Google Developer Community: In Conversation with Nikita Gandhi

During our Saturday ritual called Journey of A Brand Community Builder, we had a conversation with Nikita Gandhi in July. She is working with the DevRel team at Google Developer Community.

She takes care of the Google Developer Groups (GDGs) and Women Techmakers (WTM) program in India. These programs comprise 50 city-level communities impacting the lives of over 150k members. Having a deep passion for technology, she also mentors the Flutter communities in India.

In this exclusive conversation with Nikita, we got to know:

  • Nikita's story of becoming a Google developer community manager.
  • What role does community play in the growth of a product?
  • How can a brand community manager showcase their efforts to their leadership team?
  • Tips for kickstarting your career in the Google developer community industry.

....And much more. So let's get reading!

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Nikita's Story Of Becoming A Google Developer Community Manager

Nikita has been working as a Google Developer Community Manager for more than a year now. However, she has been associated with Google for more than 2 years. She started in Google as a Product Manager and then eventually became a Google Developer Community Manager.

Going into flashback, ~8 years ago, when she was a college student, Nikita struggled to understand basic engineering concepts. Ultimately, it made her feel not so interested in engineering.

She says, "The faculty, the education in India, we all know how good or bad it is. We all have our perspectives - we all have our biases. Sometimes we have professors we love, and sometimes we hate them throughout our lives. Maybe more than our ex-boyfriends or girlfriends."

That is how her journey has been. There were professors she enjoyed learning from and there were professors she never wanted to come across.

Due to this, there were a few subjects that she could never understand, and that was the most integral part of her studies - programming. So she wanted to learn to program but she did not have good professors who could make her understand what programming is and how computers understand the human language.

And then she came across this Google developer community known as 'Google Student Clubs'. It was mostly about bringing new students from campuses and helping them learn new technologies.

She started taking registrations for this Google developer community. She used to sit outside the event place and take registrations because she thought that a Google developer community is not the right place for her - it is for someone who has experience with technology or someone who knows to program, and those people, they get inside and start talking - that was her ideal concept of communities back then.

But then she got to know that this Google Developer Community program was the place that gave her enormous opportunities to learn something. Her seniors put her in a position where she taught new technologies to students on her campus.

She solved problems for students when they got stuck. Those small things helped her learn new technology and it ultimately gave her confidence to learn something new.

Google developer community directly impacted her during her college days and she realized that there is a better chance of learning via a community than the professors in her college. Ultimately, communities helped her learn what her college could never teach.

And it gave her a good start not only because she got opportunities, but she got opportunities to learn with people with similar interests.

So when she was trying to learn something new, she knew that there were so many people along with her who were facing similar challenges, which helped her grow as a student in her college days.

With time, she moved to GDG (Google Developer Group) as a participant and a volunteer and she was helping the existing organizers plan the events by helping them draw memberships and arrange speakers or taking up any volunteering opportunities that came along her way.

This was also a time where she was working with a start-up. And she also started her start-up. So basically, her weekends were focused on 3 things:

  • Giving some of the time to the start-up she was working on was important. Because when you work with a start-up, there is nothing like a weekend that comes to you.
  • She was also trying to build her products which meant dedicating some of the time to building something of her own.
  • And then there were these communities that were driving her crazy.

So when Nikita had her full-time job, she was also focusing on her start-up. It was tough to take out time to contribute to the Google developer community.

And this is where she had a purpose in her mind. She wanted to make education accessible to everyone because she understood how important it was to make good resources and content available for everyone so that they can become more educated and do better in their professions.

This is what inspired her start-up idea - focusing on helping students learn new technologies. Be it hacking or programming, she just wanted them to learn at any place.

Moreover, she was also trying to build her own products at scale then. The only reason she was working with a start-up was that she wanted something that could fund her start-up. She wanted something to run her product. This is how she was trying to get money.

But her heart was with communities because that was where she could connect with a lot of developers and understand their challenges. That was her motivation back then.

More than the cause, it was also about helping her product at that time, but not just for promoting her business. She was also trying to understand what people want, what the end-users want. And based on that, she wanted to build her own products in the long run.

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Her Favourite Story About The Lives Her Community Has Impacted

Who doesn't want a job where you can do great things and also get paid for it. That is exactly what a community manager does. Especially with the Google developer community, the role of a community manager is to help Google community developers become successful.

That is where her interest and the company's vision align the most. They want Google community developers to become a success. And their everyday conversations are about how they can build strategies where they can help Google community developers become a success.

Ultimately, it is a large-scale program and what Google developer community managers do is that they may not be able to help everyone at the same level. But she's sure that somebody coming to a Google developer community meet-up alone found someone to talk to. Perhaps they did not mingle after that to another level but they made friends. And they found the happiness that they were able to find someone and talk to them and not feel lonely anymore.

That is just a small thing that the organizers may or may not have thought about when they were planning the event. But it meant something and they do a lot of things like that.

She says, "Let's say, you plan an event and someone lands a job, that is a big, big achievement for you. Because ultimately if it is a first-time job that someone gets and they are happy that that is something they were expecting and the event helped them land that job, it's a big thing for the Google developer community."

"Networking and finding job opportunities is one such accomplishment. Then there are events where you focus on upskilling and based on those skill sets, Google community developers can apply for jobs. That helps them successfully get the opportunities that they were looking for. That is another success story.", said Nikita.

She adds, "Then there are impactful Google developer community projects that our team supports and they are making people save lives."

This reminds her of the second wave of COVID-19 where everyone was hustling and the times were very, very bad. Because we were all falling lack of resources, people were scared to survive in the next couple of months. Things were pathetic back then. That is where a couple of her Google developer community members planned on some project earlier. But they did not know how to go ahead.

They did not know if they will have enough resources to support themselves. And this is where they reached out to her if she could help them in some personal or professional capacity so that they can build some solutions that could help people find resources now.

Some of them focused on mental health so that they could help people struggling with mental stress or anxiety. Multiple projects came out then. Personally as well as professionally, she was able to help 21 of them during the second wave of COVID.

Those are the best memories that she has of recent times. Because, at that time, everybody was looking for help, everybody was trying to help in some way or the other. It was a juncture of both the things where people were seeking help and everybody, regardless of if they know the person or not, they were all trying to help. And this is how she could play a small role in the big will of people and their mindset at that point in time.

Tips From Nikita For Kickstarting A Career In The Google Developer Community Industry

She does not have a lot of experience on what other companies look at while they are hiring someone as a community manager. But one thing that Nikita understands when she is active on LinkedIn is that people look at her experience in the past and that is why they want to hire her.

So if you are a beginner or if you have just started, she may not have all the answers for those people. But she can tell you what Google is looking for when they hire a Google developer community manager.

  • Program Management Skills - Google looks at your program management skills because ultimately as a Google developer community manager, you are expected to manage programs like Google Developer Groups or Women Techmakers. More such DevRel programs are run by them. So how are your program management skills, this is the first thing that they will evaluate you for.
  • Strategies - How you can help the company grow, how you can help the product grow. This is the second thing that they will be evaluating you for and you should have a lot of ideas around that. So do not go with your own biases about what work should be allowed to you. And do not just speak about stories in your interviews. But instead, be realistic and do not have any biases on what Google may expect from you in this particular answer.
  • Communication Skills - How well you can articulate and communicate your concepts. That is the third thing that they would look at so be very articulate about your thoughts. Try to summarise them well. And add a lot of structure to what you speak. So that even if the interviewer is all over places, they can understand what you are trying to say or communicate. That would help them know that in a world full of information, you are trying to present yourself well and that is the best tracking/cracking point for you.

And speak more on a general term on what would help a company if they want to scale a particular product. Or if they want to build something from scratch. Or if they want to bring in new members to the product. These are a few questions that Google may ask you for interviews.

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