Kelsie McElroy named 2018 Google Women Techmakers Scholar

September 04, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kelsie McElroy, a junior majoring in computer science in the Penn State School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been named a 2018 Google Women Techmakers Scholar for her advocacy for gender equality in the field of computer science and for serving as a leader and role model for others.

“Kelsie is an outstanding student and a role model for anyone considering a career in computer science. Her first-hand experience of competing (and succeeding) in an environment with few women provides her with a great perspective on how to break down barriers,” John Hannan, associate department head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and associate professor of computer science and engineering, said. “As a Google Scholar, she will make a lasting impact by establishing outreach activities that increase the participation of women in our majors. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering is extremely proud of Kelsie and looks forward to working closely with her.”  

The Women Techmakers Scholars Program consists of an academic scholarship, awarded based on academic performance, leadership, and impact on the community of women in tech; a retreat that connects fellow scholars and Google mentors, while participating in professional and personal development trainings and workshops; and an online network with fellow scholars program participants designed to share resources, support the global community of women in tech and collaborate on projects to make continued impact.

McElroy attended the annual Google Scholars' Retreat in Mountain View, California in August, joining a global community of Scholars Program participants to share resources, support other women in tech and collaborate on projects to make continued impact.

“I am so honored I had the opportunity to meet amazing people who are doing incredible work with something I’m so passionate about,” McElroy said. “It is so great to see that a three-day retreat resulted in lifelong friendships and a support system that I never would have had. I’m excited to continue to work with my fellow Scholars to do even more outreach and to try to make the computer science field more equal as I move through my career.”

The scholarship, given to 20 women across North America each year, provides funding for McElroy to implement outreach initiatives within the Penn State Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “I want to look at how we can keep women in the field, specifically those who are later in their high school career and are going off to college, because that’s often the time frame where people get lost,” McElroy said. “Most women are really excited about it, but when they make the transition to college and they start seeing there are no other females in their classes and the males around them have been programming for years, they start to think, ‘How am I going to be successful?’ It’s something I experienced too, and it can be discouraging.”

At Penn State, McElroy is currently the co-executive director for HackPSU, a 24-hour event where approximately 800 students from Penn State and other universities across the nation develop technology to solve real-world problems by working with industry leaders and collaborating with peers. She is also in the William and Wyllis Leonhard Engineering Scholars Program, an Engineering Ambassador and a member of the Association for Women in Computing.

“One of my goals for the upcoming year is to bring more diversity to HackPSU. I want to extend the opportunity to students from minority groups who are interested in technology but don’t have the resources at their school,” McElroy said. “We have a great support system here at Penn State – we have a lot of companies who know our name, they come to the event and want to recruit students – but smaller schools may not have that privilege, which may make it harder for minority students to find internships because their school is lacking such resources. Through this scholarship, I’m hoping to bring these students to the event and do some talks on building them up and empowering them, which are the types of talks that I received at the retreat that really helped me.”

McElroy found out about the Women Techmakers Scholars Program during her time as an intern at Google. Over the past two summers, she was in Google’s engineering practicum program for freshmen and sophomores. During her freshman internship, McElroy was on their Payments Site Reliability Engineering team, where her focus was to prevent products from breaking.

“I developed a module that acted as an antagonist against the payment service, and I tried to take down or mess up the system in any way I could to see where the faults were and to correct them to avoid potential customer-facing faults that could lose money,” she explained.

This past summer, she was a part of Google’s “Cloud EngProd” team, an internally facing team that focuses on advancing productivity of engineers. “I built a service end-to-end that automated a process for my team that was taking away five to ten hours of their work week, which really lowered their productivity in other areas.”

Now that fall semester has begun, McElroy is hard at work, collaborating with faculty in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering to make the most out of her scholarship.

“I am happy to see that the department cares so much about this initiative, and I have their support, because whatever I can do with outreach, I want to make sure it can be sustained long term,” McElroy said. 

  • Kelsie McElroy posing with an Android in front of Google's headquarters

    Kelsie McElroy

    IMAGE: Kelsie McElroy
Last Updated September 04, 2018