Left to right (in picture)
Kneeling: DingDing Lu, Xia Wang
Standing: Yunan Song, Elizabeth Blankenship, Debra Lauterbach, Qian Zhang, Cui Ye, Jinchun Xia
Last month, two undergraduate and six graduate women from the Department of Computer Science got the opportunity of a lifetime - an all-expenses paid trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California to attend the first ever Google Workshop for Women Engineers. The students, DingDing Lu, Xia Wang, Yunan Song, Elizabeth Blankenship, Debra Lauterbach, Qian Zhang, Cui Ye, and Jinchun Xia, were selected based on academic merit, campus involvement, and letters of recommendation from professors in the department. Of more than 600 applicants from across the country, only 193 were selected to attend the event.
The event took place the weekend of January 20th - 23rd, 2006. On January 20th, the students flew to Mountain View, which is located near San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley. That night, Google hosted a banquet at the students' hotel, which enabled the women, who represented more than 100 different universities, to network with each other and the Google recruiters. Students learned just how valuable women are to Google: one day, Google hopes to be able to hire 50% women for their software engineering jobs, and this event was the first step in making that possible.
The one-day workshop at Google's headquarters, the "Googleplex" was held on Saturday, January 21st. To kick off the workshop, Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, gave an engaging introduction. She began by sharing Google's mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. With over 5,000 employees and a wide range of products like Google Search, Google Maps and Google Scholar, she explained how they are doing exactly that.
The next speaker, Anna Patterson, explained some of the history and goals of Google Search. The idea for Google began when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were graduate students at Stanford. Since then, it has grown to incorporate multiple types of searching into one powerful engine. One day, she says Google hopes we will have a way to search images and video by more than just the text tags associated with them.
After these talks, the students were given the choice of two breakout sessions to attend. Topics included Gmail, Google Earth, Blogger, and Google Ads during the morning sessions, and Java, Open Source, Platforms, Usability, and Google's Software Infrastructure in the afternoon sessions. The women also had a chance to talk with Google employees over lunch in one of the Googleplex cafeterias, the "No Name Cafe",
which serves primarily organic and locally grown food. Following lunch was a tour of the headquarters and some product exhibits. To Google, employee happiness is just as important as user happiness. Free food is never very far and workers can schedule a massage or take a break to play ping pong during the day. From the architecture, to the furniture, and especially the people, every inch of the Googleplex seems to reflect
The workshop concluded with a tour and dinner with Google employees at the Computer History Museum. The following day, some women stayed for optional tours of San Francisco or Silicon Valley, or to interview for a full-time position with Google. At the end of the event, it was clear to students: with a strong focus on the importance of employee diversity, Google is committed increasing the number of women in the workplace. With such a fun, creative environment as a home, it is no wonder the products and people from this company are so successful.