22 May 2013

My Trip to Google I/O: Part I

The week of Monday, May 13th was a big one. I had the amazing experience of fulfilling one of my life dreams by attending the Google I/O Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, California. This trip was notable for many reasons: among them, it was my first time on the West Coast, it was my first time at Google I/O, and it was my first time around so many fellow developers. In the following series of posts, I am going to go into detail about my thoughts on the conference, my thoughts on Silicon Valley, as well as some other general details. In this first post, I will retell the events leading up to this great adventure and discuss my path towards accomplishing this goal.

For those of you unaware, I was able to fund this trip largely through the generosity of some very kind souls at Google and some major help from my school, Bowdoin College. As an aspiring developer and undergraduate computer science major, attending Google I/O has long been the stuff of dreams. For the less tech-oriented among us, Google I/O is an annual conference, the time where Google rolls out the red carpet to show off its new products, new back-end improvements to its operating systems, and its new developer tools to an audience of thousands upon thousands of tech developers there at the event and tuning in online. Since year one of I/O, I have faithfully followed along and kept up to date with the happenings via live blogs and live streams. However, through luck, fate, and a little bit of magic, I decided that this was the year I needed to make the pilgrimage to attend Google I/O in person, and against all odds and with huge amounts of help, I made it happen.

How, you might ask? Almost entirely through the power of social media. We, my blog readers, have the immense fortune of living in an era of hyper-connectivity, where everyone from your childhood friends to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are but a click away. There’s a saying that we’re never more than six degrees of separation away from anyone on earth. If that was true, I told myself, then it followed that I must not be more than six degrees of separation away from the right people who can help me get to Google I/O. Personally, my most active network is my Twitter account, where I discuss technology and share news about both big companies and start-ups building interesting gadgets. I utilized my presence on Twitter and I reached out to hundreds of friends, followers, and even total strangers on the network. I set up a donation page on my blog and asked for help raising funds, or assistance connecting with others who might be able to help out. And in fact, that’s exactly what happened. 

The first domino in the chain reaction that broke down the brick wall keeping me from getting to San Francisco (the location of Google I/O) came when I contacted Eliana Murillo, the Head of Multicultural Marketing at Google. Based out of New York, Eli did me the immense favor of emailing a Hispanic network at Google. Once word was out, I immediately began receiving offers of help via my donation page, LinkedIn, Twitter and email. Among those were my two hosts while in California, Daniel Navarro and Evan Ortiz, who generously offered to let me stay with them while visiting. Evan also gave me a great tour of the Googleplex, Google’s main campus based in Mountain View. In a likely related incident, I was also contacted by Google and asked to apply to Google’s Chrome Academy, an all-expense-paid week-long program in Mountain View for up-and-coming web developers, and much to my excitement, I received notification of my acceptance a few weeks later. Additionally, a staff member at Bowdoin’s Career Planning Center advised me to contact the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs to ask for help fulfilling my funding requirements for my trip to I/O. After an email conversation explaining why and for what purpose I needed the funds, the College offered to help me pay for my plane ticket to San Francisco and back. Suddenly, I realized all the gears were in place: I had the means to attend Google I/O!

This amazing experience in fundraising, networking, and attempting (successfully) to reach my goal taught me several things: first, know what you want. Figure out what it is you want to accomplish, and make a plan that clearly delineates what it is you need to get it. Second, don't be afraid to ask for what you want. There’s an incredible network of people right at your fingertips who want to see you succeed and want to help you accomplish your goals. The only thing you have to do is ask; make your needs known by taking the initiative to ask. Along with that comes the following lesson: don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. You never know who’s out there, who might share the same dreams and ambitions as you, and who might have been right where you are today. Evan, for example, I found out was born and raised in the same area I was, and was able to relate with me in many ways. My last lesson comes from my host Danny, someone I look up to for having the internal drive and initiative to fight the uphill battle to get to where he is today: stay hungry. Never lose the craving for success, the ambition to fight for what you believe is yours. Even when the world seems to be working against you, don’t lose the courage to keep going. And again, when things get rough, remember you’re never more than a few clicks away from people with the capacity to help you in your battles.

See Part II, here!