Received Google Women Techmaker ScholarshipūüėĄ: Insights and Tips

As part of Google’s ongoing commitment to advancing computing and technology, Google provides scholarships to encourage students to excel in their studies and become leaders. Through the Women Techmakers Scholars Program (formerly the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Program), Google is furthering Dr. Anita Borg’s vision of creating gender equality in the field of computer science by encouraging women to excel in computing and technology and become role models in the field. A group of female undergraduate and graduate students will be chosen from the applicant pool, and scholarships will be awarded, based on the strength of each candidate’s academic background and demonstrated leadership and impact on community.

Personally, I am very proud and humbled to be selected as a Google Women Techmaker Scholar this year. It is great to find someone who believes in you!! Receiving this scholarship has given me a new air of confidence and empowerment; and I am very grateful for such an amazing opportunity. Thank you Women Techmakers for that.

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Below I am happy to share with you how my journey has started with the scholarship and some tips to help you when you consider applying for next year’s scholarship.

How did I learn of this opportunity?

I learned more about Women Techmaker’s Scholars Program through one of the HCC Fika meetings that is offered at the Interactive Systems Research Center (ISRC) at UMBC. The Fika is a program offering graduate students and/or undergrad students, who are interested in the program, an opportunity to chat openly with peers and HCC group faculty in a comfortable setting.

The topics for meetings vary greatly and range from brainstorming, discussing relevant literature/news/trends, helping with study design, discussing future career plans, discussing data analysis or data collection methods, or helping with a practice talk. One meeting focused on student reflections about the Google Scholars Retreat. During that session, one of HCC PhD students who had received the Womens Techmaker Scholarship for 2016, Erin Buehler, spoke.

During the meeting, Erin talked about her personal experiences, enjoyment of the program and how to apply. That was when I first heard about Women Techmakers and thought it was interesting. As Erin continued with her speech, I learned about her impressive list of publications along with her involvement at prestigious conferences. While I was almost at my first year of my PhD, I was really hesitant to apply, questioning if I was ready.

At that point, I remember looking at websites of former scholars and seeing their amazing and outstanding achievements. At that point, I felt somewhat discouraged and questioned why they would select me or consider me eligible.

However, the next year, after I passed my PhD comprehensive exam I took the courage to apply. I am so glad that I made such a life changing decision. The experience of applying has taught me a lot and most importantly, it allowed me to reflect on my prior and current experiences and how I can envision myself in the future. It also encouraged me to take the first step toward understanding more about myself, step out of my comfort zone, and challenge myself to apply for this opportunity.

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:

  • Identify as female
  • Currently be enrolled at an accredited university for the 2017‚Äď2018 academic year
  • Intend to be enrolled in or accepted as a full-time student in a Bachelors, Masters or PhD program at a university in the United States or Canada for the 2018‚Äď2019 academic year
  • Be studying computer science, computer engineering or a closely related technical field
  • Demonstrate a strong academic record
  • Exemplify leadership and demonstrate passion for increasing the involvement of women in computer science

Application requirements:

  • General background information (includes contact information and information about your current and intended institutions)
  • Current resume
  • Academic transcripts from your current and prior institutions (if you have earned a prior degree)
  • Two letters of reference from a professor, instructor, adviser or supervisor
  • Responses to four essay questions

The four essay questions:

  1. What sparked your interest in computer science? How did this lead you to major in computer science and what do you hope to accomplish with your degree? In your answer, please describe how your experiences have influenced the goals you have for yourself.
  2. Please give us 1‚Äď2 examples of how you have exhibited leadership. Explain how you were influential, what you were trying to achieve and the impact you had as a result. These need not be demonstrated through formal or traditional leadership roles. Think broadly and examine the many ways you are having an effect on the members of your technical community, your university, or your broader community.
  3. Imagine that as a Women Techmakers scholar, you are given the opportunity to speak to a group of female first year computer science students to encourage them to pursue their study in the field. They want to know what is exciting and interesting about computer science, and are specifically interested in hearing about your experiences and accomplishments. With this audience in mind, please describe the most significant computer science project or research you have worked on, how you approached key technical challenges, and what you gained from the experience. It might have been a class assignment, a research project or work as an intern. If the project was team-based, help them understand what it’s like to work on a team by specifying your individual role and contributions in the project.
  4. What impact would be receiving this scholarship have on your education? Describe any circumstances affecting your need for a scholarship and what educational goals will this scholarship enable you to accomplish.

My insights and tips:

  • What makes your application shining!! Two main elements that would make your applications stand out are 1) showing your passion of empowering other women in technology and 2) showing how your technical projects and community involvement are impactful. Your resume and essays have to show evidence of that.
  • Start early!!! I believe the two main requirements that took some preparation are answering the essay questions and reaching out to at least two faculty members who you feel are close enough to you and will best able to provide great recommendation letters for you. For sure, your resume should be built on different things that share your journey in tech and how passionate you are in supporting others towards increasing the women participation in the field.
  • Be yourself!! When you really talk honestly about yourself, your story will somehow reach the right person and they will feel it, connect with it. I was hesitant at first, as I do not fit into the typical ‚Äútech‚ÄĚ stereotype. I am not a techie geek or the kid who got my first computer during early childhood, or knew what my major would be early on. Instead my first access to the internet happened when I was in high school. You can also make such a connection as to what experiences and choices lead you into majoring in computer science or a related field. For example, how I got in the field was my desire to know more about the internet and how search engines and online communities worked; so that played a significant role in my decision to major in Information Systems.
  • Everyone has their own unique story and that is what makes each of us amazing and different. Show the world how amazing you are!! As human beings we tend to be critical of ourselves. You need to show how great you are and be confident in answering the essay questions. You may find it helpful to talk to you peers who trust you and mentors who see greatness in who you are! Sometimes it just takes someone to see something in you, to show YOU what‚Äôs possible. I am forever grateful for those people in my life. Don‚Äôt underestimate yourself, you need to tell people what you do and to be noticed.

Thank You

A big Thank You to everyone who helped me through my journey!!!! I hope this blog helps someone who is sitting behind the screen and considering going for this opportunity.

Below I’ve provided some references that may help you in the application process. Also, if you have any questions, I will be very happy to help in any way I can. Contact me through this link.

Some useful resources:

 

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Participated at ArabWIC 2017 Conference

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It has been a wonderful experience attending the ArabWIC 5th Annual International conference on Arab Women in Computing at the American University of Beirut (AUB) on August 10 to 12th, 2017.  The Arab Women In Computing Association (ArabWIC) mission is to support, inspire, retain, encourage collaboration among, increase visibility of and help elevate the status of Arab women in computing from the various computing/technology sectors(academia, industry and entrepreneurship), and allow them to achieve their career goals. The group was founded by Sana Odeh, a Clinical Professor at the Computer Science Department, New York University, and Kaoutar El Maghraoui, a Research Scientist at IBM.

The conference schedule had inspiring talks and events which included keynote speakers, panels, technical research talks and workshops, students research posters, applied technology workshops and lightning talks, career, mentoring and coaching workshops, hackathon, and career and technology fair. There were 500 attendees from across the globe.  My participation involved four different roles:

1. First, I assisted in the organizing committee for the conference. I served as a member at research committee where I helped to review papers and poster submission. Also, I worked on social media strategies for the event and virtual community building.

2.¬†Second, I participated at a panel discussion on “women in computing/technology in Academia and Industry, challenges and opportunities” where I shared my experience as a graduate student and researcher in¬†an applied computing field.

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3. I have also participated in a Design Thinking Workshop organized by the IBM team (Joud Odeh & Susan Malaika). The process of Design Thinking is a client-centric approach to problem solving that aims to simply and humanize with the use of 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. This workshop aimed to design thinking for ArabWIC chapters. The question we solved was how to improve ArabWIC members experience in Saudi Arabia and more particularly in technical events and hackathons.

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4. At the end of the conference, I have presented an overview of¬†our ArabWIC Saudi Chapter¬†¬†activities and achievements for the last two years. Here is the slides of the presentation.¬†In the annual awards ceremony, our chapter was recognized as the best chartered ArabWIC Chapter for 2017.ūüŹÜ¬† It is a tremendous honor to receive the most best chartered ArabWIC Chapter¬†!!!!!

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Completed a Summer Internship at John Hopkins

I’ve the pleasure of having a¬†summer research experience under the supervision of¬†Dr. Casey Overby at¬†Johns Hopkins Medicine. ¬†The group of researchers I worked with explored user-centered¬†tools for communicating big data in healthcare.¬†¬†With the¬†growing number of clinical practice guidelines in precision medicine, updating these guidelines requires an involvement of¬†multiple stakeholders. That would be a time consuming process.¬†Mitigating this challenge requires developing computerized tools in order to¬†maintain high quality and relevant updates¬†in a timely manner.‚ÄĮ This project is under a grant proposal aims to improve the decision support for communicating genomic data.¬†¬†

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Organized a Q&A Chat on Twitter

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Around the beginning of Summer 2017, I co-organized with my friend, Aseel¬†Addawood, a¬†Twitter Q&A session under the topic ‚ÄúSummer is around the corner: how to improve your technical skills through self learning‚ÄĚ. ¬†¬†This Q&A session was hosted online¬†in Twitter with the hashtag #AskArabWIC on June 11th for one hour at 10pm Saudi Time.

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The session hosted five panelists with a variety of backgrounds. Here is the list of panelists:

  1. Ahad Aljarf, PhD РPhD in Steganography | Cofounder of @Re7latAltaghier and @qyamk
  2. Salaha Alzahrani, PhD Р Vice-Dean of Postgraduate Studies at Taif University| Advisory Board of @ArabWIC_KSA
  3. Nour Alkhalil РService Delivery Manager at Bayt.com|VP of Technology at ArabWIC |Website Coordinator at @ArabWIC_KSA
  4. Ohoud Alshwkani РComputer programmer at KKU_IT | Ambassador at @ArabWIC_KSA
  5. Walaa Alshuail РSystem Engineer |Founder of SpaceHubs.net |Ambassador at @ArabWIC_KSA

The panelists have shared their experiences in professional development, describing learning resources and providing recommendations for the audience on ways to develop capacity in technical domains. This online Q&A panel was well received in our local community, with a great deal of interaction from the attendees on social media. You can follow the coverage of the chat on the hashtag: #AskArabWIC.

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Organized & Participated at a Reflections on #CHI2017

I attended my first CHI in Denver, Co. ¬†I’ve learned many and different things and I feel like I’ve grown both personally and professionally.ūüėÄ My @ArabWIC_KSA¬†team organized an online meeting¬†to share our #CHI2017 experiences.

I am very excited to arrange and participate in a Webinar on #CHI2017 reflections to shed light on experiences of CHI attendees and presenters. You can join us on May 25 at 11 am EST.

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