TL;DR – After 2.5 years at Google DevRel, I’m leaving for my next adventure 🚀
It feels like yesterday, when I moved to Singapore to work for Google. Just like every individual in tech, I too dreamt of working for this tech giant, who has a lot more to offer than just a linkedin work title. For the curious souls out there, here is my journey in brief.
Never did I foresee leaving Dialog Axiata or leaving Sri Lanka. It was a tough decision. The new opportunity at Google was very compelling (scope, exposure, experience and compensation), afterall joining Google brought in a sense of personal pride and gives the opportunity to join the limited edition “Sri Lankan Googlers” bandwagon while learning from some of the greatest minds on the planet.
The initial expectation from my role was to build, grow and sustain Cloud communities and Google Developer Experts in South and Southeast Asian markets. I had no prior experience in Google Cloud Platform (I recall my hiring manager asking me to spin up a VM during my first interview :P) but I was confident in my people and community management skills. Market knowledge is something I lacked. From the initial application to interviews to selection it took about 2 months. After completing my 4th interview, my hiring manager called to inform me that I was in!!! 🎉
I was very excited about the move. Usually one would want to take a break the day before moving to a new country but I was really pumped up and travelled 4 hours to do a presentation at DevFest Sri Lanka 2018 on Google Cloud Platform. For some reason I felt that might be the last physical event I will participate in Sri Lanka for some time.
I moved to Singapore on 11th November and started work on 12th Nov 2018. New country, new role, multicultural work environment, planet scale impact creation, all these were a complete shock to me. First few months were overwhelming, but I eventually managed to jive in.
Here are a few things I learned along the way and value for my personal and professional growth.
- Folks at Google practice Googleyness: they are approachable, friendly, respectful to each other and everyone has something unique to teach you. When you are surrounded by some brilliant people on the planet, It’s natural to feel imposter syndrome. When you feel it, there are people around you to support and guide you. Googleyness is something I will continue to practice.
- At Google, everyone had specific sets of tasks assigned to perform, at least the colleagues I worked with. This allowed people to be productive, maintain focus, have a work life balance and become good at what they do. Nothing stopped employees from undertaking Google’s famous 20% roles/projects at different teams to hone their skills and product / program knowledge.
- Documenting one’s work was highly expected, especially for Program Manager roles. 1:1 discussions, project / program strategy, planning, feedback, post event reports, learnings and analysis docs are some documentation examples. This helped me to improve my documentation skills, articulating communication according to the audience, being direct and concise.
- Google is a highly data-driven company. Data is the basis for ideas and actions. Periodical evaluation of matrices set through Objectives and Key Results (OKR) helped to assess, course correct if necessary and navigate throughout the year. Data driven decision making induces cohesive collaboration and vice versa. Earlier, I used to make decisions mostly based on my gut feeling, intuition and experience. Thinking through data brought weight and clarity of the course.
- Google is a complex organization to navigate. Complexity brews networking and collaborations. In order to spur networking and collaboration Coffee/lunch/walking meetings, lunch Ninjas, were normal a day at Google. Cross team collaborations spinned new ideas and programs. I consider myself to be an ambivert, I was initially reluctant to network but as time passed by, I became natural at it.
- Managers focus on solutions, how to move fast, achieve scale and impact with frugality. Managers focus less on micro nuances like what time you logged in, why aren’t you online now, micro managing your tasks or rant about people. While they got better at something, they want you to grow both personally and professionally. I still remember before my 1:1 with my manager, we used to speak about health, families and cricket. That casual start of the conversation led to collaborative decision making at least 80% of the time.
I’m very happy that during my time, I was able to contribute to the world’s biggest and long standing developer community program, Google Developer Groups and to make an impact through various popular programs in the region. My work at Google took me to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, USA, Pakistan and Indonesia. Had an opportunity to visit offices in Malaysia, Thailand, Jakarta, San Francisco, Mountain View and Sunnyvale.
Fun Fact – I have given 40+ office tours to partners, customers, community leaders within 18 months. Some photos here.
In the last two and half years, I grew personally and professionally in a healthy work environment. Learned how to face changes, challenges, stay focused and strategic at global Google scale. That’s one of a lifetime experiences. I’m taking a ton of experiences that can fill a BigQuery data warehouse and are worthy of running ML models.
Mani, my manager (follow him on twitter) embodied most of “top 10 traits of a good manager at google”. A friend, a mentor from whom I learnt not to overpromise, stay focused, communicate effectively, capitalize the right impactful opportunity and let data to justify ideas and actions.
Ron for strategically cascading global programs and initiatives, bringing in support when needed and understood well how things were working at a grassroot level.
Keshan (Ex-Google) who got me to apply. Pasindu, my brother in arms who helped me during my journey.
My then girlfriend, now wife : Nihla for being a constant pillar of my success and encouraging me to pursue new heights in my career.
My parents and aunt, always had and will continue to have a tremendous impact in my life. The values in my upbringing made me the man who I am today.
My immediate team, Daniel, Laura, Ken, Saad and Shad was just the right team for the job. The great sense of cohesiveness and deliberate desire to meticulously execute were key for us.
Sami, Bok, Marcus, Jowyenne, Janise, Joyee, Jia Xin, Vaibhavi, Gene and Hufsa for being amazing supportive teammates. I can write a separate blog about them, how amazing they are.
Kudos to all the Google cloud community leads, GDG leads, Google developer experts and partner community leaders for helping me to translate my work to impactful, scaled and meaningful outcomes. You prioritized community over personal priorities, you brought in courageous passion as volunteers with a great sense of purpose in mind. I’m deeply thankful for all your efforts and I’m honoured to get to know all of you.
Thank you to folks at global DevRel team, Cloud marketing, customer engineers, sales, SCEs, cloud for startups team, developer advocates, SWEs, people ops, product teams, security team, food team, events production team, Sri Lankan Googlers and others.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint; said by some wise person. In this marathon, I will be on the sidelines, cheering you on, wishing all of you nothing but the best.
Where am I going next? Expect a post in early June, 2021!
All the best shaf ayya!! We are proud of you ❤️🤲🏻 Allah bless you!
Hi Shafraz, thanks for your service, commitment and enthusiastic to the GDG developers and other google developers giving talks or just participating in events at developer space to learn from each other. Your dev relations work was appreciated. All the best in your next journey and keep in touch.
Very inspirational story…great
Really proud of you..
Wish you all the very best on the long journey ahead my friend!!!
You will be an asset to any organisation lucky to have you on their team 🌟
Wish you all the very best Shafraz!
Congrats Shafraz. It was an honour to have worked on community initiatives with you! See you around in your next life 🙂
All the best Shafraz
Very inspirational story, Shafraz!!!
Wish you all the best on the your journey ahead!!!!