Google’s Head Of Multicultural Strategy for CS in Media, Daraiha Greene, Talks Tech, Entertainment & Natural HairDaraiha Greene‘s work ethic is unmatched. Firstly, who all can say that their first job out of college is with the premiere tech company in THEE world, Google! At the youthful age of 27, Daraiha should be on any and every coveted “30 Under 30 List” for the ways in which she’s gone above and beyond to integrate computer science (CS) into mainstream media (e.g. TV, movies, digital, etc.) and highlight its intersections with the arts (e.g. dance, music, fashion, sports, etc.) through an event series she started at Google called “CS+X”.
I initially met Daraiha at the screening she hosted for the Google-funded web series, “GODCOMPLX”, in collaboration with Conroy Productions. The 9-episode first season starring YouTube vlogger, Shamless Maya was funded by Daraiha’s Computer Science in Media team—an initiative designed to encourage underrepresented groups to use and create technology. Daraiha was most proud of the fact that “GODCOMPLX”, which is currently in pre-production for season 2, has a staff comprised of 95% women and people of color.
We later reconnected in Miami at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) where she moderated the “Decoding Tech” panel featuring Grammy-Award winning artist NE-YO (one of my favorite people to interview). A few months later, Daraiha moved from the Google headquarters in the Bay to their Playa Vista offices in LA where she’s wasted no time producing two more events; one being “Dress Code”, a CS+Fashion event, and “Tech Slam”, which highlights the intersections between computer science and sports…this is in addition to the ever changing responsibilities of her full time job!
I’m not sure how she finds time to sleep so it was an honor and a privilege to catch up with this brilliant mind over lunch (which just so happened to include some of the best quesadillas in LA!) Keep reading to find out what a day in the life at Google is like, why she’s not being intimidated when she’s the youngest, woman of color in the room and how she’s navigated working in corporate America with her natural hair.
Zon D’Amour: I’m sure no two days are the same but what are some staple aspects of your role that must be attended to on a daily basis and what are some of the fun, creative aspects that people may not expect to be associated with working in tech?
Daraiha Greene: You’re absolutely right about that! No two days are ever the same. Email takes over my life on a daily basis. As you know, we’re striving to get computer science into mainstream media, ensure that representations of computer science are inclusive of women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups, and then show that computer science can be fun, accessible, and relatable for all students. We do this primarily by pitching storylines to various tv shows (e.g. The Fosters, Silicon Valley, Miles from Tomorrowland, The Powerpuff Girls etc.), well, that means reaching out and following up constantly with extremely busy people. Another staple aspect is project planning. In addition to advising on shows, we do a ton of community engagements, be it film festivals, screenings, CS activities for students, panel discussions, or presentations, and we have to plan out all of those details. I keep spreadsheets where I track action items, owners, due dates, budgets, you name it.
I’ve come to realize that not everyone moves at the same pace as you and some projects are going to have a different outcome than the one you have spelled out on paper.
I’d say the fun and creative aspects are all in the in-person interactions. Our team has the unique pleasure of conversing with entertainment execs and pitching storylines that will ultimately make the tech industry and the world a better and more inclusive place. I also enjoy attending film festivals, conferences, summits where I get to participate on panels or moderate the discussions to spread the awareness of what CS in Media is all about. I started our “CS+X” community engagement series, primarily targeting students, where we can educate and expose students to all of the unconventional uses of computer science and technology – how they can intersect with industries such as music, dance, fashion, sports, and theater. We also want to prove that CS goes beyond typing on a computer all day. It’s Machine Learning, VR, 3D mapping/printing, holograms, and so much more! As strategists, my teammates and I get to decide who we should work with and what shows we should target next. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I absolutely love it. I wake up everyday with a smile on my face because this is the perfect marriage of my passions – performance and entertainment (outside of Google, I’m a dancer and an actress) with education, technology, and inclusion.
ZD: With this being your first job out of college, what was the learning curve? In instances where you may be the youngest and possibly only woman of color in the room, how have you built your confidence and leadership skills in order to be respected by your colleagues?
DG: Fortunately, I was converted full-time and hired into the Human Resources Associate (HRA) rotational program after a 3-month paid internship during my junior year at Dartmouth. I knew I had a job at Google my entire senior year of college, so I naturally showed up to Silicon Valley with a little bit of confidence. I was excited more than anything else and I had an entire cohort of fellow HRAs to remind me that I wasn’t alone in this journey. I eased into my permanent placement at Google because I had the privilege of experiencing a specialist role, an analyst role, and a generalist role over the span of approximately 2.5 years. The challenge was once you finally started to feel comfortable and ramped up in each role, it was time to rotate to the next one. So I had to learn extremely quickly 4 different times. With the job I have now, I started out just absorbing everything like a sponge. I was attending meetings I had no business being in just so I could hear the “team pitch” one more time and hear how my teammates perceived our role in the entertainment industry. I spent a ton of time networking and going to several events to introduce myself and establish myself as a leader.
I had to jump out of my comfort zone immediately because work needed to get done and strategies needed to be developed.
I’ve always felt respected by my colleagues and genuinely felt that I had a seat at the table. I established my credibility by speaking up and not allowing myself to remain silent. You can’t be afraid of having the “dumb idea” at a meeting. If it’s not a great fit, someone will politely decline, but then you jump right back in with another one. Sometimes being the “minority” in the room can give you an advantage because nobody else is thinking like you and nobody else has your perspective, so you’re coming up with ideas that only you can take credit for. I always think to myself: “how I can take this seemingly negative circumstance and flip it on its head so that I have an outcome that works in my favor or more simply, a positive state of mind?”