Women Techmakers Scholars Program

MARGERY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Google
Students Channel. We have a global
audience joining us today we have students from here in
Europe, Middle East, Africa, United States, and Canada,
where it’s still morning. But big thank you to
each of you for joining. I’m Margery. I’m a Googler based out of
Google office in London, and I work closely with
students as well as on the scholarship program. With me are two amazing
scholars from 2015. I have with me on the
extreme left Luanna. Luanna is currently
pursuing her PhD on natural language processing
at the University of Cambridge. And I have here in
the center Alma. Alma is a Googler, and
she’s working on Google Play here in London. And she is also a scholar. So these are the two people
right in front of me, and in the background we
have three chat moderators. We have Regan, Emily, and
Maya, and they will be answering your questions live. In fact, they’ve already started
answering a bunch of questions. So you probably don’t
need an introduction. Keep asking those
questions and telling us where you’ve dialed in from. And meanwhile, I will take
you through the agenda. So we will be talking about
the scholarship program and applications as well. Our scholars will be telling us
how you can submit a stronger application, and
they’ll also be going through their own
experience as scholars. And we’ll flip it over
to you from there, and you can tell us what
questions do you have. And we’ll try taking as many
as possible live as well. So yes, we’re live from London. Let’s get started. The scholarship was started in
the memory of Dr. Anita Borg. And last year, we joined
forces with Women Techmakers organization, and
that gave our scholars more access to
resources, as well as a network of not just
students, but also industry professionals. And we may have
collaborated, but our vision of the scholarship
has not changed. It still remains to increase
more women in computer science and the field of technology. A lot of you are at
university and, given the field you are
in, you probably face different challenges. It could be the lack of
support from your peers or the lack of support
from professors. It could also be that
you feel like you are a minority in the
field that you are in. So why don’t you
start telling us a little bit about the dynamics
of your current situation. Tell us on live chat. And meanwhile, I will
go through the elements of the scholarship. So for some of you, the
scholarship is probably new. So let me repeat the four
elements that it entails. The first is that you
do get a tuition stipend as part of the scholarship. And it does not end there. You also get to be a part
of an all-expense paid retreat at a Google office. These retreats are separate
for students at Europe, Middle East, Africa. And for students in
United States and Canada, there’s a separate one. But outside the tuition
fee and the retreat, our support doesn’t end. We continue supporting
you through the resources that we have here at Google and
through our Women Techmakers organization so that you
can continue with community initiatives in your
country and also have a lifetime
support of people that you get to know
through the scholarship. And I’m also going
to speak a little bit about the scholarship
application process. So quick reminders of who is
eligible for the scholarship. If you are a female
student and you are studying computer
engineering, computer science, or any related
fields, then you are eligible for the scholarship. But remember, at
the same time, you should either be
intending to or already be enrolled at a university for
the 2018-2019 academic year. And you should be intending
or already enrolled in an institution across Europe,
Middle East, Africa, United States, and Canada, as well. For our friends back
in Asia, we will have a scholarship open for
you early next year for 2018, and that’s when you will
be able to apply with us. I’m sure Alma and Luanna
would agree with me when I see the two most important
factors that we look for in a potential scholar
are leadership and also passion for increasing the
number of women in computer science. So that was a short
introduction on the scholarship. Now, let’s get to
know our scholars over here a little better. Can both of you tell me
how you got interested in computer science? Maybe tell us a little
bit about how old were you when you realized
this is what I want to do. And tell me and our audience
about what sort of person you looked up to in STEM. So we can start
with you, Luanna. LUANNA: Sure. So I actually got interested
in science and technology through my love for maths. My first encounter
with math contests was when I was in
primary school, so I must have been
around eight years old. And that was just
pure excitement. The feeling of accomplishment
I got when I was solving a math problem was really huge, and it
quickly became very addictive. So in terms of finding
role models in STEM, I was actually very
fortunate and I didn’t have to look too far. Both of my parents
are engineers, so I would say that they
were my role models in STEM whilst I was growing up. MARGERY: Great. So a family of engineers. What about you, Alma? ALMA: Well, I
actually loved math since I was very, very little. And when I grew up, I didn’t
have a computer at home. So whenever I used
someone else’s computer, I thought it was fantastic. Whatever I did changed what the
computer would do back to me. And when I actually got my
first computer at the age of 11, I started trying to tweak some
things– nothing very serious– and then learn how
to make websites. And I think it was
maybe when I was 14 that I realized I wanted
to study computer science. So then, in high school, I took
a course to learn how to code. And in terms of
having role models, nobody in my close
circle was in STEM, but I was very fortunate
that my grandparents– who had just a basic
level of education but really loved
mathematics– would teach me and would give me harder
and harder problems. So when I said that I was going
to study computer science, everyone in my family
was very supportive. MARGERY: So from not
having a computer to now actually now working at
Google, you’ve come a long way. Could you tell me,
Alma to begin with, what your experience has been
as a Women Techmakers Scholar. Of course, when we
started the scholarship, it was Anita Borg
Scholarship for you. But what has it been like
in the last few years? ALMA: I think what I
liked the most when I got this scholarship was the
retreat that you were talking about in the Google
office because that’s where I got to meet all the
other scholars like Luanna and got to really
get inspired by them. And after that, I kept in
touch with all of them, but I also met other
scholars from other regions and other years through
the scholars’ community. And those people
are just fantastic, so I think that’s the
really best thing. MARGERY: The
retreat, absolutely. What about you, Luanna? LUANNA: Yeah. I mean, I fully agree with Alma. And I think the greatest
thing about the scholarship is the community and the
sense of belonging that you get from being a scholar. So you can find people
that you relate to, and I think that’s
really important. So when I participated
in the scholars retreat– we participated
together in 2015– I felt so happy and inspired to
meet all these amazing women. And there’s a particular
moment I remember when I walked into the
room, I met everyone, we spent a few days together. And then, it just
clicked that I was part of this amazing group of women. So that kind of gave
me more confidence, and it’s a moment
I cherish and I go back to whenever I need
a small boost in confidence. MARGERY: That’s great to hear. So a sense of
community automatically comes with being
a scholar as well. LUANNA: Yep. MARGERY: So both of you
seem very happy with what you’re doing currently in life,
and you are scholars from 2015. And from then until
now, as well as when you did become
a scholar, you had fairly interesting
career paths. And right now, like I
mentioned, Alma, you are working here at Google. And Luanna, you are pursuing
your PhD in Cambridge. Can you tell me a
little bit about how you managed to actually
attain those goals as well as what career path you took? To begin with, Luanna, do
you want to share something? ALMA: Yes, sure. So I’m currently finishing my
PhD, or my doctoral studies, at the Department of Computer
Science and Technology at the University of
Cambridge, as you mentioned. So how I got there,
as I previously said, I quite enjoyed maths
ever since I was young. And kind of following
that passion made me end up where I am today. So I ended up in a
special math and computer science high school class
when I was back in Romania, and that’s how I
discovered programming. And I fell in love with it. So my next logical
step was to pursue a degree in computer science. So I did that at the
University of Leicester when I moved to the UK. So when I finished
my bachelor’s degree, I had this feeling that I would
like to do a PhD or research, but I wasn’t sure whether I’m
ready to commit the next four years of my life to that. So what I did was I pursued
a master’s at Cambridge in computer science,
and that was mostly focused towards research. So I got to taste before I buy. And that master’s was amazing. It kind of got me
to discover NLP, which is Natural Language
Processing, the field I’m doing my PhD in. I actually met my advisor,
my PhD supervisor, who was teaching
one of the courses. I fell in love with
the institution. And I decided to actually
stay on for a PhD. And here I am today,
four years later, almost ready for the next step. MARGERY: Very exciting. And Alma, what about you? How did you end up being a
software engineer at Google? ALMA: Well, I actually
never planned to do this. As I said, when I
was in high school, I fell in love with
computer science. I decided that that was what I
wanted to study in university. And then, I found out
about this joint program where I could get a
bachelor’s in computer science and a bachelor’s in
mathematics in five years. So I went for that. And when I finished my
bachelor’s at the Autonomous University of Madrid,
I decided that I wanted to continue learning
about how to use technology to actually better help users. And I went for a master’s in
human computer interaction at Chalmers University,
which is in Sweden. And it was right
at that time that I was contacted by someone
at Google to interview for an internship position. And I did an internship
here at the London office on the Android Studio
team, and that was actually the same summer that
I got the scholarship. And after that, when I
finished my master’s, I converted to a
full-time position at Google, which
is where I work. MARGERY: All right. Two very different, yet
interesting paths over there. Thank you for sharing. So one of the elements
of the scholarship that I had mentioned earlier was
getting support from all of us here from the Women
Techmakers organization to actually organize those
community outreach initiatives in your respective countries. So can you tell us
about your experiences of organizing such initiatives? Luanna, do you want to
start with how that was? LUANNA: Sure. So even before being a
scholar, I was and still am involved with Women in CL,
which is an organization based at the University of Cambridge
Department of Computer Science, and it provides kind of
local and national activities for women engaged in
computing research. We want to create the
sense of community that we were earlier
talking about. There’s a bunch of
events that happen throughout the
academic year ranging from social events to tech
talks and even a huge conference that we organize at the
end of the academic year. So that’s kind of one
way I was and still am involved in community outreach. And then, the second
example I can give is the project we undertook
whilst being a scholar. So a bunch of us
got together, and we had this idea to
encourage teenagers to not to drop mathematics
from their curricula while still in high school, which
sometimes is the case in the UK because people can choose what
they want to study later on. So we wanted to
show how important math is for your future
career, and it just opens up the range of things you can do. So we launched a
YouTube channel, which is called She STEMs,
where we interviewed a bunch of really amazing
women, asking them what was their career
path, what sort of subjects they took in school, and
what they do with computers. So we wanted to just prove
that computer science is just so broad and that maths
helped them reach their goal. And I hope we have
changed or impacted a few people like that. MARGERY: I’ve heard the results
of that, and I’m sure you did. What about you, Alma? ALMA: Well, when I got the
scholarship, also a group of us got together to
work on a project. And what we focused
on was trying to teach high school students
what computer science is because it often is the
case that they don’t know. So they can’t make
an informed decision when they go into university
to actually study that. And we created these tutorials
on how to create an Android app that they could
follow, and then they can tell the app on their
phones for high school students. And we were across many
different countries across Europe, but
we still decided we wanted to have
on-site workshops and work with actual
students in schools. And I think we held workshops
with over 300 people. So it was pretty
cool to get students excited with their apps. And actually, the
year before, there was a group of scholars who
worked on a project called United Girl, which was
a mentorship program to help women learn a new
programming language by working on an open-source project
together with a mentor who might be somewhere else. And I got involved in
that project as a mentor the year before I
got the scholarship. And then I took the
lead the year after, and now someone
else is continuing. So I think it is a
great example of how something that is born in
the scholarship program can then continue
growing year after year. MARGERY: Absolutely. So it’s great to hear that
initiatives both of you started have not died out
from two years ago. They are continuing. And in fact, they
are actually growing, which is always the idea. So it’s been two years since you
were awarded the scholarship. Can you tell us a little bit
about what that scholarship still holds in your life? So Alma, can you
tell us about what is it that the scholarship
still means to you while you work here at Google? ALMA: Yeah. As I said before, to me,
the most important thing about the scholarship
is the people that I have met through it. And after getting
the scholarship, I was able to get involved
in more initiatives for women in computing. For example, Luanna and I
attended the Grace Hopper conference for
women in computing in Houston last year, where we
got to meet so many other women and attend so many other events. And yeah, I think that being
part of the scholars community now at Google means
that I can also meet new scholars
every other year and that I’ve been from
being a mentored myself by other Googlers to now become
a mentor for new scholars or even being here
giving advice. MARGERY: And what
about you, Luanna? What place does a scholarship
hold at your life on campus currently? LUANNA: Certainly, scholars
has a very special place in my heart. And, as I said before,
I think the confidence that I gained from receiving
the scholarship still helps me today and maybe even more
so in the world of research where the reward tends to come
a bit later on in your career. And I do have to say
so, the bursary that comes with this scholarship
has helped me immensely. I was able to attend prestigious
conferences in my research field and present
my papers there, so that definitely
was also very special. MARGERY: Fantastic. So we know that getting
awarded the scholarship is not like just a one-month
or a two-month thing, but it’s something that actually
lasts much longer than that. My next question is
to the both of you for the benefit of all
our viewers out there. Can you tell us about what
elements in your application made you a strong
applicant in your opinion? We can start with you, Alma. ALMA: I think in my
application I really focused on why I
like computer science and how that was
showing in the projects I was working on as a volunteer,
how those showed leadership, and also on the technical
projects that I was working on. I made sure to explain
why those were impactful, what my actual
contribution was as opposed to other people’s, and what
the impact of those were. MARGERY: What you you, Luanna. LUANNA: So I think there were
two aspects of my application that made me feel like
I was a good candidate for the scholarship. And the first was, as is listed
in the application explanation, it was my strong
technical background. So I felt like graduating
the top of my class in University of Leicester
and the good results I obtained in maths
and computer science programming contests made me
a suitable candidate for that, maybe together with
the first papers I published throughout my PhD. And then, secondly, the
Women Techmakers Scholarship looks also for, seeks evidence
of leadership abilities in the applicant. So at the time of
making the application, I was president of Cambridge
University Entrepreneurs, which is a society run
by students based at the University of Cambridge. And so I was in charge of
organizing a bunch of events, running a business competition,
and even organizing a trip to Silicon
Valley for the winners. So I felt that the
leadership experience I got from being
president of CUE also would give me brownie
points in the application. MARGERY: Absolutely. So there we have it. Those are secrets from our
very own scholars right here. You heard it. My next question, again,
is for the benefit of all our livestream
viewers currently. Can you tell us
a little bit more about what the scholars
should be doing while they are writing their applications? Do you have any tips and
recommendations for them? We’ll begin with you, Luanna. LUANNA: Yeah. I mean, first tip is start
your application today. The deadline is on December
11, if I’m not mistaken. MARGERY: Yes. LUANNA: Which is less
than a month away. There’s still plenty of time
to submit your application. But it’s not something
you write in a day, so be sure to start early. That would be maybe
my first advice. And secondly, I think
it’s helpful to ask your friends, your family,
loved ones to just give you a reason as to why you are
amazing because we tend to be sometimes more
critical with ourselves in comparison to others. So it’s always good to
be confident when you are writing the application. And don’t be afraid to let the
world know how awesome you are. MARGERY: That’s great advice. What about you, Alma? What advice do you
have for everybody? ALMA: I think my first tip
would be to actually apply. I’ve seen so many
people who think this is not for them,
including myself years ago. So please, please
consider applying. You’re probably much better
suited for the scholarship than you think, and just
writing the application is a great experience. And while you’re writing
it, as I said before, make sure when you
talk about projects that you explain what you did
as opposed to other people and also why was it impactful. What is it that you
achieved afterwards? MARGERY: That is great advice. And can I ask both of you how
much time you took to write you application, if you remember? ALMA: Weeks. LUANNA: Yeah, yeah. About a couple of weeks. MARGERY: So we have
both your stories it definitely takes weeks to
write a strong application. It’s not something that
you can do overnight. It requires time,
energy, investment. So if you put that
in, you’ll definitely be able to submit a
strong application. And the deadline, as they
said, is December 11. And just a reminder, in
addition to the Women Techmakers Scholars program
that’s currently open, we have a few other
scholarships as well. We have the Europe Students with
Disabilities Scholarship open and the Google Lime
Scholarship in the US, which is the students with
disabilities scholarship for students in the US. And lastly, the Google
Generation scholarship, which is for under-represented
students in the US. You can find details for
all four scholarships on G.co/scholarships. To check if you’re
eligible, just log in there and you find that they are
pretty much open somewhere from right now up until the
beginning to mid-December. So the time has come
to ask from all of you and see what you
have in store for us. Whatever questions
you have, just put them across to our
moderators over there, and they’ve shared it with us. All right. So our first question
is from Lechnyska. I hope I’m pronouncing
this correctly. So Lechnyska is asking us, I am
going to be the question as is. “I study CS at a
small university. There are only few
women students, and we don’t have
any kind of club. How could one show the ability
of leadership and passion for increasing the
number of women in CS?” That’s a great question. Should I start, or would
one you want to begin? I can start, and feel
free to add on to that. I think one of the
key things that we look for in a potential
scholar is the ability to actually make those changes. So where you see potential
that there is something that is missing and you
can actually add value to that by starting a small
club and growing that at scale, those are the kind of
things we’re looking at. Where you probably have a bunch
of women already pursuing CS, that’s not a problem to solve. So we’re looking for someone
who’s able to actually find out that this is the challenge and
they can actually make changes in such an environment by
pursuing it, by starting clubs, by getting with women. The whole vision
of the scholarship is to empower more women
to be able to do it Would you like to add to that? LUANNA: Maybe one idea
would be to also get all your women in
your department together for a coffee. Or, if you want to do
something different, maybe go into a school. Talk to a few
women and tell them that computer science is great
and that they should do it and they can do it. So maybe reach out to
a younger generation to convince them to pursue. MARGERY: So start with maybe
like high school students, and then from
there make changes. It doesn’t necessarily have
to be at a university level. You can pretty much
start anywhere. And a lot of the initiatives
that the two of you have also heard of and
what I’ve seen as well have started small. So something like a
coffee, it begins at that, and then it can pretty much
impact thousands of people right after. OK. Let’s move to our next question. It’s from Jin Yang. Her question is, “I
was wondering how to demonstrate our leadership. Does it have to be related
to computer science or just anything?” Leadership in
particular does not have to be just about
increasing government in the CS, but it has to be leadership
that you’ve shown in any aspect of your life. But at the same time, we
also see some kind of impact that you’ve already made
to actually increase diversity in technology. But leadership as
a whole could be somebody who stepped
up and actually solved a problem where there was a
need for someone to do that. LUANNA: Yeah. I agree. Even leading your group
project at university. As you mentioned, maybe
the idea of role models is really important. So if someone really
just sees a woman being a leader of a group
project or a society or whatever that
is, it’s going to– ALMA: Make some difference. LUANNA: Yeah. Exactly. MARGERY: Our next question
is from our Sinead McLear. She’s asking us, “I’m Sinead
from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. For my technical
report, should I write about my technically
most impressive project or the project I was
most passionate about?” Alma, do want to take that? ALMA: Yeah. I think both are actually good. If you talk about a technical
product that was difficult, that is great, especially if
you explain why it was difficult and how you tackled
those difficulties. But talking about a project
you are passionate about is also great because
it shows the passion you have for computer science. So I’m sure in the project
you were passionate about there were also
difficult things, so you should also make
sure to talk about those. MARGERY: Absolutely. And our next question
is from Alexina. Great question, Alexina. It is, “What error do we
have to definitely avoid in the application?” Do you want to
take that, Luanna. LUANNA: Don’t
undersell yourself. I think that’s something
we both mentioned, so I think there’s
a point in your life where you are
like, yeah, I don’t think I’m good enough to apply. So first, apply, and then
don’t undersell yourself. You have to be confident
and tell people what you did to kind of get noticed. MARGERY: Absolutely. LUANNA: It’s not a bad
thing to just tell people how great you are. MARGERY: Our next question
is about the retreat. So can you tell us
a little bit more about what the retreat
looks like, how long it is, and what happens at the retreat? Alma, do you want to take that? ALMA: Yeah. The retreat is like two
and a half days long. It takes place in one
of the Google offices. And it is a mix of
social activities where you get to know
the other scholars and also Googlers who work
on the university programs and Googlers who are engineers,
and also technical talks where you learn about Google,
what Google does, what working at Google is like. And also, workshops about
social skills or self skills. So you actually
gain that confidence that Luanna was talking about. MARGERY: That’s great. And it’s usually about
three days in duration? ALMA: Yeah, yeah. It’s about three days. So you have all the hard work,
technical stuff in the morning, and then you have
socials in the evening. MARGERY: And you get to attend
a retreat that’s usually planned for the summer,
so there’s not any missing of university involved. We plan it in a way that you can
obviously as well because it’s meant for all of you. Our next question is about
what makes a good scholarship application. So the other extreme
of this, which is of course, as you
Luanna mentioned, speak as much as you can about
the things that you’ve done. And I think there are
three things that stand out in a good application. That’s already one. And the other two are
prior leadership experience that you’ve had. Speak specifically
of those examples and what kind of impact
you made through it. And the third would be
examples of how you already showcased your potential
to increase diversity in the field of technology. Our next question
is from Andrea, and she is asking us, “How do
you define technical skills? I don’t have the strongest
set of technical skills, and my experience has largely
been focused on teaching.” Do want to take that, Luanna. LUANNA: Sure. So I guess you are doing
some sort of degree in computer science or you
have a background in computer science, so I’m
pretty sure you have a strong set of
technical skills. And if you’re
teaching them, that’s, I think, even more of an
example that you’re good at it and that you can teach
other people how to do it. So I think teaching
is a great example of how you can pass on technical
skills, from my perspective. MARGERY: Absolutely Our
next question is from Fiona. She’s asking us a little bit
about the time commitment of actually being a scholar. So when you are a scholar,
she’s asking us how do you actually set up
those community initiatives in addition to attending
classes at university and at the same time being
able to make a difference? Alma, do you want to take that? ALMA: Yeah I think
you don’t have to fear that it’s a
big time commitment. It very much depends
on the time you have and what you can put into it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s
just a little bit of time or a lot of time. You are making a difference. So it’s not like you’re forced
to put a lot of time into. It is just about putting
the passion you have and the time you have
into doing something. MARGERY: Absolutely. So that is the time
that we had set aside for our question and answer. Thank you so much to both of
you for taking out the time to not just go through your
experiences as scholars, but also sharing your tips and
your recommendations about what makes a strong applicant. Next up is feedback
that you can actually share with us about
this livestream as well. Tell us how we did. Tell us things that we can
improve for the future by just logging onto [? the ?]
[? Scored, ?] or, instead, clicking on the
link that’s there. And as a last reminder,
the scholarship is open up on until
11th of December. You have less than
a month to do it. There’s enough time. And at many points,
you may feel that you are at odds given the field you
are in And there will be things that are going against you. But just remember
that all of us here are present to support
you, and we really hope that you give
this a shot, take out the time for the
application, apply, and that we get to see you
maybe at the retreat next year. So thank you so
much for logging in, and thank you to
our chat moderators as well for answering
questions for us. All the very best.

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