I knew about the scholarship from my first year of college and this year seemed the right time to go for it: Google Anita Borg Scholarship for Women in Engineering. The award consists in a cash prize and a retreat event at Google offices in Zurich, Switzerland. The application was fairly straightforward, CV, essays, recommendations.
Even though I had my doubts about fitting the expected profile - research focus, academia driven, I was among the winners of the scholarship. The retreat took place between 18-20 June.
Some impressions which I hope do not infringe the signed NDA:
- It was definitely a fun, action packed event. I met very smart people from all continents, enjoyed some very nice talks and panels
- No need to tell about the free food and snacks which are the trademark of Google
- I took part in an Android app development workshop - by far the most interesting event!
- A lot of the discussion was focused on applying for internships and full time jobs, the transition from academia to industry, things which were not of much interest to me at this point
- Since a lot of the girls were PhD students, a natural question was how does that work within Google and opinions were split between a PhD being close to useless in Google/industry or being the best in a research field which is interesting to Google and then go on the research track as opposed to engineering.
- The question I was naturally interested in - and to which I already knew the answer - was large company vs startup. The answer was surprising - by and large everyone agreed that startup is the way to go(*)! (* at least for a while, assuming you are getting paid a little bit)
All in all, I enjoyed my time in Zurich. I was also happy to get home and celebrated with a 12h coding day for my company :).