Becoming a Google Dev Expert (GDE) in Android
TLDR: Are you the passionate about community work and giving back? If yes, you can become too.
It’ date 02–20–2020. A weird yet cool game of numbers, right? One of its kind. But today’s date isn’t the only cool thing I bumped into, but a lot of other things of good news, responsibilities, and entitlement. Today, I got the email, welcoming me to the Google Developer Experts (GDE) family. And to be honest, this was the last thing I ever expected. Not today at least.
I started my day with the recognition on one of the biggest tech news site of Pakistan, TechJuice about me becoming the first Android GDE in Pakistan. The article not only shares my story of being in computer science but also my journey of becoming an Android developer, particularly the work I’ve been putting out for the world out there and the precious community of Android developers, through my my writing books, articles, open source work, and my public speaking. You can read the full article on the their website.
But Why Me?
You must be wondering why Google has honored me with the GDE title, right? I mean, it could have been anyone but me. It could have been you too. But in my case, let me go through a quick background journey of mine. If you have read the above article in the link, you must have got the gist of most, already.
In my sophomore year at NUST SEECS, Islamabad, I was introduced to Android development through an invite-only workshop. These were early days of Android, and the version I got my hands on dirty was the Eclair (2.1). At first, the android development looked intimidated and was kind of a nightmare because you had to download so many different tools such as Eclipse, SDK, and ADT plugin separately and then integrate all parts together. It was not easy for me with no knowledge of Java and someone who was just started with C++ with its black screen console.
The workshop was totally out of my understanding and I couldn’t learn anything at all except that “Android is an operating system for upcoming touch-enabled smartphones”. Later, a software competition organized by the university was announced, that they will give bonus points to students who submit their projects.
That was it. That became my motivation. That was the time to do something dazzling. So, I searched about development but couldn’t find anything which could onboard me in this field with red carpet and falling flowers. One of my teachers and advisor, Shamyl Bin Mansoor got a copy of “Hello Android” book online. I borrowed that book and learned the basics of Android. And somehow finished my app and submitted it.
Surprisingly, I won that competition. I got enough prize money to get myself an imported real Android phone.
This was the beginning.
This was the moment, which led me through Eclair (2.1) to Android Q (10) version with quality improvements year by year.
This was the moment which made me a worldwide published author of not one but two 300+ page books on Android.
This was the moment which brought bread and food on my and my family’s table for over 11 years.
This was the moment which helped me getting recognition locally and internationally and gave me an identity — Wajahat is an android developer.
This was the moment which brought me on the journey of becoming a Google Developer Expert (GDE) in Android.
Although I am working on Android for about 11 years now. But for last 3 years, I have become very active in community work. Through this period, I have created several open source libraries being used by 70,000 developers around the globe, published lots of articles and tutorials about android development, co-authored 2 worldwide published books, managed AndroidPub (one of the top 100 Medium publications with more than 50,000 followers), delivered more than 15 talks on local events with audience ranging from 30 to 700 persons. And this was all about only thing. Android. Android. and Android.
This community work got me the attention of Google (originally from Singapore by Sami Kizilbash & Manikantan). And that’s how I got nominated and went through the process (on this later). And finally, today completed the process and became an GDE officially.
Enough about me now. Let’s discuss about you now and how you can be a GDE.
I have given an interview in Urdu/Hindi to a local YouTube channel Ibrahim’s Channel where I have shared the whole process to become a Google Developer Expert (GDE) in Urdu/Hindi. If you understand any of these language, you can watch it here.
So, what is Google Developer Expert anyway?
According to the Google Dev Expert website, it is:
A global program to recognize individuals who are experts and thought leaders in one or more Google technologies. These professionals actively contribute and support the developer and startup ecosystems around the world, helping them build and launch highly innovative apps.
So, you see that its not a job to join. Its not a goal to accomplish. Rather, this is all about helping people, doing community work, and giving back. This is a recognition by Google itself as a gesture to appreciate your work and efforts for community building and bringing real impact to the real persons’ lives. Technology comes later in this part, but first and most important part in above quote is that you are a person who loves to help, support and contribute in the community building. Period.
How can you become a Google Developer Expert (GDE)?
As I said earlier, you can’t apply somewhere for becoming a GDE. There’s no **Submit Your Resume **button for this on their website. Its a recognition. Its a badge of honor on your profile picture online. You have to earn this recognition.
This process boils down to two steps eventually:
Become an expert in any one Google technologies like Android, Web, Firebase, Flutter, Assistant, Google Play etc. You don’t need to “the expert”, but you have to get enough knowledge and experience on the said technology so that you can advise, mentor, and help people with their problems.
Help as many people as you can. It could be through writing online content, or making YouTube videos, or contributing to open source projects, or answering on StackOverflow, or producing podcasts, or giving talks and workshops in universities, events, and meetups, or even organizing events in your city.
You have to do these things so much enough that someone from Google company or some other GDE notices your work and nominates you as a potential GDE.
Getting nominated is the most difficult part of this whole process.
Once you have got an invitation to apply for GDE, you have to submit a form. In this form, you will have to mention all the things you have done for community like your talks, videos, articles, open source projects etc. You have to calculate the impact you have put on the people. Like how many people has read your articles, how many people watched your videos, how many people has attended your events.
After submitting the form, Google will review it. If rejected, you can apply after 6 months again and again. And if accepted, you will be invited to interviews.
There will be two interviews:
Community Interview — This will be done by some other GDE in your field. In this interview, you will asked all about the work you have done for community building and giving back. And how and what have you done for it. And how much impact you have brought upon. And why you are passionate about community and how being GDE can help you with that.
Product Interview — This will be done by the team behind your field (for me the Android team from Google). In this interview, your knowledge will be tested. Whether you really know inside-out of the field and whether you are actually an expert in it or not.
It must be noted that these interviews vary from person to person. So, you should be prepared well. After successfully completing both interviews, you are a Google Developer Expert (GDE) and you will get that similar email as the one in this article’s cover.
What will happen after I become a GDE?
Nothing really. It will be the same as before. Except that you are a GDE now and you hold a responsibility.
With great power comes great responsibility.
You won’t get any salary or compensation for GDE role from Google. The GDE title is renewed every year. So, you will be given the badge for one year. And then you have to continue the community work as you were doing before. Only this time, you keep logging it in their GDE panel. This way, Google will see how much active you are and how much work you are doing and they will renew your GDEship (I don’t know if that’s word or not) each year based on that activity.
Not to forget here that being GDE gets you some perks:
You will get access to mailing lists in your technology. From here, you can directly talk to people behind the technology (Android in my case), learn about new upcoming features before anyone else do, and submit feedback and be a part of the decision-making behind the technology.
You can connect with other GDEs and Googlers from other teams and discuss ideas to bring more impact on the community.
Google can sponsor your travel (flights/bus/train) and hotels for the conferences or events you want to speak in your region. For example, I am the GDE in Pakistan, so I can go to South East Asia region but I will have to pay for visa myself.
You may get a ticket to Google IO event and possibly sponsorship too. This is based on your activity and community work.
You may be invited to their yearly GDE Summit with all expenses covered.
You will get a badge for your profile pictures mentioning you as a GDE.
Special Thanks & Mentions
I would like to extend my graditude to:
Firstly, ALLAH ALMIGHTY for all the blessings.
Sami Kizilbash, Manikantan for nominating me.
Eric Bhatti, Kamran Qadri, and GDG Kolachi team for giving me the opportunities to speak and share my experiences in their events.
The great Developer Student Club DSC leads of Pakistan for inviting me in their events and universities.
Saad Hamid for constant support, belief and guidance throughout all these months.
Ahsan Ayaz, Wahib Haq, Hassan Abid, Saurabh Arora, Saket Narayan, and Juhani Lehtimaki for the support and guidance through the GDE process itself.
The Google & Google Developers entity for providing me this opportunity and believing in me.
Finally, My family, my sisters, my cousin brothers and my wife for moral, emotional support and constantly believing in me and my efforts.
In a nutshell, if you are passionate about community building and giving back, Google Developer Expert (GDE) program is for you. If you are looking for title or glory or fame or just recognition, this is not something you should opt-in for. You can read the more details and practical guide about how to become a Google Developer Expert by Jeff Delaney on this article here.