Computer Science students get a glimpse of life at Google

Computer Science students get a glimpse of life at Google

Three computer science students get practical work experience interning for Google in Sydney.

A summer internship at the Sydney office of world’s largest internet services company has kick started the career of three UOW computer science students. 

Being hand picked from thousands of applicants for a Google internship isn’t all these students have in common, though. All three students are female and none of them arrived at university with plans to become a computer scientist. 

Student, tutor and twice-Google intern Lauren Manzo spent her final years at high school thinking she’d like to be a high school maths teacher and began her higher education by enrolling in the relevant degree. 

“Programming was a required subject for my maths education degree. I thought it was going to be horrible but it turned out it was good.” 

By the end of her first year, Lauren had decided to change her degree. 

Becky Armstrong has a similar story to tell. The 22-year-old from Sydney switched from maths education to double math/computer science degree because she wanted to learn more about computer programming. 

“People think of computer science as this boring nerdy job where you sit and type all day, but to come up with a solution to a problem you’ve actually got to have the ability to think about how you’re going to solve it and come up with a creative solution.” 

Twenty-six-year-old Rebecca “Bugs” Nash completed a psychology degree before starting her computer science degree and says it has changed how she views having to work for a living. 

“This is something that I’m not only good at but something I love doing and it’s something I can do for a career while also enjoying myself.” 

Despite making the decision to retrain, Bugs hasn’t abandoned her knowledge and expertise in the field of psychology. She runs tutorials and is a research assistant at the University. She has also contemplated how one day she might be able to bring the two disciplines together to improve a computer’s facial recognition capabilities, for example. 

All three girls say the Google internship was an invaluable experience, having been able to work on real projects with Google’s full-time staff. Lauren says she was pleasantly surprised not to be thrown into a cliché, coffee-run internship. 

“I was amazed by how relevant the projects we worked on are. I thought I’d be making coffee for people or shadowing people but they actually just throw you into a project and ask you to do things an employed engineer would do.” 

Besides, Google has baristas to make coffee, Lauren adds. 

Google is famous for its creative and progressive workspaces. In Sydney, employees are encouraged to make use of the musical instruments and crafty materials on hand and are allowed time to work on their own pet projects. 

The company’s forward-thinking approach informs their recruitment strategies too. Alongside their core internship program, Google runs an internship specifically targeting people who represent minority groups within the industry - people with a disability, Indigenous people and LGBT members. Women too are categorised as a minority among computer scientists. 

“Women are a minority in all engineering fields,” Bugs says. 

Lauren can attest to that and commends Google for making the effort to make more opportunities for underrepresented groups but says “it’s quite devastating that women have to be included in that.”

 Rebecca has also noted there’s a shortage of women in computer science but she’s certain it’s not for a lack of ability. 

“Obviously I don’t think there’s any reason why women can’t do computer science, the jobs are creative, girls are smart.” 

“Traditionally, girls haven’t been encouraged to do this sort of work and maybe they think they can’t but clearly they can because myself, Lauren and Bugs can.”