Anthony Mays, 33, has been inspiring children throughout Los Angeles County to get involved in computer science regardless of their background. As a kid growing up in Compton he thought that people like him couldn’t get a job in computer science, but he is now a software engineer for the most visited site in the world, Google.
From a young age, Mays was into science and math, but the other little boys in Compton were not. Today, nerd culture is accepted with the popularity of “Star Wars” and artist such as Childish Gambino and Tyler the Creator. The only nerd reference given to Mays however, was Steve Urkle which led to many fights.
“Family Matters had just came out and I had the big, thick glasses,” said Mays. “It definitely wasn’t seen as cool and I was bullied as a kid.”
Mays was also experiencing bullying at home. As a child, he experienced physical abuse from his step father, which a teacher noticed when he was just five-years-old. After a medical exam at Martin Luther King Hospital confirmed the abuse, Mays and his two younger brothers were put into the foster care system. There was light at the end of the tunnel, however, as Mays and his siblings were adopted by an older couple who use to babysit them. It was this couple who bought him his very own Pre Computer 1000 at the young age of eight.
“I loved Batman and what I loved most was the computer,” said Mays. “I wanted to make my own bat computer that could do anything and it became my ticket out of the hood.”
When Mays was in middle school, a counselor came to recruit students to the California Academy of Math and Science, a high school on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. After telling the counselor all about why he loved science, Mays was accepted into the high school where he was really able to grow his abilities. It was at this high school where he met Javier Andre, a computer lab administrator who told him that he would have to be a self-motivator and self-starter because nobody was going to do the work for him. From that moment, Mays started to carve his own path and work as hard as he could to be excellent.
“I remember two teachers who were great mentors. Steve Allen in middle school and Javier Andre in high school, both computer lab administrators. They were the mentors that taught me things that I still use today both professionally and personally,” said Mays. “I was also inspired by a lot of Black inventors like Garret A. Morgan and Benjamin Banneker. I admire them because they changed the world and that’s something that I want to do with computers.”
Mays went on to graduate from UC Riverside and worked in the tech industry for seven years subsequently getting a job through INROADS, an organization that placed talented, underserved youth into paid internships. Then one day, he was contacted by a Google recruiter. Google was always the company that he wanted to work for, but he never thought that they would hire him. That thought became all too clear when he failed his first interview.
“It was soul crushing. There were so many people rooting for me and I had to tell them that I didn’t get the job,” said Mays. “It was meaningful to fail the first time because of what I learned, but I was crushed.”
Google ended up contacting Mays a second time a year later, but he didn’t answer for fear of a second rejection. Third time was the charm, as Google contacted him again the following year. This time, Mays answered and killed the interviews. Mays hasn’t looked back since.
“I’ve never regretted working here,” said Mays. “I have a great relationship with my coworkers on a very diverse team. Everyday is so full of interesting and exciting things, and tons of free meals.”
Mays does a lot of tech work with visualization in Google’s most widely used apps, but is also involved with Google’s diversity outreach efforts that goes out to different neighborhoods hosting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) events. He is also a family man, with a wife and two kids who are 10 and 7. Mays is heavily involved in his church and ministry as well.
“I come from a place where if you can’t see it, you can’t be it so the most rewarding part of my job is being able to share my testimony,” said Mays. “But in the future, I want to get more involved in ministry because I believe that Gospel gets to the heart of the real problems in the world. Soli Deo Gloria.”
For more information on Anthony Mays, visit him on twitter @anthonydmays or online at www.anthonydmays.com. You can also learn more about computer science by visiting www.cs-first.com.