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Google WomenTechMakers Scholarship | The Experience

Aspirant? Check this sweet repo to get you starting and going. I am still working on the resources for preparation and it should be updated soon. 3>

It’s the application season again! The Google WomenTechMaker Scholarship applications for 2020 have opened and I am sure a lot of you aspirants are looking for guidance or any tips as to how to crack it. So here goes my take on this.

This blog is not intended to tell you exactly what you need to do to crack but intended to help you put forward an application that showcases the best of you. I’ll be speaking briefly about why I applied for the scholarship and what my application had. I had put a form earlier asking what you really wanted to know. To the questions you posted in the form, so much content is out there already, so I am just gonna either point to that or answer them myself.

My Experience

I wasn’t really in alliance with the idea for scholarships for retreats or events which are generally offered in the Women In Tech track. Though my opinion on the subject has changed quite a bit, I felt the Google WomenTechmaker program stood out back even then.

The program has undergone some major changes this year. Do check with the application page. But here is what the scholarship offered last year (2019)

  1. An all-expenses-paid 3-day retreat at one of the Google Offices around the world with fellow scholars like ourselves. — Mine was at Australia 2018 in Singapore

  2. A USD 1000 scholarship

  3. Year-round mentoring

  4. To be a part of a strong women network

Here is what I also got.

  1. Direct entry to interview for Google Software Engineer position

  2. Sponsorship for community events I wanted to organize if any is needed.

Under the strong motivation from Anusree S, Ann Philip & amalu susan santhosh, I applied. Back then we had to write a few essays. Though I do not recall the questions, I made sure that my essays really showed what I thought of the current state of affairs in the Women In Tech domain, why the problem, what I did and thought should be done and what I will do. We also had to upload something that showed about one of our projects or work in code. I submitted the report/blog I maintained while on my internship. This showed exactly how my thought process worked, what I did when I was stuck in problems and how I improved over time. It really showed off both my intense passion for tech as well as my attitude to growth over time.

What I really want you to know is that ‘“I DID NOT TONE IT DOWN”. When writing about something I did, I did not doubt if it was silly, I did not doubt if it’s not relevant. I went all out. I didn’t lie to myself and made sure they knew all that I did and who I was really. I wrote all the things I have done to date on a sheet [Tip: I suggest you maintain a list of all you do from the very first year and append programs whenever you do it. So when you apply, it’s easy to see what should be said first and how it can be placed to suit the application]

I know what a lot of you are thinking. You started PEHIA Foundation. Scene vereyanu chechi. Well, Starting PEHIA is not what got me the scholarship. 2 out of the entire cohort had a non-profit they started. So that’s not even a parameter. So drop that defense telling you won’t get the scholarship and read on.

Other scholars have written really well on the interview process and retreat experience.

I got an interview call after a gap. In the interview, it was more of a discussion on what all tech stuff and community initiatives I was part of. Three weeks later — I was at VFS Global applying for an Australian visiting visa.

Here is a list of retreat experiences ranked according to extensiveness and recency. If this doesn’t motivate you to apply, I don’t know what will.

The Retreat

Day 0 night

Each table had one google software engineer, ours(on the right) was from Google Docs team, previously Drive and Photos, and on the right Mia Roh from TensorFlow lite

After a rather long flight, we hushed into our hotel rooms, changed an,d ran into the Sydney Scholars. It was a welcome dinner for all of us to get to know each other and Googlers with us, and boy was it a thrill!

Day 1 — Own your career

Each day in the Retreat was themed and day one was to ‘Own your Career’. We had a small session on acknowledging the country and it’s unique heritage and culture we are in, which was when I went ‘Oh wow Australia’.

Famous Duo

After that, we set down for a small ice breaker to get to know ourselves. Each chair had the name of one half a popular cartoon or movie pair. For eg: Monica & Chandler. I was looking for my Jasmine for a very long time. Eesh. A few pairs were called on stage to introduce each other.

The Opening Keynote

It was from The Engineering Manager of Chrome — Grace Chung. She shared her story with us and how she made her way into MIT and later Google. But one thing she said stuck with me and come to my mind every time I feel like I don’t deserve that job or to go to that talk.

“Someone made the mistake of hiring me. So here I am anyway. I might as well do my best”

Bias Busting Workshop

Bias Busting Workshop

Bias Busting Workshop

So, the situation was being played out. Gordon and his friend are talking about an opening in Gordon’s team. We have a female dev engineer from the same company listening in on the conversation. The aim was to catch the bias in the conversation

Bias needn’t always be of gender or race.

It can be an ‘I know a guy/gal who can do that job’ cutting out opportunities to people elsewhere in the company or it can be assuming ‘Ze is new so ze probably cant’ etc. Catching my own biases was a really moving experience to me. This was probably my second favorite session in the entire retreat.

Career Talk & Panel by Google Women Engineers

The panel — Rachael Gordon (Sydney office), Ruixi Deng (Beijing office), Minori Inoue (Tokyo office)

After lunch we had a couple of Google Women engineers from different parts of the world coming down to tell their story. Maybe it is because I come from a country that largely emphasis on a mother’s responsibility in a family and women still receive a lot of judgment for working while pregnant, I found that baby bump and how Google accommodates here without making it weird really inspiring.

You know that little feature for Google Search when you look up something a suggested video clip with a suggested part comes up. Well, Minori’s team developed it. 3>

Google Office Tour

After that we were split into teams and one dev from google took us around to see the office.

I am Remarkable

Remember the earlier feeling I told — that of not being enough or being a wrong hire. It is uncomfortable talking about one’s achievements, especially when it is a bit different. I can’t count the number of times I said ‘ I am a part of women in tech non-profit called Pehia Foundation’ when the statement should have been ‘I co-founded one of the leading women in tech nonprofit in Kerala — Pehia Foundation, nominee to … featured in …. has over … members etc’. It’s difficult talking about the full scale of your achievements without feeling like you are boasting or feeling insignificant when compared to other similar bigger works and this workshop changed that.

It was a unique feeling to hear about all the wide range of achievements of girls around you, all the amazing things they did, while talking about your achievements in safe space, and I mean it — safe space.

After that, we had a breakout session with a Software Engineer (women obviously ) from our home country. It was so thrilling to hear about her work with Google Docs. The day ended with Australian Aboriginal food. At least now I know I don’t like Kangaroo meat for sure!

Day 2 — Investing in Yourself

You know whose phone switched off and woke up at 11 in the morning and missed the forenoon session of Day 2?Surprise! Me!! *insert uncomfortable laughter here* I sorta missed out on Google Interview Tips and Prep session. Sad. I Know. But what’s the lesson here? Plug your phones in properly before sleep. ALWAYS. Especially if you are in a different time zone and can’t rely on your body clock to wake you up. Also, you should have just asked for a wake-up call at the hotel desk. Well… now I know.

Giving & Receiving Feedback

Kick Start and The session of Giving and recieving Feedback

After a couple of games, we had a short session on giving and receiving feedback which I found extremely useful. When and how were they really important. I understood that this was an art and is beautiful when done right otherwise a hot mess. eg: Calling someone out as “You are wrong”

Here are a few points stuck onto my Google Notes

When you give feedback

  1. Prepare — think it through. Prepare what exactly you are going to say. Remember nobody likes being told they are wrong

  2. Describe — When talking, describe the ( Situation ->Behaviour->Impact)

  3. Discuss — You are not there to order around

  4. Follow through — Check in on them to see what actions were taken.

Make sure the feedback you give is

  1. Specific — Facts yes. Emotions and Feelings No

  2. Honest — Be genuine. Don’t tone it down with sweetness. Be assertive but also not too much. [ Starting to look like my giving instructions for adding salt. How much is avashyathinu?]

  3. Actionable — Don’t leave them clueless. Show what might be a suggested course of action.

When you are receiving feedback

Feedback is tough to take due to the amygdala hijack.

An amygdala hijack refers to a personal, emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.

  1. Be hungry for feedback (This is tough as hell yo!)

  2. Embrace all of it (I mean.. ouch)

  3. Say Thank you (With a smile, not the one that scares people. The other one)

  4. Decide what you are going to do about it.

Don’t say back അയിനു? Take deep breaths. Feel your feet.

The framework we need to go with is Listen, Ask, Paraphrase, Options & Thank you.

We had a cool session discussing the KickStart questions and competitive programming. We did the Google Tech Challenge too. That day we had dinner outside after a beautiful walk. uff!

Day 3 — Community Impact

The third day evolved me as a community leader and how I saw communities.

We saw different communities started by people in and out communities on how they are creating impact. I wish I had the presence of mind to jot down notes but the stories where so moving and I was too into it.  We had a zoo visit scheduled and that’s where I fell in love with koala bears. Now they are closing in on the Rank 1 with baby pandas 3>

While in Australia, I also managed to visit a couple of places and take a few hours long walks through Sydney to get a feel of the city. Man! It was one of the best three days of my life! I continued on to catch an evening flight to Melbourne to visit family and see around.

The retreat was so comprehensive in a sense. It had career , It had community. It had self-growth, it had social initiatives. It made things I dared not to dream a norm.

The impact it had was in the little actions I took in. On what things I decided to shift my focus on. It was on lowering the volume of the devil in me asking ‘Are you kidding, you can never reach there’ and actually start plotting a timeline to achieve my goals and sticking to it. A lot of people noticed that my community initiatives and writing lowered once I was back from retreat. It was because during one of the beautiful one on one’s with a community leader cum techie that she told me that sometimes you gotta pause. Take a break. Heal. Grow and Come back stronger. I wish I grow into a strong woman like her someday.

Sticking to quality over quantity. Making sure to spend some time on competitive programming each work. Turning final year project into a research work of sorts. Taking care of myself better. Understanding you gotta sleep to keep the brains working. Starting to document everything I do. Being more assertive with self. Understanding its okay to find happiness not only in tech like those hackers in the films do but also in whatever you mind please on. It was understanding that you are not the only woman out there, but thousands of women did what you are trying to do and thousands more are doing it with you. It was connecting to a strong empowering women network. It was a sorta healing and growing as a person. It was getting priorities right.

It was a shift in attitude.

I earned and learned a lot from the programs designed in the program schedule. But I learned more from all the women from different parts of the Asia Pacific and their stories. I learned more from the discussion at the Lunch Table. I learned more from the conversation with the googlers outside in the hallway. The effect all this has on you is not something you can get from a book. You gotta be there. At the retreat. In the slack, Whatsapp and messenger groups. In the huddle calls. In the program.

Why would you want to pass this all away just because you thought you might not get it. Apply anyway. It’s just 4 countries this year unlike the entire Asia Pacific last year. It’s open to 300 scholars unlike Hundred something last year. It’s open to just 1st and 2nd years unlike open to all pursuing education in college. The chances of you getting in are really high.

And by the looks of it, this year the program is going to be even more impactful than last. So what are you waiting for? Go APPLY!

Want to read what other scholars have gotta say? Check out the list below!

Here are a few other scholars experiences

From the 2019 Cohort

The 2018 Cohort

The 2017 Cohort

  1. bhavyachandra — Blog

  2. Dil — Blog

  3. Shilpi Gupta — Blog

  4. Shubhangi Kishore — Blog

  5. Jinal — Blog

The 2016 Cohort

The 2009 Cohort


The 2019 Women TechMakers Scholars

NB: Mostly all photos in this blog are the property of Google and may be subject to copyright

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