This article is one of a series of articles produced by Word in Black through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Word In Black is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.
By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Last week, the seventh annual Google Tech Exchange cohort held its closing ceremony at the company’s South Lake Union campus in Seattle.
The program, designed to prepare students of color and other underserved groups for careers in the technology industry, provides computer science skills and community through virtual classes, one-on-one mentoring with career planning support, Googlers, and milestone trips to Google offices.
Tech Exchange is a semester-long academic program for students majoring in Computer Science. Students learn applied computer science and problem-solving skills from Googlers and HBCU/HSI faculty and are paired with a mentor to help with professional development, building social capital and community.
This year’s cohort includes sophomore students from 11 HBCUs and five HSIs, including students from Howard University, The University of Texas at El Paso, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez. A full 45% of last year’s cohort received a Google software engineering internship offer for this upcoming summer. In total, 180 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) participated in the program.
“There is truly no program that does it better than Tech Exchange, and this is where corporations can actually put the time, effort, and resources into the development of our workforce,” says Ernest Holmes, Technical Program Manager on the Education and Equity team.
“For me personally, I have loved every second of going to an HBCU. Even the bad times when there were moments when I was like, ‘oooh, this is definitely a struggle,'” says Javon Ford, a sophomore at Morehouse College. “I don’t live life with regrets, I enjoy everything that I do, and I know every struggle that I go through will lead to my growth in the future.”
“In regard to Tech Exchange, there is a lot I want to do,” continued Ford. “In computer science, it seems like software engineering or bust, but now that I’ve learned a lot about other routes that aren’t the traditional routes, there are other things I want to try.”
Over 80% of students in this year’s cohort voted for Seattle as their preferred location for the program finale, citing Seattle’s position as a major tech hub. According to Axios, Seattle is the #1 most desired city for post-grads to live in. Seattle is also home to Google’s largest engineering hub outside of California’s Bay Area.
During their time in Seattle last week, the Tech Exchange cohort engaged in technical workshops, including those involving Project Starline, Machine Learning/AI, and metaprogramming. Students also took part in classic Seattle activities such as attending a Seattle Sounders game, visiting the Space Needle, and going on a boat cruise on Lake Union.
Aliya Byrd, a sophomore at Spelman College majoring in computer science, was part of this year’s cohort group and says that being part of the Tech Exchange program is changing her life for the better.
“I am honestly still shocked to be here,” says Byrd. “I’m really lucky to be a part of the Google Tech Exchange. Google is one of the leading companies in tech, so just to be a part of such a wonderful program that helps prepare me for a life outside of Spelman and helps me hone in on my technical skills is a really great opportunity. I have been super blessed.”
Tech Exchange participant Nicole Roman-Correa says that the program provided her with an opportunity to enhance her problem-solving abilities, skills as a software engineer, and gave her the confidence to succeed.
“Before joining the Google Tech Exchange Program, I would hesitate to apply for opportunities merely because I was afraid of failing interviews,” said Roman-Correa, a rising junior at University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. “Not only did I feel that I lacked knowledge in important technical areas, but I also lacked the confidence required to confront these interviews that many in my field consider intimidating. Through the Google Tech Exchange Program, I was able to truly understand and apply the skills of a software engineer, fortifying my programming, communication, and problem-solving abilities. Now, I feel much more prepared to tackle my career professionally and academically.”
Holmes expressed his satisfaction with the success of the Tech Exchange, stating that they were able to provide the support and encouragement that the students needed to lift their voices, be seen, and develop a deeper sense of belonging.
“We’re thrilled to see the continued growth of Tech Exchange since its launch six years ago,” said Holmes. “This year’s cohort is the largest and most diverse to date. We aim to ensure the students feel seen, supported, and engaged by the Google community. At the end of the program, students tell us they feel more confident in their abilities as programmers and that they have developed a deeper sense of belonging in the industry.”
With the closing ceremony of the seventh annual Google Tech Exchange cohort, another successful year comes to an end. The program continues to make significant strides in bridging the gap for underrepresented groups in the technology sector. By providing invaluable resources, mentorship, and exposure to the tech industry, Tech Exchange is empowering students and equipping them with the skills and confidence they need to thrive in their future careers.