From 28th August — 2nd September 2017, I attended the Google Women Techmakers retreat held in Seoul, South Korea. This blog contains my experiences on the application process and retreat.
How I heard about this:
Few months ago, I was scrolling through my school email and came across an EDM by Google that stated the application details and deadline for Women Techmakers scholarship. I can proudly say that applying for this was one of my best decisions ever because I was able to meet 71 passionate scholars from 13 different countries who shared the same passion for technology.
Just apply!!! You have nothing to lose. Even if you don’t get it don’t feel disappointed and try again. You should organize workshops related to STEM for female students, work on your academic scores and leadership skills.
Why should you apply?
1. Scholarship — You will get a scholarship to use for your school tuition fees
2. Retreat — You will get to attend a fun retreat to meet other Scholars, Google recruiters and Engineers
3. Community — You will be part of an amazing community of like minded individuals. Google will also support all your outreach events by providing funding, speakers and swag
1. Submit application: After checking the eligibility criteria here, you can submit your application through this website. The application consists of some general questions as well as four essay questions on your background in technology, challenges and impact to society. If you are a masters or PhD student, you may also choose to attach a research paper.
2. Phone interview: The next step would be a 20–30 minutes phone interview with a Google recruiter or an Engineer to understand more about your application. This is also a good opportunity to ask any questions that you may have.
3. Survey: The final step is a short form that you need to fill to comply with US and local laws
And that’s it, you are all set!
1. Update your resume before sending your application to make sure you have all the relevant education and experiences
2. Answer the essay questions truthfully and give examples to demonstrate the work you have done and the impact it has created. Also identify any limitations or points of improvements to your impact to community.
3. Prepare questions to ask the Google recruiter/engineer. This could be about anything from about Google, the scholarship, or the program on women in technology. I would suggest to ask 2–3 insightful questions depending on the time left.
If you are selected for the scholarship, you will get a phone call by the recruiter followed by an email in a few days time. And after all this, get ready for the best part which is an amazing retreat across one of Google’s APAC office with the other scholars, Google Engineers and Women Techmakers team.
This year the retreat was held in Seoul, South Korea. Google had arranged everything before the retreat started like flight tickets, accommodation, dietary preferences etc. I could not wait to meet the other scholars and the amazing team of organizers who had put this together. I was extremely excited for the retreat. I was flying in from Boston as I was at exchange at Babson College. Even though the total flight and waiting time was 22 hours and the time zone was 12 hour ahead, this did not reduce my energy and enthusiasm.
Day 1- 29th August 2017:
The official start of the retreat was at 6:30pm but as few of the scholars arrived earlier, we were out exploring Seoul before the start of the program. We went to Changgyeonggung Palace and Insadong neighborhood. It was a fun team bonding activity and I tried to talk to all the scholars along the way. We shared our experiences in technology, our student life, and everything in between.
At night, we went for the welcome dinner at Intercontinental Coex hotel and I was excited to meet all the remaining scholars. The day ended with melodious sounds of different groups singing Karaoke followed by everyone dancing when the energetic Google Korea recruiter was signing… none other than… Gangnam Style!
Key Takeaway: I am very impressed by the passion of all the scholars and their commitment and involvement in the community. It feels great to be part of this program and work together to make a difference in reducing the gender gap.
Day 2- 30th August 2017:
I woke up really early, as I was extremely excited to visit the Google Seoul office today. My roommate from Philippines had also checked in, and after getting to know each other, we really bonded over the whole trip.
It was a hectic but fun day and the sequence of activities were as follows:
1. Travel, Breakfast and Icebreaker: The Google office was around 30 minutes from our hotel and we had breakfast once we arrived. Being in the land for K-pop, we then had a 15-minutes energizer to learn K-pop steps
2. Opening Keynote: The opening keynote was by the Director of communications. It was about how we are the role models to influence female students, and indeed very inspiring!
3. Open House: This was one of my favorite activities today where we were divided into groups and shared a story of success followed by a story of failure. It was incredible to hear everyone’s stories and the challenges that they have been through to take technology. This reminded me that I am not alone and even though the journey may be tough, it is always rewarding.
4. Office Tour: Another interesting activity was the office tour. Although the Seoul office is much smaller than the other offices, there are fun activities like the massage room, micro kitchens, lunch cafes, YouTube posters and workspaces, games room and rental system when you’re taking a break from your googol amount of work. All of Google’s offices are amazing and who wouldn’t want to work here right? :)
5. Tech talk on search: It was great to understand more on how Google’s search algorithm works as well as know about other technologies such as Google home and assistant in more detail.
6. Lunch and bias bursting: We had Korean food at one of Google’s cafeteria. This was followed by a workshop on bias bursting. It was a fun activity where we had to role-play various scenarios and how the bystander should speak up when the wrong action is being done. We all are biased at times so it is important to know our surroundings and evaluate carefully
7. CS Unplugged: A former scholar conducted this workshop and it is a fun way to teach computational thinking to young children. One of the activities was to create and fly planes to go from one line to another during three different iterations and the lesson was about agile development by improving after every iteration.
8. Googlers Panel: An insightful discussion where four female Googlers spoke about how they chose to major in technology, advice for working at Google, managing gender inequality and impact of women mentors in their career journey. Everyone’s career journey was very inspirational and it was easy to relate to the challenges they faced.
9. Dinner: We all went to a Korean restaurant to feast some local dishes. I particularly loved the Korean vegetable pancakes which is made up of Kimchi (spicy cabbage), flour and vegetables
It was an intense day with a lot of opportunity to learn. The workshop and panel discussion was well organized and gave a good understanding on the topics. One of my objective was to speak to scholars from different countries during the breaks and while traveling in the bus to and from the hotel and I managed to do that and learn their opinions on this issue. One of my regret was not interacting with a lot of Googlers and I decided to make sure that I would do that during my remaining two days here.
Day 3- 31st August 2017:
A lot of fun and interesting activities were organized for today as well. The sequence of activities was as follows:
1) Travel to office, breakfast and energizer: We had breakfast at the Google office followed by energizer to continue learning K-Pop steps.
2) Former scholars panel: An insightful panel discussion with four former scholars to learn about their outreach initiatives to community, how they maintained contact with other scholars after the retreat and what was their key takeaway from the retreat.
3) Outreach initiatives: We divided into groups and discussed about some outreach suggestions individually and as a team. This was followed by some advice from past scholars on creating groups for women in technology.
4) Lighting Round — APAC projects: Each Googler spoke about new features for various products such as Allo, Google Cloud, Docs and Augmented Reality. One of my favorite features was explore where in Google slides, it would recommend you with design templates for a particular picture.
5) Google opportunities: Googlers spoke about deadlines for the various applications and this was followed by lunch at the office.
6) Building your brand workshop or Big Query codelab: There was a choice between two workshops. I choose building your brand where the Google recruiters went to techniques to develop your brand statement and identify our strengths, goals and weaknesses
7) CodeJam Kickstart: We tried a simple exercise on CodeJam to submit our solution and Googlers advised us to practice our coding skills using this as some of the programmers with higher scores get invited to an interview with Google.
8) Free time and dinner: After the CodeJam activity, we had some free time and were dropped back at our hotel. We went as a smaller group to a shopping mall that was connected to our hotel and it was interesting to see a huge bookstore inside the shopping mall. We had dinner at a Korean restaurant and after dinner we went to Myeongdong food and shopping night market.
I managed to complete my second objective by speaking to Google Cloud engineers, software engineers and recruiters to understand about their experiences. All the workshops for this day was interesting and I really enjoyed discussing for the outreach event. My key takeaway is that it is better to start planning outreach events early and work as a team to reach a bigger audience and make a long-lasting impact. I hope to work together with the other scholars and organize meaningful events. I am in the midst of planning few events for Singapore university students. Stay tuned!
Day 4- 1st September 2017:
Time had passed by so quickly and we were at our final day of training today. We had more time for team bonding activities. The sequence of activities was as follows:
1. Travel, breakfast and energizer: We had breakfast at the Google office and performed all the K-pop steps learnt throughout the past two days.
2. Interview and resume workshop: Googlers gave us useful advice on building our resume, cracking the technical interviews as well as a mock phone interview on how the technical interview should be. The advice was that the thought process is very important and it is better to say what we are thinking instead of just writing the codes.
3. Group photos and closing talk: We took a big group picture and had a closing keynote by the head of APAC recruiting. He advised us to believe in ourselves and follow our passion. I managed to also get a picture with him and the Women Techmaker organizer for South East Asia :)
4. Seoul Searching: This was a scavenger hunt where we went in teams to multiple places. It was a good way to learn more about Seoul and interact with the scholars. We planned our route carefully and tried to cover as many places as possible in the limited time.
The workshop on resume and interview was very useful especially since most of us were final year students and will be applying for full time positions. I learnt that it is important to constantly update your resume and practice for interviews both individually and as a team. The Seoul Searching activity was fun and a good time bonding activity. It gave a good opportunity to speak to the scholars and googlers from my team at a deeper level while walking to the different places. I was sad that it was our final day but I had the most amazing three days with a wonderful bunch of like-minded individuals.
The entire program was very well organized and I am very thankful to the Women Techmakers team for all their effort put into this to make it an enjoyable experience for the scholars. This was an excellent opportunity to meet other scholars and learn about challenges in technology and how they overcame it. Thank you Google! #WomenTechmakers #Google #Seoul