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2015 Black History Month Google Student Tribute: Robin McKinnie

Last week, we kicked off the Black History Month Student Tribute series by showcasing the amazing work Elizabeth Davis has done both on and off her college campus. This week we’re catching up with Robin, a member of our inaugural BOLD Discovery class and co-founder of The Village Micro Fund.

What’s one really awesome fact about you?

I’m one of those Southern kids who can trace their whole family’s history back to a few small towns. In fact, a good number of my older relatives live in the same towns and neighborhoods where my family has lived for generations. It seems small, but I’m grateful for being able to acknowledge my roots.

What are you most passionate about?

Community development as it pertains to building up neighborhoods and the people who live there. I was a community organizer my senior year of high school. The experience exposed me to the way neighborhoods and communities work and instilled in me the desire to serve and significantly impact others. In college, that drive extended to helping make structural change in communities and finding ways to build with struggling communities instead of giving back from a distance. Over time this has become something that drives me, not just a responsibility or something I derive happiness from.

You helped start a non-profit along with a few of your peers. Tell us about it and what motivated you guys to create it?

We’re creating platforms for people to invest in small business throughout Atlanta. We provide financial and consulting services to small business, primarily in distressed communities like the ones surrounding our school. Each of us has a strong conviction about using our interests in business and entrepreneurship to serve the community. Over time we realized the need to help communities (especially underserved black communities) become self-sustainable. Money has to circulate within a community for people who live there to feel its effect. So if every business in a neighborhood is a franchise, most of the money spent there won’t be reinvested in employment, infrastructure, and education for the people spending it. The Village Micro Fund became a way for us to give people the intellectual and financial resources to grow with their community.

Why do you think it’s important to give back to others?

I grew up with plenty of privileges and opportunities. At the same time, I have family members who were never able to enjoy some of the life experiences and opportunities that I have. I’ve learned to cherish what I have and make the most of every opportunity, and in the same vain, create as many opportunities for other people as I can.

Robin (far left) and his peers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Posted by Chastity Wells, Student Outreach team

2015 Black History Month Google Student Tribute: Elizabeth Davis

At Google, we value diversity and inclusion and support individuals who do the same. In this series, the Google University Programs team is celebrating diversity and honoring Black History Month by showcasing four of our student programs alumni who have done incredible things in their community. This week we’re catching up with Elizabeth Davis, who participated in our 2014 Summer Trainee Engineering Program (STEP) in Zurich.

It’s great to catch up with you again. What’s one of the most exciting things that has happened to you since we last featured you on the blog?
This past fall, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with Google to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference was an incredible experience for me as it was the first real chance I’ve had to connect with so many women of color in Computer Science. I was inspired by the thousands of women present who are not only techmakers themselves, but also passionate about supporting other women techmakers from all over the world. I left the conference with some phenomenal new mentors and friends.

Elizabeth at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, October 2014

Can you give us a quick recap of the Google Women in Engineering Mentorship Program you launched and how it has developed since your internship ended?
During my internship this past summer, I, along with another intern, saw the need to cultivate a stronger community for women at Google. We realized that female Nooglers (new Googlers) needed to feel supported as they began their careers. With that in mind, we worked with the president of Google Women in Engineering (GWE) in Google Zurich, and the Google Head of Diversity for EMEA and decided that our best approach to addressing this need would be to start a mentorship program that connected female Nooglers to experienced employees. We completed an incredibly successful cycle of the program at the Zurich office over the summer, and have actually expanded the program to two other offices: Munich and Krakow. At the end of the summer we also had the chance to talk to the Google Global Diversity and Inclusion Director Yolanda Mangolini who has helped us plan out how we can continue to expand the Google Women in Engineering Mentorship Program (GWE-MP) globally.

What other initiatives have you been working on since being back in school?
As a section leader for our introductory programming course, I have the opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate students who are trying out programming for the first time. This is a unique opportunity for me to not only help my students build a strong foundation in programming methodology and concepts, but also dispel any misconceptions they may have about the field and hopefully keep them involved in Computer Science.

I’m also involved in she++ which is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women in the technology industry. We are currently organizing our national #include Fellowship Program, which provides resources and support to high school students who want to start grassroots initiatives to increase Computer Science education in their local communities. Diversity is really important to me so I have also recently begun working with professors in the Stanford Computer Science Department to figure out how to increase the representation of Black and Hispanic students in the CS major.

Why do you think it’s important to give back to others?
Giving back and helping others in need is a huge part of my core values and beliefs. I want everyone to experience the opportunities I’ve had as well as the confidence to pursue their dreams without feeling like an outsider in a largely homogenous community, or feeling like an imposter due to stereotype threats or other factors. I believe everyone has their unique talents and is capable of so much, and I want people of every gender and race within the technology industry to feel confident and empowered.

For information on additional Google student programs, visit google.com/students/programs.

Posted by Maggie Hohlfeld, University Programs team