As tech companies continue to share diversity statistics with the public, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to do to boost inclusion in tech. Yet, people of color are working at some of the largest companies in technology even though their numbers are few. Google’s latest diversity stats show that 2% of its workforce is black. Meet three successful, black Google engineers:
Profiling Three Black Google Engineers
Clennita Justice is a Senior Engineering program manager. She’s been at Google more than half a decade.
She was hired to launch Google e-books, which became Google Play Books. Now, she does user research and Product Excellence–a focus on making the right product for the right user–part of Google’s shift in culture from launching to adopting. Justice’s particular area of focus is infrastructure.
Originally from Los Angeles, Justice has a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Howard University. She pursued a degree in Computer Science before the Internet was ubiquitous and before the big push to get women and girls interested in STEM, and despite the insistence of her uncle (who worked for IBM) that she study business.
A pivotal moment in her life was when someone in the Computer Science department at her university said he didn’t think she would stay in Computer Science. Not only did she stay and complete her degree, but she received the best job offer of anyone in her class.
Justice is a strong believer in self-educating. She also advises, “Anyone who gets into tech has to be a constant learner. That’s how you stay relevant.”
Aggrey Jacobs is a software engineer for Google Play; specifically, he works on Google Play Books for iPhone and iPad applications. His typical day is spent mostly coding, although he also engages in general problem solving for iOS at Google and also helps bring more users on board.
Prior to Google, Jacobs worked as an iOS developer at Western Digital. How the 28-year-old ended up working for two of the most prestigious technology companies is interesting. Jacobs says he never really knew what he wanted to do, and that his father was the one who suggested he study computer engineering. Jacobs’ father’s own computer experience is limited to playing Solitaire on the computer, according to Jacobs, who says, “Who knows?” how his father had the knowledge to direct him to that career.
During his first semester in school, Jacobs learned Java programming. He ended up double-majoring in both computer and electrical engineering.
The Brooklyn native says a pivotal point in his life was when he was contemplating graduate school. He went, but dropped out, because he was “trying to figure out what to do.”
Jacobs relocated to California to search for a job. It was there that Google reached out to him and he was hired, although he didn’t see himself getting through the interview process.
He now encourages other people of color to apply at Google. He says lack of exposure and intimidation can prevent some from applying at the company. By the way, he still speaks often with his father.
Travis McPhail, PhD. is a Senior Software Engineer and Tech Lead at Google who works with Google Maps.
He was hired to rebuild the technical infrastructure for Google Maps on Android around the time that Apple launched Apple Maps. Travis is currently a lead on Google’s next-generation 2D/3D spatial rendering library for Google products and APIs across all platforms.
McPhail believes the future of Google is through geospatial rendering applications that will allow people to be informed of the world around them.
He credits his career in software engineering to being “a bad kid” who “used to break a lot of things at home.” Fortunately, instead of “strangling him,” his father bought him a Commodore 64 computer when he was just five years old.
He had a natural affinity for technology from the start. His father challenged him to learn to use the computer, and McPhail says he started to “bang away on it.”
Travis left home in Dallas to double major in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Rice University in Houston, TX. He would later complete his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Rice contributing to the specials effect, biomedical, gaming communities.
Dr. McPhail would later work with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Schlumberger, and IHS before moving to California and joining Google. He strives to help people move toward their calling and encourages more people of color to take advantage of every opportunity and ” not accept limitations placed on us.”