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Meet the young women pursuing their dreams with Google’s Code Next

Illustration by  Rose JaffeWhen Cassie Areff was a kid, she enjoyed spending time coding with her dad. “I liked making mini games in Scratch, and then I transitioned into programming my computer to play card games against me.” Fast forward to today, Cassie is part of a cohort of students that just completed Google’s Code Next,…

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Illustration by  Rose Jaffe

When Cassie Areff was a kid, she enjoyed spending time coding with her dad. “I liked making mini games in Scratch, and then I transitioned into programming my computer to play card games against me.” Fast forward to today, Cassie is part of a cohort of students that just completed Google’s Code Next, a free computer science education program for Black and Latinx high schoolers. 

We recently took some time to talk to Cassie, as well as two other student engineers — Jelyse Williams and BrookeLynn Acevedo — to learn more about their experiences as coders and their plans for the future.

What is it like being a young woman in coding?

BrookeLynn: It’s both isolating and empowering. It can be discouraging to look around and see you’re one of the only women — or the only woman — in the room. As you become more experienced, the number of women around you goes down. But it’s also something I’m proud of. I’m helping to close the gender gap in coding and showing others I’m not afraid to learn, and I hope other women will be inspired to do the same.

Jelyse: Knowing there are so few young women in code inspires me to try to get more young women interested. From every shortcut to every
(coded line break), knowing how to code is a fundamental skill. If more young women start to code, more diverse ideas and tools will be introduced that serve us. 

What advice would you give to young women of color who are interested in careers in coding?

BrookeLynn: Don’t hesitate to apply for things you’re interested in — even if you have no experience or if you feel you have “no chance.” There are so many wonderful opportunities with STEM I missed out on because I was afraid to apply.  

I wasn’t going to apply to Code Next because I thought I wasn’t qualified. Look at me now! Applying is scary, especially when you’re in the minority, but you just need to get out there and try. 

Cassie: If you’re thinking about Code Next, join! It’s such an amazing opportunity to meet other students interested in computer science in a supportive environment, and learn things you aren’t usually taught in high school classes. The coaches and mentors are also amazing resources.

Also, never let imposter syndrome prevent you from pursuing something. Don’t underestimate your abilities! Take risks that help you to learn and grow. Find a supportive community in your classes and organizations. Finally, embrace your mistakes and failures because they allow you to improve, and push you to better understand the concepts you’re exploring.

Jelyse: Never give up. In this predominantly white, male field, we are needed. Representation matters, but what you do in this field matters even more. Go change the world in your own way, for the better! 

What are you most proud of?

Jelyse: That I never gave up. When I started Code Next, I was seriously bad at code. It seemed like everyone around me was excelling, and I was not. At first, I didn’t know how to voice my dilemmas, but my coaches helped me figure out how to ask for help and understand that we all learn at different paces. 

BrookeLynn: I had never taken a “real” coding class before and had virtually no experience in coding or tech careers beforehand. There were a number of times where I struggled with Code Next and the material provided, but I fought through it and not only did the work, but I did it and understood it. That persistence fills me with pride.

What motivates you? What gets you excited?

Cassie: I’m always excited to learn and problem solve. I love discussing ideas with others, and synthesizing ideas to create solutions. I enjoy doing puzzles, and see code as an outlet to use logic to creatively solve problems.

BrookeLynn: My future is what gets me excited and motivated. There’s nothing more valuable than the present, so I am trying to preserve it while also thinking towards the future. I’m working really hard now so I can build a bright future and am able to pay back all those who have shown me kindness. 

Jelyse: I want to inspire people to do things for the better. Working towards this goal, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same, gets me excited. 

Code Next lit a fire within these young women and helped them advance their coding skills while providing a supportive community. Applications to be part of the next Code Next cohort are open now for any student entering 9-12 grade in the United States.  For more information and to apply, visit Code Next.

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Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents,…

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I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.

When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.

These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don’t think about invisible disabilities, but it’s equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I’m incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.

Having a disability doesn’t limit me, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I’ve achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.

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Office spotlight: Chicago

“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the…

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“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.

Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the West Loop neighborhood has now grown to more than 1,800 employees across two buildings. In 2021 alone, more than 500 “Nooglers” — what we call new employees — joined the campus.

Chicago Googlers work on all kinds of products and teams. You’ll meet engineers designing Pixel devices and working on Search, Ads and Cloud projects; salespeople helping businesses across North America grow; and folks working across finance, human resources and product management. “It’s amazing to now see all the different organizations and product areas represented in Chicago,” says Britton Picciolini, who was the office’s tenth hire in 2002. “It feels like such a great cross section of what we do at Google.”

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Building a secure world

Securing users in Ukraine and the broader regionAs the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolded, Google mobilized to help the people of Ukraine and protect the security of our users and services – an area where we are uniquely positioned to help in this conflict.We have our own specialized teams dedicated to identifying, tracking, and countering…

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Securing users in Ukraine and the broader region

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolded, Google mobilized to help the people of Ukraine and protect the security of our users and services – an area where we are uniquely positioned to help in this conflict.

We have our own specialized teams dedicated to identifying, tracking, and countering threats from government-backed actors.

Russia-backed hacking and influence operations are not new to us; we’ve been tracking and taking action against them for years. To put this into perspective, we’ve seen and worked to disrupt Russian operations targeting the U.S. elections in 2016 and 2017 and campaigns targeting the 2018 Olympic games. In October, we blocked a Russian campaign targeting 14,000 Google users.

And we’ve seen first hand the targeting of Ukraine by Russia. It has been ongoing for years with both espionage and occasional cyber attacks tracked by our teams. As the war intensified, we also saw Russian threat actors shift focus to targets elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Our Threat Analysis Group (TAG), regularly publishes details on campaigns it detects, and disrupts these efforts to help governments and private sector companies better defend their systems.

We’ve seen threat actors beyond Russia shift their focus and targeting, including a growing number of threat actors using the war as a lure in phishing and malware campaigns. This includes government-backed actors from China, Iran, North Korea, Belarus and financially-motivated, criminal actors using current events as a means for targeting users.

For example, we’ve seen one cyber crime group impersonating military personnel to extort money for rescuing relatives in Ukraine.

In addition to disrupting threats, we are doing everything we can to increase protections for high risk users and organizations in Ukraine. We’ve redoubled our efforts to offer free tools to help – including protecting hundreds of high risk users on the ground with our Advanced Protection Program, and expanding eligibility of Project Shield to include the Ukraine government. Shield is currently protecting over 200 websites in Ukraine from distributed denial of service attacks.

It is in this spirit of action that we are expanding our partnerships and investment in the broader region on cybersecurity.

In fact, this week a delegation of our top security engineers and leaders are on the ground across Eastern Europe to provide hands-on training to high risk groups, deliver security keys and support local businesses as they look to improve their security posture.

To share what we know about the threat, we are engaging in technical exchanges with governments in the region.

We’re providing free tools and expertise to democratic institutions and civil society, such as the Protect Your Democracy Toolkit — which we launched today in partnership with our Jigsaw team.

We’re also investing in, and shaping, the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. For example, Google has committed to provide scholarships for 150,000 people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa through the new Google Career Certificate training.

We’re also helping governments and businesses stay ahead of the threat, including helping government agencies, companies and utilities who rely on outdated hardware and software to replace old systems with better foundations and we are here to build up businesses and governments’ confidence to embrace digital transformation securely.

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