February 1, 2022

Leading a Google Developer Student Club of 200+ Members

Meet Sandra Kuria GDSC Lead of Mount Kenya University, Android developer, and Google Women Techmakers Ambassador.

In software development, bridging the gap between theory and practical application is critical. But since many university curriculums center around computer science theory, students interested in learning how to code often turn to boot camps, tutorials, and communities to hone their skills.

Through their Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC), Google has been one of the pioneers for equipping student developers with the resources, opportunities, and experience necessary to be industry-ready.

GDSC’s are university-based community groups for students interested in Google developer technologies and software development. GDSC communities help students grow their knowledge through hands-on workshops and events in a peer-to-peer-based learning environment. 

Today, Google has more than 1000+ DSC communities globally and 200 communities across Africa, led by passionate leaders. Annually Google selects DSC Leads from each university, who receive direct mentorship from Google, gain access to Google Developer resources and opportunities for free, and have the opportunity to grow their personal and professional network.

Recently, I connected with the DSC Lead of Mount Kenya University, Sandra Kuria, who runs a community of 200+ members. I spoke with Sandra Kuria about her journey into tech, community success stories, and being a Google Women Techmakers Ambassador. 

Share your journey into tech?

My name is Sandra Kuria, I’m from Nairobi, Kenya, and I’m a third-year student at Mount Kenya University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. I’m a software developer focused on Android development. I currently serve as the Google Developer Student Clubs (DSC) Lead of my university and as a Google Women Techmakers Ambassador. 

My tech journey started in high school with my computer studies class. Then, after graduating from high school, I enrolled in a coding boot camp before going to university. I spent two months at Moringa School, where I took a course in software development. I learned front-end web development during that time, so I came to campus with some programming skills. 

On-campus, you’re not taught the deep part of programming. That’s why communities like GDSC are important because they contribute significantly to helping students prepare for the job market. While the community is centered around Google technologies, we’re not limited to them. We also address general industry topics like cybersecurity and data science. 

Experience leading a tech community?

I love and am a huge advocate of tech communities. Before I became a GDSC Lead, I was an active member. Tech communities have played a huge part in my developer journey. When I got to campus, I got introduced to communities and began contributing immediately. I was a track lead, so I taught people in the community how to code. 

What type of events do you provide for members?

We have sessions every Saturday from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. We bring speakers who are professional software engineers working in the industry to help our members upskill. We’ve covered topics like Android and web development. We also have non-technical sessions where we discuss some of the soft skills you need to succeed in the industry.

Two months ago, we gave out scholarships to data science enthusiasts from our community. They received a free one-year DataCamp subscription to study data science. Special thanks to Kennedy Wangari, who made it all possible. We are also preparing for female mentorship sessions and Blockchain events for web3 enthusiasts in the community.

Community success stories? 

Last year we participated in the Google Solutions Challenge, which is Google’s annual global hackathon. The challenge was to solve for one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals using Google technologies. 

One of the teams from our community created an app that can detect cataracts in the eyes, one of the leading causes of blindness and visual impairment in Kenya and most developing countries. We got into the global top 50 finals, earning a certificate of achievement and mentorship from Googlers to pitch our project again in the semi-finals.

We also help our members access scholarships like the Google Africa Developer Scholarship and the DataCamp subscription for data science enthusiasts.

Share what it means to be a Google Women Techmakers Ambassador?

Google Women Techmakers Ambassador is a community group by women leaders of Google developer communities. As ambassadors, we aim to help build a world where all women can thrive in tech and bring more women into tech. At school, I encourage women to get into programming because, initially, there was a gender imbalance in our community. Over time, we’ve seen a shift. Today our community is more balanced than ever.

It’s also one of the best programs I’ve ever been involved with. They give us so much support. They have a lot of events for ambassadors to attend where we can learn and connect with other women in the industry. I’ve only been an ambassador since September, and I’ve learned so much in these past 4 months. 

I’ve connected with other ambassadors in Kenya and other WTM ambassadors globally. Ambassadors have helped our community significantly because our students are able to learn from experts. 

Advice to young African developers?  

Get involved in a tech community. A good community is a gem. You will have a huge advantage since you’ll be able to network, showcase your skills to people, and learn from others. Also, there is a community for everything, whether web development, Android, Flutter, or data science. And in those communities, you’ll find industry experts. Personally, outside of GDSC, I’m participate in Angular Kenya, GDG Nairobi, Kotlin Kenya, and Android 254.

Built In Africa. What does that mean to you?

Whether it’s building technology or non-tech solutions, our future is in our control. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrase Built In Africa. I think of solutions created by Africans—not only for Africans but for the world. We have the power to solve our problems using our own technologies, and we should embrace that.

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