This post is about my experience of Google Code-In Grand prize trip. I will start by introducing myself and about Google Code-In and what this trip really is?
I am Gaurav Sachdeva, exist on various platforms by username (@gauravano). I am a Software Community coordinator and maintainer of Open Source organization, Public Lab. I was part of Google Code-In 2018 as a mentor from Public Lab.
What is Google Code-In?
Google Code-in is an annual contest organized by Google to introduce pre-university students (ages 13--17) to open source software development.
In this contest, Open source organizations chosen by Google provide a list of tasks for students to work on during the seven-week contest period. There are mentors with each task for helping the participants.
The mentors are the contributors to the project or long time organization members or maintainers. They create tasks for the GCI participants and also help them in solving those tasks. They don't get paid for it and contribute their valuable time for their project improvement and for the benefit of Open Source.
What is Google Code-In Grand Prize trip?
After the contest ends, each organization selects 2 winners and 4 finalists based on their performance during the contest duration.
The 2 winners from each organization with a family member get sponsored a 4-day trip to Google Headquarters. Each organization also receives a fund to send a mentor from their organization to this trip.
I am glad to be one of the GCI-18 mentors to represent Public Lab for this trip and here's the blog about my experience.
In early March, it was decided that I will be going on GCI trip from my organization.
After getting the Visa stamped, I started planning for the trip. The trip was scheduled for June and since I was going to graduate just a week before the trip, so I decided to extend the trip and explore US a bit more.
June 9: Reached San Francisco --- I reached San Francisco in the evening and took a BART to my hotel. Google organized everyone's stay at the Marriott Union Square hotel. From Airport to Powell Station, the view and crowd was great. The moment, I exited Powell Street station, I was overwhelmed to see the skyscrapers and a group playing music on the roadside. I cannot describe how amazing it was. I got my room keys and guess what --- my room was on the 27th floor and the view from my room was a bliss:->
<-On my first day in SFO, I was tired due to Jetlag, skipped the dinner and just slept right away.
June 10, 2019: Opening Reception --- The Opening reception was scheduled for 5 PM in the Google SFO office so I decided to explore the SFO. I visited --- Union Square, China Town, Nob Hill, Pier 39, walked around Fisherman's Wharf, had lunch at an Indian restaurant and then went to Coit Tower. After spending some time at the Coit Tower, I walked towards my hotel as it was time to gather in the hotel lobby.
From the hotel, all the mentors, winners and their family members were taken to Google SFO office in shuttles. There Stephanie (Program Manager) opened up the session by introducing herself, Google Open Source team and the itinerary for the trip. After the presentation, winners and mentors were given a bag containing some gifts. The winners also received a Google Pixel phone. Next, a small contest was held for the winners where they had to answer some questions with the help of mentors. Concurrently, dinner also started and after having dinner, the result of the contest was announced. The contest winner received a chance to pick anything from the goodies' table (you can imagine a table full of GCI stamped goodies!). The day ended with great interaction.
June 11, 2019: Visit to Google Sunnyvale Campus --- This day was one of the great experiences of the trip. On this day, we hit the highway to reach Google Sunnyvale campus. Our first stop was Google Merchandise store, Mountain View. Outside the store were Android Lawn statues, we took some 'cool' pictures with them, then we went into the store and used our coupons to buy eye-catching Google stuff like T-shirts, bottles, gadgets, and much more.
After that, we jumped into the bus and went straight to Google Building MAT1 Sunnyvale campus. It was just one of the countless Google buildings there. It's like an entire Google town. We spent the rest of the day here attending mind-blowing tech-talks by Googlers. The talks were on Recruitment, Chrome, Google Assistant, Google AI, Android, and Cloud. All the talks were awesome, the ones' I enjoyed most were Google AI by Paige Bailey and Android by Jeff Bailey.
In between the talks, we had our lunch. Winners were paired with the Googler from their home country so that they can interact and connect better. The lunch was in the big cafeteria in another building so we rode Google bikes to reach there.
Later, the first round of lightning talks began. The lightning talk was just a small presentation by each community with mentors and winners all sharing their GCI experiences. After lightning talks, we had our dinner and had discussions with each other. I got to know what efforts and system other organizations had put in to choose winners and to provide the best experience to the GCI participants. Since, my organization, Public Lab participated in GCI for the first time as an independent organization, so there were a lot of new things to learn and improvise for the coming years. The discussions, I had with other mentors, students, Googlers were really informative and will help me make Public Lab, more welcoming to students for the next GCI.
June 12, 2019: Fun Day --- Oh, this was one of my best days in US. We started our day with Segway ride and Cable Car tour. There was a choice to pick one, and without a doubt, I chose Segway. All the segway riders were first trained to ride it and then we hit the road in a group of 8, with one Segway instructor accompanying each group. We rode the segway around the town starting from Fisherman's wharf, took pictures on the way, took a brief stop at Washington Square. And, then rode around the Pier, enjoying the sea.
In the end, we all got Segway certification. Then, we had a delicious lunch at Ghirardelli Pub. After lunch, we went to the Golden gate bridge and spent around one and a half hours there. Then, we went to Pier 40, boarded yacht cruise from there. Our cruise, crossed the Golden gate bridge to reach Alcatraz Island and we spent our evening in the waters and had dinner on the cruise. You can see all the happy faces in our group picture.
June 13, 2019: Google SFO office Awards Ceremony --- This was my last day in San Francisco. We had our breakfast and then the lightning talks resumed. After some talks, the award ceremony began, each participant was awarded. We had our team presentation after the Award ceremony. After all the lightning talks, we had our lunch in the cafeteria, and some artists were called, who drew our beautiful caricatures.
After lunch, the Google Open Source team closed the event by sharing their thoughts. We all bid farewell to each other. Some people went to the hotel and others directly to the airport. My flight was scheduled for the evening so I with some participants went to Pier 39, saw sea lions and took a walk there. And, then went to Pier 45 Musée Mécanique, played old games there and had a lot of fun.
After that, I went to the Airport. Google's arrangement ended in SFO but for me, it was just the first stop. My plan was to explore and stay in New York and Providence. So, I took a flight to New York.
I enjoyed a lot in NYC, visited a lot of places like Financial District, Wall Street, World Trade Center, 9/11 Memorial, Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, High Line, etc.
I met Bronwen(Open Hardware Community Manager) and Sasha (Maintainer). We had a great time together. After spending three days in NYC, I headed to Providence.
My visit to Providence was to meet fellow Public Labbers working there, especially Jeffrey @warren (Co-founder and Research Director, Public Lab) who welcomed me some 2 years ago in PL and in this time frame, reviewed many PRs of mine, mentored me for many projects, and we collaborated for many Open Source programs and initiatives. I also met Amanda Snow (Kits coordinator, Public Lab) and her super cute dog Raegan.
I spent 3 days in Providence --- rode an electric bike (which was super cool), had different types of food, spent time in PL office, went for bowling and dinner with Jeffrey and his friends.
On June 19, I started my journey back home.
During Google Code-In, participants from different countries completed 100+ tasks with the Public Lab community. Some of the tasks were easy and some not, but the dedication and work of the participants really inspired me. I really appreciate the efforts of both the winners Oorjit and Kevin. Also, I would like to mention the efforts of our finalists and Dinaelhanan who continued to collaborate with us even after Google Code-In.
Last but not the least, kudos to all the GCI mentors, who volunteered to mentor students and spent their valuable time creating tasks, reviewing PRs, guiding students, and much more.
Thanks to Jeffrey, Sasha, and Liz for helping with the trip and special thanks to Sidharth and Sanyam Goel for helping and guiding through the Visa, and other processes.