If you’re reading this and you have a family and a college education, chances are good that at some point, you’ll help your kids with career and networking advice if you haven’t already. For Tianna, a freshman at SUNY Albany with an interest in computer science and graphic design, that’s just not her reality. Her mom is an immigrant from Jamaica who’s a single parent and a laundromat clerk. Tianna is a supremely talented artist with a radiant smile and a unwavering sense of optimism. This week, Google opened its doors to Tianna and her fellow students from Campus Bound Scholars (CBS), a nonprofit that provides mentoring, financial support and dorm supplies to first gen students from Ossining, Mount Kisco, Mount Vernon, and other towns in Westchester, NY. Google Product Manager Jeremy Sussman collaborated with CBS Executive Director Amy Peck to plan the afternoon, which included a tour of Google’s sprawling, colorful Chelsea, NYC location, a panel program with a slate of diverse speakers sharing career advice, and one-on-one networking sessions with students matched with Google employees or ‘Googlers’. (I’m a mentor and board member with CBS, so was lucky enough to attend.) Google’s physical space is memorable, with its micro kitchens, game rooms, scooter lanes, Hudson River views and conference rooms named ‘Danger Will Robinson’ and ‘Hot Chocolate’. The layout somehow strikes both a playful and serene balance for work to be done. What will be most memorable for CBS students (who attend colleges and universities including SUNY Albany and Buffalo, Barnard, Princeton, NYU and Ithaca College) though, was the generosity and golden nuggets of wisdom shared by Googlers about knowing one’s unique value, defeating the imposter syndrome and building a professional network when you’re from a world where you truly have to start from scratch. (“We want to hear from you again in a month!,” one Googler warned the students with a huge smile.) So thank you, Google! And if you’re an employer with an interest in sharing information or mentoring, or just talking to first gen students about what it’s like to work in a particular industry, please contact us!
Carroll Welch, CBS Mentor, Board of Directors