Through the Women Techmakers Scholars Program – formerly the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship – Google is furthering Dr. Anita Borg’s vision of creating gender equality in the field of computer science by encouraging women to excel in computing and technology and become active leaders and role models in the field.
We have awarded the scholarship to women from all over the world since 2004 who continue to inspire us with their leadership and achievements. We recently caught up with Alma Castillo (2015 scholar from EMEA) and Amy Baldwin (2014 scholar from the US) to share their experiences as scholars and advice for potential applicants:
Tell us a little about yourself:
Alma Castillo: I studied Computer Science and Mathematics as an undergrad at the Autonomous University of Madrid and at the time I received the scholarship, I was studying a MSc. in HCI at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. I always knew I wanted to make software people could interact with to make their lives easier and better.
Amy Baldwin: I grew up in Prescott, Arizona and graduated from Arizona State University in 2015 with a BS in Computer Science. While I was a student I did two internships at Google — as an Engineering Practicum intern in 2013 and a Software Engineering intern in 2014. I came back to Google as a full-time Software Engineer in August 2015 and currently work on home automation for the Google Assistant. In my free time, I love to knit, do yoga, and hike.
What do you think of the application process?
Alma: The application process is a great way to reflect on yourself and the hard work you have done until now. Take your time and make sure you show who you are in your essay.
Amy: Essay questions are always nerve-racking and, of course, the part of the application process that scares us all the most. I believe the key is to just be yourself and speak honestly in your own voice. Make sure the readers know who you are and what you’re passionate about. Once you dive in with this mindset, it’s not too bad!
Besides the financial benefit, what else did you gain from the scholarship?
Alma: When I think about the scholarship, the most important thing I see is the amazing people I have met through it. At the scholar’s’ retreat I met other women studying Computer Science in different countries that have now become great friends I turn to for collaboration and advice. The scholars network expands through the years and the different regions providing an incredible family of computer scientists full of women ready to help each other.
What impact has the Scholarship had on you and your academic career?
Amy: Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to leave my off-campus job to only work on campus, and better focus on school. I actually had enough time to finish my undergraduate honors thesis, which I’m thankful I did! I [also] was invited to attend the annual award night held by my school, which is typically exclusive to graduating students, to be recognized for the award. It was really cool to be recognized in front of my professors and staff for my accomplishments, and I ended up attending the following spring as the Outstanding Undergraduate in Computer Science.
What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the scholarship next Year?
Alma: Apply! Even if you think it will be difficult. The application process is a great way to reflect on yourself and discover the great things you have done. Don’t be afraid. Just show who you are and what you are passionate about.
Amy: As I mentioned before, just be honest and speak in your own voice. The scholarship committee wants to know who you are, which includes all of the awesome things you’ve accomplished but also the road you’ve taken to get where you are and your potential to do the many incredible things you’ll do in the future. Also, don’t hesitate to apply! I was so close to never submitting my application because I truly believed there was no way I was possibly good enough. I had the same fear when applying for my first internship. You just need to remember that you are awesome, and if you don’t apply, you’ll never know you had it in you!
What are the next steps for you?
Alma: I recently graduated from my MSc. and I now work as a Software Engineer at Google Play. I hope to continue passing it on through the scholars community.
Amy: I certainly can’t see myself leaving Google anytime soon. I love my job and my team – it’s exciting being at the center of a product that is so important to the company and our users!