Discovering careers in computer science at Google CSSI in California

Rachael Powley, Google CSSI participantMy experience with computer science started this summer, when I was accepted as the only Canadian student in the Google Computer Science Summer Institute in California. Google CSSI is a three week, all-expenses-paid summer program that introduces students to computer science, and encourages them to take action to increase diversity in the field by providing them with networking opportunities with people who could support future projects, as well as suggestions of initiatives that the students could potentially start up at their university.

The students who are accepted to the program have little or no programming experience, and are going into first year university in Canada or the USA. I will be studying computer science at the University of Western Ontario in the fall, and prior to my CSSI experience I had had almost no exposure to programming. The reason I wanted to get involved in computer science was because the technology industry is one of the fastest evolving fields, with numerous opportunities for innovation and research.

My experience at CSSI not only confirmed my interest in studying computer science, but also increased my passion for working in the field. Meeting female employees at Google helped me be able to visualize myself in a career similar to theirs, and made me want to give other girls the opportunity to have role models in the science and technology industry. Seeing the amazing projects that everyone in CSSI had created after only 3 weeks of instruction made me excited for what I will be able to create in the future, once I obtain my university degree.

During the application process, I was required to write two short essays, and then participate in a phone interview with a Google engineer. Over 600 students applied, of which around 120 were interviewed. In the end, 54 students were selected to participate in Google CSSI.

I attended the first session of the program, which took place at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. During the session, we stayed in residence at Santa Clara University. We were shuttled to Google every morning, where we were given introductions to programming tools and languages such as App Inventor, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, and AppEngine. Google provided us with our very own Galaxy Nexus phones, as well as backpacks, t-shirts, notebooks, and more!

We were also exposed to some of the privileges that Google employees get to enjoy every day, including micro-kitchens, games rooms with arcade games, pool, foosball, Dance-Dance Revolution, free meals at one of the many cafes on campus, and riding Google bikes between buildings! The ‘Googler’ lifestyle is unlike any company I have ever seen before! On the weekends we were taken on daytrips to see San Francisco and Santa Cruz, as well as on social outings to the movie theater, laser tag, and Great America.

The academic aspect of CSSI was intense, but extremely informative and useful. Their goal was to pack an entire first year computer science course into three weeks, and they definitely succeeded. I learned so much about computer science, and it definitely prepared me for what’s to come in university. In the final week, we were put into groups and given the task of designing our own web application. It was amazing to see how much we had learned in just two weeks!

Each group presented their finished product to a group of Googlers from around the world. The academic aspect was not solely focused on computer science, however. We also participated in workshops on resumes, public speaking, and interviews. We had opportunities to network with interns from the Freshman Engineering Practicum program, as well as with Google engineers. We learned about other Google programs that we could get involved in, such as internships and Android camp, as well as about careers in and outside of Google that we could possibly work towards for our future. At the end of the program we were each awarded $500 scholarships to put towards university!

Overall, CSSI was an amazing, rewarding experience! I learned so much about computer science, and made friends from all over North America! CSSI is a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity that you will not find anywhere else. I would definitely encourage anyone who is interested in computer science to apply! Applications for CSSI 2013 are open to any students going into their first year of university in Canada or the USA. See  for more details.

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