Google I/O: 3 Things I Learned

Google I/O, formed in 2008, is Google’s annual event for announcing and promoting all of their most recent product developments, plans, and audacious attempts at innovation. The main event is held in San Francisco, but as you can imagine the demand is pretty high for tickets to the main event. Luckily, passionate communities all around the world hold remote viewing events for those of us not quite special enough to receive the golden Google invite.

Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, $25 gets you the following: access to the live-streamed events, development workshops with local experts (focused on Google technologies like Android and Angular 2.0), a few meals, a free shirt, and my favorite party favor so far; my own Google Cardboard kit. More on that later…

This was my first time watching Google I/O all the way through, much less attending one of their events, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise to learn how much value this event offers for the cost. Here were some of my take aways.

Google Knows Company Culture

If your community shows enough robust support for Google I/O, Google will send a representative (or “evangelist”) from the corporate office to address your local gathering specifically. Andy Haaf, a Senior Solutions Engineer with 7 years of experience at Google, gave us a brief overview of Google’s company culture of “Innovation, Transparency, and Excellence.”

It’s fairly apparent that Google I/O in its entirety is one long, albeit fun, commercial. Regardless, Andy seemed to be genuinely passionate about what he does, and possessed an unusual affinity for his employer. He simply displayed an attitude about his workplace that I’m not used to hearing about. This got me to pay closer attention to what he was saying, and ultimately have greater buy-in on what Google has been preaching all along with regards to company culture. Andy ended up being a great demonstration of the message he came to Grand Rapids to communicate. Google has definitely tapped into some principles that are worth exploring.

Being Fake Doesn’t Work

In its earlier days, Google’s mantra was “Don’t be evil.” This not-so-subtle jab directed at its larger (at the time) counterparts was designed to reinforce Google’s ideology that a company shouldn’t exist for a profit-margin. Google truly wanted to be a business that made the world a better place. Since that time, that catch phrase has been dropped from the corporate litany (speculate what you will). But from what I saw at I/O, this ideology has carried through well into 2015.

At its core, is Google still a business? Yes. Are they making plenty of profit? Absolutely. But could they be making more money? My guess is that if Google put aside some of the expensive projects they’re working on, like the glucose-testing contact lens or the giant balloons designed to bring the internet to people without it, and invested more of their resources in some of their more lucrative business areas (ie. Adwords), they could make a significantly higher amount of money in the near future. But that’s not who the company wants to be, and it’s a huge part of what make people so passionate about the company overall. If Google didn’t practice what they preach, I doubt they’d have the community support that they enjoy today. As a company that is all in on the idea that businesses should embetter their communities, it was encouraging to learn more about a corporation that has taken that idea to the next level.

Google Cardboard is A lot of Fun

Given that the event only cost $25 to attend in the first place, getting Google Cardboard free as part of our swag bag was just gravy. Awesome, fun gravy. The kind that ends up being a huge distraction at the office: Worth it.


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