Concordia St. Paul News

September 21, 2018

Dr. Cheng Thao Selected for Google Faculty in Residence Program

CSP Computer Science Professor Dr. Cheng Thao was selected to take part in Google’s Faculty in Residence program during the summer of 2018.

The program is an immersive professional development program that engages computer science faculty who serve underrepresented populations in the tech industry. The focus of the program is on industry-informed, applied learning project with the goal of helping faculty prepare their students for jobs in the tech industry.

To participate, Dr. Thao had to complete an application as well as partake in two 30-45 minute interviews and one technical interview that required a write-up.

His application and interviews culminated successfully when he was accepted. 

“Googlers” presenting to CSP students on September 11

“Through the program, we had many workshops,” Dr. Thao explained. “We had Googlers come to talk about the Google interview process, what it is like to work for Google, the process that Google Engineers use for their software development, and project-based learning.” 

In addition, participants were given a mentor to help them understand what they did at Google on a deeper level.

The faculty participants built solid relationships with the “Googlers’ as well as each other. This created an environment that shed light on the best way to prepare students who set their sights on tech.

“Understanding what student qualities Google hires helps me teach those skills,” Dr. Thao elaborated. “I’ve already adopted project-based learning in my CSC 450 Computer Science Capstone where students work in teams to develop a large piece of software.”

The project utilizes a similar process that Google uses. 

Students attend Google’s presentation in the Beutow Auditorium

The residency proved to be a valuable experience for Dr. Thao, but even more so for his students. Spending time with Google and other computer science faculty offered an inside view of what it is like to work for the big tech companies — and how they hire and evaluate potential candidates.

“It allows me to best prepare my students for tech jobs,” he explained. “It also allows me to re-evaluate my teaching, make the necessary changes to reflect how software engineering is done in the industry and makes me a better teacher in my field.” 

On September 11,  several “Googlers” visited CSP to chat about student opportunities at Google, what it’s like to work for Google, and how to prepare. Dr. Thao explained that it’s often assumed that Google only hires from Ivy League universities and because of that, students of smaller schools like Concordia don’t seriously consider Google to be a career destination. 

“I want our students to know that they can work for any big tech company if they put in the effort and acquire the skills,” Dr. Thao emphasized. “It means that Google cares about the success of our students and is also putting in the effort to help me with my teaching.”

Dr. Thao says he hopes that Google’s visit will make his students believe in themselves and motivate them to work hard and aim for the tech companies that they might presume are out of their reach.

“If Google didn’t believe in them, Google wouldn’t be here,” Dr. Thao concluded.