I was born in a small town in the South of France to an Algerian dad and a Vietnamese mom. Like many kids from immigrant families, I took school seriously because I saw success in the classroom as a way to fit in.
I was incredibly lucky to have teachers in high school who spent extra hours after school pushing me and surfaced opportunities I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. Without them, I probably would have settled for less. Instead I’m the first in my family to go to university. The helping hand I got from them growing up is what motivates me today to find opportunities to give back — and thanks to Google there’s plenty of ways for me to give back at work.
Vanessa, third from right, with other Google.org Fellows and the team at Generation, a nonprofit that helps job seekers get placed into life-changing careers.
Giving back at Google
I’ve been at Google for five years, and currently work in strategy and operations in London. Last year, I learned about the Google.org Fellowship, where Googlers could spend up to 6 months working full-time, pro bono for a nonprofit. When I saw that Generation — an organization with the mission to prepare and place people into life-changing careers — was one of the nonprofits looking for Fellows, I knew I wanted to participate.
Generation focuses on providing training and support to underserved jobseekers from diverse and low-income backgrounds. They’ve found that with the right skills, non-traditional candidates can be a boon for employers — in fact 84% of employers say that graduates from Generation programs outperform their peers.
However, innate biases still exist in recruitment that overlook talented and qualified people from nontraditional backgrounds. In France, for example, the first filters recruiters apply when looking for job candidates is often where someone went to school and their degree. Working with Generation, we wanted to figure out how to surface alternative applicants in order to give them a chance to be seen and considered.
Three other Fellows and I worked with the Generation team to design a “reverse job board” that advertised the candidate rather than the job. This would help ensure each jobseeker was seen as a top-notch candidate, rather than an alternative choice. We then conducted employer research for feedback. The Generation team springboarded off that work to build the portal, which launched as a pilot in Spain in March 2021. As the tool becomes more sophisticated and more jobseeker profiles are added, Generation plans to launch it globally.
The Generation Employer Portal that Vanessa and other Google.org Fellows helped build.
Keeping the culture of giving back going
My fellowship with Generation ended when COVID-19 grew into a global pandemic. I was shocked by the scale of the crisis and knew I wanted to do anything I could to help. In April 2020, I volunteered to lead Google.org’s UK COVID taskforce to help businesses and charities impacted by the pandemic. We brought together Googlers across the UK who wanted to help, and spent more than 2,700 hours volunteering across 100 projects for 50 charities.
To keep that spirit of giving back going beyond the pandemic, I created an employee group called Giving Back UK to encourage Googlers to spend time volunteering. This year for GoogleServe, our company-wide volunteering campaign that takes place every summer, I’ve helped create more than 500 volunteering opportunities. As for me, I’ll be spending my time working with Hatch, a nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to develop the skills and knowledge they need to grow their businesses.
Being able to bring a positive impact to others is incredibly rewarding — and I love being able to encourage others to do the same.