Alanna Walton, a Howard University freshman, knew there was something different about the professor taking her introduction to computer science course. The African-American woman was named Sabrina and she stayed in the office till 2.am. If that wasn’t strange enough, she had another title, which was Google in Residence. Alanna had already selected computer science as her major at the Washington D.C.-based University and she was very pleased with the class. Basically, engineers are being embedded by Google at a couple of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in an attempt to diversify the tech sector of Silicon Valley.
These engineers teach at the institutions, mentor students and advice on the curriculum. Today, these schools give degrees to 35% African Americans, but these students don’t eventually end up making their way to Silicon Valley. Google is rather typical as black technical staffers are about 1%. Last year, Jesse Jackson, a civil rights advocate pushed a number of tech firms to release data about workforce diversity. It showed under-representation of Latinos, African-American and women in this field. In response to this data, universities, businesses and community leaders have launched initiatives directed at diversifying their ranks, both by gender and ethically.
The National Center for Women and Information Technology and the Anita Borg Institute have partnered with a horde of companies for supporting female engineers. Facebook University is offered by Facebook, which is an internship for low income freshmen of minority colleges who are interested in computer science. $300 million have been committed by Intel over the next five years for diversification of its workforce whereas a $50 million partnership has been made by Apple with nonprofits for supporting minority and women computer science majors. Google chose to go to the source directly by sending a number of software engineers to teach at Spelman and Morehouse colleges in Atlanta, Fisk University in Nashville and Howard, Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.
Not only did they teach introductory courses, they also trained students on everything from how to sit through a software engineering job interview or how to send a professional email. The former involves solving coding questions. 30 of these students will be interning at Google this summer. A graduating senior of Howard will also be joining the firm fulltime and he is called Mr. Google by his friends. The student said that he had been talked into applying for the job by Google in Residence professors.
He said that lots of students didn’t apply to the company because they don’t believe they are skilled enough. But, all they needed was mentorship to help them in improving their resume, making it through the interview and having the confidence to do it. Sabrina Williams, Google software engineer who took a semester to teach and mentor at Howard, away from her Mountain View campus, said she was very pleased to see that her student was going to become a colleague. She said that change takes time, but it was very inspiring and it could deal with the problem of diversity.