Tag Archives: Life at Google

Giant cranes and video games: How I/O went digital

There’s a sign on the wall behind Andrew Rossi's desk that’s been impossible to ignore during video calls lately. The placard counted down the days until I/O 2021 — and as event lead for Consumer Apps at Google, Andrew is part of a huge team behind the whole production. While it now reads “0,” the purposefully placed sign was visible during the many virtual meetings he had with people all across Google in the run-up to an entirely different kind of I/O.

A sign on a wall above a small bookcase with changeable lettering reads: “I/O is 0 days away.”

I/O is a major undertaking under normal circumstances, and it took a unique brand of elbow grease this year. But after I/O 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, Google’s developer relations and marketing teams couldn’t let another year pass without it. 

“Apps and the web became even more integrated into our daily lives over the past year,” says VP of Engineering Jason Titus. “They helped us stay healthy, connected and productive — and this served to spotlight how developers were really part of helping us adapt to the challenges of 2020.” 

Planning for this year’s event began nearly as soon as I/O 2020 was canceled. The team agreed on an event primarily focused on live broadcast but that also offered flexibility for participants, while also respecting how different parts of the world were experiencing the pandemic. It would be a three-day digital event, with a mix of live keynotes, pre-recorded technical sessions and interactive features — and it would be unlike anything Google had created before.  


Online, everyone’s invited

Taking the event virtual had a big upside: More of Google’s global developer community could attend, for free. This year, there were 225,000 registrations, mostly from outside the U.S. 

“Going digital meant we had the freedom to think of new ways to deliver technical content,” says Elizabeth Cha, who leads developer marketing. “It seemed the best way to be helpful to developers this year was to give greater access to our technical experts and let the developer community support one another. So beyond the usual technical sessions and Codelabs, we're offering Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, instructor-led workshops and meetups.”

A person sitting at a desk looks into the camera on their laptop; the screen shows the person. Behind the laptop is a light and recording gear

A video technician tests out one of the at-home recording kits sent to presenters so they could record their talks from home.

Just like an in-person event involves crowd control and line management, a digital event requires building the infrastructure so everyone can participate. The team took the opportunity to make other improvements for accessibility and inclusivity — including an American Sign Language option for the two main keynotes, a first.

“This year, instead of the online experience accompanying the physical event, the online experience is the event,” says Developer Relations Product Manager Ilen Zazueta-Hall. “Scaling the event was a coordinated effort — we had to rethink so much. Like how do we scale workshops? How many languages do we translate technical content into? How do we make sure it’s accessible, and that people can connect?” 

Live, from Google I/O

While online development was crucial, there was also the challenge of broadcasting live. The team wanted to keep keynotes live because, among other things, digital burnout was a factor. “We’re all sick of sitting down in front of a screen,” VP of Marketing Marvin Chow says. The best way to fight this fatigue was with live video. “When it’s taped, you don’t get that same authenticity and connection.” 

A camera crew of several people are in the foreground, filming a stage surrounded by trees.

The production crew films the keynote dress rehearsal.

Going live was a complex process. First, Andrew and his team had to find a location. Originally, the idea was to film from Shoreline Amphitheatre, Google I/O’s home since 2016, but that was quickly dismissed. The venue, which can fit more than 22,000 people, would have felt eerie without thousands of attendees. 

So the team settled instead on Google’s “Quad” campus in Mountain View. That, too, came with unknowns. “You can’t just throw a stage on campus, because the sun would just beat down on everyone,” Andrew explains. So the team brought in giant cranes to cover the area. “We tracked things like how much the wind blows on an average day.”

Three masked people sit near a “Google” sign in adirondack chairs on a lawn.

Googlers in the I/O audience.

In addition to two stages and space for production crews, the quad could accommodate a small, socially distanced audience. “We realized we could get 15 people around one stage and 19 around another,” Andrew says. This would give presenters something to look at, and bring some energy to the broadcast. Presenters nominated fellow Googlers, so they would see familiar faces. Audience members agreed to a list of COVID-19-related requirements as well as sitting through two rehearsals in case production needed to use backup film. No phones or laptops were permitted the entire time. 

But the work was well worth it: Googlers were excited to head to campus for I/O — and each other. In some cases, colleagues even met in person for the first time.

Photo showing a group of people wearing masks standing on a circular stage on a lawn. A person in the foreground is taking a photo of them.

Googlers gather at the dress rehearsal the day before the keynote.

For everyone who couldn’t go, there was an online Adventure. 


Adventure awaits

A significant draw of I/O for developers is everything that happens IRL. “You know when you’re in line for food and you strike up a conversation with someone?” Elizabeth says. “And you find out you’re both working on the same problem or interested in similar topics and then ideas start pouring in — that’s what I/O is about.”

Enter I/O Adventure, a reimagining of what it’s like to actually be there and get your "hands on" the latest technology, complete with virtual product demos and hangout spaces where you can meet and chat with other developers. Adventure was developer advocate Tom Greenaway’s idea; he’d come up with it as a way for attendees to join in during Chrome Developer Summit (CDS) last December. It was a success, so the team decided to bring it to I/O. 

Photo showing a large group of virtual avatars in the I/O Adventure game world. Participants can earn up to 140 pieces of virtual swag.

 I/O attendees gathering inside I/O Adventure. Participants can interact with over 450 pieces of unique product content — like technical demos, videos and codelabs — and earn up to 140 pieces of virtual swag.

Tom, along with a small team of designers and programmers, collaborated with various Google product departments to craft experiences inside the game. Machine learning and AI, for example, have a musical forest where trees transform into instruments as you bump into them. “As they change, collaboratively, people all over the world will make music together,” Tom says. And Google engineers had special help testing the product — from their kids. “They did about two hours of testing in all over a weekend,” says Elizabeth, whose own children assisted. “And they wanted to play more!”

Two children sitting at a dining room table looking at an open laptop that shows the I/O Adventure game on the screen.

Elizabeth’s kids test out I/O Adventure.

Invention...and Easter eggs

Appropriately for an event that celebrates developer creativity, inventiveness is a theme that runs throughout everything the team did to make I/O happen this year. “I/O 2021 was about  meeting developers where they are and making it easier for them to innovate quickly,” Jason says. In such a daunting year,it was increasingly clear how much the world needs builders. “By helping developers, we help everyone who uses the technology they build.”

And of course, what would any Google project be without a few Easter eggs? “Do you know the Konami Code?” Tom asked during a recent demo of Adventure. “It’s up, up, down — ” ...actually, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. 

How accessible tech helps Inho Seo explore the world

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.

We spoke to Inho Seo, a software engineer intern with a visual impairment working at Google Korea. Inho told us how accessibility technology helps him explore the world and connect with people.

What are you working on right now? 

I'm a software engineering intern in a team working to make Google's products as usable as possible. Currently, I'm working with my team to develop a program that can detect and verify errors made by developers, and improve the end product. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

When I took the Korean SAT in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised that the first Braille terminal was introduced. This led me to become interested in public administration and I decided to major in political science in college, so I could become a public officer or a politician who would implement human rights policies for minorities. 

But in my sophomore year in college, I had the opportunity to live in the U.S. as an exchange student for a year. While I was there, I started using many amazing accessibility apps that helped me do things that I couldn’t do back home, like traveling alone, and I realized the benefits of assistive technology. Traveling solo was my longtime dream back then and these apps enabled me to travel to 10 different cities across the U.S. independently while using a cane. 


It made me realize how technology can change the way we live, and if we had similar accessibility apps in Korea, how helpful it would be for Korean people with disabilities. When I returned to Korea, I decided to pursue computer programming with the goal of becoming a software engineer so I could make a difference too. 


What made you decide to apply to Google? 

When I was introduced to a Google recruiter at a campus recruiting event in Seoul, I handed over my resume on the spot. I was really excited about the opportunity after learning more about Google’s workplace culture, the people and the type of work I could do. I had a call back almost immediately and that was the start of my interview process. 

How did the application and interview process go for you? 

I was surprised when Google asked if I needed any accommodations before setting up my interviews, as I’ve not experienced this with other companies before. Both the HR and staffing operations teams were very supportive in providing me a convenient environment for every round in the interview process. 

I was especially touched after receiving Google’s notification email saying, “Google wants to ensure that you are able to perform to the best of your ability.” It made such a huge difference to me, knowing that Google cared about a potential candidate and would make me feel supported throughout the whole process. 

Inho stands in front of a building with the Google logo. In between are multicolored bike racks, some shrubs and a tree.

Inho at Google’s global headquarters in Mountain View, California

Can you tell us about the resources you used to prepare for your interview or role?

I found the site Leetcode really helpful when I was preparing for the algorithm interview rounds. I had solved over 300 problems before the actual interview! 

What advice would you give others who are interested in being an intern at Google? 

Google’s internship program gives you a lot of opportunities to grow your career. Don’t be afraid to try as many projects or roles as you can. There’s room to grow, and you won’t fail if you continue challenging yourself and reflecting on the feedback you receive. Do your best, and enjoy the experience! 


Complete the following: "I [choose one: code/create/design/build] for..." 

I code for good. A friend of mine once asked me how I would like to be remembered if I pass away. I wasn’t sure how to respond back then, but now, I would like to be remembered as a person who helps others and creates positive change. To achieve this goal, I choose to be a software engineer, developing useful technologies that are universally accessible to everyone around the world.

A chance encounter led this researcher to Google

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 Preeti Talwai, an architecture student turned user experience researcher. Preeti shares how her initial reluctance about tech faded as she realized how many different types of roles there are in the space.


What’s your role at Google?

I work as a user experience (UX) researcher on the AI User Experience (AIUX) team in Google Research. Our team studies changes in society and science and creates product concepts in close collaboration with research scientists and UX folks across the company. 


My focus is on early-stage, foundational research that tries to unpack big questions about human behavior and needs. With early-stage work, we’re often working with technologies that aren’t built yet and may be very new to users. For example, one of my favorite projects was studying people’s personal goals for a year and helping teams understand how technology can better support those goals.

What does your typical day look like right now?

When I’m planning research, there’s a lot of collective strategizing with other teams and my UX colleagues. When I’m conducting a study, my days usually involve a number of sessions with participants. When I’m synthesizing data, it’s a lot of “heads-down” time punctuated by ongoing sharing and collaboration with my team.  And when I’m sharing the insights and working to put them into action, my days involve meetings and presentations.  

Can you tell us about your decision to apply to work at Google and your path to your current role?

I always felt a pull towards design, so I decided to study architecture in college and went on to do a design research/architectural theory degree. Honestly, I never thought I’d work in tech and was actually against that idea at first. I had a very narrow understanding of tech jobs, and I was pretty sure they weren’t for me. The first time I became interested in Google was at the end of grad school.

I accidentally walked into a networking event after a class at the business school on campus, and I heard a panelist say she worked for Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services division. I was surprised that something relevant to architecture existed at Google, and I stuck around until the end of the event to meet her. I sent her my resume, and though a role on her team didn’t work out, my information ended up getting passed along to a UX research manager who offered me a role as a research assistant. I decided to take this year-long contract role to test-drive a tech career, and, to my own surprise, loved it. After my contract, I transferred to a full-time role on my current team. 


My path to Google has been meandering and unpredictable. I have always been drawn to understanding human stories and shaping people’s experiences, but I didn’t know the job I had been describing was called “UX research” until I graduated from college. I’ve found that my non-traditional background has opened doors to unique types of research and teams at Alphabet that I may not have otherwise known to look for.

Preeti standing in front of a large Android statue wearing a Noogler hat.

Preeti on her first day at Google.

What inspires you to come in (virtually) every day?

Being able to meet so many different types of people and tell their stories, especially when those voices are not often heard or need to be amplified. The topics I research require deep and personal conversations with our users, and I’m always amazed at how open and candid these sessions can be. I find this an inspiration, but also a privilege and a responsibility I take seriously. My most gratifying moments are when I get to share what we’ve learned back with the communities who gave us this knowledge.

What's one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself before applying? 

I would tell my past self that there’s so much more to do at a tech company like Google beyond engineering.  There are so many roles I didn’t know existed, and getting to these roles doesn’t have to be, and is often not, a formulaic process or a straight line.

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

I see a lot of aspiring UXers wondering how to build a portfolio and feeling like they “need experience to get experience,” especially to come to a place like Google. One strategy that helped me is to focus less on job titles and skills as you’re building experience, and instead seek opportunities that help you hone your human-centered research lens and approach. Those opportunities might come in diverse and even surprising disciplines, and can help you get methods experience nearly identical to what you’d be getting in a typical UX internship.

Coworkers become allies while working from home

When Shammi Quddus joined Google in 2018, she noticed she didn’t run into many other Muslims. “There are so few of us, statistically speaking,” she says. She decided to join the [email protected] group, part of the Inter Belief Network run by Googlers to empower employees to voice and practice their beliefs. She was especially impressed by the Muslim Allyship Course the group runs, which explains the basics of the faith, and how non-Muslims can be helpful allies. She soon signed up to be an instructor herself.  “Our faith practices, like daily prayers and fasting, intersect with the workplace quite a bit,” Shammi explains. 

The course was designed in 2017 by a group of Muslim Googlers, including Sarmad Gilani. “Throughout my life, I’d had bad experiences when people found out I was Muslim,” Sarmad says. That’s why he decided to join [email protected], and help create a space where people could ask questions and learn to be good allies. Demand for the course grew so rapidly instructors could hardly keep up.

The program’s momentum was encouraging, if slightly limited. The Bay Area-based group would meet every month, booking rooms at the Mountain View and Sunnyvale offices for 40 to 60 people for their panels. Every time a session was added, so many people subscribed that they had to create a waitlist. “We were trying to think about how we would start in other hubs like Seattle or New York, but that requires a critical mass of four or five Muslim Googlers to serve as instructors and panelists, and manage other on-site needs,” says Shammi. 

While considering their next move, COVID-19 struck. They’d already been interested in livestreaming classes, but the idea of being online-only was nerve-wracking. “We worried people would get bored, or wouldn’t ask any questions,” Shammi says. “What if the Meet call was full of awkward silences?!” 

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case — in fact, online sessions and meetings helped classes grow significantly. “Our pool of instructors and attendees has no geographic boundary — we have Googlers from all over the world signing up!” Shammi says. While the group has missed some of the intimacy, safety and connection of in-person meetings, they’re making use of interactive features like polls and questions to engage their online audiences. “Google Meet’s ‘raise hand’ feature is awesome!” Sarmad adds.

Shammi’s noticed more interesting questions being asked, too. “Some folks will ask why I wear the hijab, and I’ll share my journey of wearing it in the U.S. and Bangladesh,” she explains. “And then it gets really interesting when there are other hijabis in the panel who have different motivations and experiences. It just shows how diverse we are.” 

Amina Gerrbi joined [email protected] after COVID hit. She’s now one of the allyship leads and regularly checks in with participants. “We ask how they feel about certain topics, and even do quizzes sometimes. Engaging an audience for an hour and a half is challenging so having those moments that call for the audience to participate are crucial.”

Sarmad says the best part of online courses is they no longer have to turn anyone away. “That had become an issue with the in-person courses, because we wouldn’t have enough seats.” Since fall 2020, nearly 600 people have registered for online sessions, where the group has helped bring events like their Ramadan Fast-a-Thon, where Googlers can participate in fasting for a day, online. The Fast-a-Thon supports hunger relief efforts and is also an invitation to learn more about Ramadan; this year it's raised $190,000 and counting.

For Muslims everywhere, and at Google, faith is an important part of their identity, and being able to share this with colleagues all over the world has been a silver lining during the pandemic. “I love getting the chance to share personal authentic stories about growing up as a Muslim American woman and genuinely connecting with our participants,” Amina says. “And at the same time, we’re really working to break stereotypes and bust myths.”

A hybrid approach to work

Sundar sent the following email to Google employees earlier today. 

Hi Googlers,

We’ve spent the last year focused on supporting employees during the pandemic. I hope the extra benefits such as Carer’s Leave, the work-from-home allowance, the extra reset days, and the ability to work from wherever you need have been helpful in getting through this tough time.

And we’re not through it yet. It’s heartbreaking to see COVID surging in places like  India, Brazil, and many others around the world. If you live in one of these places, please focus on taking care of yourselves and your loved ones right now. We are here to support however we can. 

In other areas, conditions are less dire and people are beginning to open up their lives and think about returning to the office. In fact, in places where we’ve been able to reopen Google offices in a voluntary capacity, we’ve seen nearly 60% of Googlers choosing to come back to the office. 

For more than 20 years, our employees have been coming to the office to solve interesting problems — in a cafe, around a whiteboard, or during a pickup game of beach volleyball or cricket. Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time. Yet many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities. 

Over the last year, a team within REWS has been reimagining a hybrid workplace to help us collaborate effectively across many work environments. They’re testing new multi-purpose offices and private workspaces, and working with teams to develop advanced video technology that creates greater equity between employees in the office and those joining virtually. All of these efforts will help us work with greater flexibility and choice once we’re able to return to our offices globally. 



That flexibility will come in a few different forms — and your product areas and functions will share more details on all of these changes by mid-June. Here are the key principles: 


A more flexible work week: 

  • We’ll move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best. Since in-office time will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and functions will help decide which days teams will come together in the office. There will also be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work. 

More choice around where you work: 

  • More locations globally: One of Google's biggest advantages is our global footprint. We are investing in many great communities globally — which creates more opportunity for employees to move around throughout their careers. By mid-June your PAs and functions will come back with a process by which you can apply to move to another office. In granting approvals, they’ll take into account whether business goals can be met in the new location and whether your team has the right infrastructure in the site to support your work. 

  • Remote work: We’ll also offer opportunities for you to apply for completely remote work (away from your team or office) based on your role and team needs. Before the pandemic, we had thousands of people working in locations separate from their core teams. I fully expect those numbers to increase in the coming months as we develop more remote roles, including fully all-remote sub teams. You’ll be able to apply for remote work within your product area or function. As with location transfers, your leads will evaluate whether remote work can support the goals of the team and business. Whether you choose to transfer to a different office or opt for completely remote work, your compensation will be adjusted according to your new location. 

  • Taken together these changes will result in a workforce where around 60% of Googlers are coming together in the office a few days a week, another 20% are working in new office locations, and 20% are working from home. 

More flexibility for your life: 

  • Work-from-anywhere weeks: Going forward, Googlers will be able to temporarily work from a location other than their main office for up to 4 weeks per year (with manager approval). The goal here is to give everyone more flexibility around summer and holiday travel. 

  • Focus time: Product areas and functions will also offer focus hours so we limit internal meetings during times when people need to be heads down on projects.

  • Reset days: We’ll continue offering extra “reset” days to help employees recharge during the pandemic in 2021. Our next global day off will be on Friday, May 28 (or the following work day if you’re already not working on the 28th). Please enjoy it!

GIF showing the text: More flexibility for your work week, More choice around where you work, More flexibility for your life

I know this past year hasn’t been easy for anyone and many Googlers are still suffering as the pandemic wears on. We will get through it — together — as a Google community. 

I am profoundly optimistic that once we do, we will be able to come back together in our offices to see all the people we have missed. And we’ll be able to work together in entirely new ways that improve both our work and our lives. 

The future of work is flexibility. The changes above are a starting point to help us do our very best work and have fun doing it. 

 Look forward to continuing the conversation with all of you. 

-Sundar

A hybrid approach to work

Sundar sent the following email to Google employees earlier today. 

Hi Googlers,

We’ve spent the last year focused on supporting employees during the pandemic. I hope the extra benefits such as Carer’s Leave, the work-from-home allowance, the extra reset days, and the ability to work from wherever you need have been helpful in getting through this tough time.

And we’re not through it yet. It’s heartbreaking to see COVID surging in places like  India, Brazil, and many others around the world. If you live in one of these places, please focus on taking care of yourselves and your loved ones right now. We are here to support however we can. 

In other areas, conditions are less dire and people are beginning to open up their lives and think about returning to the office. In fact, in places where we’ve been able to reopen Google offices in a voluntary capacity, we’ve seen nearly 60% of Googlers choosing to come back to the office. 

For more than 20 years, our employees have been coming to the office to solve interesting problems — in a cafe, around a whiteboard, or during a pickup game of beach volleyball or cricket. Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time. Yet many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities. 

Over the last year, a team within REWS has been reimagining a hybrid workplace to help us collaborate effectively across many work environments. They’re testing new multi-purpose offices and private workspaces, and working with teams to develop advanced video technology that creates greater equity between employees in the office and those joining virtually. All of these efforts will help us work with greater flexibility and choice once we’re able to return to our offices globally. 



That flexibility will come in a few different forms — and your product areas and functions will share more details on all of these changes by mid-June. Here are the key principles: 


A more flexible work week: 

  • We’ll move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best. Since in-office time will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and functions will help decide which days teams will come together in the office. There will also be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work. 

More choice around where you work: 

  • More locations globally: One of Google's biggest advantages is our global footprint. We are investing in many great communities globally — which creates more opportunity for employees to move around throughout their careers. By mid-June your PAs and functions will come back with a process by which you can apply to move to another office. In granting approvals, they’ll take into account whether business goals can be met in the new location and whether your team has the right infrastructure in the site to support your work. 

  • Remote work: We’ll also offer opportunities for you to apply for completely remote work (away from your team or office) based on your role and team needs. Before the pandemic, we had thousands of people working in locations separate from their core teams. I fully expect those numbers to increase in the coming months as we develop more remote roles, including fully all-remote sub teams. You’ll be able to apply for remote work within your product area or function. As with location transfers, your leads will evaluate whether remote work can support the goals of the team and business. Whether you choose to transfer to a different office or opt for completely remote work, your compensation will be adjusted according to your new location. 

  • Taken together these changes will result in a workforce where around 60% of Googlers are coming together in the office a few days a week, another 20% are working in new office locations, and 20% are working from home. 

More flexibility for your life: 

  • Work-from-anywhere weeks: Going forward, Googlers will be able to temporarily work from a location other than their main office for up to 4 weeks per year (with manager approval). The goal here is to give everyone more flexibility around summer and holiday travel. 

  • Focus time: Product areas and functions will also offer focus hours so we limit internal meetings during times when people need to be heads down on projects.

  • Reset days: We’ll continue offering extra “reset” days to help employees recharge during the pandemic in 2021. Our next global day off will be on Friday, May 28 (or the following work day if you’re already not working on the 28th). Please enjoy it!

GIF showing the text: More flexibility for your work week, More choice around where you work, More flexibility for your life

I know this past year hasn’t been easy for anyone and many Googlers are still suffering as the pandemic wears on. We will get through it — together — as a Google community. 

I am profoundly optimistic that once we do, we will be able to come back together in our offices to see all the people we have missed. And we’ll be able to work together in entirely new ways that improve both our work and our lives. 

The future of work is flexibility. The changes above are a starting point to help us do our very best work and have fun doing it. 

 Look forward to continuing the conversation with all of you. 

-Sundar

From overcoming burnout to finding new opportunities

As a first-generation Vietnamese American raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate entering the workforce, I battled Imposter Syndrome when I was hired at Google right after graduating college. Despite an inclusive culture and welcoming peers, I worried that if I showed any signs of weakness, I would be “outed” as an imposter. 

I took on more and more work to constantly prove my worth. While trying to prove I  “belonged” at Google, I took on extra responsibilities and projects at the expense of my hobbies, family relationships and my physical and mental health. Despite promotions to more senior sales leadership roles, I never felt accomplished. 

I was also affected by childhood traumas: I struggled with depression and anxiety stemming from anti-gay bullying, and despite years of therapy, I carried this into adulthood. All of this led me to feeling emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. I was experiencing burnout. 

So many people feel burned out, whether for personal or professionals reasons — or, like in my case, a combination of both. I was fortunate enough to have the tools at my disposal to work my way through my burnout, and even found new opportunities in the process. 

Recognizing the burnout

The first step for me was realizing and acknowledging that something was wrong. People formerly described me as charismatic and energetic, but I was becoming defined by exhaustion, stress, and lack of creativity. Activities I enjoyed — exercising, meeting with friends and mentoring others — no longer interested me. I slept less, felt more anxious and suffered a host of physical symptoms associated with underlying health issues. 

Don't be afraid to speak up

I knew I needed help and reluctantly decided to take a paid medical leave, a benefit offered by Google, for my health. This was a difficult decision, but my manager and team reassured me that everything would be alright. While I saw myself as weak for taking leave, my team saw me as strong and resilient for prioritizing my health and well-being. 

While on leave, I sought treatment for my pre-existing mental health issues and went through a program that taught me how to cope with stress, process my childhood traumas, and ultimately equip me with the tools to manage burnout. I rediscovered who I was and was reminded of my strength and passion for helping others. It was at this point I decided to pursue a career that focused on helping others also realize their greatness as well as how to avoid burnout.

Utilize your resources

My manager and colleagues were incredibly supportive of my career change. I was able to take advantage of "20% projects" at Google, an initiative that allows employees to work  on business related assignments that might have value to the company. I took courses on learning design and program management, offered by Google, and was able to transfer to a leadership role in Sales Enablement Learning & Development. 

The burnout and exhaustion I’d felt was replaced by inspiration, excitement and purpose. My success in building learning programs for employees to learn and grow led to a promotion, and now I’m leading a team while mentoring and coaching Google employees across the globe. I also decided to take advantage of Google's education reimbursement and student loan repayment programs to concurrently enroll in a doctoral program in workplace education and organizational change. Even though I spend more time studying and working than before, I have more energy than ever because I’m passionate about what I’m spending my time on. 

Prioritize yourself  

Shawn Sieu, standing in front of the android statue park on the Google campus.

Going through personal and workplace burnout and deciding to make time and space for my mental health taught me the importance of prioritizing my wellbeing. Not only did I do what was right for my health, I reassessed my priorities and passions. So if you’re experiencing all or some of these things, don’t give up. Prioritize yourself, because you will have nothing left to give if you don’t. 


Finding the intersection of social justice and tech

Welcome to the latest installment of our 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 Xiomara Contreras (pictured above with her mother), a product marketing manager in our San Francisco office. Xiomara’s passion for social impact is deeply rooted in her work, both in her core role of supporting small businesses and in building community for underrepresented groups both in and out of Google.


How would you describe your role at Google?


I’m a product marketing manager working on Google My Business. Specifically, my team is dedicated to supporting small-business owners. Google My Business is a free tool that allows users to promote their Business Profile on Google Search and Maps, allowing them to respond to reviews, post photos of products or special offers and add or edit their business details so they can connect with customers.


My role focuses on core product marketing, meaning I work with product managers and engineers to determine who our users are, what they need and how to align our product with those needs. As a product marketing manager, I show the value of our product to small business owners. Additionally, I recently contributed to the creation and launch of the Black-owned business attribute to support Black-owned businesses.


What made you decide to apply to Google?


When I initially started thinking about a career, I thought I would be in the nonprofit sector because most of my previous experience was in that space. Also, I studied Communication Studies and Latina/o Studies at Northwestern and I wasn’t aware of the breadth of opportunities available to “non-technical” students in tech. 


Then I learned about Google'sBOLD Internship Program through Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), an organization that prepares and connects university students from underrepresented backgrounds to internships and full-time careers. Through the support and encouragement of the organization, I applied to the internship. Once I was an intern at Google I was able to see how my passion for social justice issues, education and youth mentorship intersect with tech, and I knew I wanted to work at Google full time.

Three people sitting around a large “G” sculpture.

Xiomara and fellow Googlers/MLT alums, Janice and Olivia, representing Google at the Management Leadership for Tomorrow 15th Anniversary Celebration in 2019.

Can you expand more on that intersection?


Google has exposed me to different mentorship programs both inside and outside of the company. I volunteered for TutorMate and Spark, and I currently volunteer for iMentor, a three-year commitment to empower first-generation students from low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college and achieve their ambitions. I only learned about these opportunities through other Googlers. 


I’m also involved in increasing racial equity at Google through our Black and Latinx Marketers (BALM) employee resource group. This group is designed to help make Google a place where people like me can see themselves, be successful and feel fulfilled. Last year I was the Global Community Lead, organizing events like a dialogue series with external speakers to discuss issues impacting our community and fun activities like learning how to make café de olla in a workshop led by a small business owner.

What inspires you to log in every day?


First, just knowing that my core work is very impactful for small-business owners. My grandma is a small-business owner, and I use Google My Business for her business. I see how the product helps her stand out online and connect with new customers. So believing in the mission of Google and the mission of my own team keeps me invested in the company. 


Second, personally, being the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and the first person in my family to go to college motivates me every day to continue to grow here because my family sacrificed a lot for me to get where I am. This way, I am able to support them too.

Three people wearing Google shirts at an indoor event.

Xiomara (middle) with Googlers, Lucy and Huyen, at an event in the Google NYC office in 2019.

What resources did you use to prepare for your interviews?


Keeping up with Think with Google and The Keyword was extremely helpful as it gave me a deeper perspective on Google’s top priorities and new products. In particular, I read the small business section in The Keyword because I was passionate about Google’s initiatives for underrepresented business owners. It also helped to browse through other companies’ blogs and social channels to learn about their programs for small business owners. 


Because I wasn’t a marketing student, I also brushed up on my Google Ads skills as well as marketing 101 basics. 


Any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?


Your resume is your first impression. To make sure it’s at its best I encourage you to show it to a lot of people, even those outside of the company or marketing (or whatever area you’re interested in) to provide feedback. 


Also, don’t erase the other parts of you. When reviewing current students’ resumes, they often only show the things related to marketing and remove everything else. But things like student organizations, campus jobs, volunteer work and life experience all highlight how you are different and often demonstrate leadership and problem solving experiences well beyond, for example, a marketing internship.

Finding the intersection of social justice and tech

Welcome to the latest installment of our 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 Xiomara Contreras (pictured above with her mother), a product marketing manager in our San Francisco office. Xiomara’s passion for social impact is deeply rooted in her work, both in her core role of supporting small businesses and in building community for underrepresented groups both in and out of Google.


How would you describe your role at Google?


I’m a product marketing manager working on Google My Business. Specifically, my team is dedicated to supporting small-business owners. Google My Business is a free tool that allows users to promote their Business Profile on Google Search and Maps, allowing them to respond to reviews, post photos of products or special offers and add or edit their business details so they can connect with customers.


My role focuses on core product marketing, meaning I work with product managers and engineers to determine who our users are, what they need and how to align our product with those needs. As a product marketing manager, I show the value of our product to small business owners. Additionally, I recently contributed to the creation and launch of the Black-owned business attribute to support Black-owned businesses.


What made you decide to apply to Google?


When I initially started thinking about a career, I thought I would be in the nonprofit sector because most of my previous experience was in that space. Also, I studied Communication Studies and Latina/o Studies at Northwestern and I wasn’t aware of the breadth of opportunities available to “non-technical” students in tech. 


Then I learned about Google'sBOLD Internship Program through Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), an organization that prepares and connects university students from underrepresented backgrounds to internships and full-time careers. Through the support and encouragement of the organization, I applied to the internship. Once I was an intern at Google I was able to see how my passion for social justice issues, education and youth mentorship intersect with tech, and I knew I wanted to work at Google full time.

Three people sitting around a large “G” sculpture.

Xiomara and fellow Googlers/MLT alums, Janice and Olivia, representing Google at the Management Leadership for Tomorrow 15th Anniversary Celebration in 2019.

Can you expand more on that intersection?


Google has exposed me to different mentorship programs both inside and outside of the company. I volunteered for TutorMate and Spark, and I currently volunteer for iMentor, a three-year commitment to empower first-generation students from low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college and achieve their ambitions. I only learned about these opportunities through other Googlers. 


I’m also involved in increasing racial equity at Google through our Black and Latinx Marketers (BALM) employee resource group. This group is designed to help make Google a place where people like me can see themselves, be successful and feel fulfilled. Last year I was the Global Community Lead, organizing events like a dialogue series with external speakers to discuss issues impacting our community and fun activities like learning how to make café de olla in a workshop led by a small business owner.

What inspires you to log in every day?


First, just knowing that my core work is very impactful for small-business owners. My grandma is a small-business owner, and I use Google My Business for her business. I see how the product helps her stand out online and connect with new customers. So believing in the mission of Google and the mission of my own team keeps me invested in the company. 


Second, personally, being the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and the first person in my family to go to college motivates me every day to continue to grow here because my family sacrificed a lot for me to get where I am. This way, I am able to support them too.

Three people wearing Google shirts at an indoor event.

Xiomara (middle) with Googlers, Lucy and Huyen, at an event in the Google NYC office in 2019.

What resources did you use to prepare for your interviews?


Keeping up with Think with Google and The Keyword was extremely helpful as it gave me a deeper perspective on Google’s top priorities and new products. In particular, I read the small business section in The Keyword because I was passionate about Google’s initiatives for underrepresented business owners. It also helped to browse through other companies’ blogs and social channels to learn about their programs for small business owners. 


Because I wasn’t a marketing student, I also brushed up on my Google Ads skills as well as marketing 101 basics. 


Any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?


Your resume is your first impression. To make sure it’s at its best I encourage you to show it to a lot of people, even those outside of the company or marketing (or whatever area you’re interested in) to provide feedback. 


Also, don’t erase the other parts of you. When reviewing current students’ resumes, they often only show the things related to marketing and remove everything else. But things like student organizations, campus jobs, volunteer work and life experience all highlight how you are different and often demonstrate leadership and problem solving experiences well beyond, for example, a marketing internship.

So…what does a technical writer actually do?

When I started college, I was dead-set on becoming an accountant. I loved the logical nature of writing, rewriting, and trying to find the perfect, most concise way to get my point across. Because of this, I thought the logic of debits and credits and the puzzle-like nature of the tax code meant accounting would be a perfect career fit. 

But after a summer interning at a tax firm, I realized that while I liked my accounting coursework a lot, the day-to-day work wasn’t a good fit . So I returned to something I knew I liked: writing. During my junior year of college, I applied for marketing, copywriting, and technical writing internships. I ended up accepting a technical writing position with a startup in San Jose, California.

The catch? At that point, I had only the haziest idea what technical writing even was. I know I’m not the only one who’s felt this way — so I decided to answer three questions I previously had, and today often get, about this work: 

What do tech writers actually do?

Over the course of my internship and the almost three years I’ve been at Google, I’ve realized that yes, technical writing is, at its most basic, “writing technical stuff.” At Google, there are technical writers who write the help content you read when you’re having trouble logging into your Gmail account. Other technical writers write documentation for external engineers who use Google products to build things like Android apps. Still other technical writers write internal documentation and other educational content about various Google products and infrastructure systems.

What specifically do you write about at Google?

I’m a technical writer for Google Search, where my teammates and I produce internal documentation about Search features and infrastructure for Google engineers. I learn about how interesting new technologies and pieces of infrastructure fit together to find the right information for users who search for things like “How tall is a giraffe?” or “Game of Thrones episodes.” Once I have a thorough understanding of how things work, I write about them and get thoughtful, detailed reviews of my writing from  engineers and other technical writers. The  goal of this documentation work is a clearer, faster, and more user-focused development process. 

I enjoy distilling information into a compact, understandable form that’s useful to the Google engineers. I like the actual act of writing, and I like the (ideal!) result – more accessible information and a better workflow for developers. 

How do people become technical writers?

I started at Google right after I graduated from college. I ended up double majoring in Accounting and English and completed the coursework for a minor in Computer Science – that’s all a long way of saying I was indecisive, and it ended up working out for me!

Most of the technical writers I know at Google and elsewhere didn’t get a formal degree in technical writing (though some did!). Some used to be software engineers or teachers, while others came from academia, journalism, or a wide range of other fields. I’ve realized there’s really no “traditional” academic or work background that’s necessary to be a technical writer. What’s important is that you can write clearly, interpret code, and learn about tricky technical concepts through a combination of independent research and asking questions. 

If you want to learn more becoming a technical writer at Google, visit developers.google.com/tech-writing/becoming.