From writing code to writing quizzes: the Google in Residence program embeds engineers in historically black colleges

The Google in Residence (GIR) program was created to support greater diversity in the tech industry. In partnership with computer science departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Googlers—experienced software engineers—spend four to five months on campuses, teaching introductory computer science classes. First-year students learn about basic coding and debugging, simple data structures, and how to work with large code bases. They also gain practical knowledge about what it’s like to work in the tech industry and what development is like in a team.

Scott Joseph, who’s been a Google software engineer for more than four years, went from writing code to writing quizzes and tests for 94 first-year students at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to holding daily office hours, Joseph encouraged his students— who came from many different cultures and backgrounds—to apply for Google internships and hosted mock interview sessions to help them prepare.

Setting students up for success and watching them excel made the experience rewarding for Joseph, who shared his favorite success story from his time at Howard:

One of my favorite students was a frequent visitor of office hours. Her major was not software-related, but she took the class to try computer science, and she was very eager to learn more and go deeper.

Our recent topic was recursion, which is known to be a pretty complicated concept for first-timers. It's similar to the solution to the Fibonacci sequence, but some of my students didn't do very well in math. She was struggling to grasp this concept, and it had been several days: She read the book, I explained the book in my own words, I tried a technique recommended by other GIR instructors. I was getting frustrated with myself because I was failing to teach recursion, and as a general rule, if one student doesn't understand it, multiply by three.

At some point, I decided to dig deep into my instincts and determine how I, Professor Joseph—it still feels weird knowing students called me that—would teach recursion. My solution was to draw a flowchart that resembled the stack trace's behavior. She immediately understood recursion! I said, ‘OK here's another problem, do this without my help.’ Ten minutes later, she had the correct answer! We were so happy, with big smiles on our faces.

And the impact of the GIR program isn’t just on the students. The engineers-turned-professors have carried their own lessons back to their work at Google.

Joseph holds monthly meetings with those in the 2015 cohort, where they discuss current events and topics like gender and race equality, and he’s gotten more involved in national conventions tied to diversity, such as the Grace Hopper Conference, which celebrates women in computing.

“You never really leave GIR,” Joseph said. “I've met with internal teams and prospective instructor candidates multiple times to ensure the program thrives and becomes known to Googlers as an important part of our culture.”

Google In Residence campuses

  • Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, AL
  • Dillard University, New Orleans, LA
  • Fisk University, Nashville, TN
  • Hampton University, Hampton, VA
  • Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
  • Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
  • Spelman College, Atlanta, GA
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN
  • Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA

Learn more about our diversity initiatives.

From writing code to writing quizzes: the Google in Residence program embeds engineers in historically black colleges

The Google in Residence (GIR) program was created to support greater diversity in the tech industry. In partnership with computer science departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Googlers—experienced software engineers—spend four to five months on campuses, teaching introductory computer science classes. First-year students learn about basic coding and debugging, simple data structures, and how to work with large code bases. They also gain practical knowledge about what it’s like to work in the tech industry and what development is like in a team.

Scott Joseph, who’s been a Google software engineer for more than four years, went from writing code to writing quizzes and tests for 94 first-year students at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to holding daily office hours, Joseph encouraged his students— who came from many different cultures and backgrounds—to apply for Google internships and hosted mock interview sessions to help them prepare.

Setting students up for success and watching them excel made the experience rewarding for Joseph, who shared his favorite success story from his time at Howard:

One of my favorite students was a frequent visitor of office hours. Her major was not software-related, but she took the class to try computer science, and she was very eager to learn more and go deeper.

Our recent topic was recursion, which is known to be a pretty complicated concept for first-timers. It's similar to the solution to the Fibonacci sequence, but some of my students didn't do very well in math. She was struggling to grasp this concept, and it had been several days: She read the book, I explained the book in my own words, I tried a technique recommended by other GIR instructors. I was getting frustrated with myself because I was failing to teach recursion, and as a general rule, if one student doesn't understand it, multiply by three.

At some point, I decided to dig deep into my instincts and determine how I, Professor Joseph—it still feels weird knowing students called me that—would teach recursion. My solution was to draw a flowchart that resembled the stack trace's behavior. She immediately understood recursion! I said, ‘OK here's another problem, do this without my help.’ Ten minutes later, she had the correct answer! We were so happy, with big smiles on our faces.

And the impact of the GIR program isn’t just on the students. The engineers-turned-professors have carried their own lessons back to their work at Google.

Joseph holds monthly meetings with those in the 2015 cohort, where they discuss current events and topics like gender and race equality, and he’s gotten more involved in national conventions tied to diversity, such as the Grace Hopper Conference, which celebrates women in computing.

“You never really leave GIR,” Joseph said. “I've met with internal teams and prospective instructor candidates multiple times to ensure the program thrives and becomes known to Googlers as an important part of our culture.”

Google In Residence campuses

  • Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, AL
  • Dillard University, New Orleans, LA
  • Fisk University, Nashville, TN
  • Hampton University, Hampton, VA
  • Howard University, Washington, D.C.
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
  • Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
  • Spelman College, Atlanta, GA
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN
  • Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA

Learn more about our diversity initiatives.