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4 days with Google at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival

4 days with Google at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival

Earlier this month, a group of Googlers traveled to New Orleans for the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture, an annual celebration that brings together Black women and allies for conversation and connection. After a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic, ESSENCE returned with over 500,000 attendees and a packed lineup of performances, workshops and panels focused on sisterhood, personal development, civic engagement and community leadership.It was an honor to represent Google as a festival sponsor this year, and to witness thousands of Black women leaders, creators, founders, educators and entertainers gathering together. The experience proved how important and powerful it is to create a sense of belonging.Here are some highlights from our four whirlwind days at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival:Thursday: Building connections over brunchWe kicked off the festival on Thursday with a brunch for Googlers and their plus-ones. Over food and conversation, attendees admired photographer Deun Ivory’s work, which was specially shot with Pixel’s Real Tone technology to reflect the nuances of skin tones.At the Google-sponsored brunch, Googlers and their guests admired Deun Ivory’s photographs, shot using Real Tone on Google Pixel. Photo by Jonathan Priester.“Starting the ESSENCE festivities with the brunch event was a highlight for me,” says Stephanie LeBlanc, Global Lead of Community Inclusion Programs for Intersectional Communities at Google. “As a plus-one, you can sometimes feel like a tagalong, so it was important to us to welcome guests as part of an ever-growing and empowering community of Black women leaders. It was an amazing networking opportunity — many of us discovered how closely we’re all connected.”Stephanie LeBlanc helped lead Google’s brunch at the ESSENCE Festival. Photo by Jonathan Priester.Friday: Sharing skills and training opportunitiesOn Friday, we hosted a conversation with sorority organization partners, moderated by Cassandra Johnson, VP of Customer Care and Vendor Management Office and an executive sponsor for our internal Black Googler Network. The session spotlighted Black Women Lead, a Grow with Google partnership with The Links, Incorporated, Dress for Success Worldwide and four Black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Since launching in 2021, Black Women Lead has provided digital skills training to 100,000 Black women across the U.S.Cassandra Johnson hosted a conversation with leaders from our sorority organization partners: (L to R) Elsie Cook-Holmes (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.), Valerie Hollingsworth Baker (Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.), Nichole McCall (Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.) and Andria Daniels (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.). Photo by Jonathan Priester.The Grow with Google team also sponsored a booth in the festival’s convention center, where they set up time for a sorority “takeover.” Hundreds of sorority members from across the country stopped by to learn more about training opportunities and workshops available through Black Women Lead. “It was amazing to hear firsthand from my Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters about the success of this initiative in our communities,” says Shani Waugh, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Google.Getting ready for the sorority takeover at Google’s ESSENCE Festival booth.Saturday: Holding space for conversationsOn Saturday, I had the pleasure of hosting a fireside chat on building career paths with Jewel Burks, Head of Google for Startups U.S. and the co-founder of Partpic Inc, which Jewel sold to Amazon at age 27. Among many topics, we talked about the important role champions play throughout a career.Later that day, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage in conversation with Emmy Award-winning actress Keke Palmer — two of the many high-profile and inspirational speakers at ESSENCE. Kamala’s take on the importance of community and connection with others really captured the theme of the weekend.I sat down with Jewel Burks at the ESuite stage event “Dynamic Pathways: Charting Your Career Through Reciprocity.” Photo by Jonathan Priester.Sunday: Reflecting on the ESSENCE experienceOn the final day of the festival, Googlers wrapped up their volunteer duties, said their goodbyes to new and lasting connections and reflected on the experience. Although we were one of many companies that attended and contributed to ESSENCE, it was inspiring to see how Google’s efforts helped lift up and bring so many people together. I personally reflected on the limitlessness of human potential, and how the work we do at Google can help Black women pursue successful career journeys.Laurie Bennett, a consultant on Google’s Human Resources team, summed up the experience well: “It was really powerful to see all the different ways people showed up at ESSENCE — from companies and vendors offering support to the Black community, to celebrities and entrepreneurs sharing professional, and even personal, advice. It leaves you feeling proud and wanting to pay that work forward. ”Rachel Spivey (L) and Laurie Bennett (R), joined a group of Googlers at this year’s ESSENCE Festival. Photo by Laurie Bennett.

How this engineer got the career boost she needed

How this engineer got the career boost she needed

Saskia Bobinska was excited when she came across the application for the Women Developers Academy (WDA) program in Europe. After spending two years in isolation, thanks to the pandemic and having multiple back surgeries, she was looking for a way to advance her career in tech. She thought the WDA — a global program run by Women Techmakers to help technical women become better speakers and bring more diversity to tech stages — would be a great first step towards this goal.One of the first assignments was to write her own speaker bio. As a self-taught frontend developer who uses JavaScript, NextJS and React, she felt a bit hesitant to share her story. “To be honest, I thought that my story was not important enough,” she tells us. But after a few WDA training sessions and encouragement from her mentors, business strategist Kamila Wosińska, Dart and Flutter Google Developer Expert (GDE) Majid Hajian and Web Technologies GDE Anuradha Kumarii, Saskia’s confidence was boosted. She excitedly set out to write a LinkedIn post about a mobile app on which she had been working.Not long after the post went live, Saskia was approached by one of the companies she had mentioned. A few meetings lead to interviews and within a few months, Saskia was offered a job on their team. “I never would’ve thought that this was possible when I started coding three years ago,” Saskia says.Looking back on the experience, Saskia is positively surprised by the speed with which she was able to transition her career from social media to engineering. “I’d have given myself two years before applying to Sanity, but WDA accelerated that,” she says. “I found my voice within the tech industry because of the community and WDA, which gave me a push toward it.”Going through the WDA also helped Saskia realize that her “soft” skills — communication, leadership and confidence — are just as important as her hard skills for excelling in tech. “Having the ability to go out and speak gave me an approach to finding a more intermediate-level engineering role,” she says. “I have hard skills, but my soft skills are what brought me to this company that shares my priorities, because they knew who I was.”She also recognized the importance of having a supportive community. During the WDA, she was excited to see women supporting each other so enthusiastically within the male-dominated tech industry. “Emotional support and empathy, especially in a professional environment, help you stay in balance and enable you to do your best,” she says. “Always help and support others, because safe communities are not just found, they are made.”Learn more about Women Techmakersand become a member to stay up to date on all our initiatives including the Women Developers Academy.

Helping people impacted by the justice system

Helping people impacted by the justice system

On a visit to Indiana Women’s Prison in 2018, I joined a ceremony for graduates of The Last Mile, an organization preparing people for successful reentry through business and technology training. It was my first time attending a graduation inside, and I listened and was inspired as each graduate shared their determination to succeed in spite of the many challenges they might face after release.Each year, 640,000 people are released from prison only to be met with an unemployment rate that is five times the national average. This rate is even higher for Black, Latino, and low income individuals, who are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration. Devastatingly, more than half of those released from US prisons don’t land a job in the first year of returning home, in part because they don’t have the necessary digital skills to compete in an ever-changing job market.Since 2015, Google has supported many aspects of criminal justice reform with over $48 million in grant funding and 50,000 pro-bono hours. But there’s more work to be done. Today, we’re committing more than $8 million in new funding that will support job seekers impacted by the justice system with digital skills training and automatic record clearance.The Grow with Google Fund for Justice-Impacted Communities will make more than $4 million available for nonprofits to lead Grow with Google workshops and trainings. Using a curriculum co-curated with five justice-reform-focused partners, our goal is to help 100,000 people impacted by the justice system build career skills–ranging from fundamental skills like finding and applying for jobs online, making a resume using web-based tools, or building a professional brand, to more advanced topics like using spreadsheets to budget for a business.To accelerate jobs access for formerly incarcerated people, Google.org is providing a $3 million grant and a full-time team of Google.org Fellows who will work pro-bono to support Code for America. Code for America works with community organizations and government to build digital tools and services, change policies, and improve programs. Fellows will work alongside Code for America to help transform the process of automatically clearing criminal records; creating a replicable model to better identify and expunge past records through CFA’s Clear My Record initiative. Google.org is also granting $1.25 million to the National Urban League and Justice through Code, two organizations focused on providing skills training to formerly incarcerated job seekers beginning their careers in tech.Three years after The Last Mile graduation I attended, it was an honor to sit down with Molly, a graduate who learned digital skills using Grow with Google’s curriculum. She is now employed as a Returned Citizen Advocate at The Last Mile.Here’s what Molly had to say about her involvement with the program:When you started learning digital skills at The Last Mile, where were you at in life?I had just been released from Indiana Women’s Prison and was on a mission to find a new career. I was applying for multiple jobs while also looking for educational opportunities that would help build my skills and knowledge.How comfortable were you with tech before and after you went inside?I was incarcerated for three years. When I went in, I felt like I was very tech fluent, but when I was released, it seemed as though the entire tech world had changed. There were new norms and even how email was done felt unfamiliar. Different platforms and software were being used and I felt overwhelmed.What was a highlight of the program?The most important class that I took was a learning path called “Basic Digital Skills.” It helped me learn how to use documents and email efficiently. This was reinforced by The Last Mile because we regularly use both of these when communicating and collaborating.What’s next for you?Since participating, I secured a job as a Returned Citizen Advocate at The Last Mile. I went from using what I learned (like how to) write a resume, cover letter, apply for a job and interview, to securing a role that allows me to help other members of the community.I’ve had the opportunity to pay it forward. Alumni are encouraged to participate in the program once they are released from prison. Because I have first-hand experience with the program, I can assist them with any questions and talk about the value and importance of each lesson or learning path from personal experience.In the future, I plan to continue to support people that are returning to society, and to help people learn digital skills and expand their knowledge. My passion is to help those coming after me to be able to create and build the best future for themselves that is possible.

An accelerator for early-stage Latino founders

An accelerator for early-stage Latino founders

After 10 years of working with early-stage founders at Google for Startups, I’ve seen time and time again how access activates potential. Access to capital is the fuel that makes startups go, access to community keeps them running, and access to mentorship helps them navigate the road to success.But access to the resources needed to grow one’s business are still not evenly distributed. Despite being the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., only 3% of Latino-owned companies ever reach $1 million in revenue. As part of our commitment to support the Latino founder community, today we’re announcing a new partnership with Visible Hands, a Boston-based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in the potential of underrepresented founders.During last year’s Google for Startups Founders Academy, I met Luis Suarez, a founder and fellow Chicagoan whose startup, Sanarai, addresses the massive gap in Spanish- speaking mental health providers in the U.S. Sanarai connects Latinos to therapists in Latin American countries for virtual sessions in their native language. When I asked Luis about the most helpful programs he had participated in, he highly recommended Visible Hands. The program gave Luis the opportunity to work alongside a community of diverse founders to grow his startup and have also helped him craft his early fundraising strategy. Visible Hands also supplies stipends to their participants, helping founders who might otherwise not be able to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship.Inspired by feedback from founders like Luis, Google for Startups is partnering with Visible Hands to run a 20-week fellowship program, VHLX, to better support the next wave of early-stage Latino founders across the U.S. and to create greater economic opportunity for the Latino community. In addition to hands-on support from Google and industry experts, we are providing $10,000 in cash for every VHLX participant to help kickstart their ideas. Following the program, founders will have the opportunity to receive additionaladditional investment from Visible Hands, up to $150,000.Our work with Visible Hands and our recent partnership with eMerge Americas is part of a$7 million commitment to increase representation and support of the Latino startup community. I’m also looking forward to the Google for Startups Latino Leaders Summit in Miami this June, where in partnership with Inicio Ventures we’re bringing together around 30 top community leaders and investors from across the country to discuss how we can collectively support Latino founders in ways that will truly make a difference. And soon, we’ll share the recipients Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund.If you or someone you know would be a great fit for VHLX, encourage them to apply by June 24.

Expanding research on digital wellbeing

Expanding research on digital wellbeing

Editor’s note: Dr. Nicholas Allenis a professor of psychology, the director of the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregonand a lead researcher for the latest study hosted on Google Health Studies.In Australia, where I’m from, any topic so contentious that it interrupts whatever a group is doing and prompts loud debate is called a “BBQ stopper.” Discussing whether digital technology is good or bad for wellbeing and mental health is a classic BBQ stopper. And this issue has become even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic as so many people have turned to digital technology to maintain some semblance of their lifestyle.This is a focus for our work at the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregon, where we conduct research and build tools to enhance mental health and wellbeing, especially among underserved and young people. Our goal is to provide people and their support networks with actionable feedback on their wellbeing.We’re expanding our research using Google Health Studies with a study focused on how smartphone use impacts wellbeing. With this research, we hope to uncover insights that help us all build a future where digital products may support us in living healthier, happier lives.Weighing benefits and risksWith today’s smartphones, social media and bottomless streams of content, many are quick to condemn technology based on their conviction that these products must be bad for mental health and wellbeing. But focusing only on these potentially harmful effects doesn’t tell the full story. Nor does it help us reap the full benefits these tools have to offer, while also managing their risks.Technological developments throughout history have had both benefits and risks. We urgently need high-quality research to identify which use patterns are associated with benefits versus risks, and who is likely to experience harmful versus beneficial outcomes. Answering these questions is necessary so that the research community and technology industry can pursue evidence-based product design, education and policy aimed at maximizing benefits and minimizing risks.The need for new researchNot only do we need new research that focuses on both the benefits and risks of technology, we also need to rethink what we ask people, who we include in this research and how we work together to use the findings.Most scientific research on digital wellbeing has relied on self-reported questionnaires, which are heavily subjective. Could you say how many hours or minutes you used your phone yesterday without checking your screen time metrics? Probably not!Existing studies also typically have small or unrepresentative samples. To make sure research and potential solutions support everyone, it’s critical for new research methodologies to incorporate data from people historically underrepresented in health research.Finally, many studies might miss certain patterns of behavior that reveal complex relationships between device use and wellbeing — like the relationship between screen time and sleep.Understanding these relationships can inform insights and guidelines for developers and people to maximize wellbeing and minimize risks. Scientists around the globe are calling for greater transparency and collaboration between the technology sector and independent scientists to solve these problems and provide the answers we need.Studying the impact of technology, with technologyWe believe that technology can help bridge many of these gaps and improve research on digital wellbeing. That’s why the Center for Digital Mental Health at the University of Oregon is partnering with Google to launch this landmark study.We’ll recruit a large representative sample and collect direct, objective measures of how people use their phones, with their informed consent. We’ll use passive and continuous sensing technology to do this, rather than relying only on self reports. The study will also use participants’ phones to directly measure many of the well-established building blocks of wellbeing, such as sleep and physical activity.How to participateThe study takes four weeks to complete and is open to adults based in the U.S. who use an Android phone and can complete daily activities without assistance. Participants will also have the option to add relevant Fitbit data, including step count and physical activity.[f1908e]The data collected will be managed according to strict ethical standards and will only be used for research and to inform better products. The data will never be sold or used for advertising.We hope you’ll join this important study so we can build a healthier digital future together for everyone. Download Google Health Studies, and sign up for the study starting Friday, May 27.

Making Android more accessible for braille users

Making Android more accessible for braille users

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing more on how we’re partnering with people with disabilitiesand what we’re doing to make education more accessible.The heart of our mission at Google is making the world’s information truly accessible. But the reality is we can only realize this mission with the help of the community. This year at I/O, we announced one more step in the right direction, thanks to feedback and help from our users: We’re making it easier for braille readers to use Android. Available in our next Android 13 Beta in a few weeks, we are beginning to build out-of-the-box support for braille displays in Talkback, our screen reader within Android.A refreshable braille display is an electro-mechanical device that creates braille patterns by raising rounded pins through holes in a flat surface. Braille-literate computer users use the braille display to touch-read braille dots representing text. With the display, you can also type out braille. These devices help people with deafblindness access mobile phones and people with blindness use their phones silently. Previously, people connected their Android devices to braille displays using the BrailleBack app, which required a separate download from the Play Store, or used a virtual keyboard within Talkback instead of a physical device.With this new update, there are no additional downloads necessary to use most braille displays. People can use braille displays to access many of the same features available with Talkback. For instance, you can use display buttons to navigate your screen and then do activities like compose an email, make a phone call, send a text message or read a book.There are also new shortcuts that make it easier to use braille displays with Talkback. Now there are shortcuts for navigating so it’s easier to scroll and move to the next character, word or line. There are also shortcuts for settings and for editing, like jumping to the end of documents or selecting, copying and pasting.You can sign up for the Android beta program to try out Talkback 13 in the next beta release.We are grateful to the community for their ongoing feedback that makes features like these possible. This is just the first step forward in developing this integration, and we can’t wait to do even more to expand the feature and to create even more related capabilities.

Helping every student learn how they learn best

Helping every student learn how they learn best

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. We’re also sharing how we’re partnering with people with disabilitiesto build products and a newAndroid accessibility feature.I often think about what Laura Allen, a Googler who leads our accessibility and disability inclusion work and is low vision, shared with me about her experience growing up using assistive technology in school. She said: “Technology should help children learn the way they need to learn, it shouldn’t be a thing that makes them feel different in the classroom.”As someone who has spent years building technology at Google, I’ve thought a lot about how we can create the best possible experience for everyone. A big part of getting that right is building accessibility right into our products — which is especially important when it comes to technology that helps students learn. Ninety-five percent of students who have disabilities attend traditional schools, but the majority of those classrooms lack resources to support their needs. The need for accessible learning experiences only intensifies with the recent rise of blended learning environments.Teacher working with a student on a ChromebookAn educator works 1:1 with a studentA teacher sitting with a student with intellectual disabilities. The teacher’s cane is leaning on the table nearby.An educator sits with a student working on a Chromebook.One autistic student and one student with Downs Syndrome working together in classroom on a ChromebookStudents in their special education class working together in their classroomWe want students to have the tools they need to express themselves and access information in a way that works best for them. Here are a few recent ways we’ve built accessibility features directly into our education tools.You can now add alt-text in Gmail. This allows people to add context for an image, making it accessible for people using screen readers and helping them better understand exactly what is being shared.We’ve improved our Google Docs experience with braille support. With comments and highlights in braille, students reading a Google Doc will now hear start and end indications for comments and highlights alongside the rest of the text. This change makes it easier for people using screen readers and refreshable braille displays to interact with comments in documents and identify text with background colors.Video format not supportedWe added new features to dictation on Chrome OS. Now you canspeak into any text field on the Chromebook simply by clicking on the mic icon in the status area or pressing Search + d to dictate. The dictation feature can be helpful for students who have trouble writing — whether that’s because of dysgraphia, having a motor disability or something else. You can also edit using just your voice. Simply say “new line” to move the cursor to another line, “help” to see the full list of commands, or “undo” to fix any typos or mistakes.Video format not supportedAccessibility in actionWe see the helpfulness of these features when they’re in the hands of teachers and students. My team recently spoke with Tracey Green, a teacher of the Deaf and an Itinerant Educational Specialist from the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf (MOSD) in Quebec. Her job is to work with students with hearing loss who attend local schools.She and Chris Webb, who is a teacher at John Rennie High School and also a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer, have been using Google Classroom to support students throughout distance learning and those who have returned to the classroom. For example, they integrate YouTube videos with automatic captioning and rely on captions in Google Meet. Their efforts to improve access to information during school assemblies kicked off a school-wide, student-led accessibility initiative to raise awareness about hearing loss and related accessibility issues.Benefiting everyoneOne phenomenon that underscores how disability-first features benefit everyone is called the “Curb-cut Effect.” When curbs were flattened to allow access for people with disabilities, it also meant greater access for bikers, skateboarders, and people pushing strollers or shopping carts. Everyone benefitted. Similarly, accessibility improvements like these recent updates to our education tools mean a better experience for everyone.We see this similar effect time and time again among our own products. Take Live Caption in the Chrome browser for example. Similar to Google Meet captions, Live Caption in Chrome captions any video and audio content on your browser, which can be especially helpful for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It can also be helpful when people want to read content without noise so they don’t disrupt the people around them.When we build accessible products, we build for everyone. It’s one of the things I love about working for Google — that we serve the world. There’s a lot of work ahead of us to make sure our products delight all people, with and without disabilities. I’m excited and humbled by technology’s potential to help get us closer to this future.Stay up-to-date on the latest accessibility features from Google for Education.

How we build with and for people with disabilities

How we build with and for people with disabilities

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. We’re also sharing how we’re making education more accessibleand launching a newAndroid accessibility feature.Over the past nine years, my job has focused on building accessible products and supporting Googlers with disabilities. Along the way, I’ve been constantly reminded of how vast and diverse the disability community is, and how important it is to continue working alongside this community to build technology and solutions that are truly helpful.Before delving into some of the accessibility features our teams have been building, I want to share how we’re working to be more inclusive of people with disabilities to create more accessible tools overall.Nothing about us, without usIn the disability community, people often say “nothing about us without us.” It’s a sentiment that I find sums up what disability inclusion means. The types of barriers that people with disabilities face in society vary depending on who they are, where they live and what resources they have access to. No one’s experience is universal. That’s why it’s essential to include a wide array of people with disabilities at every stage of the development process for any of our accessibility products, initiatives or programs.We need to work to make sure our teams at Google are reflective of the people we’re building for. To do so, last year we launched our hiring site geared toward people with disabilities — including our Autism Career Program to further grow and strengthen our autistic community. Most recently, we helped launch the Neurodiversity Career Connector along with other companies to create a job portal that connects neurodiverse candidates to companies that are committed to hiring more inclusively.Beyond our internal communities, we also must partner with communities outside of Google so we can learn what is truly useful to different groups and parlay that understanding into the improvement of current products or the creation of new ones. Those partnerships have resulted in the creation of Project Relate, a communication tool for people with speech impairments, the development of a completely new TalkBack, Android’s built-in screen reader, and the improvement of Select-to-Speak, a Chromebook tool that lets you hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud.Equitable experiences for everyoneEngaging and listening to these communities — inside and outside of Google — make it possible to create tools and features like the ones we’re sharing today.The ability to add alt-text, which is a short description of an image that is read aloud by screen readers, directly to images sent through Gmail starts rolling out today. With this update, people who use screen readers will know what’s being sent to them, whether it’s a GIF celebrating the end of the week or a screenshot of an important graph.Communication tools that are inclusive of everyone are especially important as teams have shifted to fully virtual or hybrid meetings. Again, everyone experiences these changes differently. We’ve heard from some people who are deaf or hard of hearing, that this shift has made it easier to identify who is speaking — something that is often more difficult in person. But, in the case of people who use ASL, we’ve heard that it can be difficult to be in a virtual meeting and simultaneously see their interpreter and the person speaking to them.Multi-pin, a new feature in Google Meet, helps solve this. Now you can pin multiple video tiles at once, for example, the presenter’s screen and the interpreter’s screen. And like many accessibility features, the usefulness extends beyond people with disabilities. The next time someone is watching a panel and wants to pin multiple people to the screen, this feature makes that possible.We’ve also been working to make video content more accessible to those who are blind or low-vision through audio descriptions that describe verbally what is on the screen visually. All of our English language YouTube Originals content from the past year — and moving forward — will now have English audio descriptions available globally. To turn on the audio description track, at the bottom right of the video player, click on “Settings”, select “Audio track”, and choose “English descriptive”.For many people with speech impairments, being understood by the technology that powers tools like voice typing or virtual assistants can be difficult. In 2019, we started work to change that through Project Euphonia, a research initiative that works with community organizations and people with speech impairments to create more inclusive speech recognition models. Today, we’re expanding Project Euphonia’s research to include four more languages: French, Hindi, Japanese and Spanish. With this expansion, we can create even more helpful technology for more people — no matter where they are or what language they speak.I’ve learned so much in my time working in this space and among the things I’ve learned is the absolute importance of building right alongside the very people who will most use these tools in the end. We’ll continue to do that as we work to create a more inclusive and accessible world, both physically and digitally.

Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don’t think about invisible disabilities, but it’s equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I’m incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.Having a disability doesn’t limit me, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I’ve achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.I was ready to compete in a marathon in China back in 2021As we commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, I also spoke to Sakiko, a fellow member of our Disability Alliance chapter in Japan, to learn more about what drives her, and why it’s important that we provide equal opportunities for all.Sharing my personal experience at an external event. I’m seated at the extreme right in a gray sweater.Tell us more about yourself. What keeps you going at Google after more than nine years?I was born with spina bifida, and I move around with crutches. I’ve always wanted to work in sales, but when I was job hunting, I was turned down by several companies because of my disabilities. I knew I had the ability and knowledge to sell, and I enjoy interacting with people, so I didn’t give up. When I interviewed at Google, the interviewers focused on my potential and abilities, and not my disability. That surprised me, because I’ve never experienced that. I recalled asking one of my interviewers if my disability would impede this opportunity, but he said, “if you have the ability to sell, it shouldn’t stop you from doing that.” It was amazing and encouraging to hear that. I currently work in the Google Ads team and have experienced various roles. When my clients shared how grateful and thankful they are for my dedicated support, that really keeps me going.What is a memorable experience you’ve had with the Disability Alliance?I once hosted a workshop where we invited students with disabilities to have hands-on experience coding their own web application, giving them the confidence to pursue their interest in engineering. At the end of the event, several parents shared that they didn’t know their children had the potential to code and create applications all by themselves. I still remember this day vividly, because it demonstrates everyone has the chance to shine when they are given the right opportunities to learn and develop new skills.

Step into the Meroë pyramids with Google

Step into the Meroë pyramids with Google

When you think of pyramids does your mind wander to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Mayan Temples of Guatemala? Great civilizations built each of these pyramids and inscribed their stories onto the walls of them, offering glimpses into their daily life.The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, while lesser known, are no different. Today, you can explore these stunning pyramids, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site, on Google Arts & Culture.Over 200 pyramids were constructed in Meroë, the third and final capital of the Kushite Kingdom, an ancient African civilization that ruled the lands of Nubia for over 3000 years. Now you can take a virtual walk through the Pyramids of Meroë and explore the inscriptions using Street View’s panoramic imagery. You can also learn more about the Kushite Kingdom, their royalty and the architecture behind the pyramids in an immersive web experience that’s available in a range of languages including Arabic, English, French, German and Spanish.A user searches Google for the pyramids of meroe, then places an Augmented Reality model in front of themSearch for “pyramids of meroe” to explore a pyramid up close in Augmented RealityA series of pyramids are arranged in two rowsUncover the story of Meroë at g.co/meroeA user pans along the outline of a pyramid in Street ViewExplore these remarkable Nubian pyramids on Street ViewA series of steep pyramids extends across the horizon.Sudan’s Pyramids of MeroëIf you want to get even more up close and personal, you can visualize the pyramids using augmented reality — no matter where you are. You can also listen to acclaimed Sudanese-American poet Emi Mahmood share evocative rhymes that are a beautiful ode to her homeland and to this project that shares Sudan’s rich heritage with others.We’ve also partnered with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) to bring you more information about Meroë, Gebel Barkal and Napatan region and Sudan’s Sanganeb Marine National Park.

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