Google Cloud for Higher Education with Laurie White and Aaron Yeats

On the podcast this week, our guests Laurie White and Aaron Yeats talk with Stephanie Wong and Kelci Mensah about higher education and how Google Cloud is helping students realize their potential. As a former educator, Laurie has seen the holes in tech education and, with the help of Google, is determined to aid faculty and students in expanding learning to include cloud education as well as the standard on prem curriculum. Aaron and Laurie work together toward this goal with programs like their Speaker Series.

Laurie’s approach involves supporting faculty as they design courses that incorporate cloud technologies. With the busy lives of students today, she recognizes that the best way to get the information into the hands of students is through regular coursework, not just through elective activities outside the regular classroom.

Aaron’s work with students and student organizations rounds out their support of higher education learning. He facilitates the creation of student clubs that use Cloud Skills Boost, a program in which students navigate full pathways as they learn the skills they need to create and manage cloud builds. Soon, Aaron will offer hack-a-thons that encourage students to attend weekend events to work together on passion projects outside of regular classwork.

Our guests talk more about the specifics of Google Cloud Higher Education Programs and the importance of incorporating certifications into the higher education learning process. Aaron talks about expanding the program and his hopes for reaching out to more schools and students and Laurie talks about the funding for students and how Google Cloud’s system of credits for students enables them to use real cloud tools without a credit card. Laurie and Aaron tell us fun stories about past student successes, conference interactions, and hack-a-thon projects that went well.

Laurie White

Laurie taught CS in higher ed for over 30 years where her biggest frustration was trying to keep the curriculum up with the field. She thought she was retiring seven years ago but got the call from Google to a job where she could help faculty around the world keep their curriculum up with cloud computing, so here she is.

Aaron Yeats

Aaron Yeats has been working in education outreach for two decades. His work in education has included Texas government education programs including public health, non-profit advocacy, and education.

Cool things of the week
  • How Wayfair is reaching MLOps excellence with Vertex AI blog
  • Hidden gems of Google BigQuery blog
  • Google Cloud Innovators site
  • Google Cloud and Apollo24|7: Building Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) together blog
  • Google Cloud Higher Education Programs site
  • Google Cloud Speaker Series site
  • Google Cloud Skills Boost site
  • CSSI site
  • Tech Equity Collective site
  • GDSC site
What’s something cool you’re working on?

Steph has been working on an AlphaFold video. You can learn more here.

Kelci is working on developing a Neos tutorial for introductory Google Cloud developers to learn how to write HTTP functions in Python all within the Google Cloud environment and wrapping up her summer internship with Google!

[MUSIC PLAYING] STEPHANIE WONG: Hey, everyone, and welcome to episode number 316 of the weekly Google Cloud Platform Podcast. This is Stephanie Wong. And today, I'm here with Kelsey. How are you, Kelsey?

KELSEY: Good, good, how are you?

STEPHANIE WONG: I'm great, but I really want to know from you because it's your last week of your internship, right?

KELSEY: Yes. Yes, it is. I'm finally ending my 12 weeks at Google. Really sad to go. I'm going to miss everyone. I've had so much fun. I've learned so much. And I'm just really excited that I even had this opportunity.

STEPHANIE WONG: You have done such an outstanding job, and it's so perfect that you came to me with this episode topic because I know it's near and dear to you.

KELSEY: Right.

STEPHANIE WONG: So why don't you give us a teaser about what we're talking about today?

KELSEY: All right, awesome. So the two people that I've invited today to talk to, I've worked with them over the summer on multiple things, one of the most substantial being the CSSI program that Google offers, teaching computer science principles to students who might not have a lot of experience in tech or coding at all. And just seeing how both of them have worked with students in that program and other programs, like the Google Cloud speaker series, has really just brought to my attention there's so much to talk about with the Google Cloud higher education and students in bridging that gap. So I wanted to give them an opportunity to share their stories.

STEPHANIE WONG: Yes. And Laurie is also on our team, so it's really great to hear more about what she does on a day-to-day basis. They both have so many great personal stories that they bring to the conversation today. So you are definitely in on a great episode that's coming up. But first, we are going to dive into the cool things of the week.


So my cool things of the week, because I'm cheating and doing two, is two articles that are written by people outside of Google, the first being a senior machine learning engineer at Wayfair, Christian. And he writes about their experience migrating to use Vertex AI. So at first, their AI platform that they used meant that they needed to create their own unique model productionization process, and it was very legacy. So they've since migrated over to Vertex AI pipelines, and built a CICD and scheduling pipeline. So they were able to work with the Google team to build a much more efficient process. And you can read all about that and the results in that blog post.

The second blog post is from Artem, the chief software architect and Champion Innovator, part of the Google Cloud Champion Innovator program. And he writes about some really exciting features and kind of lesser-known capabilities on BigQuery to optimize your querying, like using the auto-columns, multi-statement transactions, clustering and indexes, and talks about his personal favorites and why they have been so instrumental in how he is able to do his analyses using BigQuery.

So two great articles written by folks outside, and have really become amazing champions for us. And I also want to quickly plug that, if you're interested in becoming a Google Cloud Innovator, then check out And you'll get access to exclusive events and get the chance to write on our blog.

KELSEY: That's awesome. There's so much going on. So my cool thing of the week, because you know I'm following the rules--

STEPHANIE WONG: Oh, I got called out by Kelsey. Oh, no. I think I've just been here too long.

KELSEY: Understand. I get it. The cool thing is that the Clinical Decision Support System solution has been built and has been released. So basically, this is-- CDSS is an important technology that health care providers can use to get better reads, more accurate reads on health care patients. And I think that's really cool because we're going through multiple global pandemics at this point.

And I think this is really important, just to see the bridge of technology and health care kind of growing even further in this field and this time that we're living through. I think this project is really cool because the lead of the project actually wrote that there are a lot of things going on with AI models that they're using. And there's actually a couple of that hopefully some of you are familiar with, Vertex AI, even Health Care Natural Language API, things like that. And so I really thought it was cool because there's so much to discover in this field and this bridge, as well.

STEPHANIE WONG: Yeah, there's a lot happening in the health care space. And them comparing the results of three different ML models using APIs and custom models is really fascinating because there is a lot needed. And Kelsey, we're working on some stuff in the health care space, as well, that we'll talk about in a second. But it's great to see a lot of advancements being made.

But before we dive too deep into that space, I do want to take it back and kind of transition over to our conversation with Laurie and Aaron, who are helping out for Google Cloud for Higher Education.


Laurie and Aaron, thank you so much for joining. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourselves?

LAURIE WHITE: Sure. I worked in higher ed for over 30 years as a professor of computer science. And something that really frustrated me there was not being able to keep the curriculum up with the technology. And it frustrated me so much that I decided to retire. And five days later, Google called me. So I have been here for six and a half years, trying to help other faculty members use the cloud, in particular, so that they can keep their technology, or their courses up with current technology.

STEPHANIE WONG: Wow, that timing was really impeccable for them to reach out right after you retired. And Aaron?

AARON YEATS: Hello. I'm Aaron Yeats. I have had an interesting path to working with students in Google Cloud. It's been 20 years that I've worked in education and education outreach. I think what's very interesting and actually applicable to that is working on education campaigns for the state of Texas, and educating consumers and Texans on a wide variety of topics that are a little difficult to synthesize. So you really have to dig deep to find that common space.

KELSEY: All right, awesome. So thank you guys both for joining us today. We just wanted to talk with you more on a casual level, and just kind of find out more about what you guys do here and how you contribute to Google Cloud, and then all the initiatives that go on here. So I just wanted to ask you both, why is it important to bring Google Cloud education and outreach to students?

LAURIE WHITE: OK. For me, I think that cloud is a technology that's already here. I don't even want to talk about it as technology of the future they will see. There is a lot of use of cloud. And students are graduating without the ability to understand the cloud and how it's different from on-premise computing. So I want to make it as easy as possible for faculty to integrate cloud into their classes-- and they don't need to have their own class, there's lots of places that can work in-- so that students are better prepared when they go out and look for jobs.

KELSEY: Awesome. Aaron?

AARON YEATS: I try hard to complement Laurie's work. We produce materials such as a common speaker series, which is a hands-on workshop where our engineers are involved in moving students through labs and being the personification of Google, but as well being the personification of concepts. And that's important to me, and showing these students that they have an opportunity outside of the classroom, and not only that opportunity to learn, but that opportunity to connect, and connect with those engineers.

KELSEY: No, that's awesome. I think that's really important to keep in mind, especially as we move forward. As Laurie said, we are not in the future, we are in the now.

STEPHANIE WONG: Exactly. And Laurie, you mentioned a little bit about your career just before Google, but I want to hear about what your careers or skills were originally in, for both you and Aaron. How did you end up in this type of position?

LAURIE WHITE: My initials are LAW. When my mother was pregnant with me, she walked around the law school campus where we lived. I was supposed to grow up to be a lawyer. My senior year of college, I took the traditional pre-law case study classes, and hated them with a passion. The idea that reality depended on what a person thought seemed ridiculous to me. And I was taking beginning computing classes at the same time, which was very rare because this was in the late '70s. And I loved it because truth there was truth.

So I decided, instead of going to law school, I would go back and get a degree in computer science. So got a master's there. And this is another one where, as soon as I walked in the door, they said, would you like to be a teaching assistant for our beginning programming class? So started teaching my first semester in graduate school. Loved it, and stayed with it for the next 40 years.

KELSEY: Wow. That's a pretty substantial amount of time. That's awesome, especially since that's a different era of computing than we are in now.

LAURIE WHITE: Yeah, I was really thrilled when I got to go to the advanced class and use punch cards instead of paper tape, neither of which I assume you've seen, Kelsey.

KELSEY: I'm not familiar.

STEPHANIE WONG: I'm sure classes are very different now, with the help of what you're doing here with these programs. But Aaron, what about you? How did you land in this space?

AARON YEATS: I never expected to be in this space. I did expect that I would finish my career as a teacher. I enjoy bringing to life education. However, my path first involved banking. And from there, what I really like, we share with students that their experiences on Thursdays become talking points on their resume and building opportunity for conversation in their interview that they are confident in.

So I went from banking with my talking points to advertising and marketing. And that's when I was working on education campaigns for the state of Texas. And if you ever need to know anything about electric deregulation in the state of Texas, I am more than happy to share the history, the current, and how to shop for your electric provider. But it also involved health campaigns.

And health campaigns is important information that needs to be shared that's not necessarily entertaining. And I like bringing, again, life to things that sometimes people sigh when they're about to step into. Oh, here I go. I'm going to learn. And that's the space I want to be in. I want to be in that sigh, where I can fill in the sigh and bring the excitement. And so that's how I ended up in education and ended up here.

KELSEY: I'm so glad that you brought up a lot of the things that you work with is making applicable for students to apply later talking points that they can reuse elsewhere, outside of just the programs that you guys teach and you guys volunteer with. So I wanted to ask more, what else do you guys do to address some of the problems that you see with students in tech, in teaching tech, educating them on tech, especially with Google Cloud?

LAURIE WHITE: I'm in a really peculiar position. I do most of my outreach to faculty because, as you can attest, I'm sure, Kelsey, the modern student is very, very busy. And while there are some outstanding students who have extra time to learn things that aren't required by classes, most of them are just happy to keep up with their coursework. So I'm trying to help faculty bring this into their coursework.

And half the time when you ask me, I'm going to tell you, gosh, we really don't have that much for faculty. And the other half, I say, we have so many opportunities that when I try to show them to everybody, they just feel like they're drinking from a fire hose and they feel overwhelmed by it. So I'm trying to make this something that looks doable.

So I'm going to get to go to conferences again. For the last two years, I haven't gone to conferences because of COVID. And now, I get to go. And a lot of the vendors at conferences will sit at their table and, when the day is over, they leave.

I go and, during presentations, I sit in on presentations and hear what faculty say because I am a faculty member still. I have emeritus status. I go and I sit with them at banquets and answer foolish questions from their students. And I had one professor come up after it and say, well, you know, my opinion of Google has changed since meeting you. And this is the kind of thing where you go, oh my, what is he going to say next.

KELSEY: Oh, no.

LAURIE WHITE: And he said, y'all are just so much better than I expected. And it was like, oh, thank you. I'm very glad. So--

KELSEY: Whew, sigh of relief.

LAURIE WHITE: --I have a very personal approach because this is my background. And so I try to reach students through that. We have lots of material for faculty to use. The Cloud Skills Boost that Aaron uses is more than just labs. They're full pathways, so students can go out and learn things. And I try and show faculty how this will make their job easier. And that was very nice during COVID because they didn't have to put together the lessons. They could say, go out and do this lesson. We have curriculum.

And I still, well, am not working completely at Google scale, because if a professor's going I don't understand this, I still can find the time to sit down with them in a video conference and say, let's talk about it. And fortunately, they almost always come out going, wow, that's easier than I thought.

KELSEY: Right.

LAURIE WHITE: I need to start doing this.

KELSEY: Exactly, exactly. I know that, Aaron, you kind of help Laurie on that aspect. You guys tag team on a lot of projects and initiatives and things like that. Do you guys mind telling us a little bit more about your day to day? Maybe starting with you, Aaron.

AARON YEATS: Day to day, I'm enjoying the change, the change in the last two years that Laurie was referring to. We have a new crop of students who are having a new campus experience. The students who were there pre-COVID are in their last year or they're graduated. And because I get to work with student organizations, these students are in an interesting space. That handoff and that handbook for student organization may have graduated.

And so my day-to-day is an opportunity to mentor these students in video calls, like Laurie does, and to sit with them and say, hey, this is our perspective as Google Cloud. This is your opportunity. And let me share with you my recommendations from my career of how you can move forward. And that is my day-to-day right now. It's going to become-- well, I don't think we've talked about hackathons-- it's going to become event-based, and encouraging these students to go to weekend events and use their skills for projects that are a passion and projects that aren't coursework.

So I'm about to move into a space when school returns where it's encouragement and, I would say, for a good part of my day, excitement and a certain level of happiness when these things unfold smoothly. And these students are putting together events and putting together projects that they're proud of. So I spend a large portion of my day excited, and reflecting and building, and then taking that learning of what those students did and bringing it to their fellow students and colleagues that they don't even work with.

And I'm bringing together Morgan State University and pairing them with Virginia Tech, and letting them learn from one another. And those are two groups of students that aren't too far away from one another, but in a normal day-to-day would never interact. So I help put the puzzle pieces together. And it makes for a great day. It's fantastic.

KELSEY: That's awesome that even your job excites you.

STEPHANIE WONG: Oh, I love hearing the passion in it, because we really do need that, especially with students. And I was just on a Twitter space talking about certifications that we offer, but the consensus was that certifications and curriculum are so important as a foundation, but knowledge without action is futile. So what I love about these programs is that they're giving you hands-on experience through the Skills Boost challenges, through the hackathons so that students can walk away with applicable knowledge and projects to add to their portfolio and help them prepare for whatever it may be that they want to do outside of school.

So I do want to hear a little bit more about what Google Cloud's higher education program is like, as well as the outreach initiatives. What's unique about them? And how do they further both this partnership between Google Cloud and the higher education space?

AARON YEATS: One of the reasons Laurie and I work together is Laurie is going top to bottom. She's going faculty to students. And I'm going students to career. And it's very interesting to be able to work with Laurie. To do that, on my side, we build student clubs on campuses. And we, again, mentor students on how to build a club and how to share product knowledge. Well, let's say skill knowledge, I think would be a little bit better.

Those skills, then we use Google Cloud Skills Boosts, an online platform that has an entirely different team that has put together this fantastic opportunity. And I get to work with it. And I'm excited to work with it because we get to share it with students, not as here's who Google Cloud is, but more so like here's how this works.

Here's this piece of technology. And building student groups that share that with one another, and the common experience they have is learning about products like building a virtual machine on Google Cloud. I mean, we can take out the last three words. It's building a virtual machine is what they're connecting with, regardless of on Google Cloud. Yeah, I think it resonates with the students. We're giving them content that they can take and build community upon.

LAURIE WHITE: And when I was teaching, I wanted students to learn the latest technologies, even if I couldn't get it in the curriculum. So I ran a predecessor to these clubs, actually a Google Developer group on my campus. And it was wonderful for students. They got to do leadership.

A lot of years, all I would do is go out and buy the pizza for them. It was a general Google Developer group, so we had a lot of members of the community also come. And they got to meet our students, and many of the students there found jobs as a result. You know, they'd say, I'm looking for someone for this position, you interested? And the student would go, yeah. So that was nice.

KELSEY: I love how you mention that it was something that went straight into jobs, because I think that's a key feature of Google Cloud in general, it's an applicable skill that can go right on the resume. There's no second or third wall that you have to hit before you can see the value in the products of learning something like this. And so I think that's amazing.

LAURIE WHITE: And if I can step back to what Stephanie was saying, I've been a leader and a member of an international working group on cloud education for the last five years. And this year, our special focus was on how does certification fit into education, because there's such a possibility for people to go, oh my gosh, are you competing with education? And that's not at all what we want to do.

KELSEY: Exactly.

LAURIE WHITE: That we have two certifications that are appropriate for undergraduate students, that they don't take three to four years of experience on cloud. So not only do we have these certifications, we offer two programs that include video courses, labs, sample exams, and even credit toward taking the exam that faculty can sign up for. We have materials so that somebody who was in my position and ran a student group would not have to do all the instruction. It gives them basically the slides for three check-ins. And it's like, here's how you run the check-ins and here's all the support we have for you. So that's one of the things that we're doing to try and make it easier for faculty to do this and to help get their students certified.

KELSEY: I love how you mentioned that students don't necessarily need to be competing with-- like, this is not a program that's competing with education in general. So students don't need to feel like they're giving up on one thing to make use of the other. It's a supplementary addition to what they're already learning. And I kind of wanted to ask, what students are you targeting when you say you have all these programs, these hackathons? Who exactly are you reaching out to to give them these opportunities?

AARON YEATS: That is an interesting question because we work hard to build community with students. And we do that with content. Just happens-- kind of, Kelsey, what you were talking about, it just happens that content is helping these students to connect. And to help build community requires that we reach out to students who are already student leaders, who have found a value in outside of the classroom work, and they understand that these types of things are bullet points on a resume for discussion.

But to build and to speak to the future student leaders, we have to start with students who are just entering school. They're in their second year. So then how does that content play, right? I mean, we're providing them with Google Cloud content, we're like, oh, now go have a career. Well, we like to provide these students with, I would say, like a sampler. Laurie was talking about certifications, and that takes time. And we've worked hard to bring a three-year certification to a 40-hour concentrated pathway that goes on LinkedIn.

However, to be able to do that, we need to help these students understand what they like and help them sample different products, different concepts-- importantly, concepts-- to see what excites them. And we are very transparent when we work with these students of this content, we would love for you to work with these concepts, but we also, if they're not your thing, we'd love to see you next week as we work on something else. So we're not bringing these students through the entire pathway.

We're kicking off this opportunity. And if we're doing our jobs well, we're building that excitement that helps them then move on to that next step. My day-to-day, that's what I get to see, and that's what keeps this ball rolling.

LAURIE WHITE: But Kelsey, I appreciate these student leaders and these students who are going to become leaders. And I think, at Google, we sometimes get blind to the fact that there are other students because so many Googlers were that top percentile of their class. And so I want to make it so that there's incentive for all students, even those who will never go to an extracurricular activity, to learn cloud skills because it's good for them.

So by working with faculty and showing them how they can include it in the curriculum, and it actually solves a lot of problems for some faculty because they're like, I need my students to have a Linux machine, but how do I get them a Linux machine? I can't provide one for each student on campus or each student in my class. By helping faculty do this, we're helping faculty, we're getting students the cloud experience they need. So trying to find that intersectionality is really important, and something I spend a lot of time doing.

And fortunately, I taught at smaller schools, and so I got to experience teaching a lot of different classes. So when somebody says, oh, let me tell you about operating systems, I can say, yeah, I know about operating systems. And talk to me about programming languages, and I have a little experience with the introductory course. So that's another way that we reach students, not just the best of them, but we're trying to get all who could benefit from cloud skills.

KELSEY: All right. Two sides of the same coin.

AARON YEATS: I'd like to work with Laurie's thoughts on what students we're working with. And very much those now Googlers that were the top percentage, what is our challenge to bring content and even events to smaller schools is difficult. It is very difficult. And we love and work hard to do it, but we can't always achieve our goals when it comes to reaching out to those schools. And perhaps it's people listening to things like this and understanding what we have available that provides the opportunity at these smaller schools.

It's not easy. We don't see the number of students and the number of schools that we would like to. And it's not from a lack of effort. It's from a lack of identifying. And we welcome those schools reaching out because we're ready. We're ready to help. We just need to find the right person. So yes, day-to-day is happy. Day-to-day is also, OK, what can I solve for? I know I have many things to solve for, so let's put a smile on it and try to solve it.

STEPHANIE WONG: I really do hope that this podcast gets in the hands of the right people just to learn about what we have to offer, because it sounds like it's really a win-win-win situation, right? Win for the faculty who want to augment their curriculum with these resources. It's great for the students who are really passionate about it and want to work on things outside of class, and for Google Cloud to partner with these to share what we have available.

I mean, I remember when I was in school, we didn't learn cloud at all. I wish we did. I was in a research apprenticeship where we visualized social media analytics that I was using. We were manually labeling data to analyze the sentiment of tweets. And if I had known that we had NLP analysis from Google APIs, I would have totally used that, even if it was still nascent back then.

So I personally see such value in it. And I'm curious, Laurie, how are faculties receiving this type of partnership? You had a story earlier about a member who said that he had his opinion of Google change in a positive way, but are they overall seeing it as valuable?

LAURIE WHITE: The ones that we get to, yes, most of them are seeing it as valuable. We have a lot of repeat customers. Something that we do for faculty is provide the ability for students to use the Google Cloud. And by this, we mean Google Cloud. We don't say, oh, here's a sandbox, and you can only do labs, or here's a sandbox, but if you want a GPU, forget it.

We provide $50 in credit and say go for it. Now, if they want GPUs, they have to go through the steps of requesting them, like anybody else. But along with providing credits, we do not require students to use a credit card. And this is really important to faculty. We give it on a per-class basis, so if a student is in two or three classes, they get funds for each of those classes. So that's really exciting.

I-- well, I see the faculty who come back a lot. I have a community of 2,000 of them, who ask each other questions and answer them for each other, because I've been out of the classroom for seven years and I didn't get to teach cloud back then. They're a very supportive community. When we show up at events, they like seeing us. They come up and thank us, which it's like, just sit with me for five minutes and tell other people here that. I've gotten to be at presentations.

There was one where the keynote speaker said, oh yeah, I'm doing this stuff. And the first question he got about you're using all this fancy data, how do we use it, because we don't have the resources that you have. And he pointed to me in the back of the room and said, you've got Google Cloud here. Go and ask her for funds for your research. And it was like, yep.

And many talks that I go to-- and maybe this is why I go to the talks-- the speaker has come up with this with cloud. So it's nice to see results because, as an academic, when I started, I did a literature review of cloud in the classroom, and Google Cloud didn't show up anywhere. But we didn't have an academic program when I started. And I'm very proud to be one of the people who started it and tried to make it as faculty-friendly as possible.

KELSEY: Awesome. That sounds so good, especially that you mentioned you guys provide the things that they need to overcome that hurdle. I know, as a student myself, like, cost is something that's super hard to battle with, especially in tech. Everything's already expensive. And so trying to be able to decide what to prioritize, what to spend money on, what to learn, and in terms of cost and in terms of time, Google Cloud is definitely one of the things that I've been putting on top of my list over and over again.

LAURIE WHITE: Well, Kelsey, before you go to Aaron, please make sure your professors know we're out here.

KELSEY: Of course. Definitely will tag them in and tell them to reach out. I wanted to tag Aaron into this conversation because I think it's a really good topic. Laurie mentioned a lot of the things that go on with her reaching out to faculty, trying to bridge that gap and overcome hurdles. Are there some things that go on your end that you consider hurdles and some things that you kind of do to bridge that, as well?

AARON YEATS: Thank you for that question. We work with students who are learning new technologies. I think we've covered that. We're encouraging them to go to hackathons and to create community, but build projects that are their passion.

KELSEY: Right.

AARON YEATS: And build with concepts. And so to do that, we provide them, much like Laurie was saying, we provide them with Google Cloud credits, $25 in those credits. It is very important to note that does not require a payment method. And students are scared of that.

KELSEY: Of course.

AARON YEATS: So education point one, hey, you don't need a credit card. Education point two, we are here to help you use. We provide these students with credits. And we want them to build passion projects using our credits. We send engineers, we send engineers to mentor these students, to personify and humanize what is this cloud computing, and hopefully remove that barrier--

KELSEY: Right.

AARON YEATS: --of instead of logging online and searching for an answer, to be able to walk up and say, hey, I have a question about this, can you help? I rally the volunteer mentors. I rally them, I recruit them, and I send them off. And that's a great part of my job.

What I have to share with them, and a reality check to what Laurie was saying, the number one question that students ask our engineers is, how do I add these credits to the console? And right there is step one. If students had to go and Google how do I put credits on a console, they've moved beyond. They're building their projects. I don't have time for this. But to walk over and ask that initial question, to build upon Google Cloud, you've got to get into the console.

So the engineers, they go, wait, what? Is that what I'm helping with? And I'm like, absolutely. That is your number one question. So as we do our volunteer training, let's all take the clock and wind it back to being a student when you had that question. And our engineers need to look back in time.

And I am so appreciative of how they spend their weekends. I mean, we are talking about consistent weekends from the beginning of September until the end of December. Then we reboot after some holiday break. And we have an amazing team. It's been, in the past, 120 different engineers--


AARON YEATS: --have facilitated these opportunities for students.

KELSEY: That's amazing. That's amazing.

STEPHANIE WONG: I just wanted to give a quick callout because I was a judge for the Google Student Developers Club's Solution Day Challenge recently. And that was another great opportunity for students to build a team and create a really great solution or application on mobile or web that helped achieve one of the sustainable goals from the United Nations. And I was just so blown away by the quality of what was built.

So I just see these programs, initiatives, and opportunities for students to be just so, so valuable in learning and getting hands-on and building connections, and also getting mentorship from Google engineers. So I'm really appreciative of what you two do in this space, because I think we need more of it. Yeah, I just kind of want to hear a little bit more about some stories, some success stories that you've seen, or even just stories from hackathons or programs you've led throughout the years. Maybe we can start with Laurie.

LAURIE WHITE: OK, I have one that just makes me happy all over.

KELSEY: Let's hear it.

LAURIE WHITE: I go to conferences that are regional in the US. And this means that smaller schools can send their students and smaller schools can attend, because they run typically from noon Friday till noon Saturday. So you have the small schools that Aaron was talking earlier about reaching out to. Anyway, at one of these conferences, they had student presentations. And I walked up, and the student was presenting using our Vision API. And it was really exciting. And I said, great, where did you get the credit? And it's like the professor signed up with his credit card.

So I found the professor and told him about our grants program, and he was thrilled. And he actually was doing a presentation the next day on this. And he mentioned our program and said, I paid for it, but-- actually, he didn't pay, they stayed under the free limit-- he said, I put my credit card down, but Google will pay for it. And I was there going, yes, I will.

So this is great, and it was a nice story. And six months later, at another one of these conferences, I see the same students. And they're using our grant and they're doing their poster presentation. And they come and sit with me at the table. It's a small conference. We don't have booths. And she's just thrilled and telling everybody.

And six months later, I see them again. And finally, I say, this is great. I'll see you again in six months. She said, no, you won't. And it's like, why won't I? It's like, I'm graduating at the end of the term. And I went, oh, OK, so how's the job hunt coming? She went, oh, it's rough. And I went, oh, I'm really sorry. And she says, yeah, I have too many offers.


LAURIE WHITE: And it's like, oh, that's not usually a problem. And she's like, yeah, I show them this project that I did with Google Cloud, and everybody wants to hire me. So that is like--


LAURIE WHITE: --OK, this is good trouble to have. I am glad it's rough for you.

STEPHANIE WONG: It's a good kind of trouble.


STEPHANIE WONG: Aaron, I know you have stories from hackathons, the sweat, tears, and wins.

AARON YEATS: When the world shifted to online learning, and even creating online connections, online relationships as fellow students, no one was prepared. And that includes, of course, Google. And our team got together. And Laurie, you were a part of this. A lot of different groups within the company were a part of asking, OK, what can we do in regards to perhaps these students being bored? I mean, it was as simple as I bet they're bored, let's solve for it. And hey, we've got this Aaron guy sitting around who was working on in-person events. I bet he's bored. And I was bored.

So we looked for a solution. And we built for these students a project opportunity. It was the COVID-19 Hackathon Fund. And we granted student projects up to $5,000 in credits to solve for challenges. We left it open, just solve for whatever you want the blank to be after that, solving for blank. And the success story is these students that, through our outreach, however they found us, because we didn't know what we were doing-- we didn't-- they found our outreach, and they signed up and they built teams and they built projects.

And we had to add. We had to add part of the, yeah, you receive grants of $5,000. Ooh, why don't we add mentors? So we added the mentor piece. And these students, they jumped at the mentor piece and they jumped at these projects. And it was awesome because we helped from 0 to 90% of where they wanted that project to be, and then we gave them a mentor to finish that last 10. And we said, here you go. Here's the tools.

And it's a success story for the company, for the individuals who worked on it, and most importantly these students. And I give them credit. I don't know how we did the best outreach we could, but there was so much noise in the market of what these students could work with. There was opportunity here, opportunity there. And how do you select?

So props to those students for finding the opportunity. And excited. The number of projects that work with that, we had to grow our budget. Yeah. So here we are like, OK, we have this budget. Aaron, go work with this. And I'm like, uh-oh. We have a lot of interest, folks. We're going to have to bump this up. And we did.

And to the rescue came a different team. And then came the mentors. And word got out, and it was like, OK, here we go. We had in-person events. Now, we have created a virtual program that nobody saw coming. So the students were excited. We were excited. And again, our success sometimes is not through planning. Sometimes our success is just by happenstance. And these students happened upon the opportunity.

So thank you, students, because you made my fall of that year super interesting. I hope I helped. I heard I helped. But I know they helped me. So if you're listening, thank you for making my fall of that very different world we were living in more interesting.

KELSEY: I don't know, I think you definitely changed a lot of their lives and the trajectory of what their careers are going to look like, especially your personality. You definitely touched a lot of them in a great way. I'm sure they would love to meet up with you again and just tell you all the things that they've done so far.

AARON YEATS: You know, I had a student group, one of what Laurie was talking about. The next evolution of Laurie's student program became a student innovator program, which then has become the Google Developer Student Clubs. So we've seen this thing grow. And Kelsey, it's so random. And our students got together, and it was like a prize, an award. You know, it was an award for these students working so hard. And it was that exit stage left that I had to make. They were starting school. I'll say I was a little embarrassed.


AARON YEATS: That I cried.


AARON YEATS: Yeah. I barely-- I barely cried.


AARON YEATS: Because I saw the uncomfortableness of the students. But then I got the hugs afterwards. So yes, I mean, it is silly. Some of the stuff we work with and the vibe it gives, some of it's just silly.


AARON YEATS: And I think that is fun.

STEPHANIE WONG: That's good. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. You have to have fun with it. And it sounds like you both do. So that's amazing. I know we have to wrap soon, so I wanted to end with asking about lessons learned and what you want the audience to take away, whether it's faculty, students just general audience interested in Cloud. What can you tell them about what you've gone through, even during the pandemic too.

LAURIE WHITE: I know how hard it is to change curriculum. I have tried. I actually got a whole new degree program put in and-- actually two. And I definitely have been there. I know how changing things can run into a wall. And our program is trying to help with that. We are trying to remove the barrier of cost. We're trying to remove the barrier of credit cards.

We have sample curriculum that faculty can request and update. I have saved an awful lot of time in the last two years not being on airplanes and in hotel rooms. So I am willing to reach out and work with individual faculty or answer questions. But I hope to see a lot of them at conferences this fall too.

We want to help. We're trying to help. And if what we're doing isn't what you need, let us know.

STEPHANIE WONG: Love it. Aaron?

AARON YEATS: Bouncing off of what Laurie was sharing, our programming kicked off with let's move these students through a pathway. Let's move them through week by week an experience that at the end provides a credential. And we felt like from what we were hearing from their future employers and what those, in this case our customers-- but those technology employers period, end, stop-- right, those employers that needed students who were graduating with an education of Cloud and how to work on Cloud.

So we made a pivot and we moved from teaching these students, hey, come with us. We're going to go on a journey that's going to be several months. And now we've moved to, hey, we're going to go on a journey that's fun and we're going to try a little bit of everything. And that's what their employers want. The employers want the concepts and the students to have these concepts.

And I was fascinated once where we had one of our partners come in. And a student said, OK, what is my first week and month of work. And the answer was working on the labs that we provide and the labs that we do on Thursdays. And so the student was like, OK, so what do I do. And they were like leapfrog. And so concepts-- if we can get the concepts and start the energy and start the interest, then we're good to go. We've done our job.

STEPHANIE WONG: Well said. Well said. And there are a bunch of resources to check out that we've discussed throughout this whole conversation. The first being And we'll include that among others in the show notes. So go ahead and check that out. And I just want to thank Laurie and Aaron for joining us. This was such a needed conversation. And thank you for the important work that you do.


AARON YEATS: Thank you. I love my job.

STEPHANIE WONG: We can feel it. Thank you so much. All right. That was a really incredible conversation in a space that I think needs a lot more attention. It's really great to see the amount of initiatives that they've done for Google Cloud in higher education. It seems like they've had great backgrounds in this space having worked for decades as faculty member. And I also think one takeaway for me is I learned that students can feel empowered to work with faculty, to tell faculty what they find valuable in curriculums and outside of schools, and tell them, hey, there's a bunch of programs that Cloud providers like Google are doing and we should fully take advantage of them.

KELSEY: Right, right. I'd have to agree. I think one big takeaway for me was that while maybe Laurie works with faculty on getting that pipeline from student to faculty and faculty and student, Aaron kind of works with the students and trying to provide them with resources and the tools that they need so that they understand that what they're working on is important and can be applicable for their careers.

And so it's kind of like a two sided battle in pushing these students and elevating them and their experiences and getting them off the ground and where they need to be. And I really love that.

STEPHANIE WONG: 100% Yeah. Especially coming from you, since you're fully emerged in that environment right now and you can fully see the value. So now connecting the dots here to your internship here, I want to know, yeah, what have you been working on. What's exciting so far?

KELSEY: Yeah, Thanks for asking. So I've been working on developing a Neos tutorial for introductory Google Cloud developers to learn more a little bit about how to write HTTP functions in Python all within the Google Cloud environment, which is a great feature of Google Cloud, it's that all the features and all the tools that you need are basically in-house. And so there's no need to outsource anything. And it's really easy to get started and start running with your projects.

Another thing that I am working on is actually wrapping up my internship. I'm very sad to leave all of you. I've had such a great time. I've learned so much. I've been involved in so much. And so I'm really excited to see what you guys pull forward moving from here. But I'm so glad that I was able to join you guys.

What about you? What's going on?

STEPHANIE WONG: Well first off I just want to say that you've been absolutely crushing it. And you've been a jack of all trades on our team and really dived head over heels into doing all the things that we've thrown at you. So congratulations on that. And we hope to see you back here.

One cool thing that I'm working on is actually a project with you that you've jumped in on, which is the AlphaFold video. And they recently just came out with a new blog post talking about two different Vertex AI Pipeline solutions for batch inferencing for AlphaFold, which is a machine learning, deep learning model that DeepMind came out with to predict the protein folding structures.

And now they've released I think over 200 million of predicted proteins. And so now you can deploy their model on Google Cloud and get access to these great pre-built solutions that give you a great starting point and guide to run them in large scale environments for really much shorter elapsed inferencing times.

So great job Kelsey on helping out with all of that. And for everyone else, stay tuned for the video, which will hopefully come out in September. And with that, I want to say thank you to everyone listening, and we will see you all next week. See you guys.



Stephanie Wong and Kelci Mensah

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