An Open Letter To Google and Firebase

Erika Harvey
Feb 29, 2016 · 3 min read

Dear Powers that be,

This weekend I participated in the Launch Hackathon. I came into it as the UX/front end person until my entire team got called away to work this weekend at a hackathon going on down south, leaving me alone , befuddled and to my own devices. While I can do the standard front end, HTML, CSS, Javascript with some API calls thrown in, the rest is something that for the sake of public good and computer’s health I rarely touch, until this weekend.

Now-a-days you hear a lot of things dealing with the lovely family of “isms”. Ageism, Sexism, Racism. I’ve for the first time been on the receiving end of two of those since I entered tech from the world of nursing and was starting to think that was how everything worked. It certainly has been the standard when it came to hackathons and the sponsors. I was left jaw agape this time though.

After initially expressing my dislike for Firebase(some personal mental block between me and one of the easiest data as a service products to learn out there). Not only did it seem that they took it as a personal mission (the firebase team) to change my mind, the Google Cloud reps joined in and for the next three days, I received some of the most in depth, theory laden , assistance with questions I had had in my bootcamp but were never answered, done in a way (as requested by me) that a fifth grader could understand.

I don’t think many would understand what I mean when I say personal and in depth. For four hours on Saturday morning, I had the undivided attention of one of the Google guys. FOUR HOURS of help and in a way that eliminated any fear on my part of looking like the biggest brain dead participant ever to have entered a hackathon.

The project I started completely imploded due to something I did, we worked on it together and three of them couldn’t even figure out what I had done(I think that makes me supremely qualified to work for you as a QA engineer,or at least the one that breaks new products to have you fix them). So, instead of just getting up and walking off, he became the champion of me just having fun and learning something, and sat with me to help lay the groundwork for the things I told him I wanted to learn.

I am no longer a detester of Firebase. Congrats guys , I have drank the kool-aide! I no longer am scared of chucking a huge involved project into the hmmm…who knows pile and coming back to it later. What I am now , is someone that changed their view of hackathons and went from must at least be in the top three to look at what i’ve learned and completed on my own.

I was able to build a decent program that scrapes twitter and yelp and other sites that deal with urban planning to locate the hidden rooftop open spaces in a project called ZenSpace. I was able to store all my info in Firebase, and use geofire for real time mapping of where these spots are located across the country. So in 24 hours I became proficient in local storage, firebase for my backend needs, geocaching, and cheerios/webscraping and a great foundation into the reasoning behind Polymer and what it offers. I’m thinking thats not so bad for a UX researcher, that had allowed many to write her off in regards to being able to put code down.

So, I would like to take this time to tell Google and Firebase thank you. Thanks for taking on a challenge and helping this person achieve personal success when she was staring into an abyss of failure. You have gained a fan and evangelist for life.


Erika Harvey

Erika Harvey

Written by

CEO/Founder MendUX,Inc. Patient Advocacy Through Technology