Looking back at 2017, one of the groups I’m most proud to have been a part of is Women@Verily - an employee-led community for women and women-supporters in the workplace. Over the course of the year, we focused programming on engaging employees across departments, experiences and interests. We hosted an “ally” themed Happy Hour to recruit men into the group and emphasize the importance of inclusion. We also celebrated Wellness month in May with several events, including a Lunch and Learn on myths and truths, meditation session and fitness challenge. But the one Women@Verily event that stands out in my memory most is Women in Engineering, Healthcare Edition, which took place this summer on our South San Francisco campus. Over four hundred non-Verily women across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) joined us for an evening of technical demos, keynote speeches, networking and a Q&A panel.

As an early member of Verily’s engineering team, my experience over the past three years has spanned a broad range of projects and activities. From creating Alphabet’s first cloud-connected wearable health device to launching a massive longitudinal study to collect and analyze broad phenotypic health data, I’m proud to be part of building out the technical and operational groundwork for growing Verily’s team and technology portfolio.

At Women in Engineering, Healthcare Edition, I sat alongside fellow engineers and scientists Brooke Basinger, MS, PhD; Sarah Sanowar, PhD; and Ranjani Ramesh, MS. Responding to questions from our moderator, Emily Friedman, I shared details of my non-linear career path, the “start with Yes!” philosophy I extend from Verily cultural values as well as Lean In principles, and favorite challenges tackled in my first years at Verily.

We spent an hour answering thoughtful questions from the audience, with topics spanning technical aspects of our work, the development activities and advice that catalyzed our careers and the challenges we’ve overcome as women in STEM. We reflected on the extraordinary efforts it takes to build a career, the unlikely odds we’ve overcome and the benefit of forums and networks that provided us with a support community along the way. We did power poses with the audience, laughed through funny moments and bonded through shared experiences.

This event was an open forum for women in STEM, and the energy in the room confirmed that there is a hunger for more such open forums for women. I and the other Women@Verily want to be a part of growing those forums. After the event, I was inspired to endow a scholarship for “first graduate” women in STEM at my alma mater, Georgia Tech. Giving back to the community of women in STEM can take many forms; we can all learn from people who walked the path ahead of us, and we can all boost those who come next by seeking out opportunities to become mentors and advocates.

As our community grows (and it will!), we must work together to level the playing field and to create more opportunity every day. Research at Google has demonstrated that diverse teams are more successful than homogenous teams. As employees and companies, it’s in our best interest to encourage more women to take a seat at the table.

This Women In Engineering event and the efforts of Women@Verily is only the beginning for Verily. We invite other companies to join us in raising hands to lead diversity initiatives that create forums, opportunities and communities for women in STEM.

So, to answer the question “What happens when you get 400 female engineers and scientists in a room?” I say:

“Pure magic.”

Posted by Erika Gemzer, Head of Operations and Technical Program Management for Software, Verily