Dominican Product Designer Brings Latino Touch to Google Meet

Juan Angustia talks to Bloomberg Línea about how limitations cannot be an obstacle to attaining the experiences we desire

Juan Angustia.
October 07, 2022 | 08:49 AM

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Santo Domingo — Mandatory lockdowns and limited mobility during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated the use of video calls, and which became a vital tool for business meetings, for companies to maintain a smooth flow of operations, and for families to stay connected.

All video conferencing applications experienced exponential growth during the pandemic. According a Statista compilation of data, the most downloaded video calling and virtual meeting apps during 2020 were Zoom and Google Meet.

In Spain alone, Google Meet saw nearly 5.3 million downloads in 2020, according to Statista.

Behind the user experience of Google’s video calls is product designer Juan Carlos Angustia, a native of the Dominican Republic, and who is one of those responsible for the operation, optimization and aesthetics of the product’s updates.

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On his shoulders was the responsibility of developing the user experience of Google Duo for web, and doing so in record time, for which he was lauded by his team.

“Helping people stay connected, study and not feel isolated was something that made me proud to be part of,” he says.

In conversation with Bloomberg Línea, Angustia shared his experiences of how he joined the company, where he has been for almost the last four years, and how he feels about representing Dominicans and the Latino community in the tech world.

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He also commented on how not having a college degree and having first been rejected did not prevent him from securing his current position.

The trajectory

His passion for technology began at a very young age when he lived in Constanza, a farming and ecotourism town in the Dominican Republic.

Angustia remembers walking about half a mile, carrying a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) on his head from his home to a small computer laboratory, where he was allowed to connect to the Internet.

“Since it wasn’t easy to have a laptop at that time, I would take my CPU with me where I had photoshop, design and web page programs installed. Ironically, I would open Google to look for tutorials.”

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With a slight smile, he recalls that people made fun of him saying he was going to go crazy with the computer, but that’s what led him to enter the state university to study graphic design.

His self-taught drive made him feel that college didn’t meet all his learning expectations, however. Curiosity and passion drove him to seek out information on his own, and advance his personal development.

He emphasizes that before finishing his degree, he moved to the United States, and although he had the opportunity to finish his studies in the Dominican Republic, he did not do so.

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“I felt that the university did not offer me what I wanted. What I was passionate about in advertising was digital design, something that the university did not offer me at that time.”

However, he is grateful for the theoretical and thematic knowledge he learned during his time at the university, and feels that it helped him to broaden his professional career.

He says that it was through a former colleague that he started working at Google, and when he got to know the company’s philosophy, that “you are Google”, “your personality, your way of working, thinking and creativity are compatible with the company”.

Not having a university degree and being from a small country made him hesitate. Although he applied to enter the company in 2015, he did not pass to the second stage of the selection process. Three years later, he received an email from the company, to which he responded cautiously, thinking it was a scam.

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He emphasizes that joining Google made him feel not only that he represents his country, but also minorities: African-Americans and Latinos, which makes him feel proud, and that with dance, images and videos he presents his Latino and Dominican roots to his coworkers.

“I always want to show that Latino and Dominican pride. That having limitations should not be an excuse to achieve what you want.”

Digital nomads

He stresses that the new trend is hybrid work, where digital nomads are gaining space, and he calls on the Dominican Republic and Latin America to transform their work methodology and not be afraid of labor “flexibility”.

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“The hybrid model, as a first step, is the most ideal. Especially if you don’t have the necessary staff in the country, or you can’t afford adequate space. The best opportunity for entrepreneurship is now, since there are tools such as Google Meet that allow you to connect,” he says.

Tourism as an opportunity

Angustia also says that he has always believed in the potential of his hometown, Constanza, especially in the ecotourism area.

In his beginnings in the world of technology, he developed a digital guide to tourist destinations in the town, and hopes in the near future to develop a “tourist and technology project” that shows a more luxurious part of Constanza.

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“I would like to further develop the street view of Constanza, so that people can have a better experience and want to visit.”

Despite living in the United States for several years, he maintains contact and with his hometown, and offers free advice on its technological development.