Google's Women Techmakers Scholarship
Author Credit: Bella Hunt, WISE Vice President
Ask me this time last year and wandering around the streets of Singapore and Google’s Asia Pacific Headquarters was the last place I thought I’d be. But as a recipient of the 2018 Women Techmakers Scholarship, I was off on an adventure – spending five days at the Scholar’s retreat in Singapore exploring the city, meeting the 75 other inspiring scholars, and learning about all the opportunities Google has to offer.
Formerly the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, the Women Techmakers Scholars Program (WTM) aims to further 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. Despite many efforts by the major tech companies to increase the diversity of their workforce, women make up only 20% of Google’s tech division (and this is before we even consider the lack of representation of women of colour). The scholarship is one of a number of initiatives trying to bridge this gap, by providing financial support and a community of other women committed to making a continued impact to the representation of women in tech.
As a computer science and mathematics major at the end of my degree, I had serious imposter syndrome, and - not having worked in tech before and having only studied in this field for two years - I almost did not apply. So in the hopes of encouraging a few of you to overcome that last hurdle of pressing submit on your application, here’s a bit about my experience with WTM…
The Application Process
The first part of the application process was to write an extended response to three interview questions covering:
How computer science is changing the world and my planned contribution
Structural issues impacting underrepresented groups in tech and their effects
An activity I was involved in to address these structural issues
Every WTM scholar I talked to approached this section in a different way based on their views and life experiences so it’s really all about finding issues you’re passionate about – they’re looking for diversity so let them know what is important to YOU and convince them why they should care about it too!
This was followed by a 45-minute phone interview with someone from the Google Outreach team in Sydney. Before you start stressing, don’t worry – this was not a technical interview. All of the questions were about elaborating further on the written application and activities I had listed on my CV, with the aim of figuring out my motivations and commitment to furthering the position of women in tech.
I got an email from the Australian & New Zealand WTM Scholars program that I was in, and inviting me to attend the Scholars Retreat with all the other amazing scholars from the Asia Pacific region (from over 13 countries).
All scholars were invited to attend the Women Techmakers Scholars’ Retreat in one of Google’s Asia pacific Offices, and last year the chosen destination was…. Singapore!
Landing in Singapore after an 8 hour flight, we hit the ground running.
The first thing which stood out was the unbelievably impressive group of women who I would be sharing the retreat with. Scholars from all over the region at all stages from first year to PhD, studying everything from Software Engineering to Cyber Security to Computational Mathematics (like me). The conversations I had on the bus, at meals, and in the workshops were perhaps the highlight of the whole experience. Forming a community of like-minded women in the field was really taken seriously, and we were treated to so many opportunities to connect with the other scholars and Google mentors – from karaoke, to an escape room, Southeast Asian Food festival, and even a scavenger hunt.
Alongside all of this was the chance to participate in professional and personal development trainings and workshops. Some of these included discussing unconscious bias and intersectionality in the Bias Busting workshop, and #IAmRemarkable which is a Google initiative about empowering underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements. Not to mention all of the merch throughout the week – the highlight of which was participating in a CodeLab and getting to take home our very own AndroidThings starter kit!
For those considering applying to Google in the future, there was a Mock Interview and Resume Workshop which stepped through what can seem like a very daunting process; as well as a full tour of the Singapore Office, and talks from Google employees and former scholars.
Lastly, there was the Outreach component which has continued long after the retreat ended. A key aspect of the WTM Program was the importance of taking what we had learned back to our local communities and planning our own outreach initiatives. At the retreat, we brainstormed as a smaller group (the seven scholars from Australia and New Zealand) and have since had lots of chats and video calls about what we are planning – watch this space!
All of this made jet setting off to a retreat in the middle of Week 11 of my final semester of undergrad 100% worth it. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone considering putting together an application for the WTM to apply.
Applications for the Women Techmakers Scholarship are now open!
Application deadline: May 31, 2019 at 23:59 SGT
For more info visit womentechmakers.com/scholars
For questions contact WTMScholars@google.com