GDE Journey - Joe Birch

I’ve always known about the GDE program. Even when I started to dive into Android development, I remember seeing a few Android developers who were GDEs — these are some of the people who I started to learn android from in the beginning. I was attending university at this time when I started learning Android — we didn’t have a specific course or module that covered mobile development, it was just something that I wanted to pursue alongside my other modules. I managed to find a way for this to fit it in with the rest of my curriculum and also use Android for my final project, which I was lucky enough to find a client who needed a real world project. During this time, alongside the GDEs and other Android community members, the resources provided by these people provided a huge amount of guidance for me when I was skilling up on Android — from this work with the framework at university to landing my first Android development job, these resources were priceless.

During this time I had also been a regular attendee at meetups and conferences relating to Android. Seeing these community members contributions in both a written and spoken format inspired me to start doing these things myself. At the time I didn’t quite have the confidence to give talks publicly, so I started off by writing android related content on my blog. I remember being quite scared at first to share my learnings and opinions online, through conversations with other developers and friends I managed to get over this — we all start somewhere and I figured that being vulnerable and sharing things was going to be so valuable for my growth. Things were pretty quiet at first, but I persisted through and continued to network with other developers on Twitter and at conferences. As my network grew, my articles started to reach more and more people — this is the point where one of my friends asked me, “Have you ever thought about public speaking?”. This seemed like a silly idea to me, no way did I have the confidence to get up on stage and talk about something to people who probably knew more than me! Regardless, my friend put my name down for the talk and I presented the topic of building apps for Android TV — which was built up of some blog posts that I had previously written. Giving that first talk was a little nerve wrecking, but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. As soon as the talk had finished I wanted to give another one — so the next day I started submitting talks to conferences around the globe. Within the next few weeks I had an international and domestic talk lined up, I remember being so excited to be able to travel and share my learnings with others.

This continued for the next year and there was obviously still some conferences that I didn’t get picked for, that’s only natural. I still attended conferences and met new people along the way, I remember during these times I would always meet GDEs and have conversations with that just like I would other attendees. I was always a bit nervous to speak to them — maybe it was my imposter syndrome coming into play, but after getting over the initial nerves these conversations were no different than talking to anyone else at the conference — everyone was so incredibly approachable and friendly. I think at first, people having the GDE status made me nervous to approach them — but these people were more than willing to help and have conversations with, be it at a conference or online. At this time I actually made good friends with a couple of GDEs too. Fast forward a year and my community contributions had continued on, I was speaking frequently and writing to my blog every few weeks. At this point I started to think, what am I doing differently than GDEs? At this time I had a deep understanding of the Android framework and my community contributions were both frequent and accessed by many — I didn’t want to be that person to ask my friend to recommend me for the program though, so I reached out to someone from Google whilst I was at a local meetup. It was funny because this Googler then put me in touch with one of my friends who was a GDE which I had originally avoided asking — but even so, it gave me the opportunity to learn a bit more about the program from a direct source.

After that I submitted to the program, which was the point where I was required to fill out a community CV — this consisted of everything that I had done in the community. Because I was regularly speaking & blogging, this made me feel comfortable in my application as this is what a big part of being a GDE is all about — the community! I was never one to keep track of things, so I had to do some backtracking to pull everything together, but it was a nice chance to reflect on everything that I had been involved in — not only from a sense of giving back, but it also made me think about everyone I had met on my journey to this point. After this CV was completed I had an interview with an Android GDE — I had it in my mind that this was going to be a tricky experience, but it was nowhere like that. The interview was really comfortable to be a part of and was essentially a conversation about Android, along with some of specialisations in the field and some of the things I’ve been doing in the community. As Android developers we work with the framework most of our working days, with this knowledge and the confidence in what I know, I shouldn’t have been worried about this initial Android chat — nerves had originally got the better of me prior to the interview, but moments into it I was relaxed and having a completely natural conversation. The community side of the conversation felt very similar and again, I was involved in the community already at this point so I had plenty of things to talk about!

After that, the final stage was another chat but this time with someone from Google. I was a little bit more nervous this time around as it felt like a bit of a step up (which is expected, going from an interview with a GDE to a Google employee!). However, the interview was a similar format and felt like I was having a conversation with someone at a conference about technology. This interview contained a little bit more of a product focus than the initial interview, but it still focused on the same idea of being able to communicate my thoughts clearly so that my interviewer knew I was able to both communicate to and educate others.

Several weeks from there I was invited to join the GDE program, which is when I was able to add the GDE profile page to my profile pictures on social networks. This seems like a little thing, but for me I had always seen these badges belonging to people that inspired me in my journey — so having one of these for myself meant quite a lot to me. Since then I’ve been continuing (and growing) my community contributions, as well as diving into deeper topics such as diversity / inclusion to try and help have a more positive impact on our communities. It’s also gone full circle from when I look back to before I was a GDE — I’ve been interviewing new candidates to the program and giving guidance to those who are interested in growing themselves to apply for the future!



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Joe Birch

Joe Birch

Android Engineering Lead at Buffer, Google Developer Expert for Android & Flutter - Passionate about mobile development and learning.