What’s it like to be a Google BOLD intern? We asked Kourtney Smith

By Reena Jana | Head of Product inclusion, Google | Product Inclusion

Bright, creative, caring: these words describe Kourtney Smith, the 2018 BOLD summer intern for Product Inclusion at Google. A rising senior at North Carolina A&T State University and President of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kourtney is the daughter of a single mom, and attributes her accomplishments to the support of a growing network of strong, supportive women. This network includes her grandma, great grandma, aunts, sorority sisters–and women she has met in the tech industry during her internship.

This summer, she researched the needs of communities who are traditionally underrespresented online, to help support Google product teams with information on user needs as they work to build accessible and useful technologies for people around the world.

Google’s BOLD (Build Opportunity for Leadership and Development) internship program brings rising college seniors like Kourtney to Google campuses to work on a variety of projects across Sales, Marketing, and People Operations. We’ve designed the BOLD program to encourage students who identify with communities who are underrepresented in the tech industry (including veterans and students with disabilities) to learn firsthand what it’s like to work at Google.

I sat down with Kourtney to discuss her experience at Google–which included a concert at Google’s Mountain View campus with Boyz II Men (she’s a big 90s R&B fan!) and a series of workshops that she co-led with the Product Inclusion team as a budding subject matter expert in the inclusive technology space. Here, she shares her thoughts and advice for aspiring BOLD applicants.

What inspired you to pursue an internship in tech?

I attended The Opening Act HBCU Conference hosted by Spotify my sophomore year of college. During one of the sessions, the speaker explained how the tech industry is between 7-10% diverse. Immediately, I was confused and had many questions surrounding that percentage. North Carolina A&T State University is the number one producer of Black engineers out of all of the colleges in the United States. Many of my friends are engineering students. I felt as if more underrepresented students should be in the tech industry. After the conference, I did immense research on the industry. I love how innovative, creative, and thought-provoking it is.

What are you studying, and how are you applying it at Google?

I am studying Journalism and Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. My projects for the summer are heavily involved data analytics. To understand the data that I am using for my projects, I am creating narratives to explain the data. Also, I have taken on leadership opportunities that tie to my major. I have moderated a Leadership Speaker Series with Google's VP of Employee Engagement, Danielle Brown, hosted a lunch and learn for HBCU students that are in the BOLD internship program, and I hosted a session on Product Inclusion with my manager, Annie Jean-Baptiste, at this year’s BOLD Immersion Program. In addition, I presented at an all-company town hall at the Googleplex! All of these speaking engagements are allowing me to showcase my communication and interpersonal skills that have been taught to me in my major classes.

How has your BOLD internship surprised you?

My BOLD internship has surprised me in various ways. I believe the most surprising part of my internship is how supportive my team and other Googlers are. My team really includes me in initiatives, meetings, and other important conversations. I don’t feel like “the intern.” My opinions and input are valued and solicited. Other Googlers outside of my team are willing to have coffee chats to talk about their roles and experiences at Google. Most important, my projects have tested my own abilities. Prior to my internship, I had a lot of self-doubt regarding my data-analysis skills. Both of my projects are data-analytics focused which challenges me to build those skills and seek knowledge in order to be successful.

What advice would you give other students when looking for an internship in tech?

I would suggest that you do extensive research on the industry. Tech is always evolving, so it is important to be in the know about major trends and news in the industry. I subscribe to different tech blog websites that keep me updated on the latest in the industry. Prior to getting the internship, I also subscribed to Google Alerts for specific companies that were sent to my email inbox weekly. It is also important to research specific teams and positions in tech. In tech companies there are so many organizations, teams, and roles, so having an understanding of what type of role that you would be interested in is extremely important in seeking an internship in tech.

What advice would you give students who aspire to pursue a BOLD internship at Google?

One of the most important things you can do if you aspire to pursue a BOLD internship at Google is to do extensive research on the company. Google is a huge company, and it is more than what you see when you log on to www.google.com. Google is a multifaceted company with thousands of teams and roles. Having a general understanding of the type of role and the team that you would want to work for will be helpful in the application process. Be sure that your resume is up-to-date with your latest experiences and leadership roles with impactful descriptions. Lastly, connect with past Google BOLD interns on LinkedIn and ask to converse with them via phone to get their insight about the program. It helps a lot to understand the program coming from someone that participated in it.

What’s the one piece of advice you will bring back to campus and your life as a student?

This internship has taught me that it is okay to not know everything and it’s okay to be imperfect. Coming into this role, I knew nothing about the inner workings of product inclusion. I had to learn that it was okay for me not to know anything. That’s the point of an internship, but the key is to not stay complacent in the whole “I’m an intern and I don’t have to know everything” mindset. I began to ask questions, shadow meetings, and do my own research on the work that my team does. Also, I’m a perfectionist, which isn’t the best characteristic to have. This internship teaches me daily that it’s impossible to be perfect. There are always opportunities for improvement and learning to complete an assignment better. It is okay to not have it right all the time.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I will be 31 years old. I hope to be married and beginning to have children. By that time, I hope to have obtained a Masters in Business Administration as well. I plan to be working on a diversity and inclusion team for a technology company and have advanced into a manager role or higher. I also aspire to have my own professional development organization catered to HBCU students. I believe one of my purposes in life is to connect great people to great opportunities. I want to ensure HBCU students are equipped with the skills, professionalism, and business etiquette to obtain positions with top level companies, especially those in the tech industry. Overall, I hope to fulfill my passions and purpose while making an impact.

Apply to be an intern at one of Google’s global locations.

Photo: Alexis Jones (on Instagram: @curlyproductions)

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