Women Techmakers Scholarship, previously known as Google Anita Borg Scholarship, is an initiative to further Dr. Anita Borg’s mission to create gender equality in the fields of science and technology.
Scholarships are invited each year from three different regions:
- North America
- Europe, the Middle East and Africa
- Asia Pacific
This year, I was one of the 75 scholars from all over Asia Pacific to receive the prestigious scholarship. Here is an account of my experiences, intermingled with a few tips here and there. I hope to be of use to prospective applicants and the women in technology community in general.
Humble Beginnings: I have been a part of the Women Techmakers community for a long while now. An active member on the Slack channel, I made sure to extend help and reach out to fellow members. I was surprised at how well all the women I interacted with reciprocated; it is indeed a wonderful community anyone should be inspired to join. I applied to a couple of IWD Summits on the Women Techmakers website in 2017, and I got selected to attend the one in Sydney. However, I could not go due to some personal reasons. Nevertheless, this is where it all started.
I came to know about the scholarship through a few of my seniors, and I’m really grateful for their efforts in making us aware of opportunities coming our way.
The Application: I remember working on my application while interning in Hyderabad. It was hard for me to collect my thoughts into consolidated paragraphs right away, so I started listing out all the points I needed to include in my application a week before I finally submitted.
The application portal requires the submission of a CV (It is advised to keep it updated, with a concise view of your technical skills, achievements, projects and internships. I did include a short list of my leadership and extra-curriculars in a separate section, which I thought might be relevant to the scholarship process).
The next part of the application is submitting the answers to 3–4 essay questions. Since your technical skills and achievements are already covered in the CV, this step aims to explore your leadership qualities in the domain of empowering women in technology, the challenges you have faced as a woman in STEM, and what future initiatives you have in mind that you would like to carry out given the hypothesis that you’d be funded by Google.
I stuck to word limits. Whether this is a good practice is debatable, but I guess it worked out for me. I went back to each and every sentence and asked myself, is this necessary? Could this sentence be shortened to a more effective way of conveying the same expression? And I sure did find a lot of redundancies. I believe a clean and crisp application, not excessively verbose, has the best impact. Again, my two cents.
The Interview: I was overjoyed to learn I had cleared the first step. The next step was the interview round. This is a non-technical interview conducted by a Google engineer, that went on for about 30 minutes. It is advised to go through your résumé and your essay questions beforehand, and get them clear in your head before the phone call.
The Selection: I finally received a confirmation that I am selected for the scholarship, in July. With almost equal amounts of excitement, surprise, disbelief and frantic calling-up-my-best-friend, I made it to work that morning.
Along with the scholarship amount, all scholars are invited to a retreat at a Google office in their region. This time, the retreat was held at Campus Seoul, South Korea. WhatsApp and Facebook groups were created almost instantaneously, and I got to virtually interact with all the amazing scholars I was to meet the next month.
The retreat, a 4-day event, included a jam-packed schedule with various seminars and talks by a diverse Google team, hands-on sessions, CV building and personal branding workshops, and tons of opportunity to explore Korean culture (well, we hardly slept the week to make time for shopping, eating and backpacking). I learned a good deal about K-pop, khimchi and the origins of Gangnam style!
Every scholar has a story- the retreat allows us all to cherish and relive personal moments and share experiences that help build each other up.
The Takeaway: Be sure to give your best shot at it, it is definitely a life-changing experience. The scholarship opens doors to some amazing opportunities ahead. Keep yourself posted on Women Techmakers events, take a shot at securing a scholarship for Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, try for internships.
But most importantly, be sure to give back. Genuinely help fellow women in technology, motivate your juniors to code, speak to students about relevant openings and positions, disseminate ideas and knowledge, take tutorials, share things, support one another.
It always pays back. Even if it doesn’t, it feels great.