Four computer science (CS) majors at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) are spending the fall 2018 semester at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., gaining professional experience and real-world skills from Google engineers, as part of the company’s new Tech Exchange program.
CSUDH students Jorde Guevara, Jesus Nunez, Anthony Ong, and Aaron Sotelo joined 64 of their peers from 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) across the country in the immersive experience that includes a full load of applied CS courses, including computational theory, database systems, and product management, coupled with real-world projects. In between classes, the students are getting a first-hand look at the workings of a tech company and the inside track from mentors on internship and career opportunities available to them.
“The experience we are getting at Google is making all the difference because we are in the type of environment that we will be working in someday,” said Jesus Nunez, a junior from Los Angeles who is studying to be a software engineer. “This isn’t about turning in a homework assignment to get a grade. We have real projects, meetings, and deadlines to meet. We’re learning that the process itself is the most important thing. From designing and meeting with the client–who is our Google mentor–to completing the project, this is real-world stuff.”
Nunez, whose mentor is Google engineer Isaac Clerencia, said that their cohort is doing its best to set a good example for CSUDH during the pilot program. “We are trying to pave the way for future students at CSUDH to get this chance. It’s such a great opportunity for students from underrepresented backgrounds. There is a lack of them in the technology industry, but with the help of the Tech Exchange program that might soon change.”
Google’s vision for the Tech Exchange program correlates perfectly with the CSUDH team’s efforts. The program is a significant component of the company’s mission to make computer science education more accessible, and build “a more diverse and representative Google” that reflects its users.
“A semester at the Google’s Mountain View headquarters will look great on our students’ resumes, and the experience will give them a competitive edge in the job market. At the same time, they are earning course credit and making progress toward their degree and the day that they join tech companies such as Google,” said Philip LaPolt, dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences at CSUDH.
“This program helps level the playing field for students who come from underserved and marginalized communities, allowing them to realize their full potential and bring new perspectives and ideas to the tech industry,” LaPolt added.
The Tech Exchange program builds on the model of Howard West, a pilot the company launched in the summer of 2017 with 26 students from Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C., that continues to sponsor the program.
“The results speak for themselves. One-hundred percent of the students enjoyed the Howard West pilot and found it worth their participation,” said Bonita Stewart, vice president of Global Partnerships, Google/Tech Exchange executive sponsor. “These positive results cemented an opportunity for us to expand the program by creating space for more Black and Latinx computer science students and more schools with a year-round offering.”
Nunez believes the Tech Exchange program will make a significant difference when he begins looking for work in the technology industry.
“We’ve only been here about five weeks so far but I already have my mind set about what I want to be as a professional. I’m learning what jobs I don’t want, and those I do,” he said. “I really want to be a software engineer, so I always talk to my mentor about it and he’s more than willing to share insights about the work and what it’s really like. This program is a major step in the right direction for me.”