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South African Googlers get moving for good

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have spent too much time on the sofa — but Artwell Nwaila changed that for himself and some of his colleagues. Artwell is the Head of Creative and co-lead on Google’s Disability Alliance in South Africa. This week The Keyword spoke to Artwell about getting Googlers moving for a…

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Throughout the pandemic, many of us have spent too much time on the sofa — but Artwell Nwaila changed that for himself and some of his colleagues. Artwell is the Head of Creative and co-lead on Google’s Disability Alliance in South Africa. This week The Keyword spoke to Artwell about getting Googlers moving for a great cause  — the Nappy Run — over the next few months. For those looking to inspire their own organizations with creative, competitive ways to fundraise, do try this at home.

First, what’s the Nappy Run?

The National Council for People with Disabilities (NCPD) based in South Africa hosts a few major initiatives in the country to promote and protect equalization of opportunities and realization of human rights for people with disabilities. One of the main annual events they host is the Nappy Run, an initiative to raise money and ongoing awareness for children with disabilities who are in need of essential nappies — known elsewhere in the world as diapers. When the world was open, people would gather in November to run, walk, wheel or stroll to raise funds. This year will look different — with a virtual event — but we’re hoping to give them a big head start with Googlers running through September and October to raise money for stacks of good quality nappies.

How did you get involved?

I sit on Google’s Disability Alliance in South Africa with my co-lead Stephan Schoeman, and came across the Nappy Run last year. There are many ways to give back at Google but this was an area where I really wanted to have an impact. We chose to work with NCPD to get their guidance in the area and make sure we were respectful to what people actually need and where we can meaningfully help. The Nappy Run resonated with me — not least because I have kids and can’t imagine them in a situation where they didn’t have access to nappies. This is the initiative we are working hardest to get attention for. We pitched them the idea of our group holding an internal event, using their name and getting together enough money so that by the time they start the Nappy Run, they have a good baseline to fire things up.

How are you raising the money?

From September 1 to the end of October we’re asking Googlers to rack up kilometers traveled, with a suggested donation of $16 or 250 rand per 10 kilometers. That’s the cost of a good pack of nappies in South Africa so it’s a nice way to understand how much they have contributed. We’re using the Strava app, so people will join the group, wrack up their kilometers and see how everyone else is doing. One of our Googlers is an ultramarathon runner so there’s no way we are pushing the competition element too hard. For those who can’t do something active, they can just donate directly and Google is going to match the donations dollar for dollar.

What’s next for the Disability Alliance in Sub-Saharan Africa?

After our first sign language class last year, we’re now working on a series of sign language classes for Googlers to make our region more inclusive. We’re partnering with an organization in the U.S. to find region-specific teachers, since  sign language  differs in Kenya versus South Africa for example. And Google is paying for employees’ classes for employees. It’s a six class course to get an entry level amount, with the option to proceed to advanced levels afterwards, which I’m hoping some will do!

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Creating new career opportunities with Google Cloud

A year ago, in a forum with chief technology officers from our Google Cloud Partner network, there was one topic on everybody’s mind: talent. Or more specifically, a lack of it. All the leaders in the room were finding it incredibly difficult to hire, train and retain top cloud talent. I was hosting this forum…

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A year ago, in a forum with chief technology officers from our Google Cloud Partner network, there was one topic on everybody’s mind: talent. Or more specifically, a lack of it. All the leaders in the room were finding it incredibly difficult to hire, train and retain top cloud talent. I was hosting this forum and so went away to think how we could best solve this challenge and grow the pool of available cloud-skilled individuals.

In my day job, I lead a team of engineers in the U.K. and Ireland who work with our partners’ technical teams to enable and support them in delivering Google Cloud technologies to our customers. So I was motivated to solve this skills gap. This is not unique to us, either: we know from Gartner that through 2022, insufficient cloud Infrastructure as a service skills will delay half of enterprise IT organisations’ migration to the cloud by two years or more. So this is an industry-wide challenge.

We wanted to do something locally, to help grow the pool of available skilled individuals, ideally tapping into underrepresented groups. This was the genesis of Project Katalyst: to create a programme that would provide equal access to job opportunities for young people who may not have had the chance to go university, giving underrepresented groups a path into a rewarding, well-paid and growing tech sector. Yes, it’s Katalyst with a K, not the traditional C; this is a nod to Kubernetes, a key component of the training. In the recent LinuxFoundation 2021 Jobs Report, cloud and container technologies were ranked as the hottest skill.

To do this quickly at a large scale, we needed to work with a partner with experience in this area. We were introduced to Generation UK, a charity which already does exactly what we are looking to achieve. After our first meeting, it was clear we were completely aligned. Over the following months, as we developed the programme with Generation UK, their drive and expertise has been invaluable in creating the ideal way to prepare, place and support people into careers that would otherwise be inaccessible, all on Google Cloud.

Google already does a lot to make the workplace as inclusive as possible. For me, the Katalyst programme helps us to bring part of that inclusivity to our partners and the wider communities we live in. Growing up, I always thought one day I would be a teacher, following in my mother’s footsteps. While I took a different career path, for me it’s fantastic to have the opportunity, through this programme, to enable life-changing careers, supporting others to learn and hopefully enjoy working with Google Cloud as much as I do, fulfilling, in part, a dream I once had.

The Katalyst programme is 12 weeks long, with the initial pilot running this summer 2022, covering both technical and soft skills training. On the course, participants will go through the Google Cloud Digital Leader certification,and will also do much of the training for the Google Cloud Associate Cloud Engineer certification, which they will be expected to complete in the first six months of their new roles, once they start at our Google Cloud Partners.

Participants will then get to meet and interview for confirmed roles at our Google Cloud Partners with an expected annual salary of up to £30,000 in London. To grow the pool of underrepresented people working on our technology and the workplace in general, the programme is aimed at participants representing a balance of genders, ethnic minority communities, young people who are furthest away from the labour market through no fault of their own, individuals who are not in education, employment or training for more than 6 months, or those with a mental or physical challenge, who’ve not had a chance to develop their skills. The hope is to then expand this out to other locations in the U.K. and beyond, as well as our customers’ organisations, after we deliver a successful pilot.

If you would like to offer a place to one of our participants at your organisation, you can learn more here or if you are interested in applying for one of the places, or know someone who might, you can apply on Generation UK’s site

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Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents,…

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I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.

When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.

These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don’t think about invisible disabilities, but it’s equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I’m incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.

Having a disability doesn’t limit me, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I’ve achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.

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Office spotlight: Chicago

“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the…

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“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.

Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the West Loop neighborhood has now grown to more than 1,800 employees across two buildings. In 2021 alone, more than 500 “Nooglers” — what we call new employees — joined the campus.

Chicago Googlers work on all kinds of products and teams. You’ll meet engineers designing Pixel devices and working on Search, Ads and Cloud projects; salespeople helping businesses across North America grow; and folks working across finance, human resources and product management. “It’s amazing to now see all the different organizations and product areas represented in Chicago,” says Britton Picciolini, who was the office’s tenth hire in 2002. “It feels like such a great cross section of what we do at Google.”

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