Day 5 of Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley

This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 5

And so to Google for Day 5.

We arrive at their new campus for a talk from women Googlers about their work and career paths. A diverse group with equally diverse experiences. There was a site reliability engineer, someone responsible for technical writing and one software engineer who was working on how to make Google more accessible to the blind but they all had opportunities to rotate jobs and try out new areas. It was clear that they found this very rewarding and it contributed to the collaborative nature of the work at Google, with multidisciplinary teams changing and reforming for new challenges.

One Googler said she “liked how she got to use her brain,” and enjoyed crafting and making things.The girls learned about the interview process, which didn’t seem as strenuous as it is often portrayed. Their advice was to keep talking and trying to solve the technical problem you are presented with. A bit like showing your working out.

We then heard from the irrepressible Mike Rubin, a software engineer with responsibility for security. His talk took in a broad sweep from specific security issues to general careers advice and grappled with many ethical problems along the way. Perhaps the best advice was, “No one care as much about your career as you do.”

Finally we heard from the Google Doodlers. Two women who are responsible for the amusing and often thought provoking doodles above the search box. One was an artist and the other a software engineer and they explained, with Doodle examples, the process they went through to choose, design and build the Google Doodle.

Another great example of problem solving and collaboration. They can take from 6- 12 months and grow from 110 lines of code to 3000 lines. Of particular interest was the importance to prepare a proof of concept before embarking on a new Doodle. Such an approach is clearly applicable in many projects but is rarely followed or indeed taught to students. I think we will be attempting to change this back at Townley. Some comments from our students; “It was amazing to talk to the people whose doodles I have used so much and to understand the surprisingly long process behind them.” –  Anna.

“The girls were so cool and just loved what they were doing…They also made jokes about the bad things about their team but I loved that…It made them real.” – Shaunte

Top tips from the Googlers; make friends since they know what you don’t; learn new skills to pay the bills; put the user first; and finally, be brave.

There was then time for a fantastic Google lunch and a visit to the Google store for souvenirs.

This visit has raised many questions for the girls so far.

 “What makes these places so special?”

 What are the required skills and qualities for being successful in the Tech Companies?”

And of real relevance for the Townley girls, “what are the opportunities and challenges for women?”

Tomorrow we visit NetApp, where perhaps we can begin to consider such questions. 

Girls pic Grammar school.jpg