Thursday, August 25, 2016

2013: Repairing a Valve, Haiyan and Starting the Journey with Teachers

I took a whole quarter off in 2013 to have mitral valve surgery. It was just supposed to be a simple open heart surgery to repair a leaky valve, but there were complications and I had Dresler's Syndrome. A few weeks after surgery they had to open me up again to drain the water from my heart and lungs. My doctor only admitted that they got very scared for me a year after the surgery. He said I survived because my will was very strong. I think it's because I am very well loved that's why I survived.

Ederic and May got to visit me while I was on medical leave 
(check out the cool pillow my niece made for me).

Anyway, my new manager, William, was very much concerned and the office called my doctors twice a day to check on me. Dr. Shankar said, "You must have done really well for them to check on you like that. For my other patients they only call once a week." My teammates flew in to check on me and Sebastian even accompanied me to the doctor once. I worked from home for a few weeks into the second quarter and then went back to work since I knew I was needed to help run the programs and meet our targets.

A week after hospital discharge I managed to visit the office with my Mom. 
William, Sebastian, Hadi and Minty were there to welcome me and 
surprised me with videos from colleagues from all over the world. 

Before I came back though I managed to sneak in a quick trip to GenSan to give Nanardz award for winning the mapping challenge hosted by GDG Philippines. From GenSan we travelled almost 2 hours to Lake Sebu to give the award to the school. I was in good hands because we had Doc Remo with us during the trip and they made sure I was okay. It was a very memorable trip because of the warm welcome made by the teachers and students. Last I heard the funds that were donated to the school were used to rebuild their perimeter walls because it was damaged by a typhoon.

When I went back to work full time we feverishly worked on getting GSAs selected and onboarded. We decided to be crazy and combine all the community summits in the region. In June 2013 we brought together the GSA SEA summit, GBG SEA summit, GDG SEA summit and Map Maker summit in one huge event. It was a momentous and very happy occasion. To ensure I survived, I usually slipped out right after dinner so I could rest and rejuvenate for the next day.

With Hadi and Nee Khern.

The Summit team.

With Googlers.

And during that week I had another big achievement -- managed to climb up Borobudur with help from JR and Vanj (JR is a nurse so I wasn't too worried haha) and a lot of moral support from Juned. We reached the summit just a few minutes before the sun broke out of the clouds. It was a spectacular moment for all of us up there that day.


With Marcus and Shirni.

Community Selfie time.

The summit though was just the beginning of more fun things. The GBGs hosted gDayXs and women events, the GSAs had their in-school events, mapUps across the region and I snuck in attending some of the DevFestXs hosted by the GDGs.

gDayX Thailand and DevFestX Bangkok.

DevFestX Davao with Franz, Avel and Andrew.

gDayX Bacolod and DevFestX Bacolod.

I found myself in DevFestX Dhaka too.

Made it to Vietnam!

Chillin' in Bacolod.

One new program though that we introduced was the GEG program. This was an initiative to build a community with our teachers. I bid feverishly to pilot it in one of my countries and the Philippines was selected. It was during the training of the trainers that I met the Gaylas. I arrived late for the training because of meetings and I thought the trainers seemed too serious. When the break came all thoughts about being serious vanished because they were the complete opposite.

We finally had our first workshop for teachers in November in Baguio City. It was the same weekend as the gDayX hosted by GBG Baguio (hello Tito Vince) and the DevFestX by GDG Baguio (hello Reymart!). So I was like a bee hopping from one event to the other during that weekend. What they don't know is I actually took a power nap during day 2 (hehehe) because I got so tired.

The first Google Teachers Workshop in Baguio.

With the communities.

Just keep eating!

gDayX and DevFestX Baguio venue at Azalea.

The early days with PX, Gab, Carolyn and Philip.

LA inspecting the set-up.

I gained so much weight that year.

We were safe up north but we still felt the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). The winds reached Baguio and rattled our hotel windows. I could not sleep that night because I was scared that the windows would break. So on top of running the events doing crisis response became priority. As much as I wanted to stay longer in Baguio I had to quickly travel back to Manila to do crisis response. I remember squeezing every last bit of the network I could get so I could respond to pings and emails when we were on our way down from Baguio. The response work lasted until early 2014.

November was really busy month. I racked up a lot of miles that month. Juggling four communities would definitely drive you crazy.  My second to the last stop that year was Malaysia to meet with the GBG managers across the country. Last stop was one more workshop for teachers in Manila and then I took a break after Christmas. What I didn't expect to happen that year though was having to choose a more focused path for 2014. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2012: gDays, DevFests and Building GBG

My life changed when I moved to Singapore. I was very much afraid of my new role since I was scared I might not perform well. My scope effectively grew to cover the emerging markets in Asia. I told myself that I had the experience and know-how, I just needed to figure out how to do it in other markets across the region.

One of my MBA professors told us once that the best way to start when you need to do something is to target the three F's. Three F's = family, friends and fools. My family is scattered across the world, but they didn't really know anyone who would be interested in the communities I was tasked to build. I figured that it would be best to start with those who were around me and willing to help - my friends. I started with my brother and sister scouts to help find passionate individuals who were willing to help others.

This is how I find the first set of GBG managers -- Yansen, Vanessa, Marcus and Pom. They led the first GBGs in Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. Both Ola and I were amazed with the fast growth of GBGs and by May that year we were able to host our very first GBG SEA Summit with representatives from the first four countries plus Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Brunei. It was also during this summit that I first met Daniel Franc (he founded the first GDG in the world, just one week ahead of the Philippines).

GBG Jakarta workshop.

Marcus during the first GBG meetup in Malaysia.

The first GBG Philippines meet-up.

After the summit I busied myself with preparing for the gDays. To learn more bout how to run it I was sent to gMaroc in Morocco. I was the only person in the audience that did not speak French or Arabic. Little did I know that Sebastian was talking about me during his keynote. Good thing the participant beside me translated what he was saying (that I was there so I could learn from the event and bring it to Asia). I was supposed to attend the event in Egypt but the embassy did not grant me a visa since they said they were advised by my government not to send any more Filipinos there (I think there was trouble during that time).

It was a daunting task, good thing though that my manager told me to use the best agency we had at that time to help organize the events. With help from Jasmine (Masterplan) and Grace (who I always kidded was the BackUp Plan hehe), we embarked on a journey to reach entrepreneurs and developers through gPhilippines, gMalaysia, gIndonesia and gThailand.

gPhilippines, August 2012, with then Usec. Manolo Quezon as keynote speaker.

gMalaysia, September 2012 with David McLaughlin who came all the way from MTV.

The Indonesian GSAs did a Gangnam Style flash mob at gIndonesia, October 2012.

Thai style Gangnam Style flash mob by the Thai GSAs, October 2012.

And in-between the gDays I run 11 DevFests across the region since I became the caretaker of the GDGs too. 

Day 2 of gPhilippines was DevFest. My then VP, Nelson Mattos, did the keynote.

Day 2 of gIndonesia was DevFest Jakarta.

Day 2 of gMalaysia was DevFest KL.

Day 2 of gThailand was DevFest Bangkok.

I also had the privilege to participate in the first GSA summit as a speaker. I was thrilled to meet so many passionate students at the office. Eventually we took the program under our wing.

My 20% Time

It was in 2012 that I found the right formula for scaling the mapUps. The Map Maker team supported my quest and I was given some funding to run 3 large summits in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to teach more users how to map. The summits were only made possible with the help of the gems in the community, Lakan (my college buddy who helped for the Baguio summit), Anne (who helped for Bacolod) and Avel (for GenSan). With help from the Department of Tourism the community organized 93 mapUps across the country. I was really amazed with how much people wanted to help.

Luzon summit.

Visayas summit with Donya Ann (haha).

Mindanao summit.

The updated maps really helped a lot in making it easier to pin shelters whenever there was a typhoon. By year-end we made a lot of progress in crisis response. PCDSPO took the lead in publishing crisis response pages whenever there was a typhoon which allowed me to focus more on improving the maps and work on the crisis map whenever it was needed.

The PCDSPO team who I worked with for crisis response.

Looking back I am wondering where all the energy I had came from (haha). My Mom always complained that I was too busy and not getting any rest. The magic though came from the community. They inspired me to do better and to do more. The year also blessed me with many new friends across the globe and I am thankful for all the help that year from colleagues, the community, agencies and the endless support from my family. I really prayed hard that I would do well and be able to fulfill the tasks that were given to me.

By end of the year though I decided that my priority was to have better health so I could have a better quality of life. My body's blood flow had gone down to 30% which meant that I had to get the valve in my heart fixed so I could live longer. My former managers really pushed to move me to Singapore because they knew that I would eventually need surgery. I will forever be grateful to the three J's -- Julian, James and Juergen for saving my life.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Halfway to Ten: Ending the First Part of the Journey

A gazillion things happened in 2011, several launches was done but more importantly it was decided that a local office would be opened. This meant that my mission was complete and I had to find a new role. It was both exhilarating and sad. I was ecstatic that I completed my mission, but I wasn't sure if there was another role I would fit into.

I spent the first half of the year doing a lot of lectures/workshops for businesses, attending GDG events. I was thrilled though when I was invited to attend the first geo community summit in Singapore. I was tasked to present the achievements of the local mapping community together with the top mappers in the Philippines. I was so happy to be in another country together with the top mappers and community leads.

Team Philippines at the Geo Summit. 

Things got more exciting though mid-year as I had to work on some back-end requirements for the planned launches that year. It was one of the most difficult tasks I had to complete and I think I utilized every experience I had from the time I started working to make things work. I also wanted to launch before another Southeast Asian country, so I really worked hard to reach targets. It was all worth it though.

With my Pinoy sisters Rachel and Cathy. 

Photoboothing with my then manager, Julian Persaud, plus Deborah Nga and Ann Lavin.

YouTube World View with President Aquino.

Did you know that the Philippines was the first country in the world that generated #1 market share for Google Chrome? It was essentially through word of mouth that this happened. Chrome just made surfing the internet much faster and so people preferred to use it. Because of this we were included in the first batch of countries that launched the Google Chrome Webstore. This meant we were one of the few countries that had local apps launched (i.e. ABS-CBN, Pinoytuner etc.).

And before the year ended Google Maps was launched. It was over-shadowed though by the other launches, but this essentially completed my to-do list. It was serendipity though that led me to my new role as my manager, James, always looked after my well-being. He met by chance my future manager, Juergen, in Jakarta. Juergen then was looking for a person who could start communities in the region. James knew that doing community development was in my heart and recommended me. He immediately made arrangements for me to speak with Juergen. What I thought was just a conversation was apparently my first interview. After a few more interviews my new role was just waiting for me... in Singapore.

My Pinoy friends, Christine, Cherry, Lalen and Divee.

At the newly opened office when I moved. 

Also got to attend the YouTube Singapore launch.

I moved to Singapore in mid-October and at that time I was in the middle of the launches happening in the Philippines. Juergen though couldn't wait for me to finish my work for the Philippines and insisted I start immediately, so I basically had 2 jobs overlapping for about 2 months (well with all the inquiries I still get until today my original job never really ended). I shuttled back and forth between Manila and Singapore like I would just commute between QC and Paranaque hehe.

No rest though for the weary because by December I launched my first community outside the Philippines -- GBG Jakarta. I was lucky to be a country scout because it meant I had brother and sister scouts in other countries I could get help from for my next projects.

And so ended my first five years in Google. I never had the chance to write about it five years ago because I transitioned so fast to my new role I had no time to sit down and blog. Looking back, my first five years seem like I was all over the place, but it was because I had to establish local relations and prove that there was opportunity in my country. I think I managed it well because it made it easy for the teams coming in to reach out to the right people as the more mature programs were brought in the country.

Christmas party at the museum, we had to come and dress like we were part of the museum. 

It was an awesome first five years. I learned a lot, met a gazillion people, garnered a lot of new skills, but what many people don't know is to this day I'm still overwhelmed with the job. I just always pray and ask help from God to guide me every single day in everything I do. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

10 days to 10: Empowering the Community in 2010

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, how I viewed things changed after Typhoon Ondoy. I realized then that my work wasn't just about doing research, conducting trainings, opening doors, running events, but my work could actually make an impact. I also learned a lot from the community (the GTUGs finally became official then). I realized that there are many people out there who are very much willing to help others, they just needed a way to contribute and be empowered.

So I thought about it.

And thought about it more.

I knew that having good maps is very important and that it could play an important role. Elections was coming up and being a Political Science degree holder I started to think of a way we can help out. It was the first time we were going to have automated elections and I realized that reducing the number of precincts by a third would be pretty chaotic. With the awesome engineer, Dan Delima, we hatched "Find Your Precinct" to make it easy for a voter to find their updated precinct on a map. Volunteers from all over the country helped pin the precinct locations on the app that Dan created.

It took me 5 hours in line before I was able to vote and there was a lot of voters who were turned away because they did not know that their precinct was moved to another location (precincts were clustered and due to clustering some were re-located to another school/covered court). There was good value with the project and this was eventually implemented in other countries too. (We did much better though in the 2013 round since the map had better coverage.)

After the elections I realized that creating bite-sized programs for the community was a great way to engage people who wanted to help and make an impact as well. I had very limited budget then and had to do everything by myself (yes, I was the one packing and sending shirts by courier for the communities that did precinct mapping activities), but it was a very good exercise for me to do because I intimately learned the process.

Socckskargen Bloggers led one of the precinct mapping activities.

Our efforts did not go unnoticed. Little by little we got more visits and resources. With help from the GTUG (now GEG) we were able to host the second DevFest together with Globe and Ayala TBI. I was way better than the first time and a lot more Filipino developers started to share apps they have created using Google APIs. Interest for developing Android apps also grew that year with the GTUG hosting a number of Android events. [Photos]

The original GTUG (GDG) managers - Pogz, Jomar and Brian.

Speakers and volunteers of Devfest Manila 2010

We also managed to do a developer event in Cebu together with Christine and Dan. We were very thankful that University of the Philippines in Cebu hosted the developer event especially since it was the first developer outreach we did outside of Metro Manila.

[Must find photos from Cebu dev event...]

I did a myriad of things that year, establishing relations with the business sector, government and I remember I also managed to squeeze in time to host the first education event. My alma mater hosted it. Pogz and I slaved away for many weeks to ensure that the event would be successful. I was very nervous because just a few days before the event PNoy announced that it was going to be a holiday. Our student volunteers did not show up so Miguel had to step up and be the only student volunteer. The holiday though proved to be a lucky day for us because more participants showed up.

Remember this Galvin? :)

The year was a turning point for me. I realized that I had to work on creating more programs that would empower communities. Early that year the Philippines won the first Global Google Mapping contest with the huge contribution of Wayne Manuel for Google Map Maker. The win instigated me to think about ways to get more people to map. I knew it would be very important especially for times when we have typhoons. I took it on as a 20% time project and I was blessed to have been supported by many colleagues who thought my idea would be very useful. 

I learned a lot in 2010 and the experiences I had since 2006 came into fruition in 2011.