Editor’s Note: North America Google Scholarships deadlines extended to January 6, 2014! See google.com/students/scholarships for more details.
In 2013, we selected nearly 100 scholars who were all invited to attend our Scholars’ Retreat, held at Google’s office in New York City this summer. The Scholars’ Retreat brings together our scholarship recipients to attend technical and career development sessions and provide opportunities to network with one another and with Googlers while experiencing Google’s unique culture. In today’s post, Carolyn, one of our Anita Borg Scholars from Simon Fraser University, shares about her experience and learnings from the retreat.
On April 23, I received a congratulatory email from Google, naming me one of 30 recipients of the 2013 Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship! As a Google Scholar, I would be heading that summer to Googleplex East – Google’s New York City headquarters – for their annual Google Scholars’ Retreat!
I landed at JFK International Airport the morning of July 17. Here, I met up with a group of fellow Google Scholars as we headed to the hotel in Manhattan, located a few blocks from the Google office. Since check-in for the retreat wasn’t until later that afternoon, a few of us dropped our bags off at the hotel and took the opportunity to explore the city, visiting Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Mathematics!
After a few hours of sightseeing, we hopped onto the subway and headed towards the Google office. Here we met with all the scholars from Google’s scholarship programs. Once checked in and decked out with Google swag, we were greeted with a welcome talk from Alfred Spector, VP of Engineering and Research, who shared Google’s approach on research and innovation. Following the talk, we headed off to dinner. This was our first glimpse of eating at the Google office! The Water Tower room and cafeteria were just one of many themed venues we would visit during our retreat.
|Alfred Spector, VP of Engineering and Research
The next day we were treated to breakfast at the Google office, followed by a passionate tech talk by Justin Kosslyn, a Product Manager in Google Ideas. He engaged us in a deep discussion about serious issues prevalent in the world today that his group was working on, including human trafficking, mapping arms data, and using the Internet to counter violent extremism. Sitting amongst this audience helped me see exactly why we were selected to be there – we were young, bright minds, curious and eager to use technology to shape the world.
The rest of the morning consisted of interview and resume workshops, which provided us with useful suggestions to aid in our career development. Following this, I joined a group of fellow PhD students for an exclusive luncheon with existing Google researchers. Here, we shared our research areas and projects amongst the group, along with our future plans for positions in industry or academia. We also had the opportunity to find out more about working at Google!
One of the best sessions was the career panel, where four Googlers candidly shared their work experience at Google and addressed questions from the scholars about getting a foot in the door. Topics including academic credentials, GPAs, internships, work/life balance, and the ‘Google culture’. Following the panel discussion, we attended a poster session, and then headed over to the restaurant reserved for our dinner. The next day would be the start of our 24HoursofGood!
|Scholars’ poster session
24HoursofGood was the first hackathon at a Scholars’ Retreat. I was teamed up with three other scholars to solve a technical problem with a non-profit organization, LEAD (LEADership Education & Development) who provide communities for students to gain skills to work in business, computer science, and engineering fields. We started with a quick App Engine ‘bootcamp’ with Arun Nagarajan, Senior Developer at Google and worked our way through the next 24 hours (fuelled by more food, caffeine, and swag!). It was my first hackathon event ever, and Google made it especially memorable. Each of the 19 teams presented their work and Google judges picked the top teams. I especially enjoyed collaborating with three other team members whose areas of expertise in computer science were different from mine. We were each able to contribute to the task in our own ways and I had tons of fun learning from my group (the unlimited supply of candy was a bonus)! Although challenging to code for 24 hours, we managed through brief yoga sessions, midnight pizza, naps, and coffee. It was an absolute blast!
The retreat days flew by. I made new friends, networked with Googlers and enjoyed my 3-day retreat in NYC. My summer of 2013… Google Scholars’ Retreat in NYC = Food + Fun + Friends.
And then a surprise bonus! In September, Google offered to sponsor our travel and attendance to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Minneapolis, MN. Anita Borg Memorial scholarship winners were reunited (amongst 4,600 other women) and we had the opportunity to spend four days attending tech talks geared towards women in computer science. Especially memorable was our meeting with Google executives, including Alan Eustace, Senior VP of Engineering!
My 2013 year as a Google Scholar has been an absolute privilege and I look forward to future collaborations with Google.
Congratulations once again to all Google Scholars!
Remember to visit www.google.com/students/scholarships to find out more about our scholarships and apply by December 2!
Azusa Liu, Tech Student Development Programs