By Shubhashri A G (M.Sc Theoretical Computer Science, 2015 – 2020)

My experience as a recipient of the Google Women Techmakers Scholarship, one of the finest opportunities for passionate female tech lovers.

Since time immemorial, numerous efforts have been taken towards reducing the gender gap and representation in the Tech world. Dr. Anitha Borg, a renowned computer scientist, was one of the people who fearlessly battled her way to gain an equal female representation by motivating females to embrace technology and push their limits.

The Women Techmakers Scholar Program (erstwhile the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Program) is an initiative by Google to further Dr Borg’s vision of creating gender equality in the field of Computer Science. The scholar gets numerous benefits (that include a scholarship amount, a fully funded retreat to one of the Google Asia-Pacific offices) and become part of an amazing community of tech savvy women. If you identify yourself as a female majoring in Computer Science or any other related branch actively involved and passionate about the same, this is a priceless opportunity that you grab.

The Process

The first step to get through is filingl out an online application that requires you to attach the following:

  1. A copy of your resume
  2. Copies of your academic transcripts
  3. Three personal essays that reflect your understanding of the structural issues faced by the underrepresented groups in tech and how you have contributed to this issue and to the tech world meaningfully.

If you get selected for the next round, you would get on a 45 minute phone interview with a Googler and would be asked questions pertaining to your leadership roles, active contributions to the tech world. The interview assesses your thought process, passion and ideas to improve the tech society. (For more details visit womentechmakers.com). Once you’re done with the aforementioned, you have one last thing to do- wait patiently!

How I got in

I got to know about this exciting opportunity from a close friend of mine, two weeks before the deadline. The moment he shared the nature of the scholarship and the opportunities that come along with it, I knew that it was something I have to do. I filled up the necessary details in the applications and spent a good amount of time retrospecting and listing out my significant achievements. I genuinely crafted my essays, expressing my opinions  on the issues faced by the underrepresented group in tech and my contributions to the tech community, ensuring that the reader would also know my passion for technology.

A week later, I heard back from Google, requesting for a phone interview. The interview was my most favourite part in the selection process. It turned out to be a friendly conversation with a Googler, who assessed the way I approach and think when new problems were thrown at me. We exchanged our thoughts on how technology is booming and what I could possibly do to make an impact in the tech world. The conversation also revolved around the opinions that I had presented in my essays and the technical projects I had done until then. By the end of the interview, I realised where I stood and what more I could do further on in this tech journey.

It was almost ten days since the interview had gotten over when I lifted a call from an unknown number (after missing a number of calls). A pleasant voice from the other end greeted me and revealed that the GWTM results were out the day before and I wasn’t selected. It left me wondering if it was real or a prank by a friend. A minute later, Anjali the woman from the other end  (and one of the sweetest Googlers I know) revealed that she was kidding and that I was one among the 73 applicants selected out of the 25000 applications from fourteen different countries in the Asia Pacific region. It was indeed a cloud-nine moment!

Anjali broke the ice and got all the scholars acquainted with each other on social networks well before the planned retreat. The moment I got in touch with the seventy two other fellow scholars, I realised that this experience was going to be life changing.

And with the other like minded females, my journey as a GWTM Scholar began!

The Retreat (October 11, 2018 – October 13, 2018)

One of the best things about the scholarship is the fully funded retreat where the scholars across diverse nations, cultures, ages and interests come together to learn and build a reliable network of women in tech.

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The 73 Google Women Techmakers Scholars, Google HQ, APAC region

All the seventy three of us flew down to Singapore where the retreat started with a welcome dinner party that was all about the bling. The Googlers engaged us with Gangnam style dance and a Karaoke session. The accommodation during the retreat was very comfortable, providing us with space and time to bond with each other. Not to forget the food that we ate during the course of the retreat. We were given the access to dine at any cafe at the Google office that serves almost every cuisine and dish that you could wonder about.

The first among all the sessions was about the motto behind the scholarship and was quite a thought provoker. The talks and discussions revolved around how gender bias is deep-rooted in every decision of ours and how oblivious we are to them.  Next up was the much awaited Google office tour! We were taken around the Google campus to get to know about the functioning of the office, the work life and culture. I learnt how jobs can be highly demanding and impactful yet chill. Later on, we had a fun event that mimicked the ‘Escape Room’, where all the scholars had to find their way out by solving challenging puzzles and mysteries in less than one and half hours. The last session for the day introduced us to CodeJam Kickstart (Google’s competitive programming contest) and walked us through various programming problems giving us an idea of how to go about cracking them. The first day of the retreat ended with South East Asian Food festival at the Google office where every scholar got to savour exclusive Asian dishes. We also hung around to click  photos at the photo booth and got our Google schwags calligraphed.

The Google schwags and goodies!

The second day was loaded with sessions on ‘Ongoing projects at the Google offices’, ‘How to prepare a good CV’, and ‘How Google interviews typically proceed’. We also had interactive sessions where GWTM alumni shared their success stories. An Android Codelab session was also organised where we got to develop small projects using embedded systems. The day ended with a well planned elite dinner at the National Gallery of Singapore.

At the dinner at National Gallery, Singapore

The final day of the retreat had an #IAmRemarkable session where every scholar got to speak out her achievements, thoughts and concerns. This session was really important as we built a safe space for ourselves where we could find support even during the rock bottom phases of our lives. A scavenger hunt was also organised for us to roam around Singapore, which encouraged us to use the public transportation services and visit the most famous tourist spots!

Post Retreat

My most valuable take away from the retreat is the fact that any contribution, any achievement that makes a better ‘you’ or a better ‘world’ should (and will always) be appreciated. One’s educational proficiency and technical merits are best understood from their contributions to the people around them. So always trust your abilities and do something, even if small; programmes like this will recognise your efforts one fine day. Also, it is important to build relationships and form circles with people who share your ideas. I had a first hand experience of networking and it has tremendously boosted my confidence, ‘cause even in the worst of times, the like-minded Google Women tech community would be there to support me.

This opportunity also opened the door to a world of  new friendships, opportunities, contests and hackathons. We have frequent virtual meetups and collaborate often to conduct tech events and workshops. We have also initiated the Women in Tech Wing and forums for the same that would make opportunities accessible to avid programmers and problem solvers.

Every GWTM scholar out there is shouldering a huge responsibility of encouraging even the teeny-tiny achievements of females in tech, in-and-around their local communities. I am proud to be part of this wonderful community of scholars and would urge every female out there to step up and grab opportunities like this and dream bigger.

So, what are you waiting for? The Women Techmakers Scholarship is back again for 2019! Apply before the 31st of May, 2019 here.

About the author

Shubhashri

Shubhashri is a science fiction freak. question and logically reason out things. She loves to write creative poems and nano tales, dance, swim, go on adventures and debate a lot. She evinces a great interest in Artificial Intelligence and aspires to become a research scientist.

For queries, you may reach out to Shubhashri at agshubhashri@gmail.com

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