Amongst 30 unread emails in my inbox, there was one about ‘Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship 2012’ application which I quickly opened and closed without really reading the content. I had heard about the scholarship before and knew that it was awarded to very few students; mostly from top-notch institutes like the IITs. There was no chance of me getting through, rather read the other emails I thought! But after a lot of persuasion from my father, I grumpily filled out the application form. The application asked for my academic details, achievements (I have a very few!) and a couple of essays, and it took me 8 long hours to complete it. Just a week after, the new semester started and I forgot all about the scholarship.
Around March end, I received a phone call from Google Office, and-voila! I had been declared a finalist for the scholarship and invited to their Banglore Office for a one-day conclave. And now, I was excited! Eager to see what happens at the conclave and hoping to get a lot of Google-goodies!
I arrived at Google Office on 20th April, and soon realized that it was going to be much more awesome than I had expected! The day kickstarted with a quick delicious breakfast followed by a talk by Yolanda Mangolini – the chief of Google Diversity Program. She talked about various opportunities and programs by Google which bring together people from across the globe and also help them to hold their identity in their own way. She briefly talked about the facilities and the work culture at Google, some of which was really amazing like the flexible work hours and the easy transition from one project to another. The next talk – ‘Making Magic at Google’ spawned over some of the most successful projects at Google and the journey of people involved in those projects. The next two talks were fairly technical – ‘Map Maker’ by Rachna Agarwal and ‘Android 4.0’ by Rajdeep Dua. Map Maker is one of the most brilliant and successful crowd-sourcing projects in which the native people of a place built the ‘geographical map’ of their region/country because there were no high quality satellite images available for those areas. This is how you actually see accurate Google maps for many places in India and countries like Pakistan. Rajdeep gave us some insightful tips on how to design a user friendly UI for mobile applications and some quick tips to build an Android application.
All the speakers encouraged us to ask questions and made their talks engaging in their own way, but what struck me the most about these Google researchers and engineers was the passion for their projects. The talks were followed by lunch at Google’s food court. There we got to talk with a lot of Google employees; we were free to roam around their offices and talk to just anybody! I had interesting chit-chat with a few people who told me about their projects, how they got into Google and what they plan next. Overall, it was quite a satisfying day till yet; little did we know that there was more to come!
Just after lunch was the ‘Icebreaker Session’. The 16 finalists were divided into four teams and each team was given a stick, cord and a ball and were asked to design and build an automated catapult in next one hour! We had to solve some puzzles like sudoku, crosswords and Soma cube to buy items to build the catapult. The team who could throw the ball farthest was to be declared the winner. Phew! The one-hour activity really showed us how important team-work is. Finally, our team won! After this, the last social activity of the day was a career panel discussion. On the panel were researchers and engineers we had interacted previously and HR – Keerthana Mohan. They gave us tips on how to achieve ones dream job/career. The discussion was less about Google and the speakers shared their experiences about PhD, work and pursuing research at industry.
The eventful day ended with the award distribution ceremony where they declared the winners. I was least expecting to get the award, and was taken aback with surprise when my name was announced. All of the participants at the conclave received a lot of Google goodies – much more than what I had expected!
The whole experience at Google was exhilarating. Interaction with other students at various institutes, talks by Google researchers, chit-chat sessions with other Google employees taught me a lot and was a very effective channel to know about various work being done at other places. I would highly encourage others to apply for this scholarship and try to attend the conclave.
Below is the pic of all the participants at the conclave (finalists).