#IamaGDE: Kristina Simakova

#IamaGDE series presents: Google Maps

Welcome to our extended #IamaGDE series! Over the next few months, we will be presenting spotlights of Google Developer Experts from across various product areas. Discover their stories, passions and highlights of their community work.

The Google Developer Experts program is a global network of highly experienced technology experts, influencers, and thought leaders who actively support developers, companies, and tech communities by speaking at events and publishing content.

Today, meet Kristina Simakova — Maps and Android GDE.

Kristina Simakova
Kristina Simakova

Maps GDE Kristina Simakova works as an independent consultant and spends 60% of her time as an Android manager for a consulting firm in Norway. In that role, she helps Android consultants on their projects.

Kristina used to travel regularly and was an organizer of a conference in Norway, when suddenly, everything came to a halt. She stayed active in the developer community, participating in online events, like DevFest and a Women Techmakers event in April.

Becoming a developer

Growing up in Russia, Kristina didn’t have a computer until she started university at 17.

“It’s quite common in the U.S. and Norway that kids get computers early, but I grew up in Russia, and my family couldn’t afford a computer,” she says. “In school, we didn’t have much access to computers.”

Kristina started university in an IT program, computer aided design systems, which was a combination of programming and engineering. She got her first computer and learned to code.

Kristina moved to Norway to study for her Master’s degree, but she wasn’t sure which program to choose, and the program descriptions were in Norwegian, which she hadn’t mastered yet. She originally applied to study engineering design but switched to computer science at the last minute, with a focus on computer graphics, and got another two years of C++, and OpenGL studies under her belt.

Kristina’s Master’s thesis came out of her summer job at Equinor (formerly Statoil), the biggest oil company in Norway, in 2011. Tablets had just come out, and Android was brand-new. The company offered to provide Kristina with a tablet if she could figure out how to use AR with Android when company engineers went to evaluate potential oil fields. They told her they liked Google Earth, which wasn’t yet available on mobile, and envisioned a type of Google Earth experience for their app.

Kristina’s prototype app allowed users to see points of data in 3D and use a mobile device’s camera and AR in the field to see what data is nearby. Kristina used a small area in Norway for the prototype, so her app wasn’t scalable, but she says it was an interesting experience.

Kristina’s Master’s thesis aimed to explore the possibilities of using multitouch tablets in field work for the oil and gas industry. Statoil Research Center in Bergen denoted the features they hoped to see in a prototype application: the usage of sensors to control a camera; multitouch tabs; the ability to place 2D data in a 3D world; and the ability to edit pictures.

Screenshot from Kristina’s Master’s thesis. She didn’t know she was using a beta version of Google Maps at the time!

After earning her Master’s Kristina stayed interested in Google Maps and AR.

After a year, Kristina moved to Oslo, to work at a startup that focused on the construction industry and 3D Android development. After that, she became a consultant.

Getting involved in the developer community

Kristina also became a GDE for Android in 2018 and a Maps GDE as soon as the opportunity was available in 2019.

Favorite Maps features and current projects

Being a Maps GDE gave Kristina access to Google Maps Platform gaming services, which is her favorite Maps product. She’s followed gaming services since its 2018 introduction and thinks it provides numerous solutions for game and app developers.

Kristina wrote a blog post about how to use maps styling, another favorite feature.

Kristina says 2020 was a good year for Maps and is also happy about the new Android SDK.

“I feel like this year had a lot of updates and exciting opportunities for maps developers,” she says.

Current projects

Kristina is currently working on two consulting projects for museums that are targeted to elementary school-aged children. One is a geocaching scavenger hunt app that will use Google Maps.

Future plans

Kristina plans to document the development process of the scavenger hunt for children.

Follow Kristina on Twitter @KristiSimakova

For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

For more information on Google Developer Experts, visit our website.

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Alicja Heisig

Developer Relations Program Manager @Google. Foodie, sommelier, world traveler. Passionate about technology.