Mountain View – September 28-30, 2016
Most people have come across stories of the working wonderland that is the Google Corporate Headquarters, or Googleplex, in Mountain View, California. They’ve heard of a place devoted to the mental, physical, and emotional health of the employees who work there, and wished that, if only for one day, they could work in a place like that too. Well, I’m here to tell you how someone just like you just did exactly that. All it takes is the desire to help others, the dedication to learning all that you can, and the willingness to share that knowledge. It really is that simple, and this past week was the proof!
The Google Product Forums may be a mystery to you. You may have entered one of them in the past in search of an answer to a problem you were having with a Google product, and someone there took the time to help you through your issue. Did you just assume that person worked for Google? It might surprise you to learn the person helping was actually just a user, just like you, who was good enough with the material, kind enough to help, and available to you right when you needed them.
The person helping you was probably a participant in the Google Top Contributor Program. They spent their own time and energy mastering a particular Google product, and decided to use their expertise in the service of others. This is not about financial gain or self-promotion. It is a truly philanthropic activity on the part of people all over the globe. It’s a way for complete strangers to form relationships based on trust and common goals, and to use that bond to better serve the millions of people who need help with Google.
For those people, the ones so willing to help, Google hosts events like this past week’s Meetup in Mountain View. We, as Rising Stars and Top Contributors, are flown in to spend a few days at the Googleplex with the teams working on Google products and our peers from the Program. It’s an awesome experience, and, in my personal opinion, a great way to strengthen the sense of community found in the Forums.
The first day was all about travel. Each of us, numbering in the hundreds, boarded a plane somewhere to eventually land in San Francisco. From the airport, it was an hour trip to the Sheraton in Palo Alto where we spent a few hours enjoying cocktails and conversation while completing our registration for the events to come. The night was full of new faces, new friends, and new ideas, and I, for my part, had an amazing time. These are the first moments we actually have to put faces to usernames, and enjoy the confusion that inevitably results. It’s safe to say a good time was had by all.
The next day we were all shuttled from the hotel to the Google campus. For those who had never been, and for all of you who may want to one day visit, it’s an awe-inspiring sight. I’m sure part of our combined reaction was our deep connection to Google, but even if you’d never heard of the company you’d be impressed. The entire place, and it’s the size of a city by itself, is designed to function as a self-contained ecosystem. Everything you could ever imagine, from a technology standpoint, a recreational standpoint, or even an architectural standpoint, is present and accounted for. It’s really like a Disney World for tech people.
Once we had all arrived at our destination, we were served an excellent breakfast to fuel what we knew would be a busy day. It’s important to note that Google is a foodie’s dream. The cafeteria there gives new meaning to the word, and probably needs a different name. The place you ate in high school has no relation whatsoever to this food paradise, and we all thoroughly enjoyed what was served. In fact, we never spent a second hungry, and all the different food adventures were an experience unto themselves!
After breakfast, a day full of knowledge, wisdom, and shared experience began. There were presentations and discussions, Q&A and product news, personal conversations and stories. The day was full to bursting with information and insight, and every one of us was thrilled to be a part of it. The sheer amount of expertise in one place is astounding, and, as a direct result of being a participant, you experience personal growth in real, tangible ways. That’s worth the price of admission all by itself!
The final day of the Meetup had the feeling, at least to me, of a day meant for reflection. I soaked up the enthusiasm and energy of my peers and our colleagues at Google, and thought about all the new and exciting things I’d learned from all the interesting and informed people I’d met. I thought about the next leg of my journey in the Forums, and the next time I’d see all the people there who made me proud of being a part of this grand Program. I thought about how the experience had made me a better TC, a better Mentor, and a better person overall. I thought about what a success the whole thing had been, how far we had come, and how much further we can go.
As I climbed into my Uber to head to the airport, I realized how fortunate I was to have found my voice online. I have learned so much in my time in this Program, and, in turn, I’ve passed on that knowledge to another generation of users and Rising Stars. Seeing so many of them at the event was a real blessing. It proved beyond any doubt that what we do has merit. It proves that our mission is a worthy one, and, if done right, can change lives and broaden horizons beyond simply answering a question.
Meetups are the proof that together we have built something special, and, no matter the medium, that’s a powerful feeling. A feeling any Google user can have with desire, dedication, and devotion to detail. It’s as simple as that really. So get involved today, and I’ll see you at an event someday soon!
image source: TCMTV – Josh