Google’s program for Black college students suffered disorganization and culture clashes, former participants say

  • First announced in 2017, Google’s Howard West program was envisioned as a way to train more Black college students for the rigors of a career in tech by immersing them in computer science classes held on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California.
  • Students and faculty say the program had value, but described disorganization, shifting priorities, and culture clashes and microagressions from Google employees toward Black students on campus.
  • While Google never positioned the program as a job placement initiative, it was described as a “pipeline” program, and many students were surprised not to get offers for internships or jobs from the company.

In 2017, Lauren Clayton joined the inaugural class of Howard West, Google’s on-campus immersion program for Black college students. She became a star scholar whose big smile would grace marketing materials and news coverage.  

As the only Black woman in that inaugural class to score a coveted internship offer from Google, she now says the program’s leaders didn’t deliver on the promises that inspired her to accept the offer in the first place.

“I had nothing but positive things to say during that time, but that was before the promises were broken.”

She says a Howard West program leader promised to match an offer from Apple, which would pay for her senior year, but she found herself instead with unpaid bills and a sour experience. While she said she enjoyed the program in general, she and other participants often felt that Google’s ambitions for the program took precedent over the needs of participants.


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