CECS’s Alvaro Monge Completes Google Faculty in Residence Summer Program

Graduating computer science students are all too familiar with the technical interview, where they’re asked to solve a problem on a whiteboard to demonstrate why they might be a useful addition to the team. However, that approach is in sharp contrast to the usual college lectures, where students sit quietly as professors click through their slide decks.

That will now change—at least in some of Professor Alvaro Monge’s computer science classes—thanks to his newfound experience with project-based learning.

Monge was one of 21 faculty from 20 U.S. institutions serving underrepresented students who participated in Google’s Faculty in Residence program this summer. The four-week program in Mountain View, Calif., offered an immersive learning experience to explore hands-on, project-based learning workshops.

Faculty also had an opportunity to discuss industry expectations, learn more about the technical interview process, and immerse themselves in Google’s engineering culture.

“I learned a tremendous amount. To get to spend a summer there was a unique opportunity,” said Monge, who described the experience as “eye opening” and “fun.”

Although the cohort was new at the Googleplex—and wore “Nooglers” caps to prove it—they still had access to the company’s many resources. Participants were each paired with a cohort buddy and a Googler—in Monge’s case a Level 6 software engineer—and attended meetings and had free run of the facilities. Monge said he was inspired by the employees’ high caliber and passion.

Google’s technical interviews are legendary. Indeed, technical interviews are now employed by most tech companies as a way to gauge how well a candidate may fit in with the team. The focus is on problem-solving—where and how you attempt to solve the problem is more important than coming up with the right answer.

“They told us what their technical interviews are like,” said Monge, who had the chance to go through a technical interview himself. “Candidates have 45 minutes to solve a problem on a whiteboard. They have to demonstrate good logic. But asking questions is the most important part.”

Coming away with a better understanding of how to prepare students for technical interviews, Monge said he’ll use learning materials he completed at Google to incorporate more project-based learning in his classes.

This year was the second that Google offered its Faculty in Residence program. Program managers will visit participants’ classrooms this fall to see firsthand how the lessons are being incorporated. Google is also producing a newsletter with additional resources for participants.

For its part, Google is receiving insights into how better to achieve its diversity and inclusiveness goals.

CSULB is also among more than a dozen institutions participating in a Google Explore Computer Science Research grant to increase computer science undergrads’ awareness of research opportunities. In the CSULB Computer Engineering & Computer Science Department, faculty Shadnaz Asgari, Birgit Penzenstadler, Bo Fu, Monge, and Wenlu Zhang will be working on a research-focused workshop for women.