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Googlefest 2015 Offers Free Education To Charleston Professionals, Amateurs Alike
8/5/2015 7:35:53 PM

Googlefest attendees viewing keynote address at conference. Photo by Damion Smalls

Google employees assisting participants. Photo by Damion Smalls

Googler Brendan Synder leading the small business sessions. Photo by Damion Smalls
By Damion Smalls

Trident Technical College was once again the setting for this year’s Googlefest conference, held July 28-29 from 9am to 4pm both days. The 2015 version saw Google’s attempt at addressing its diversity issues and making some small progress in that area.

Googlefest is a tech expo that exposes the interested to tools from Google that can be best used in their professional fields, with talks centering towards education, non-profits, and small businesses. As true with most GoogleSC events, admission was free, which led to hundreds filling into the Complex for Economic Development at TTC to network with like-minded locals, collect Google swag bags with goodies, and have a good excuse for missing work that day(s). And learn some things along the way.

Tuesday’s festivities were catered to those in education as presenters touted the Google CS First program and its success nationally. The trending initiative has been used locally at schools such as Burke High and C.E. Williams Middle School to instruct students in computer science lessons in a more accessible, relatable, and cost-efficient way than traditional schooling. To get involved by becoming a volunteer or to bring the program to your school, visit

Surprisingly, they let people in the premises that openly using Apple products, without incident no less. Way to be the bigger man, Google. Google workers at the event even used MacBooks without hesitation. On a slightly more serious note, the lack of abundance of Chromebooks was a stark contrast to Googlefest 2014.

Non-profits and small businesses were the focus of Wednesday’s sessions. Eric Wages, the Site Operations Managers at GoogleSC served as MC of the event. He introduced the CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, Elaine Morgan, to kick things off with heavy praise towards Google and its ubiquitous role in modern society.

The keynote speaker was Emilie Whitaker, the co-founder of the Greenville-based boutique Beija-Flor Jeans. Whitaker explained how she uses software applications created by Google to sell, track, and promote her products around the web. Advertising her agenda as a retailer that targets curvy women, Beija-Flor’s website features no models that are actually curvy, or ethnically diverse for that matter. Every single one appears to be white. To her credit, Whitaker admitted to the oversight as such when questioned and vowed to update the site and market differently in the future.

Cynthia Sanchez of Oh So Pinteresting used her time on stage as a featured speaker to push her belief of “Following Your Vision”. She highlighted her experience with Google tools such as Hangouts by sharing content in a simple fashion, Analytics when measuring webpage performance on Pinterest, Plus with engaging with an online community, and even YouTube in creating video blogs and channels. In the last week, Pinterest has made the news for its workforce diversity pledge with new hiring goals that will target women and minorities.

Local Googlers provided demonstrations of various Google apps with its real-world uses. The Chromecast demo displayed the duo display aspect of the device by displaying media and app content off a phone that mirrored the projector display the audience viewed.

The storage and share capabilities of Drive with the web notebook Keep, the powerpoint-ready Slides, and Hangouts intrigued onlookers. Google Maps and Voice were combined to warp the resident Google specialist into a navigation genie with routes read by vocal announcement and interpreted by spoken words in an enlightening example. Also of emphasis was the new YouTube For Kids app that aims to keep children safe with age-appropriate material on the video sharing site.

The non-profit contingent splintered off with an overview headed by Earl Scott. How to apply for Google Grants was revealed by Lilyn Hester. Adam White from Case After the Cure, Jessica Mundy of TRIO Solutions, and SC Nonprofit Organizations’ Madeleine McGee teamed up for the discussion ‘Google & Technology-The Big Enabler of Our Nonprofit Passions’.

With topics that were relevant to both non-profits and small businesses, Brandon Powell went over sustainability practices, Alec Fox charmed through the solution to adding charisma to presentations, and Mara Nerenberg clarified the use of data and spreadsheets within Google in the app known as Sheets.

The mostly white and male group of Google employees on hand worked the floor and led guests around recreational areas during intermissions. Massage chairs were ushered in and utilized by lucky, patient attendees. A Nintendo Wii system was set up and woefully underutilized by the unsuspecting populace, unable to reasonably come to terms with the fortuitous opportunity spoon-fed to them. Such is life.

Brendan Snyder led the small business sessions, which dealt with measuring success with Analytics and promoting business with AdWords. A New York-based artist, photographer, and advertising salesman, Snyder described how digital measurement should interpreted with metrics and the affect that social media has in web traffic.

Google AdWords allows businesses to more effectively advertise online. 95% of Google’s revenue stems from ads. The program is an auction where advertisers bid on keywords that relate and represent products best so that they are easily searchable and visible on the world wide web. The highly informative lectures shed light on the intricate business side of Google.

Googlefest 2015 showed a more female-driven, diverse and software-based push from the tech trendsetter. Black participants this year notably increased. Hardware was downplayed as the Google Glass was only mentioned once after last year’s boastful touting of the product in hands-on demos. The atmosphere was friendly, as most ticketholders seemed to leave the conference more confident and comfortable with Google’s online services.

Encouraging was the number of non-millennial people in attendance. Adapting to the new wave of work and communication is a necessity according to Alada M. Shinault-Small of the Black History/Gullah Geechee Tours of Sites and Insights Tours, Inc.

With still more work to do in reaching out to the minority populations of South Carolina, GoogleSC has at least started the process of immersing itself in our culture with pragmatic knowledge. Holding tech companies accountable for their lack of diversity has to be a high priority for Blacks. It affects the educational prospects of current and future generations, so keeping an eye on how local business like BoomTown, Think Ideally, and Charleston Open Source grow in the city cannot be ignored.

Help get our kids familiar with what STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) is and entails by taking advantage of one of the biggest companies in the world having a data center located in Berkeley. Additionally, the speakers did indicate that they are hiring locally, so go to for more information on current openings.

The next local Google event is the August 5 Get Your Business Online presentation at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library. Stay tuned to The Chronicle for a synopsis on that in next week’s edition.

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