The Google Certified Innovator program is something I’ve wanted to be a part of for a long time. I knew that being a part of this program would mean participating with a community of educators working to transform the learning communities we serve and advocating for change. I was seeking a new space for my personal growth. I was craving another experience similar to that of the Master’s in Educational Technology (MAET) overseas program I was in at Michigan State University. I wanted a work hard, play hard environment where I could meet and connect with new people who share some of the same passions I have in education.
Four times. I applied to MTV16, COL16, and TOR16. Three rejections, but I wasn’t giving up. My fourth application was to NYC19 and I was accepted! The application process changed since I had applied in the past. My challenge that I submitted also changed. Back in 2016 my challenge was about managing educational screen time (which I think is still a challenge today). My 2019 challenge was about addressing the technology skills gap between adult learners and young students.
How I found out I was accepted in the program was funny. I had been added to a Google Hangout Chat called #NYC19 Innovators. I was a little confused because I hadn’t received an email confirming this acceptance. This seemed to be a common feeling with others in the chat. Ironically, the acceptance email had gone to our spam. We were all relieved to know this was an official, real thing that was happening! I hadn’t even met my cohort yet but we all celebrated in the chat together. We got to know each other pre-academy through this hangout chat, a hangout video call, Voxer chats, and uniting to solve a Breakout EDU challenge. There was already a sense of camaraderie before we arrived at the academy.
Day one of the academy, I arrived at Google early. I sat and waited in the fun googley chairs in the lobby in excitement. I heard a loud and energetic group of people walk in and instantly knew those were my people, my cohort. It was a surreal feeling. I was greeted with a hug from my coach, Christine Lion-Bailey, they escorted us upstairs and we hit the ground running. The flood of hospitality and belonging continued all week long. We learned that we are 1 out of 2,200 innovators globally. We connected with our teams, went through design thinking, rang the #FailBell, toured the YouTube Space, and became familiar with “yes and” feedback.
Day two began with a sense of gratitude and sharing of G Thanks from day one. We learned about the core skills of innovation: accept every offer, make your partner look good, error recovery over failure avoidance, and zealous communication. Googlers came and spoke to us. We empathized with the feeling of imposter syndrome. We developed prototypes to solve our challenges using no technology. We attended Spark Camp sessions facilitated by peers in the cohort.
On day three, we did identity sketches, went through the user testing phase of design thinking with our prototypes, learned about Google Data studio, visited the Grow with Google space, worked on our roadmaps, launched our pitches for solutions to our challenges, and graduated from the academy. Academy week was a whirlwind and flew by. I left feeling many different emotions. I was mentally exhausted, overwhelmed, inspired, motivated, driven, happy and thankful. I got what I asked for; a work hard, play hard experience, new global connections and friends, professional growth. I was surrounded by great role models and diverse perspectives, or as we like to call ourselves, like-minded wackos.
Being a Google Certified Innovator is still a lot to process. Post academy, I am scrolling through the photos of our short time together. I am lucky to have had this experience. I catch myself reflecting on it often and smile when I get a ping from the group. Our conversations are ongoing and I look forward to the next time we are reunited. We are here to transform, advocate, and grow. We stand by the four foundations for a culture of innovation: curiosity, agency, collaboration, and risk-taking. We are forever connected. We are #NYC19 innovators.