When I joined Google a decade ago, there was hardly any discussion of diversity in tech. This was long before we published our diversity numbers or understood how important it was for our workforce to reflect the diversity of our users. This was also long before we started formally recruiting from Howard University, a historically Black institution.
Bonita Stewart with Dr. Wayne Frederick at Googleplex in Mountain View, CA (credit: Google)
Howard happens to be my alma mater, so I am especially proud to share that our formal recruiting from the university has evolved into a residency for Black CS majors right here at the Googleplex. “Howard West” is now the centerpiece of Google’s effort to recruit more Black software engineers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)-and to make them feel right at home here in Mountain View.
One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from acclaimed management consultant Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” This is exactly the thinking behind Howard West, as the program is a way to manifest a future that reflects the values of diversity and inclusion Google has held since day one. With a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together, I can only imagine what incredible innovation and creativity will come to light.
Rising juniors and seniors in Howard’s computer science program can attend Howard West, a dedicated space at Google, for three months at a time.Senior Google engineers and Howard faculty will serve as instructors. The program kicks off this summer and we plan to scale it to accommodate students from other HBCUs in the near future.
HBCUs are a pillar in the computer science (CS) education community, producing more than a third of all Black CS graduates in the U.S. Google already has a strong partnership with Howard through Google in Residence (GIR), a program that embeds Google engineers as faculty at Howard and other HBCUs.
Through GIR we’ve learned a lot about the hurdles Black students face in acquiring full-time work in the tech industry. The lack of exposure, access to mentors and role models are critical gaps that Howard West will solve. We’ve also heard that many CS students struggle to find the time to practice coding while juggling a full course load and part-time jobs. Left unchecked, systematic barriers lead to low engagement and enrollment in CS, low retention in CS programs and a lack of proximity and strong relationships between the Silicon Valley, HBCUs and the larger African American Community.
“Howard West will produce hundreds of industry-ready Black computer science graduates, future leaders with the power to transform the global technology space into a stronger, more accurate reflection of the world around us. We envisioned this program with bold outcomes in mind – to advance a strategy that leverages Howard’s high quality faculty and Google’s expertise, while also rallying the tech industry and other thought leaders around the importance of diversity in business and the communities they serve.”– Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University
During my time at Howard, I worked side-by-side with future lawyers, doctors, writers, entertainers, architects and business leaders. The spirit of total possibility put me on my path to Harvard Business School and ultimately Google. Howard West will continue Howard’s tradition of providing unprecedented access to opportunity, only now with a presence in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Written by Bonita Stewart, VP, Global Partnerships