An Engineer and Conceptual Designer’s Experience at Google Next’19

There are thousands of people, and hundreds of sessions, meetings, labs and events happening concurrently at the Google’s Next’19…

There are thousands of people, and hundreds of sessions, meetings, labs and events happening concurrently at the Google’s Next’19 conference. Given the scale of Google Next’19, each person’s experience is different with all the combinations of paths one could choose to spend their time. In this post, I’ll be highlighting my experience and takeaways from Google Next’19 — from the point of view of a software engineer and conceptual designer.

Perhaps you want to get a sense of what the experience was like as you’d like to attend next year, or you’ve attended and want to check out a different perspective.

Here are my nuggets of observations, highlights, discussions, and thoughts on Next’19.

Connecting with Like-Minded People

One huge highlight for me was the opportunity to meet a lot of people with similar interests. It was great geeking out with people on common topics of interest.

Meeting the people behind the products that you’ve used and loved (or sometimes struggled with) was fulfilling, especially if you are a heavy user of a certain Google Cloud product. You can also learn about upcoming features, backstories on certain existing features, and you have the opportunity to give direct feedback on that product.

As someone who creates products myself, it is interesting to talk to fellow creators and share their excitement around a product they created.

Meeting people you’ve come across or worked with in the open-source community was another fun experience. Putting a face to a name (or GitHub handle), and discuss features, issues, or general ideas in-person was a great experience.


Apart from the talks, breakout sessions, community meetings, and socials, the Expo floor was a great place to connect, have a good chat, and share ideas.

Interweaved within the Expo floor were showcases of Google Cloud products. Here you could learn about the latest Google Cloud products and dive deep into them. It felt well-tailored for the attendee’s experience. There was even a Cloud Architecture section where participants were invited to discuss and whiteboard specific cloud architecture use-cases with an expert.

Like most conferences, there are vendors and sponsors. The vendors and sponsors at the Next’19 Expo floor were very enthusiastic and helpful in helping an attendee understand what they do and how they can help achieve business goals. It was a good scan of the cloud vendor landscape.

Learn from Customers of Google Cloud

It was very valuable to hear from enterprises that have embarked on their journey with Google Cloud. They shared with us their experience on various topics, their decision-making process, as well as pain points along the way.

I found their tidbits and descriptions candid and it felt that they were coming from a genuine place of wanting to share their knowledge with the community. This enables a sense of a community that is helping each other succeed, and for that, a huge kudos to Google Cloud customers who came out to share their story and help others.

Enjoy the DevZone


The DevZone was a fun space for developers and creators alike featuring Hands-On Labs (self-driven Google Cloud labs), Spotlight Labs (hosted labs with a presenter), and Cloud Showcase Experiments (featured demos using Google Cloud technology). Here are a few things from the DevZone that stood out to me:

Community Corners

The Community Corners hosts community meetups, presentations, workshops and fireside chats in an informal format. It is a chill space for people with similar interests to meet and discuss. I very much enjoyed the scheduled informal sessions and meetups.

To give you an idea, some of the sessions were: Let’s Talk Next-Gen Security, Superpower Your Startups, Open Source Office Hours, Go Community Meetup, and Fireside Chat and Panel Discussion with Serverless PM/PMM/DA.


If you needed a break, there were some retro arcade machines on the floor of the DevZone. Instead of PacMan or Space Invaders, the games were about completing Google Cloud tasks using the Command Line Interface — with topics ranging from Kubernetes to the Machine Learning Vision API. Of course, right?

It appears that they were essentially a locked-down, kiosk-mode browsers placed in a nice box with a keyboard and arcade-style joystick and buttons. Despite its retro look and feel, the game itself runs, as you might have guessed, on the cloud.


DevZone Theater

DevZone Theater sessions are semi-casual, short-format presentations, followed by Q&A sessions. I very much enjoyed this format. There were a lot of good sessions but among my favourites was the Meet the Authors — Go language session.

Panel Session: Meet the Authors — Go Language


Let’s dive deep into one of the sessions at the DevZone Theater. For this session, I huddled with a few others on the floor right at the very front.

This was an engaging chat with the authors of Golang, and the people close to designing and continuously developing that language. Among the panelists were members of the Go team: Robert Griesemer (also one of the designers of Go), Ian Lance Taylor, Robert van Gent, and Brad Fitzpatrick, as well as Tyler Bui-Palsulich who works on bringing Golang to Google Cloud products.

It was fascinating to take their perspective on the language, and to get a peek into what it’s like to be responsible for one of the fastest growing languages.

For instance, Ian described the quandary of saying no to some powerful new Go features. It was tempting to add new features that could be useful, but it was more important to keep the language simple as opposed to introducing complexity that sacrificed readability. This choice was consistent with the vision of Go.

They also discussed reducing the size of the Go standard library — there seems to be an agreement on further trimming unnecessary modules in the standard library. The inclination going forward seems to be to focus on building the tools for developers to discover open source libraries that are reliable. The open source community would then be building and maintaining these libraries.

While listening to that discussion on module management, I reflected on JavaScript’s NPM landscape and thought:

  • Will there be a time when Go libraries have security vulnerabilities introduced by bad actors in the community?
  • To learn the lesson from NPMs past, would the package discovery and management tool for Go be designed to mitigate security issues as such?
  • I’m looking forward to following or being part of further developments in the Go language.

    It is Good to be Google Cloud Certified

    As a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect, I felt rather privileged at Google Next — which I’m very thankful for. Rewarding Google Certified members and encouraging more to get certified seems to be somewhere up there on Google Cloud’s priority list.

    There was a section in the keynote hall dedicated to Google Cloud’s Certified members. While it’s not front-section seats, it was still a great spot to experience the keynote speeches.


    On the Expo floor, you’d find a lounge area dedicated to only Google Cloud certified members — a good space to sit, have coffee and snacks, recharge your body and machines, or chat with fellow Google Cloud certified peers.

    Closing Note

    In closing, I’d like to reiterate that this was a glimpse at one of the many ways in which you can experience Google Next. There are a lot more experiences that I either did not include in this post, or did not experience myself this time around.

    If I get the opportunity to attend next year’s event, I now have a better idea of the kind of experience I’d want to carve for myself.

    Hopefully, this article gave you a better idea of how you’d shape your own experience at the next Google Next!


    About the author

    Alfie Tham is an Agile Software Engineer at TribalScale working to build digital products, and grow product teams. He is excited about the space where technology, business and design intersect, and bringing these elements together to create great products, teams, and companies. His roles in product organizations are typically in the areas of conceptual design, system architecture, and full-stack engineering.

    TribalScale is a global innovation firm that helps enterprises adapt and thrive in the digital era. We transform teams and processes, build best-in-class digital products, and create disruptive startups. Learn more about us on our website. Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook!

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