Celebrating Canadian Googlers: Meet Matt Teskey
Editor's Note: To celebrate Google Canada’s 20th Anniversary, we're profiling some of the powerful, dynamic and creative Canadians at Google.
When the COVID-19 pandemic increased, Matt Teskey not only jumped at the opportunity to serve his community through Google, but also alongside his family. As a Program Manager for Firebase, Matt describes his role as bringing order from chaos and so it’s not surprising that during a time of uncertainty, Matt saw an opportunity to help others.
What started as a fun activity for Matt to do with his wife and kids, quickly evolved to a local virtual scavenger hunt enjoyed by many across the Waterloo region. Leveraging Google Forms, Matt’s creativity saw no bounds, and the response from local educators, friends and community members has been overwhelming, with several inspired to create their own versions!
Matt has also spearheaded an initiative to match Canadian nonprofits with Google volunteers to provide support for the collaboration and video conferencing tools in Google Workspace for Nonprofits. This program has evolved over the past 12 months and, merged with other related initiatives, has helped hundreds of Canadian nonprofits, and is always looking for additional nonprofits to support.
We recently sat down with Matt to learn more about the creative way he’s keeping his family and community connected.
How would you describe your job at a dinner party to people who don't work in tech?
I work on Firebase, Google’s mobile platform for app developers, and my role as a program manager is to enable our teams to be successful as we build, release and support our software. I bring order from chaos and spend a lot of time getting people and tools organized and effective.
What advice do you have for somebody looking to pursue a career in tech?
I would say to get involved, explore different areas as much as you can. There are so many tools at your disposal, whether it’s social media and graphic design classes or coding. There is an opportunity to get really creative with a combination of school, volunteering and free online learning. Through volunteering, I learned a lot about organization and tools, which helped my entry into the tech space.
I also think relationships are key. Get outside of your comfort zone, meet new people, foster and nurture new relationships. This can feel intimidating, but it can be as simple as getting involved in your community, joining different groups, connecting with like-minded people.
In addition to your role, you also have been very involved in giving back. Can you tell us a bit about your work with Google’s 20 percent project time?
One of the amazing things at Google is that employees are encouraged to get involved in projects and initiatives outside of their day-to-day roles. Personally, I’m always looking for ways to work with Googlers outside of my teams — I’ve helped run office-wide innovation programs in the past, and in 2020 I initiated a program to give 1:1 support to Canadian nonprofits via our Google for Nonprofits offerings.
Through this 20 percent project, it’s been a great way to serve the community, and the need for additional help and resources has been more important than ever. Initially, we thought our focus would be on helping with Google Ads Grants and putting together classes to promote and educate nonprofits on these offerings with Google. Once COVID hit, we started to see a lot of people and organizations struggling with how to adapt to online tools and video calls and saw an opportunity to pivot our outreach to focus on Google Workspace and how to use the free tools like Docs and Meet. The need to support nonprofits has grown tremendously. We've been able to work with Googlers across our Candian offices to extend our reach further and directly support nonprofits across the country and are always looking for more.
When you work at Google, it’s pretty easy to be inspired by the nonprofit work put in place by past Googlers, and it makes you want to build on top of that. I don’t know another company that gives its employees that opportunity to make such an impact.
How was the transition to working from home?
Well, at the start of COVID, everyone was locked down and struggling with work from home setups and how to stay connected. Working at Google, I had a really easy transition into work from home thanks to a good desk and technical setup and lots of experience working with teammates across North America through video conferencing and collaborative docs. My wife is a teacher, and my kids were schooling from home, so we were all here and just sort of figuring it out. I think we jumped right into a mindset of ‘this will be going on for a long time, so we better figure out how to stay connected and stay entertained.’
While working from home, I set up Google Meet video calls with my friends and family and do virtual game nights and virtual escape rooms. As I searched for fun activities online, I clicked into a Harry Potter-themed escape room and realized it was built using Google Forms. I connected with the author of the escape room, who shared an instruction video with me. My family and I decided to make one together. We started by designing some clues, then we went around our community and took pictures. We basically built a scavenger hunt in Google Forms in a day or two.
Did you know the scavenger hunt would gain so much traction?
It really started out as a fun activity my family could do together! When we first decided to make this, we knew people were adjusting to life at home, and many people were looking for creative, fun and free things to do with their kids. I was inspired by a virtual escape room and thought this is interesting and something that could be adapted for a scavenger hunt. My wife is an elementary school teacher, I’m a recent Cub Scout leader, and so we thought this would be a great resource to leverage and also share with our kids’ classmates. I’m happy to see so many other people using it and having fun while doing it!
What has the response been from the community?
It's been really great! A few of my teacher friends were inspired to build their own — one in particular is a geography teacher, so I helped him curate one for his class. He changed the pictures, the clues, and suddenly it turned into a cross Canada adventure for their geography class!
I check online every once and a while, and we've heard from a few hundred families. The comments are always very positive, with people expressing gratitude for the half an hour or hour of escape that the game offered. Others leave comments requesting that we make another one with a specific theme in mind or for a different city.
Now that we’re back in lockdown, do you have any plans to make another one?
Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about it. We thought about it being more tied in with my wife and son’s school, or maybe something with the surrounding towns. The kids also want to do something with theme parks or virtual travel destinations. We’ll probably build another one at some point, but it’s also really cool to see other people be inspired by our idea and develop their own.