In this guest blog post, we’re delighted to have Ishan and Gaurav give a firsthand experience of their travels to the Silicon Valley for the first time to represent the Mifos Initiative as GSOC celebrated ten successful years at its Reunion. Ishan and Gaurav were awesome interns and have continued their stellar contributions in the community since GSOC – this experience was a small reward for their accomplishments. Read on for the recap and check out Gaurav and Ishan’s blog for more of their personal experiences and photos.
First off we’d like to thank Edward Cable, Community Manager @ Mifos Initiative, and all our mentors (Vishwas, Nayan, Markus, Sander, Michael, Kojo) for allowing both me and Gaurav Saini to be a part of this 10 year GSOC Reunion in San Jose, California. A dream that we lived through experiencing all the highs that you could get without the use of illegal stuffs 😀 Yeah the food, the weather, the people and the headquarters of the Big Who’s Who in the IT world.
I had travelled on the East Coast (NYC, Washington DC, Alexandria, Jersey City) of the USA for a week before we landed on the West Coast (San Francisco.) Gaurav and I planned to tour the Silicon Valley for three days before the summit. We reached SFO on 20th October, 2014. Playing smar,t we rented out beds in a house in Millbrae, CA that was just 10 minutes away from SFO using AirBnb. It was a hacker house, where we met a few entrepreneurs, a designer, a developer, a director and a teacher too. We immediately realised we were in a good company. I’ll be sharing the pre-post summit experience on my personal blog, lets get to business and explore the GSOC reunion.
We reached the Marriott Hotel, San Jose from Millbrae at around quarter past noon and the Hotel staff was kind enough to check us both in. The main entrance had Google Summer of Code Standies, a projector projecting the Logo on the floor from the ceiling. As soon as we entered our rooms our excitement doubled on seeing the luxurious rooms for each of us.
Now was the time to meet the Fellow Googlers, we went to the lobby near the grand ballroom where the Welcome Packets had to be collected from. So we got our I-Card, a Red Wrist Band, a Pen, a Blue Conference T-Shirt, a Black Hoodie, a Bag and some welcome (soft) drinks. We then went ahead to find our organisation’s name on the Board on which Google had listed the names of all the organisations that have taken part in at least one season of GSOC in the last ten years. And we marked attendance in front of Mifos Initiative’s!!
Now was the time to socialise, we met people from different organisations, countries, cultures and time zones. Organisation mentors and students from Joomla, OpenMRS, Wikimedia, Numpy were a few people we ended talking to, at that time. After that we were given about a couple of hours off to rest in our rooms and get ready for the welcome dinner.
At the welcome dinner the opening keynote was delivered by Carol Smith. There we met two mentors from Inclusive Design Institute, in which I had a friend (Shaumik Dayatri) who was a student, his mentor was Alexey from Canada. At the same table was a Hardware Ninja, a girl from Sweden, two guys from Germany. Everyone was enjoying Beers right in front of us. 🙁 Unfortunately, I was two about a month and a half away from turning 21. Dinner ended late night and then everyone went back to their rooms, to get ready for the next morning surprise.
We had a sound sleep – No Hangovers – Just right temperature.
The breakfast was served quite early, I don’t know why Google forgot we were all Programmers 😀 Anyway we somehow made it, ate it and Trust me when I say that “It was awesome. The sausages, the bacon with some Hot Sriracha and Orange Juice – Make your Day.”
Time to leave for The Great America Amusement park which was in Santa Clara. It has the world’s Biggest and Tallest Wooden Roller Coaster. We felt like a boss when we read that the Park was reserved for GSOC Reunion attendees and was closed for general public on that day. \m/ At first the adrenaline levels were soaring high seeing these tall rides that we had only seen on our monitors, I had even built them when I was kid (Game : Roller Coaster Tycoon by Atari.) We went to the most scariest (Wooden) roller coaster, I was in the first Batch. MAN, It scared the crap out of me. I felt like my body was throwing an ADRENALINE-OVERFLOW-EXCEPTION. I finally decided to not take any more rides and wander around in the park. To my horror the other rides were even more scary. Well that’s how roller coasters are supposed to be, aren’t they?
Gaurav, my brave friend, enjoyed all the rides along with a friend from Joomla, Rishi. They didn’t thank me enough, for I clicked a lot of pictures for them and even shot a video 😀 Finally lunch was served in the park itself, I am sitting on a table and people are discussing about the rides. Everyone is of the opinion that the wooden coaster was the Most Scary, I was like What????? That’s the first and the last ride I took.
Time to get back to the hotel, shuttles left from the park every 15 minutes and we reached back to our hotel in one of them. Time to grab some sleep, even though I didn’t need it. But you know the Magnetic properties of the King Size bed and the Ultra soft mattresses.
When we wake its time to get ready for the Un-Conference night at the Tech Museum of Innovation where the Biggest Charm of this tour was waiting for us. We suited up, and went there waiting outside the museum until the clock struck 7. The night began with an opening keynote by Carol, followed by Alfred Z. Spector, Peter Norvig and then The Father of Linux : Linus Torvalds. After their highly motivating and encouraging talks the museum was open for us. Followed by a Great Dinner. We even managed to get a hold of Linus Torvalds for a picture.
We woke up a little late that day and had already missed the breakfast. But managed to make it on time for the Opening keynote where Carol explained how and where and when the Sessions are going to be held. The list was unveiled and everyone started grabbing their seats in the small conference rooms. Due to lack of space not everyone could make it to the sessions of their choice which was brought to Carol’s notice on the last day as a suggestion. We somehow managed to attend two talks by Googlers one out of which was About the Virtual Reality Toolkit for Android called Google Cardboard. They even gave one cardboard to everyone in the room so that we could experiment ourselves.
In the afternoon we left for the Golden Gate Bridge which took us about an hour in the train and then about twenty minutes in the Uber we hired. Although we didn’t do any sightseeing in San Francisco Downtown due to lack of time, however we still managed to get a glimpse of it. And the City is beautiful. Built on the steep hills, its crazy to see the road going up with all those sky scrappers by the side. We also learnt if you want to make someone happy in California, just say “Go Giants!!!”
We again made it on time by catching the Baby Bullet Caltrain at the right time as we planned. The quiz show at night involved lots of laughter as we saw very senior programmers dancing, singing and mocking each other. The day ended faster than we expected.
Chocolate and Stickers Room 😀
We wake up, get ready, and we’re off to the Google Campus Tour. Reaching the campus we get into the Shopping mode for our Google Swags 😀 Darn they are costly. But who cares when it has a cool android, or a chrome logo on it. Did some shopping! and then grabbed a bicycle for the google tour. Campus is HUGE, literally HUGE! Has a lot of places to work with different environments, in the centre is also a volleyball court full of sand. It was quite a walk when we decided to drop our bicycles and join the group that was led by Stephanie Taylor who works at Google.
We finally saw all the Android Statues and got lots of pictures clicked with them. Tired of walking for so long we decided to get on the shuttle back to the hotel where lunch and the closing Keynote by Carol was waiting for us. After which we had to say Bye-Bye to everyone and leave for the Airports!