Tag Archives: student programs

How one summer program led Randy to work at Google

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns, apprentices and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today’s post is all about Randy Raymond, a software engineer on the Google Docs team. Randy’s path to Google started with our Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) — which is now accepting applications until April 29, 2022 at 11:59PM ET.

What’s your role at Google?

I’m a software engineer on the Google Docs team, where I spend most of my days improving the ability to convert different document formats into Google Docs (and vice versa). I also build new Google Doc features — I just finished up a project to “pin” the top row of a table so it repeats on every page. I've used this feature in my own documents and it's really rewarding to know I had a hand in developing it. Outside of that, I write design docs, lines of code and tests to make sure that my code is working properly.

How did you first get interested in software engineering?

Growing up, my brother and I discovered a computer program that let us create our own video games. My brother managed the plot, and I was in charge of programming. It fascinated me that lines of text could bring a game to life. In my 11-year old mind, it was nothing short of magic. Before I knew it, I was picking up books at my local library to learn different programming languages. I started participating in online communities, publishing tutorials on how to code and bringing people together to build interesting games. It wasn’t just the technology that inspired me, but the people I shared it with.

What was your path to your current role?

In my senior year of high school, I applied and got accepted to Google’s CSSI program. During those three weeks, we got a deep dive into introductory web development, learned the programming language Python, worked on our resumes and teamed up to create our own websites. CSSI gave me confidence, a professional network and lifelong friends.

Afterwards, I applied for the Google STEP (Student Training in Engineering Program) internship in Mountain View, California for first and second-year undergraduate students. As my first professional gig, that experience was definitely challenging — but thankfully, I had supportive teammates who helped me become a much better engineer. After a few other Google internships in Boston and Montreal, I started working for the Google Docs team full time.

Randy in a cap and gown at his college graduation.

What was it like interviewing for a full-time position at Google as an intern?

My only official interview was for the STEP internship. After that, my "interviews" were how well I did on each of my internship projects. I’ll never forget towards the end of my first internship, I accidentally deleted my entire project! Thankfully, I had backed it up so I could still submit it in time.

Are you still involved in CSSI?

Actually, it’s sort of a full-circle story. During the pandemic, I relocated to Miami and started working with the CSSI team to try and start a new CSSI cohort there. And we just found out it’s officially happening! South Florida is my home and I've always dreamed of a chance to bring more tech opportunities there. CSSI has the potential to change the lives of aspiring computer science students in the area — it certainly changed mine.

Any tips for future Googlers?

It's OK to ask questions. Googlers are more than willing to help and there is no such thing as a bad question. And if you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting at first, jot down a list of your questions and sit down with a trusted teammate to go through them.

Google Summer of Code 2022: Contributor applications now open

Contributor applications for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2022 are now open!

Google Summer of Code is a global, online program focused on bringing new contributors into open source software development. GSoC contributors work with an open source organization on a 12+ week programming project under the guidance of mentors. 

Since 2005, GSoC has welcomed new developers into the open source community every year. The GSoC program has brought over 18,000 contributors from 112 countries together, with over 17,000 mentors from 746 open source organizations.

For 2022, GSoC made significant changes to expand the reach and flexibility of the program. The following are the key changes:
  • All newcomers and beginners to open source 18 years and older may now apply to GSoC
  • GSoC now supports both medium sized projects (~175 hours) and large projects (~350 hours)
  • Projects can be spread out over 10–22 weeks
We invite students, graduates, and folks at various stages of their career to check out Google Summer of Code. Now that applications are open, please keep a few helpful tips in mind:
  • Narrow down your list to 2-4 organizations and review their ideas list
  • Reach out to the organizations via their contact methods listed on the GSoC site
  • Engage with your organization early and often
Contributors may register and submit project proposals on the GSoC site from now until Tuesday, April 19th at 18:00 UTC.

Best of luck to all our applicants!

Romina Vicente, Program Manager – Google Open Source

Google Summer of Code 2022 mentoring orgs revealed!


After reviewing over 350 mentoring organization applications, we are excited to announce that 203 open source projects have been selected for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2022. This year we are welcoming 32 new organizations to mentor GSoC contributors.

Visit our new program site to view the complete list of GSoC 2022 accepted mentoring organizations. You can drill down into the details for each organization on their program page, including reading more about the project ideas they are looking for GSoC contributors to work on this year.

Are you a developer new to open source interested in participating in GSoC?
If you are a new or beginner open source contributor over 18 years old, we welcome you to apply for GSoC 2022! Contributor applications will open on Monday, April 4, 2022 at 18:00 UTC with Tuesday, April 19, 2022 18:00 UTC being the deadline to submit your application (which includes your project proposal).

The most successful applications come from students who start preparing now. We can’t say this enough—if you want to significantly increase your chances of being selected as a 2022 GSoC Contributor, we recommend you to prepare early. Below are some tips for prospective contributors to accomplish before the application period begins in early April:

  • Watch our short videos: What is GSoC? and Being a GSoC Contributor
  • Check out the Contributor/ Student Guide and Advice for Applying to GSoC doc.
  • Review the list of accepted organizations and find two to four that interest you and read through their Project Ideas lists.
  • When you see an idea that piques your interest, reach out to the organization via their preferred communication methods (listed on their org page on the GSoC program site).
  • Talk with the mentors and community to determine if this project idea is something you would enjoy working on during the program. Find a project that motivates you, otherwise it may be a challenging summer for you and your mentor.
  • Use the information you received during your communications with the mentors and other org community members to write up your proposal.
You can find more information about the program on our website which includes a full timeline of important dates. We also highly recommend reading the FAQ and Program Rules and watching some of our other videos with more details about GSoC for contributors and mentors.

A hearty welcome—and thank you—to all of our mentor organizations! We look forward to working with all of you during Google Summer of Code 2022.

By Stephanie Taylor – Google Open Source

Google Summer of Code 2022 mentoring orgs revealed!


After reviewing over 350 mentoring organization applications, we are excited to announce that 203 open source projects have been selected for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2022. This year we are welcoming 32 new organizations to mentor GSoC contributors.

Visit our new program site to view the complete list of GSoC 2022 accepted mentoring organizations. You can drill down into the details for each organization on their program page, including reading more about the project ideas they are looking for GSoC contributors to work on this year.

Are you a developer new to open source interested in participating in GSoC?
If you are a new or beginner open source contributor over 18 years old, we welcome you to apply for GSoC 2022! Contributor applications will open on Monday, April 4, 2022 at 18:00 UTC with Tuesday, April 19, 2022 18:00 UTC being the deadline to submit your application (which includes your project proposal).

The most successful applications come from students who start preparing now. We can’t say this enough—if you want to significantly increase your chances of being selected as a 2022 GSoC Contributor, we recommend you to prepare early. Below are some tips for prospective contributors to accomplish before the application period begins in early April:

  • Watch our short videos: What is GSoC? and Being a GSoC Contributor
  • Check out the Contributor/ Student Guide and Advice for Applying to GSoC doc.
  • Review the list of accepted organizations and find two to four that interest you and read through their Project Ideas lists.
  • When you see an idea that piques your interest, reach out to the organization via their preferred communication methods (listed on their org page on the GSoC program site).
  • Talk with the mentors and community to determine if this project idea is something you would enjoy working on during the program. Find a project that motivates you, otherwise it may be a challenging summer for you and your mentor.
  • Use the information you received during your communications with the mentors and other org community members to write up your proposal.
You can find more information about the program on our website which includes a full timeline of important dates. We also highly recommend reading the FAQ and Program Rules and watching some of our other videos with more details about GSoC for contributors and mentors.

A hearty welcome—and thank you—to all of our mentor organizations! We look forward to working with all of you during Google Summer of Code 2022.

By Stephanie Taylor – Google Open Source

Rajavi Mishra on becoming a computer science researcher

Rajavi Mishra first knew she wanted to become a computer science (CS) researcher when she was a high school junior in Delhi, India. After studying electricity in her physics class, she was hooked on learning even more about the field. Rajavi spent her summer interning with a lab supervisor to design experiments that studied the mechanical life deterioration of electrical contractors, and then expanded that work into a research paper that was published during her senior year of high school.

Today, Rajavi is a senior studying CS at the University of California, Berkeley, and is one of the most recent graduates of Google’s CS Research Mentorship Program (CSRMP). Growing up in India, Rajavi felt like her dream of completing a computer science internship as a high school student and pursuing a career in computer science would be daunting and difficult to achieve. But, thanks in part to the relationships she built during CSRMP, she’s enjoyed every bit of it.

Started in 2018, CSRMP provides mentorship, networking and career exploration to undergraduate and graduate students from historically marginalized groups (HMGs) who are interested in pursuing computing research. The program’s fifth class of students — which included Rajavi — graduated in December 2021, adding 201 students from 109 institutions across the United States and Canada to an alumni community of more than 500 CS researchers. Here’s what Rajavi had to say about her CSRMP and computing research experience:

How has CSRMP impacted your research journey?

I gained insight into a breadth of research domains during speaker series and hands-on workshops. One of our small-group pod sessions had panels with researchers from various Human and Computer Interaction (HCI) sub-domains, which helped me get a taste of different skills, roles and projects in the space.Our pod sessions were real-world learning-focused, and explored different research tools and methodologies in HCI, interesting case studies of projects, and what life as a researcher at Google is like.

What was the highlight of CSRMP?

One-on-one sessions with my mentor were the highlight of my experience. Through discussions with my mentor, I was able to gain solid feedback on my work — from grad school applications and industry research experiences to my current research project at Berkeley. I have a much better understanding of computer science industry research positions and future opportunities for the role.

What were some challenges you had to overcome during the program?

The biggest challenge was letting go of my internal inhibitions and taking the initiative to connect with peers and mentors. To make the most of the program, I had to communicate expectations with my mentor and not feel ashamed for not knowing something. In the end, being a curious learner helped me broaden my horizons and network.

What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

As part of my EECS honors thesis, I have been working with Professor Chasins to study how people interact with digital assistants, which we hypothesize do not sufficiently fulfill all possible user queries. While the current research focuses on what people ask their assistants, we wanted to explore how people want to be able to express themselves to their voice assistants. With this in mind, we designed a seven-day in-situ diary study where we asked people with no voice assistant experience to record requests they would ask their assistants. I am using open-coding and language processing techniques to analyze study data, categorize diverse user needs and build an ecologically valid benchmark suite of queries that current voice assistants fail to fulfill. As I wrap up my senior honors thesis, I’m excited to see how my skills have grown since I published my first paper as a high school senior. I'm also thrilled about graduating next semester and joining graduate school as a master’s student to further explore the research area of HCI.

What advice do you have for students like you who are curious about becoming a researcher in computing?

A mentor who can help you identify, shape and strengthen your interests in computer science is pivotal. Learning from my mentors has been invaluable to my progress as a learner, researcher, problem solver and human being.

Congratulations to all of the students who graduated from the CS Research Mentorship Program in the second half of 2021! If you’re interested in joining students like Rajavi Mishra to explore what the world of CS research has to offer, then be sure to apply for the September 2022 mentorship cycle in July when applications open.

Investing in Detroit with Ford and Michigan Central

At Google, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to learn the skills needed for today’s most in-demand jobs. Across the country, we are investing in workforce readiness and mentorship programming, and are growing our efforts by partnering with others in the private and public sectors.

Consistent with this, today in Detroit we announced that we will be joining Ford Motor Company as a founding member of Michigan Central. Michigan Central is a new innovation hub where companies, government and community stakeholders will focus on the future of mobility — both in terms of economic opportunity and transportation solutions — in Detroit and beyond. Michigan Central will deploy new urban transportation solutions, workforce development and other tools to tackle the world’s mobility challenges to create opportunities for everyone. This new partnership will bring together the automotive and tech industries to equip job seekers with new skills, mentor high schoolers learning to code and provide critical tools for Michigan Central projects and research.

1. Expanded opportunities to learn digital skills

Since 2017, Grow with Google has trained more than seven million Americans in digital skills. We have trained more than 200,000 Michigan residents, working in partnership with approximately 260 organizations across the state. Beginning today, we will team up with local nonprofits to provide free access to our Google Career Certificates, which help people enter high-growth career fields including data analytics, IT support, project management and user experience design. No prior experience or degree is required, and jobseekers get access to resume templates, coaching and career placement support, mock interview practice and more. 82% of graduates have reported a positive career impact within six months, such as a raise, a promotion or a new job.

There are more than one million U.S. roles open in the Certificate fields. To provide additional job opportunities for our Certificate graduates, we created a network of more than 150 companies, including, Verizon, Deloitte and of course, Google, that are committed to considering Certificate graduates for jobs. Ford will now partner with us to consider new graduates for relevant roles, and will offer current employees the opportunity to participate in the Certificate program.

A woman sits at a laptop while a man in a Grow with Google shirt stands up and talks to her

A Grow with Google training in Michigan.

2. More access to computer science skills for high schoolers

Providing better access to computer science for students, particularly to those from racial and ethnic groups that remain underrepresented in STEM, has been an important part of our work in Michigan. We've previously worked with organizations like the Kapor Center's SMASH Program, Wayne State University and the Detroit Public Schools to provide computer science education and resources to historically underrepresented students in the region.

Now Code Next, our immersive computer science education program for high schoolers ,will provide coaching at a new Code Next Lab in Michigan Central for local Detroit students, so that they can learn and develop the skills needed to pursue further education and careers in technology fields. Code Next focuses on serving Black, Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students, and nationally, approximately 88% of Code Next graduates have gone on to pursue STEM majors at the higher education level. This Code Next Lab is Google’s first in the Midwest, and will join our other locations in New York and Oakland in offering computer science education programming. The Lab will provide live coaches, state-of-the-art technical equipment and content ranging from Javascript programming to UX design.

3. Powering technology with Google Cloud

In order for the United States to build the next great technologies, people need access to the latest data and digital tools. That’s why we are bringing Google Cloud technology, including our Cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities and data and analytics tools, to Michigan Central to be used on projects and research for future mobility solutions.

The world is in the midst of a digital revolution – cities, mobility, digital tools and the skills people need for their jobs are all changing. It goes without saying that truly effective solutions can come about only through collective efforts, and we are confident our partnership with Michigan Central will enable us to make a difference in the lives of Michigan residents and communities around the world as they navigate these changes.

Investing in Detroit with Ford and Michigan Central

At Google, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to learn the skills needed for today’s most in-demand jobs. Across the country, we are investing in workforce readiness and mentorship programming, and are growing our efforts by partnering with others in the private and public sectors.

Consistent with this, today in Detroit we announced that we will be joining Ford Motor Company as a founding member of Michigan Central. Michigan Central is a new innovation hub where companies, government and community stakeholders will focus on the future of mobility — both in terms of economic opportunity and transportation solutions — in Detroit and beyond. Michigan Central will deploy new urban transportation solutions, workforce development and other tools to tackle the world’s mobility challenges to create opportunities for everyone. This new partnership will bring together the automotive and tech industries to equip job seekers with new skills, mentor high schoolers learning to code and provide critical tools for Michigan Central projects and research.

1. Expanded opportunities to learn digital skills

Since 2017, Grow with Google has trained more than seven million Americans in digital skills. We have trained more than 200,000 Michigan residents, working in partnership with approximately 260 organizations across the state. Beginning today, we will team up with local nonprofits to provide free access to our Google Career Certificates, which help people enter high-growth career fields including data analytics, IT support, project management and user experience design. No prior experience or degree is required, and jobseekers get access to resume templates, coaching and career placement support, mock interview practice and more. 82% of graduates have reported a positive career impact within six months, such as a raise, a promotion or a new job.

There are more than one million U.S. roles open in the Certificate fields. To provide additional job opportunities for our Certificate graduates, we created a network of more than 150 companies, including, Verizon, Deloitte and of course, Google, that are committed to considering Certificate graduates for jobs. Ford will now partner with us to consider new graduates for relevant roles, and will offer current employees the opportunity to participate in the Certificate program.

A woman sits at a laptop while a man in a Grow with Google shirt stands up and talks to her

A Grow with Google training in Michigan.

2. More access to computer science skills for high schoolers

Providing better access to computer science for students, particularly to those from racial and ethnic groups that remain underrepresented in STEM, has been an important part of our work in Michigan. We've previously worked with organizations like the Kapor Center's SMASH Program, Wayne State University and the Detroit Public Schools to provide computer science education and resources to historically underrepresented students in the region.

Now Code Next, our immersive computer science education program for high schoolers ,will provide coaching at a new Code Next Lab in Michigan Central for local Detroit students, so that they can learn and develop the skills needed to pursue further education and careers in technology fields. Code Next focuses on serving Black, Latino, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students, and nationally, approximately 88% of Code Next graduates have gone on to pursue STEM majors at the higher education level. This Code Next Lab is Google’s first in the Midwest, and will join our other locations in New York and Oakland in offering computer science education programming. The Lab will provide live coaches, state-of-the-art technical equipment and content ranging from Javascript programming to UX design.

3. Powering technology with Google Cloud

In order for the United States to build the next great technologies, people need access to the latest data and digital tools. That’s why we are bringing Google Cloud technology, including our Cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities and data and analytics tools, to Michigan Central to be used on projects and research for future mobility solutions.

The world is in the midst of a digital revolution – cities, mobility, digital tools and the skills people need for their jobs are all changing. It goes without saying that truly effective solutions can come about only through collective efforts, and we are confident our partnership with Michigan Central will enable us to make a difference in the lives of Michigan residents and communities around the world as they navigate these changes.

Expanding Google Summer of Code in 2022

We are pleased to announce that in 2022 we’re broadening our scope of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) with exciting new updates to the program.

For 17 years, GSoC has focused on bringing new open source contributors into OSS communities big and small. GSoC has brought over 18,000 university students from 112 countries together with over 17K mentors from 746 open source organizations.

At its heart, GSoC is a mentorship program where people interested in learning more about open source are welcomed into our open source communities by excited mentors ready to help them learn and grow as developers. The goal is to have these new contributors stay involved in open source communities long after their Google Summer of Code program is over.

Over the course of GSoC’s 17 years, open source has grown and evolved, and we’ve realized that the program needs to evolve as well. With that in mind, we have several major updates to the program coming in 2022, aimed at better meeting the needs of our open source communities and providing more flexibility to both projects and contributors so that people from all walks of life can find, join and contribute to great open source communities.

Expanding eligibility

Beginning in 2022, we are opening the program up to all newcomers of open source that are 18 years and older. The program will no longer be solely focused on university students or recent graduates. We realize there are many folks that could benefit from the GSoC program that are at various stages of their career, recent career changers, self-taught, those returning to the workforce, etc. so we wanted to allow these folks the opportunity to participate in GSoC.

We expect many students to continue applying to the program (which we encourage!), yet we wanted to provide excited individuals who want to get into open source—but weren’t sure how to get started or whether open source communities would welcome their newbie contributions—with a place to start.

Many people can benefit from mentorship programs like GSoC and we want to welcome more folks into open source.

Multiple Sizes of Projects

This year we introduced the concept of a medium sized project in response to the many distractions folks were dealing with during the pandemic. This adjustment was beneficial for many participants and organizations but we also heard feedback that the larger, more complex projects were a better fit for others. In the spirit of flexibility, we are going to support both medium sized projects (~175 hours) and large projects (~350 hours) in 2022.

One of our goals is to find ways to get more people from different backgrounds into open source which means meeting people where they are at and understanding that not everyone can devote an entire summer to coding.

Increased Flexibility of Timing for Projects

For 2022, we are allowing for considerable flexibility in the timing for the program. You can spread the project out over a longer period of time and you can even switch to a longer timeframe mid-program if life happens. Rather than a mandatory 12-week program that runs from June – August with everyone required to finish their projects by the end of the 12th week, we are opening it up so mentors and their GSoC Contributors can decide together if they want to extend the deadline for the project up to 22 weeks.
Image with text reads 'Google Summer of Code'

Interested in Applying to GSoC?

We will announce the GSoC 2022 program timeline soon.

Open Source Organizations

Does your open source project want to learn more about how to apply to be a mentoring organization? This is a mentorship program focused on welcoming new contributors into your community and helping them learn best practices that will help them be long term OSS contributors. A key factor is having plenty of mentors excited about teaching newcomers about open source.

Read the mentor guide, to learn more about what it means to be a mentor organization, how to prepare your community, creating appropriate project ideas (175 hour and 350 hour projects), and tips for preparing your application.

Want to be a GSoC Contributor?

Are you a potential GSoC Contributor interested in learning how to prepare for the 2022 GSoC program? It’s never too early to start thinking about your proposal or about what type of open source organization you may want to work with. Read through the student/contributor guide for important tips on preparing your proposal and what to consider if you wish to apply for the program in 2022. You can also get inspired by checking out the 199 organizations that participated in Google Summer of Code 2021, as well as the projects that students worked on.

We encourage you to explore other resources and you can learn more on the program website.

Please spread the word to your friends as we hope these updates to the program will help more excited folks apply to be GSoC Contributors and mentoring organizations in GSoC 2022!


By Stephanie Taylor, Program Manager, Google Open Source

Meet the Ph.D. students changing the face of computing

Every day, computer science researchers are working to solve big problems that impact all of our lives — from expanding accessibility in wearable technology to improving the lives of rural farmers through AI. For CS research to explore issues that impact all communities, it’s crucial that the researchers themselves are representative of those communities. However, in 2020, less than 10% of computer science Ph.D. degrees in the United States were awarded to researchers from historically marginalized groups in computing.

As part of our efforts to make CS research careers more accessible, Google Research is continuing our work with the Computing Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI) and the CMD-IT Diversifying LEAdership in the Professoriate (LEAP) Alliance to increase the diversity of Ph.D. graduates in computing. Together, we are providing dissertation awards to support Doctoral students from historically marginalized groups as they complete their Ph.D. requirements. This year, we have six winners: Abel Gomez Rivera, Dhruv Jain, Elsa Tai Ramirez, Matthew Anderson, Rodrigo Augusto Silva Dos Santos, and Saadia Gabriel.

We spoke with two of our 2020 award recipients — Amber Solomon from The Georgia Institute of Technology (Ph.D. ‘21) and Oscar S. Veliz from The University of Texas at El Paso (Ph.D. ‘21) — about their computing research journeys and aspirations for the future.

What inspired your interest in computer science research?

Amber: Computer science has reached a critical point in its evolution. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have made major leaps from ideas in a lab to tools in the palm of people’s hands. This increases the urgency to understand its benefits and potential negative effects. Few disciplines have this level of impact on society. For that reason, it's super important that we have different perspectives in this space.

Oscar: I took a course on Multi-Agent Systems and Game Theory with a professor who later became my advisor. The subject was fascinating, and I dove head first into the latest, cutting-edge research. I felt that this was an area of Artificial Intelligence that had so many possibilities and unanswered questions that I had to get involved.

What were some defining moments in your computer science journey?

Amber: During the second year of my Ph.D. program, I taught introductory programming and human-computer interaction at a private, alternative high school. Students designed and programmed technology to address issues they cared about, including gentrification, racism, and police brutality. They had so many interesting and important things to say. It pushed me to reflect on the impact computer science has on the individual and society, and my role as a researcher.

Oscar: Going to conferences and talking shop with the authors of papers I had read helped put a real person behind the research. Attending research discussions and mentorship panels with senior researchers who looked like me, and shared their similar struggles with me, also struck a chord. I learned that it wasn’t uncommon to feel like an impostor and that I could, and should, seek help.

How has the Google dissertation award impacted your research career path?

Amber: Research from racially and ethnically minoritized researchers often gets ignored or isn’t considered as legitimate as others. So, to win the Google-LEAP Dissertation Award was incredibly validating. It made me feel like my voice mattered and was legitimate.

Oscar: I am quite terrible at giving myself credit. I wouldn’t apply to certain jobs because I believed that I wasn’t good enough. All it took was a mentor who believed in me. After the recognition from Google-CAHSI, I started to build up my confidence and apply to prestigious places. Now, I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

What are some experiences and/or accomplishments you are most proud of?

Amber: I am the first person in my family to get a Ph.D. It wasn't easy because my family had never been through the process, so they could not understand what I was going through. I'm also proud of how I conducted my dissertation research, which was not typical in my field. I try to learn with and from as many people as possible, including academics, TikTokers, grandmothers, friends, etc. I try to be as willing and open as possible to different perspectives. That made me more open to different methodologies and theoretical frameworks.

Oscar: I was fortunate to do research on AI applications in teaching and learning with college students using a variation on poker. I had just as much fun creating the lesson as I did performing the research. While pursuing my Ph.D., I also became a course instructor and lectured 80-person classes. I was really proud to watch my students master topics that I was teaching. I’m also proud of creating numerical analysis lessons on my YouTube channel.

What advice do you have for others starting their journeys to becoming computer science researchers?

Amber: Remember that your ideas are valid and important. You deserve to take up space.

Oscar: Develop a community of support — whether it’s family, other faculty, or fellow Ph.D. students. You can’t do a Ph.D. alone, no matter what anyone tells you. It is also OK to ask for help, even professional help. It isn’t a sign of weakness, but an indication of self-awareness, with the ability to recognize that change is necessary. That is the hard part.

Read more about our 2021 winners and their dreams for the future below.

What this Cloud Googler learned from the military

Welcome to the latest edition of “My Path to Google,” where we talk to Googlers, interns and alumni about how they got to Google, what their roles are like and even some tips on how to prepare for interviews.

Today we spoke with Dennis James, Director of Cloud Customer Experience for the US East Region and a veteran of the United States Army. Dennis talks to us about his time in the military, his transition to Google and why it’s important to keep trying — even if you don’t succeed the first time.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Long Island, New York. Both of my parents were educators, and my father was also a volunteer (and eventually Chief) firefighter and paramedic. There was always a strong theme of leadership, academics and service in our household. 

That environment undoubtedly influenced my decision to attend the United States Military Academy — otherwise known as "West Point." Once I got there, I participated in many physical activities while also pursuing my passion for electronics. I majored in electrical engineering and spent most of my downtime tinkering with gadgets at West Point’s computer lab. 

After graduation, I served as an infantry officer in the US Army with the 25th Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq from December 2007 to February 2009. When I returned, I left active duty to become an IT strategy consultant in Washington DC, while also serving as a Military Intelligence Officer in the Army Reserves. I attended Columbia Business School two years later, where I was accepted to the Google MBA internship program. I started full time at Google in 2013, and have been here ever since!

What do you do at Google?

I'm on the Google Cloud Customer Experience team, which provides consulting, training, technical account management and support services to our customers and partners. One example of our work that I’m particularly proud of is how we helped the New York City Department of Education support a quick transition to remote teaching and learning with Google Classroom. 

What made you decide to apply to Google?

During my deployment to Iraq, I realized I was ready for a new challenge outside of the military — ideally in the technology world. I started looking through a directory of former service members who now worked at tech companies, and connected with a Naval Academy graduate and Aviator who worked at Google. He shared helpful advice about his own journey, and helped me think about jobs I might like and what skills they required. Through his ongoing coaching and support, he became an important mentor and part of my path to joining Google.

I loved the idea of working at Google, but I hesitated to apply at first. I was worried that I wouldn’t be considered a good fit because of my background, and that it would be hard to convey my experiences to someone outside of the military. It took me a lot of time (and work!) to overcome these feelings. But by continuing to meet with my Google mentor, growing my skills in the military, and earning my MBA, I ultimately built up my confidence to apply for an internship.

Dennis smiling in his military uniform and holding his helmet

Dennis while serving in Iraq

Do you have any tips you’d like to share with aspiring Googlers?

Show up with enthusiasm and, most importantly, be yourself. In my case, I embraced my military background and channeled those leadership skills into the business world. And when I reflect on the reasons behind my success at Google, the vast majority tie back to my military experience. 

And finally, don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, keep at it.

Dennis and his wife, Tiffany, standing and smiling in front of a Google building, while holding their twins, Gabriella and Mason

Dennis with his wife, Tiffany, and twins, Gabriella and Mason