Four Oberlin computer science majors have accepted jobs from the tech giant while still in their senior year.
Sage Vouse ’19 has created a dashboard that tracks the number of days until she begins her job at Google—not that she’s counting.
The fourth-year computer science major accepted a job from the company while still in her senior year. That’s before some students start thinking about where they might apply for jobs.
When Vouse started school at Oberlin, she thought she would double major in biology and art history. But after being accepted to STRONG, a selective summer program for first-years designed to ensure success in STEM for women, Pell-eligible students, students of color, and students who are the first in their families to go to college, Vouse’s plans changed.
Through the STRONG program, she began working on projects for the computer science department. Midway through the summer, she began doing something she’d never tried before—coding. She soon found a home with students in computer science.
“The people I worked with were really nice,” says Vouse. “They offered to help plan out my entire computer science major and emboldened me to take Introduction to Computer Science, the first class in the major.”
But what cemented her commitment to this area of study was when Associate Professor and Chair of Computer Science Bob Geitz contacted her to discuss her academic plans. Reflecting on their conversation, Vouse laughs: “Bob sat me down and said, ‘What do you know about computer science, other than you’re good at it?’ That was the confidence I needed to decide to make computer science my major.”
For Rosie Kerwin ’19, a member of the women’s cross country and track and field teams, computer science wasn’t initially on her radar. She took a variety of classes her first year, and “computer science stuck.”
“The professor who taught Introduction to Computer Science pushed me to continue,” says Kerwin. “I really like the way you have to think. You might have a problem that you spend hours trying to solve, and finally, a light goes on. I love the way my brain has to process things.”
Kerwin, who’s beginning full-time work as a Google software engineer starting in August, is no stranger to the company. She completed two internships the summers before her sophomore and junior years, first in the Engineering Practicum and then through a software engineering internship where she worked with machine learning to improve processes.
“When thinking about the job, the most exciting thing for me is knowing how brilliant the engineers are. Even though I don’t know exactly what I’ll be working on when I begin, I know the people will be great and smart and helpful. It’s really exciting to be working on something that so many people in the world will see.”
Matt Banda ’19 and Isabel Taylor ’19 will be embarking on a slightly different path at the company: Google’s yearlong Engineering Residency Program. For two months, Google engineers will teach a small group how to code and work within the company’s frameworks; the following eight to ten months, those in the group will gain experience on various teams. After this, most in the program become full-time employees.
Both Banda and Taylor are looking forward to the learning opportunities and technical training the program offers.
“What excites me about this role is that it’s a smooth transition into the industry,” says Banda. “There are 30-35 other people in this program, so you get to be close friends with others, and you can get your bearings in the company. This is a really good opportunity to do that and be at a company I want to work for.’’
“I’m excited for the learning opportunities,” says Taylor. “Google’s culture emphasizes learning and teaching others, and I’m really attracted to that. I want to continue learning and exploring things beyond college.”
According to Jonah Berman ’03, site program manager at Google Cambridge, Oberlin students are attractive job candidates. "Google wants employees who think critically, are open-minded, and more than anything, believe in the ability to make positive change in the world through collective action. These qualities are a reflection of exactly the values that Oberlin instills in its students."
Banda reflects that Oberlin allowed him to uncover his interest in computer science because the college encourages exploration of a broad range of subjects. He came to school thinking he’d pursue a premed path. Then, he thought he’d prefer engineering. In the end, he discovered computer science.
“Oberlin kind of lets you naturally find a passion,” says Banda. “Once you figure it out, there are tons of resources. When I was looking for industry positions, I reached out to six or seven alums, and they all got back to me and gave me referrals to the companies they worked for. Oberlin’s alumni network is really great. Everyone wants you to succeed.”
When thinking about her experiences in computer science, Taylor says she appreciates not only the foundational knowledge that Oberlin provides, but also the support and encouragement she received from the computer science faculty. When she attended a computer science program abroad, it became apparent to her that Oberlin focuses on encouraging all kinds of students to explore computer science.
“I went to a computer science program abroad, and I got to interact with other students from liberal arts colleges. It became very clear to me that Oberlin professors in particular put a lot of effort into including and encouraging everyone to go into computer science and STEM fields. There’s a really big support network that secures funding for diversity conferences such as the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world's largest gathering of women technologists. If my professor haven’t mentioned Grace Hopper and encouraged me to go, I probably wouldn’t haven’t gone.”
The Google-bound students agree that the collaborative environment at the company seems very similar to what they experienced at Oberlin, and they’re glad about that.
“At Oberlin, computer science is very collaborative and not hypercompetitive,” says Banda. “You can talk to other students to see how they’ve solved problems, or you can sit in a professor’s office for an hour, and they’re happy to help. The ability to get answers and develop the intuition you need is very much available.”
“Google helped me understand how team culture works,” says Vouse. “I also really cherished this aspect of my time at Oberlin; everyone was focused on a collective experience, all learning one thing. When we worked together on class projects, it was very much about working together. It was never like, ‘I’m trying to defeat you.’ It was, ‘I know about this, let me teach you.’ I found that reflected in my work environment at Google and it was really productive.”
When thinking about her pursuit of computer science, Vouse is adamant that it’s something that everyone should at least dabble in.
“I always tell people that, no matter what they study here, they should take Introduction to Computer Science,” says Vouse. “I see people who have their majors, and they have their interests, but having that basic computer science knowledge helps you become a more independent, technical thinker, which is useful in every discipline.”
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