head-on. While I can’t numb my feelings, I can protect my mental health. My recovery practice has allowed me to do just that: Daily gratitude lists remind me how fortunate I still am, my sponsor regularly offers wisdom and advice, my peers hold space for my challenges and I do the same for them.

In the throes of my own crisis, the first place I turned to for help was Google. I ended up at a rehab center that profoundly transformed the way I move through the world. Last September, as part of National Recovery Month, Google made these resources even easier to find with its Recover Together site. This year, Google is adding even more features, including a mapping tool that allows you to search for local support groups by simply typing in your zip code. Of course, the search results also include virtual meetings, now that many programs have moved online. 

Map of addiction support groups in Boston area

Our new Recover Together map shows nearby (and virtual) support groups.

I’m proud to work for a company that prioritizes an issue that affects an estimated one in eight American adults and their loved ones. I’m proud to work for a company where I can take time from my day to attend 12-step meetings, no questions asked, and where I can bring my whole self to work and speak freely about my struggles. And I’m proud to work for a company that celebrates my experience as one of triumph rather than shame. That’s committed to reducing the stigma around addiction by providing resources for people like me. 

Recovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I can’t do it all by myself, which is why I’m sharing my story today. I hope that even one person who has fought similar battles will read what I have to say and realize that they, too, aren’t in this alone.

From IT Certificate completers to Googlers

Like many success stories, our journey to create the Google IT Support Certificatewas inspired by a challenge: We had issues finding qualified candidates to fill our own IT support team. We developed the Google IT Support Certificate (IT Cert for short), which requires no experience or degree, and helps prepare people for entry-level jobs in IT support in three to six months. In addition to helping us fill roles at Google, we created a hiring consortiumof over 50 national employers, including companies like Hulu, Sprint and Walmart, which consider graduates for roles.

In today’s economic environment, we’re committed to creating further access to job training to help people grow their career and economic potential. We’ve seen great results with the IT Cert: 80 percent of program participants report a positive career impact like a raise or a promotion, and 58 percent of participants identify as Black, Latino, female and/or veteran. But our work is not done. We recently created more pathways to jobs, including new Google Career Certificates in high-paying, high-growth career fields that do not require a degree, a new apprenticeship program at Google that teaches the certificate and a program that will bring the IT Cert to 100 career and technical education high schools for free by the end of 2021. 


Learn more today by joining our Grow with Google OnAir session, Plan Your Next Career Move with Google's IT Certificate. And read on to hear from graduates who experienced everything from homelessness to unemployment before taking the Google IT Cert and starting a role at Google.

Chelsea, who works at a Google data center

Chelsea Rucker, Data Center Technician, Google

Chelsea Rucker had recently moved out of a shelter for homeless women in Nashville with her two young daughters. After taking a job at her local Goodwill, she learned the organization had partnered with Google to offer its IT Cert program. She received a program scholarship and spent the next several months enrolled in the self-directed course, carving out time to study while balancing her duties as a single mother and her 40-hour work week at Goodwill. After completing the program, she found an open IT role at Google, but struggled with imposter syndrome. 

“I thought there was no way Google would hire me,” she says. “After I gathered up the courage, I sent them my resume.” Chelsea landed the job at Google and credits the IT Cert program with giving her the foundational knowledge she needed to succeed. 

“Nobody ever talks about how this is possible—if we become well-versed in technology, we’ll find all kinds of opportunities..I’m a firm believer that difficult does not mean impossible,” Chelsea says. 

Xavier, a Google IT Resident

Xavier Heydt, IT Resident, Google

Xavier had always been good with computers, even helping family and friends build them, but had never really considered an IT career. He started with Linux and Python courses at a community college, but then heard about the Google IT Cert and finally saw a career he was interested in. He enrolled in the program. “It was like a fire hose of knowledge,” Xavier says. 

After completing the program, he shared his resume with several companies from the program’s hiring consortium. Within two weeks, a Google recruiter reached out and encouraged him to apply to Google’s Information Technology Residency program. Thanks to the courses, he was ready for the technical interviews and got a job in internal IT support at Google’s Ann Arbor office. “I don't know what my career trajectory would have been without the certificate program,” he says. “My experience at Google has been life-changing and the Google IT Cert is what opened that door for me.”

Aldi, who works as a Google IT Resident

Aldi Suryoutom, IT Resident, Google

Aldi first was introduced to computers when he was around 7, growing up in Indonesia. His father brought home a PC with a Pentium 1 microprocessor in it. He would spend hours exploring how this new machine worked, trying to understand how the programs operated and tinkered with the hardware until the computer would freeze up. 

Aldi enrolled in the IT Cert program and loved the process and lessons. “The IT Cert program does a great job of preparing us for interviews with real word examples and practice,” he says. “I used to program to prepare for my interview questions that the recruiters asked me.”  Aldi was offered a job within Google’s IT services and went from being a student technician to working in an IT support role. “Everything I learned from the IT Cert program led me to Google,” he says.

To be a Google intern in 2020

I had been dealing with imposter syndrome for months. Since applying for an internship at Google, I questioned if my GPA was high enough, if they liked my interviews or if my application could stand out without going to an Ivy League school. After weeks of anticipation, I finally got the call from my recruiter. I received an offer to intern on the Global Communications and Public Affairs Team in the New York City office. And when I learned about my role telling stories on Google’s blog and social channels, I knew this was a perfect fit for me. 

But in the weeks after I got that call in January, it seemed like the world was spiraling. COVID-19 hit the United States hard. The number of cases increased, students were evacuated from campus, stay-at-home orders were put in place—it was scary. I was worried about what would happen to my Google internship, and when another email from the recruiter came, my eyes scanned for the words “cancelled” and “postponed.” Luckily, I didn’t see them, but instead, the email announced my internship would be virtual. 


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Super G takeover, intern edition! Check out these Super Gs created by our amazing intern team for International Intern Day. Paper florals: Raman Mangla; rubber duck: Sophie Bohr; cake: Riya Singh; woodblock: Elena Dontsova; dumplings: Prashnna Gyawali; logos: Abigail Siegel; pasta: Julia Schorn; word cutouts: Gabriele Cabral.

My Google internship looked different than I thought it would. Instead of exploring a new city with new friends, I was in quarantine in my hometown of Baltimore, where the most I could explore was my backyard with my 11-year old sister.  

Even though I’m not physically in the office, I’ve gained some valuable lessons that I’ll take with me regardless of where I’m working: Overcommunication is key, and self-advocacy and initiative is twice as important when working virtually. After speaking with interns from around the world in different fields, I found that we’ve had similar experiences. This National Intern Day (but here at Google, celebrated as International Intern Day as we have interns in 43 countries around the world), I want to highlight a few of my peers, the lessons we’ve learned and ultimately what it means to be a Google intern. (If you’d like to learn more about Google’s internship program, head over to google.com/students.)


A photo of Madhuparna in her home, plus an illustration of her "at" the Google campus.

Photo illustration by Victoria Fernandez, Intern, Marketing 

Projects that make a difference for everyone

Meet Madhuparna

Intern, Cloud, Bangalore, India  

Madhuparna’s project will impact the future of research for COVID-19, making information about COVID-19 more accessible and searchable. She’s helping the Google Cloud team create a search interface that will enable doctors and researchers to extract information on COVID-19. Along with her work, she also learned how connected the Google community is and how to build relationships with people in different countries. “Everyone is super friendly, and my team involves me in every meeting, not just ones about my project,” she says. “I don’t even feel like an intern, I feel like a full time Googler.” Doing this project makes her Google experience one that lets her create real connections and lasting change. 


A photo of Federico in his home, and an illustration of him "at" the Google campus.

Photo illustration by Victoria Fernandez, Intern, Marketing 

Flexibility is key 

Meet Federico

Intern, Research, Berlin, Germany

While Federico works at home in Berlin, he reports to his manager based in California, while simultaneously working with a team in Paris on their new app, Keen. Keen is a recently launched app that began as an Area 120 project that lets you curate, explore and share content around your interests. While working with people from different countries and timezones he’s learned that sometimes a three-minute video chat can be more useful than going back and forth via email. Also, keeping scheduled meetings on the calendar helps with consistent communication. “Google employees taught me how to keep it flexible, they are super nice and responsive,” Federico says. Even with a nine-hour time difference, he meets with his host every day to talk about his project. 

A photo of Tyler in her home, and an illustration of her "at" Google's campus.

Photo Illustration by Victoria Fernandez, Intern, Marketing

Balancing work and relationship building  

Meet Tyler

Intern, Search, North Carolina, United States

As an MBA student, Tyler understands the value of networking and relationship building. Her role, which intersects government and tech, allows her to connect with a variety of people. Even though we’re working from home, cultivating relationships with our managers and colleagues is still important. Tyler’s team emphasizes connecting with each other, even though they’re apart. “Google really wants to get to know the full ‘you,’” she said. For example, Tyler and a colleague from Singapore shared some recipes with each other, then went on Google Meet to show each other how their meals turned out. She has also joined the team for some virtual breakfasts, lunches and happy hours. Tyler says the first few minutes of a team meeting will often be spent checking in on each other and acknowledging the tough situation they are in. 

How to grow a “living” building

Andreas Gyr

Andreas Gyr

Andreas Gyr remembers his first car fondly: a 1982 Ford Escort, which had the gas parts ripped out and replaced with 17 golf cart batteries and an electric motor. “It had about a 15-mile range and it topped out at like 58 miles per hour,” Andreas remembers. “I’d carry an extension cord around and plug it into friends’ wall outlets to make it home.” It might have been inconvenient, but it made him excited about the future. “It was different, it was hopeful, we charged it with solar panels!” he says. “I learned early adoption can be rough, but it’s necessary to get to a future where sustainable options are the norm.” 


Fortunately, he’s kept that hopefulness, and that passion for sustainability. Andreas, who works on sustainable building projects for Google’s workplaces, was recently presented the Living Future Hero award from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). (Appropriately enough, he found out on Earth Day.) He received the award for his work on 6 Pancras Square in London (a rendering of which is shown above), which was the first ILFI Zero Carbon certified building in the world, as well as his work on the upcoming Bay View campus in Mountain View. I recently talked to Andreas about his award, his current projects and this crucial moment for his industry.


Let’s start off with something basic: What exactly is a “living” building?

The core idea for living buildings was popularized by ILFI, and it’s really about a building being regenerative—whether that’s generating more energy than it uses, harvesting and treating water on site or diverting waste from landfill and reusing materials. On several of our projects, Google is implementing these strategies at a scale never done before. 


6 Pancras Square is the first ILFI Zero Carbon certified project in the world. What exactly does it take to be Zero Carbon certified? 

To achieve the Zero Carbon certification, we significantly reduced the operational energy used by the building, but we also looked at the carbon impact of the project’s building materials—the carbon emitted in their extraction, manufacturing and transportation—and made reductions there as well. Project leaders Andy Martin and Nick Barr set aggressive sustainability targets, and pushed the team to deliver significant carbon savings across the entire project. We also used Google’s operational carbon neutrality commitment and worked with Anna Escuer, Google’s Lead for Carbon, to offset the impact of the building materials, ensuring the project was designed, constructed and operates with a net zero carbon impact.

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A rendering of the exterior of 6 Pancras Square London. 

But this is not the top of the mountain. Long-term, the goal is to design, construct and operate buildings that are truly regenerative—that store more carbon in the materials of the building than is spent to produce them, that are powered by on-site or 24/7 renewable energy, that incentivize manufacturers and industry partners to produce low-carbon products and solutions and that have a positive impact on their surrounding ecology and community.


The Bay View campus is pursuing the ILFI Living Building Challenge Water Petal—what exactly is that, and how do you do it?

The goal is to produce more usable water on your building site than required to operate it. That sounds simple, but buildings use a ton of water. One way the Bay View team reduced water demand was by installing the largest geothermal heat pump system in North America for heating and cooling the campus. The system saves eight million gallons of water per year, in addition to a lot of energy, compared to a standard system.


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 Bay View from the San Francisco Bay Trail, Photo: Chris McAnneny, Heatherwick Studio

The project will also treat wastewater on site and use the recycled water from that system for all non-drinking water uses, like toilet flushing and irrigation. Finally, we expanded our treatment plant so that in the future, the system can accept wastewater from neighboring buildings, treat it and return it as usable recycled water. That way, even though we have to take drinking water from the city to run our building and operate our cafes, we can provide at least that much water back into the system in the form of recycled water. 


Do you have a favorite building you’ve worked on?

Picking favorites is hard for me! I put four cereals in my bowl for breakfast. The King’s Cross development project in London is going to be really cool. It’s the first Google workplace in Europe that was designed and developed by our real estate team from the ground up. The green roof is going to be beautiful and part of the planting palette was selected in collaboration with the London Wildlife Trust, so it’ll provide ecological benefit to birds, bats and bees in the area. 


What do you wish more people knew about sustainability?

Sustainability doesn’t sit in a silo, separated from economic and social challenges. To create a more resilient and abundant future for the planet and for ourselves, we need to expand who's involved in shaping that vision. This is a really important moment, where we’re talking about social justice and injustices in our culture. For the sustainability movement to succeed, its intersections with diversity, equity, accessibility and belonging must be integral to our values, how we build our teams and how we develop long term plans. 



How sweet it is! This Googler carves fruit into art

During work hours, Leonard Ko collaborates with teams of engineers on Pixel phones. But he’s also known for a unique talent outside of tech: creating intricate sculptures out of fruit. It turns out fruit is just the latest medium for Leonard, who has been creating art for decades—and only recently decided to make his art edible. 

Leonard Ko kitchen

Leonard Ko in his kitchen.

Leonard has always been interested in expressing himself through art, and first worked on traditional Chinese paintings and oil paintings of landscapes. But eventually, his love of art translated into making art out of food. 

At first, his prowess in the kitchen came through baked goods. “I liked to bake cakes and pipe them with buttercream and chocolate, but they are so sweet and unhealthy,” Leonard says. He changed his materials to avoid all the junk food. “I chose the art of fruit, since it’s natural and healthy,” he says.

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

Leonard Ko with his daughter

Leonard’s daughter and number-one fan.

Usually, it takes around two or three hours for him to complete each fruit sculpture, though his most detailed ones, for parties or special events, take up to seven hours to carve. He once created a fruit sculpture for a team-building event at the office. “My coworkers thought the sculpture came from a professional chef, and couldn’t believe it was my work,” Leonard says. 

The biggest fan of Leonard’s work is surely his daughter, who often looks on with wonder as he creates little animals out of fruit. “She is very interested in what I am doing for the sculpture,” Leonard says. “She will stay with me and ask some questions, like, ‘Daddy, why did you do this? Could you use other fruits?’ After she saw the finished sculptures, she loved them.”

Since like most Googlers he’s working from home these days, Leonard is keeping busy working and taking care of his daughter, which doesn’t leave much time for fruit sculptures. But he’s still staying creative in the kitchen, cooking a decorated meal once a week. Recent dishes have included yogurt topped with a rainbow of fruit and purple sweet potato tarts. The watermelon sharks will have to wait a little longer. 

Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

 Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

How sweet it is! This Googler carves fruit into art

During work hours, Leonard Ko collaborates with teams of engineers on Pixel phones. But he’s also known for a unique talent outside of tech: creating intricate sculptures out of fruit. It turns out fruit is just the latest medium for Leonard, who has been creating art for decades—and only recently decided to make his art edible. 

Leonard Ko kitchen

Leonard Ko in his kitchen.

Leonard has always been interested in expressing himself through art, and first worked on traditional Chinese paintings and oil paintings of landscapes. But eventually, his love of art translated into making art out of food. 

At first, his prowess in the kitchen came through baked goods. “I liked to bake cakes and pipe them with buttercream and chocolate, but they are so sweet and unhealthy,” Leonard says. He changed his materials to avoid all the junk food. “I chose the art of fruit, since it’s natural and healthy,” he says.

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

For the past three years, Leonard has been making his fruit sculptures every two to three weeks and, until COVID-19 led people to stay at home, bringing them to friends’ picnics and parties. He says fruit carvings can be as simple as creating “rabbits” from orange slices by turning the peel into “ears,” and as elaborate as crafting a shark’s head out of a watermelon, then putting other fruits in the shark’s carved-out “mouth.”

Leonard Ko with his daughter

Leonard’s daughter and number-one fan.

Usually, it takes around two or three hours for him to complete each fruit sculpture, though his most detailed ones, for parties or special events, take up to seven hours to carve. He once created a fruit sculpture for a team-building event at the office. “My coworkers thought the sculpture came from a professional chef, and couldn’t believe it was my work,” Leonard says. 

The biggest fan of Leonard’s work is surely his daughter, who often looks on with wonder as he creates little animals out of fruit. “She is very interested in what I am doing for the sculpture,” Leonard says. “She will stay with me and ask some questions, like, ‘Daddy, why did you do this? Could you use other fruits?’ After she saw the finished sculptures, she loved them.”

Since like most Googlers he’s working from home these days, Leonard is keeping busy working and taking care of his daughter, which doesn’t leave much time for fruit sculptures. But he’s still staying creative in the kitchen, cooking a decorated meal once a week. Recent dishes have included yogurt topped with a rainbow of fruit and purple sweet potato tarts. The watermelon sharks will have to wait a little longer. 

Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.

 Leonard’s cooking from home while working from home.