Google’s NYC learning center offers free advice, resources and inspiration
By Vicki Salemi
When Safiya Quamina attended a career workshop in July, the Crown Heights resident learned how to tailor her resume, craft a distinctive cover letter and answer behavior-based interview questions. Now, the 19-year-old Monroe College accounting major feels prepared to pound the pavement for an internship with aspirations of working for a “Big 4” accounting firm.
“The facilitator advised us to write cover letters that will connect us intimately with the company’s product or service,” she says. “He shared a story of an applicant whose cover letter highlighted that she had been using the product the company sells since she was a child.”
Quamina’s insights came via workshops conducted by the New York Urban League (the local chapter of the National Urban League, a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization) at the Grow With Google NYC Learning Center, Google’s temporary educational space in Chelsea. Quamina heard about the event through her National Association of Black Accountants’ chapter president.
“What I loved most, apart from the friendliness of the staff, is the diversity of attendees,” she says.
Through Dec. 31, Google’s 11,000-square-foot Learning Center will provide classroom training for job seekers, entrepreneurs, educators, students and anyone seeking to land a job, accelerate their skills, take small business classes, get individual mentoring sessions with a Google employee and attend community events — all for free.
Since launching on April 8, more than 12,000 New Yorkers have participated in a class and over 25,000 have walked through the former Banana Republic store doors. With its three classrooms, which feature movable walls, there’s public space to network and check messages.
Grow with Google launched in October 2017 as an online presence to make education and digital skills free and accessible. It teams up with more than 5,000 partners, including libraries in all 50 states, which can take the Google-developed curriculum and teach it in their own space. New York’s initiative is Google’s first expansion into a brick-and-mortar facility.
“We thought about New York City, our hometown,” says Jesse Haines, director of Grow With Google. “This is the first physical space of this kind in America. New Yorkers are hungry for digital skills, and they’ve been registering in numbers that have blown us away.”
Google works with community partners like Quamina’s instructor, Kenneth L. Johnson, who teaches weekly workshops at the temporary venue. Johnson is a diversity recruitment specialist consultant for the New York Urban League, and president and diversity recruiter at Harlem-based diversity recruitment firm, East Coast Executives.
‘The feedback has been incredible. People have reached out to share gratitude and stories of success.’
“The Learning Center is an incredible space,” he says. “It’s aesthetically pleasing with state-of-the-art technology designed for presentations. The classrooms are ideal for learning, and the Google team ensures that the experience is great for the instructors and learners alike. I really enjoy being involved in this initiative to support the residents of New York City.”
Johnson teaches three 90-minute workshops on job-search networking, interviewing and salary negotiation. Classes are promoted through e-mails, flyers, word of mouth and social media, and participants enroll online.
“The feedback has been incredible,” he says. “People have reached out to share gratitude and stories of success they relate directly to the tips and tactics acquired from the workshops.”
In Johnson’s case, the New York Urban League facilitates his workshops. In others, nonprofits or a Google instructor will head up the classes.
Thomas Renart, executive vice president at Goodwill NYNJ in Astoria, a nonprofit empowering individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment, says their partnership with Google has been instrumental. Approximately 15 to 20 participants from Goodwill’s YouthPathways program, connecting 18- to 24-year-old New Yorkers with training, education and job opportunities, have attended the center’s workshops and panels.
“Having access to the workshops that Google offers and the Q & A sessions with Google employees has been an invaluable experience,” says Renart. “Our participants are given an opportunity to have an open dialogue with a panel of Googlers [Google employees], who provide insight on their employment with Google, their current and past experiences, as well as answering individual questions from our participants.”
In July, via YouthPathways, Briana Harp, 22, attended a job-search workshop at the Learning Center and was taught how to organize her resume, keep track of interviews and search for jobs. The Canarsie resident, who works as a full-time paraprofessional, learned the importance of exuding confidence, which plays a major role when looking for jobs and speaking to hiring managers.
The aspiring entrepreneur intends to return to take workshops such as Get Your Business Online and Use YouTube to Grow Your Business. “The direct impact [the center] has had on me is to never give up, continue practicing and going forth with what you want.” Harp says.
This is precisely what Haines loves to hear.
“Google has always been about being helpful and open and for everyone,” Google director Haines says. “You can walk into this space, you can learn, you can meet one-on-one with a Googler who can help you solve your problems, you can walk up to a learning kiosk and be curious. That’s what Google wants to be and that’s what the Learning Center wants to embody.”