I received the first information about that I become a Grand Prize Winner as an E-mail entitled “Congratula
conversation with a cashier in one of Starbucks cafes– What’s your name?
– Mateusz. – she looked at me with questioning glance, so I spelled it – M-A-T-E-U-S-Z. It’s a polish name.
– Oh, that’s a cool name!
As I said before, all events lasted from 13th to 16th of April, but Google was paying for 4 nights in hotel, what gave 1 additional day for… whatever I wanted. I could choose that day – so it was either 12th, or 17th of April. I chose the first one – that day I arrived to San Francisco; “the opening” of Grand Prize Trip was, of course, the next day…
The opening started almost exactly at 17:30, although I already met some people a few minutes before. The event took place at Hospitality room in the same hotel we were accomodated. At the enter, we were greeted by Stephanie Taylor and Cat Allmon – two of a few people responsible for organizing and preparing the contest and trip. The event started with more or less one hour time for eating prepared goodies.
After the time spent on eating and meeting other Grand Prize Winners and their families members, we received backpacks full of swag, and then there was a game. Students received a list of peoples’ descriptions (such as “Can paint”, “Has a dog”, “Can speak fluently 3 or more languages”, etc.), and they had to find a person who matches the particular description. The winners were 2 people who collected the largest number of people. The prizes were some small mascots; the main goal of the game was to start talking to each other… 🙂 The winners had 18 names written; I was really close, because I collected 16. After the game, we received more swag, and – what was quite surprising to some people – Samsung Chromebooks.
We also received some useful documents, such as event itinerary for the next few days.
The next day was the Googleplex day. It was started in hotel lobby at 7:30 by Stephanie with IDs for each person and small breakfast. Then everyone got in the bus and we reached Mountain View after about 50 minutes. Although, before we arrived to Google Building 1900, where most of the events were going to take place, we were cruising around the various buildings of the Campus. There was quite a lot of them. 🙂
Before 10 o’clock we had brief introduction/reminder what was the contest about and presentation of various informations and statistics. After that, there was Awards ceremony – we received symbolic statuettes and plaques.
The person who was giving the statuettes and plaques to each Grand Prize Winner was Chris DiBona. Then we took a group photo and… went to lunch 🙂
In Big Table Cafe during the lunch, except the lunch we had a meeting with Google employees. And, what’s even better, they weren’t just “regular” employees – from each country the Grand Prize Winners came from, there was chosen one person to greet the winners. Anyway, about the lunch – polish Googler, who came to greet me, said that “Google provides food, in order that one would not want to go home”… and it looks like he was right – you certainly cannot complain there’s no food for you in Google. 🙂 After lunch Clay Cunz was talking about famous Google self-driving car project, so there was an occasion to take a (group and individual) photo with it.
What was after that? Stephanie said something that you can summarize to the following sentence:
I have a $200 Google Onsite Store gift card for each of you, spend it in half an hour.
Most of people faces were like:
Unfortunately, I discovered quickly that prices of most of the stuff here were quite high. Although, for the amount I mentioned before, I could buy a nice amount of T-shirts.
…I found out that it’s quite late, someone is finishing their talking and everybody goes to a trip around the campus. That trip showed that one of the most recognizable places of Googleplex – Google Building 40 – is under renovation. The trip itself though had an almost-finish point at Android Building (aka Google Building 44…) – the place that’s even cooler, I would say. Of course, it could not go without group and individual photos.
After this tour, we returned to Google Building 1900, where next Google employees were talking about the products and services; during the break, on the other hand, we had time to consume – again, amazing amount – of prepared delicacies. So, we had a person talking about Google Giving, a person talking about Google Maps, and one for ChromeOS… Finally, with an employee who was talking about Samba we were writing a C implementation of simple packet transmission protocol (the same Googler then told us why Go programming language is better for this purpose… 🙂 ). The last Googler that was talking that day was a person responsible for Melange – the engine the Google Code-in is running on. There’s some interesting part of my conversation with him (when a few of Winners were around, too).
– /* talking about something for a few minutes */ […] so the Melange is improving.
– Mmm… Improving! [laugh of all people standing in radius of 2 meters]
I’m aware that this quotation is probably understandable only to GCI (older editions, especially) participants; I couldn’t let myself not putting it here, however… 😛 After that, because it was 7 pm already, the only planned event was return to the hotel.
Day 3 – “San Francisco Fun Day”
While day 2 was the whole day at Mountain View, day 3 was the whole day touring San Francisco. We had to choose between two tours: the first one was the Segway tour – in other words, riding around the SF on the Segways for a few hours – and the second was Alcatraz tour – simply visiting famous prison. Of course, I chose the first option… 😛 Because it was for majority of people there – as well as for me – the first occasion to ride Segway, we had a half an hour of training, before we went on the road. Was the Segway tour cool? Well, I think that it’s enough if you will know that when I had found out that we’re finishing, one of my first thought was “wtf, already?!”. 🙂 In other words, I find the Segway tour one of the coolest parts of the whole Grand Prize Trip.
After the Segway tour it was time to visit California Academy of Sciences, which is one of the biggest natural history museums. It was, in my humble opinion, one of the least interesting parts of the trip – but maybe because I visited a small part of the building…
– And you? What did you enjoy most in the Academy?
– [moment of thinking] …Lunch! excerpt of my conversation with Stephanie
When looking at the end of this day plan we could read “Adventure and dinner”. We received this plan at the first day, so the “Adventure” was a mystery for us for whole 2 days. Finally, it turned out that it was a yacht tour around the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island. I must admit that it was really nice surprise, especially because I didn’t have chance to be on the bridge, or – what’s even better – underneath it. 🙂 So, we had some time to talk with other students, mentors and a few Google employees. Of course, we also took another ton of photos. What can I certainly say is that Day 3 was at least as cool as the previous one.
The events at the last day of GCI Grand Prize Trip took place at Google office in San Francisco. It’s placed about one kilometer (0.6 mi) away from the hotel, so it was quite obvious that we came there on foot. There was a breakfast waiting for us, and because it was Google office, the choice was, to say the least, large. 🙂 During and after the breakfast we had a few Google speakers, who was talking about Google Summer of Code, Go programming language, and a few other things.
There were also small bags of swag prepared there. Inside them, one could find various San Francisco souvenirs (postcards, lanyards, pendants, etc.), small amount of sweets (among others, KitKats, which are of course references to Android 4.4… 🙂 ), and some other gifts, such as a plaque for my school. Then we had a “Short tour of Google San Francisco office”, which was actually just going onto a balcony, where we could see the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Of course, everyone took hundreds of photos there.
After returning to the room we had most of the events that day in, there were planned talks of the mentors – about the organizations, what are they doing, what the students have done, and so on. After a few talks there was time for what I was waiting at most – 32GB Nexus 5 with bumper case and wireless charger… 🙂 We could choose smartphone in every available color version (black, white, and red), so as the bumper cases (a few different colors). Of course, I wouldn’t be myself, if I would not open the box immediately… 😛
It wasn’t the end of impressions that day, however. After giving Nexuses 5 out each person, there was a little draw. Stephanie gave red tickets out each person (a small piece of paper with number on it), and then said that one person will receive a Nexus 7 2013 32GB LTE. She read the number and… guess whose was it. 🙂
At the closing there was a goodbye cake prepared for us. Or, to be more exact, two cakes. “Unfortunately”, there was quite a lot food before, so eating the cake additionally was a little problem… 😛
And finally it was time, when I had to return home…
What I usually answer to people when they’re asking how was the trip?
It was fantastic until I had to return!
It was too short.
Everything was organized excellently and it’s definitely an event I’ll remember to the rest of my life. 5 days is too short (especially for a first time in USA + first time abroad + first time on ship + first time… whatever), although I could see Google’s extravagance everywhere.
One should also thank to organizers; especially Stephanie Taylor, who clearly was the most engaged person. She not only was everywhere during the trip, but also before it, she, for instance, responded to my E-mails very quickly, despite sending them at really various time of day and day of the week. But, what’s really the most important thing, I can call her the most positive person I’ve ever met – it’s impossible to describe, though. 😛
The last words I want to tell you are… participate in GCI. My friend told me before the contest that I shouldn’t really care about the win, because the number of people participating is so high that I have no chances to win – his face, when I told him that I become a winner, was “priceless”. 🙂 Even if you won’t go to Grand Prize Trip (which is an amazing experience, of course), it’s still worth the time and work, because it’s just fun to create really existing – and used, such as, like in my case, MediaWiki – software.
If you managed to read the whole post, then congratulations. 😛
PS. At the airport in Munich there’s free hot chocolate/coffee/tee/something else. I spent there about 6 hours, but unfortunately I find it out one hour before the departure… Anyway, I recommend the chocolate especially, I drank 6 cups… 😛
Now, really ending – Googleplex humor: