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Diversity and Inclusion

Kwentuhan: Sharing our stories this Filipino American History Month

A Google office reception desk and entrance

“Kwentuhan” roughly translates to “sharing stories” in English. For Filipino American History Month, or Kapamilya Month as our Filipino Googler Network refers to it, we sat down with Paolo Malabuyo, Director of User Experience in Google Maps and executive sponsor of the Filipino Googler Network, to learn about his story.

As a child growing up in the Philippines, we heard you were somewhat of a Lego competition legend. How did this kickstart your interest in working in UX and design?

I was the youngest of four and I always felt like I was in the shadow of my older, smarter, more athletic and more accomplished siblings. I don’t recall having many ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up, until my grandmother immigrated to the United States in the 1960s and started sending small handfuls of Lego pieces through the mail.

This started my fascination with Lego and culminated in my participation in Lego competitions across the Philippines. I still think that the greatest job in the world is designing Lego sets.

  • Paolo standing with two Lego boxes on either side of him. In front of him on the table is a fully constructed Lego set.

    Paolo with his winning build and prizes.

  • Paolo sitting at a table building a Lego set in a room full of others also focused on their Lego creations. To his right, a man stands over his shoulder watching him build the set

    A younger Paolo during a Lego competition with Larry Alcala, famous Filipino cartoonist, looking on as a judge.

  • Four people sit on a stage for a panel discussion

    Paolo (third from left) on a panel of designers at Adobo Design Week in Manila, Philippines

I immigrated to the States right before my 12th birthday and picked up drawing, reading, and crafting. This developed into a real affinity for art. I ended up getting a BFA in art and minors in communication design, art history and Chinese studies. I also took basic programming classes and learned web design by emulating early websites.

Like Lego pieces, my early days of creatively building, combined with my art education and CS study were what constructed my career today. I got my first role as a graphic designer which started my roundabout journey to become a UX designer, leader and educator.

Can you talk about your role at Google?

I lead the cross-disciplinary user experience teams for Geo Auto and Geo Sustainability. In Auto, we design and deliver the in-car, embedded Google Maps experiences for navigation, routing, and situational awareness so that drivers are safer and more confident, with a major focus on electric vehicles. In Sustainability, we provide platforms, insights, and solutions that help users and partners tackle climate change – the preeminent challenge for humanity today. It’s an incredibly interesting portfolio and it’s such a privilege to work with our teams and clients.

As an executive sponsor for the FIlipino Googler Network, I get to work closely with other teams across Google on projects that impact the Filipino community. One example is the work happening on Maps to help business owners identify themselves, including the introduction of the Asian-owned attribute earlier this year. This attribute will help many Filipino businesses be recognized by current and future customers.

What else is Google doing in support of Filipino culture?

It’s great to see how Google’s products and services are celebrating Filipino culture and elevating our voices. This month, we ran a beautiful Google Doodle in the Philippines which celebrated the Regatta de Zamboanga, an annual sailing competition from the southern part of the country.

Six sailboats with the letters on the flags spelling GOOGLE.

Google TV is highlighting recent movies and TV shows that tell Filipino American stories and feature Filipino American lead actors in its “For you” tab.

The Google TV interface on the For you page displaying an image of Jacob Batalon with fangs promoting a TV show “Reginald the Vampire”

One of Google TV's highlighted shows for Filipino American History Month

And Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with amazing organizations to celebrate the rich culture and history of the Philippines, including the Filipinas Heritage Library, Filipino Street Art Project, and the Ballet Philippines.

Earlier, you talked about how you grew up in the Philippines. What role do you think Google has to play in supporting the local community?

Google has amazing resources that can help the people in the Philippines. We’ve done a lot to support inclusive distance learning, from a grant to help teachers, to the national deployment of G Suite for Education to 22 million learners in partnership with the Department of Education. We’re collaborating with local telecommunications companies to bring mobile access to learning tools and started a virtual training camp for Filipino YouTubers to accelerate development of quality learning content on the platform. Just last month, we announced we will be giving away Google Career Certificate scholarships to 39,000 Filipino youths.

Commitments like these are super valuable, and I’m grateful for the work to come.

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