I remember the day, around 2 weeks before the GCI was scheduled to start, when I told Edward Cable, “Ed! I have my last semester exams from 15th November to 15th December. So I won’t be able to apply in GCI as a mentor!”. However, by the end of the week, I had realised that the organisation had given me a lot. So, I changed my mind and decided to give it a try!
During the GCI period, it was common for students to ask for help, so I talked to them, and discussed with them about various things like git and Android, helping them resolve their issues.
Believe me when I say, I wasn’t aware of the trip to Google until late January. I came to know about it from a friend, and my reaction was all surprised. “What! Which trip? Where? Where was this mentioned?”
On 7th February, I got an email from my the head of my organisation, Edward Cable, stating that I had been selected for the Google Trip. The same was confirmed by Mary Radomile soon enough.
Dinner at Google San Francisco Office (Day 1)
Anubha, the mentor from an organization called Systers, and I started out day by meeting with Edward Cable, followed by a visit to the Facebook headquarters and the LinkedIn office, both being great experiences! We came back to Hyatt Regency, San Francisco, to meet the Google Open Source team.
Later that day, I met Stephanie Taylor, Helen Hu, Mary Radomile and Josh Simmons. I felt proud! Once we had all gathered in the hotel lobby and collected our badges, we went to the Google office. There, we met with Cat Allman, one of the core members of open source team. It was extremely great meeting each of them!
As if it wasn’t already great, all the students and mentors were given various goodies (T-shirts, stickers, notebooks and a jacket for mentors, an awesome backpack for the students). To top it all off, specially for a foodie like me, we got to dig into the awesome food at Google. We spent an hour, eating and talking to the other mentors I was with: Damini Satya, Milindu Sanoj Kumarage, Rostyslav Zatserkovnyi, Anubha Kushwaha, Ignacio Rodríguez, Sam Reed and Ben Ockmore. We interacted with various students present there, with their parents. It was a great experience, and a view of several cultures all at once.
When we arrived back to our rooms, the students were in for a big surprise: Google Pixel. I totally regretted not being a student anymore. Nonetheless, it was great looking at all those happy faces, and realizing the fact that I taught the bunch of them myself!
To add to the above commotion and happiness, Stephanie gave them a paper, on which were listed some tasks. They had to find different people in the room and sign the listed tasks. It was like a Scavenger Hunt. I am sure nobody would’ve guessed what followed: the winners got “Google Home” as the prize. At the end of the eventful evening, Stephanie talked about the open source, followed by a small tour of San Francisco.
Google Headquarters Mountain View (Day 2)
I had only seen the Google Headquarters, Mountain View, on Google Street view, and had always aspired to see the whole campus in person. I finally had the opportunity at my disposal. We gathered in the lobby at Hyatt, and took a shuttle to Mountain View. According to Stephanie, we were lucky to not face any traffic and reach our destination in 90 minutes!
Once there, Stephanie started giving us insights about the campus. I was still wonder-struck, at the thought of being there in person!
The next moment, we were in the Conference Room. Stephanie and Mary started the event by talking about how Open Source was started at Google, and about the man who started GSoC and GCI: Chris DiBona. It was absolutely wonderful to meet him in person. Chris DiBona gave away the awards to students, while Jeremy clicked some really great photographs! Post this, Jeremy gave a lecture, or more of a live tutorial, on “How the internet works”. This was one of my favorite parts of the day. Other Googlers followed. Their experiences and views regarding work at Google were simply inspirational.
Finally, it was time for lunch, and we went to the canteen. The canteen, as expected, was heavenly. One could find everything there! A foodie like me was easily confused about what to eat! I met with Vikas Mahajan (Senior Program Manager at Google Assistant) at the lunch table. We talked about ourselves, and I got a lot of advice from him. After the lunch, we had a photo session outside the building, with all the mentors, the students and their parents.
Later that day, we had other sessions with Googlers, like one on self-driving by Timothy Papandreou. After the sessions, we took a shuttle and went to the Google Museum and the Google Store. The mentors received a $75 gift card, while the students received $150 in their Payoneer accounts. I spent it all on T-shirts. We played Project FI puzzle game, and ended up winning a data cable and a pair of ‘GSoC Socks’. We came back to where we had started the tour, Building 1900, and had a session with Mark Klein, a GCI winner who is currently intern at Google. As if the day could get any better, we were served Indian food at dinner! Dreams were coming true in broad daylight!
A Super Cool Day !!! (Day 3)
When I woke up, I wouldn’t have expected this, but this day was the best ever of my life. The first event was a choice between a Segway tour or a visit to Alcatraz. I chose the former because that included a chance to tour the city of San Francisco.
We received training since it was the first time for most of us. Our trainer, Malini, was extremely supportive. The experience was awesome. I was beginning to fear that I might fall short on words while describing the experience.
Later, we took a shuttle for Golden Gate Bridge. Luckily, the weather was clear that day, and we could see the bridge. We divided ourselves into two groups: one went along with Stephanie, and other with Mary, to the Fort Point. I was in the former. Even after all that fun, we had one hour left. So, Dhruv, Milindu and I decided to take a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge. Best decision ever! I was out of words for sure this time.
What we didn’t see coming after that superb day was a dinner on the Yacht Cruise! This was my first time on a yacht. I was pretty excited. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and went near the Alcatraz. We were simply having a conversation when water splashed upon us from down under!
This was followed by an equally wonderful dinner. We celebrated the birthday of Shardul Chiplunkar on the Yacht itself. It was a surprise for him! After filling ourselves with cake, we ended the day indulging in conversations with our newfound friends.
Last Day at San Francisco Google Office (Day 4)
Unfortunately, the trip was about to end. It was the last day! It started drizzling, that just boosted our spirits even further. We went out for a walk to the Google San Francisco office, in the rain. We were looking forward to an equally wonderful breakfast, and still managed to get better than what we expected. With Googlers all around, it was a place to be! Several of them delivered various interesting talks. One that particularly intrigued me was that by Max Sills on Open Source licensing. We were still not over the breakfast, and were served that eye-pleasing lunch. We had to enjoy that! After all, it was our last meal at Google!
After all those wonderful talks and experiences by Googlers, it was time for the students and mentors to share their experiences. I was also one of them! We received some more goodies, and it was almost time to say goodbye! None of us was ready!
The trip was full of beautiful memories. Not only did we learn, but also made new friends. I am sure nobody felt like going home already. Yet, here we were, carrying with us loads of memories to cherish, a beautiful experience to share, and an even greater desire to be back there again!