This was actually my first time out to San Fran and Silicon Valley, so as you can imagine I was incredibly excited for many reasons! As many of you know, I'm interested in working for a Tech company, most of whom are out West. There are a few in the Boston area that have piqued my interest, but that was detailed in my BOSTON TREK blog post.
So I landed in San Fran on January 2nd then I had to figure out how to take the train down to Santa Clara because we were starting our trek down in Silicon Valley. So I'm walking through the airport and am waiting for the train and I hear a very familiar voice. I think to myself - "Is that my friend Tiffany? No... It can't be her." Then I walk towards the voice and sure enough it was my friend Tiffany who goes to Yale SOM. Seeing her was a very nice surprise and we chatted for a bit. She informed me that Yale SOM was also on their West Coast trek as well. We parted ways because I believe they were staying in San Fran proper and our paths wouldn't cross again for the rest of the trek, but it was definitely a pleasant surprising seeing her and her two classmates that were with her.
Right as I was about to step onto the train to head to the Valley, I get a call from one of my classmates. Before I boarded my flight I posted in our school's facebook page my flight information and my arrival time. So when my classmate saw that we were in the airport at the same time, he gave me a call and said that he was getting a rental car. I definitely preferred riding in a car over taking the train. As we were waiting in line for the rental car we were talking about the trek and someone in front of us overheard us. Then I think she put 2 + 2 together (the second 2 being my Cornell sweatshirt) and asked if we were business school students. Of course we are and she said that she goes to Columbia GSB. We chatted for a bit and I told her that I had just run into a couple of folks from Yale. She then invited us Johnson folks to a networking event with HBS, Columbia, MIT, and Yale that was going on a couple days later in Palo Alto. Her and I exchanged email addresses and kept in touch throughout the trek. They would also be going up to Seattle the following week just as we would be.
After we got the car we drove down to Santa Clara. What was funny (at least to me) about driving down is that I was a complete Tech FANBOY tourist. My heart would palpitate as we drove downt he freeway and I would see signs of towns that contain all of these huge companies that we've all heard. For instance look at the sign that I took a picture of below:
When I saw Cupertino, I knew that I had to take a picture of it since that's where Apple is located. I didn't get to drive by the campus (that day) but it was still semi-exciting to see.
So after those meet and greets, we made it to the hotel in Santa Clara, which was the same hotel that USC - Marshall was staying in for their Trek.
I met up with some classmates who were already there and who I hadn't seen in three weeks to grab a bite to eat. We ended up getting lost in Santa Clara and driving around what seemed like 40 Cisco buildings.
So the following day we had a lot on our plates. We were going to visit three different companies. It doesn't sound like that's a hectic day, but when you're trying to make sure that 50 people get to one place on a tight schedule, it can get very hectic. The first place that we visited was Intel. Now Intel had been on campus before so their offerings were not totally foreign to us and their campus was about 5 minutes from our hotel. Like Cisco, Intel has a myriad of buildings! We found the correct one though thanks to everyone's navigations systems and a nice man who walked us to the building from the parking lot. The presentation was nice and ended with a panel of Johnson alums and Michigan Alums. Intel was also kind enough to provide food for us. Of course we all had to take a picture in front of the Intel sign:
After Intel we had to shoot over to a small start-up company in Palo Alto of course called ShopKick. This is about a 30 person ship so it was interesting to go from Intel which is of course a HUGE company, to ShopKick which is very much the opposite. I was very impressed with ShopKick and one of my classmates worked there prior to coming to Johnson, so we definitely got a lot of insight into the inner workings of a tech start-up.
While 1/2 of us were at ShopKick, the other half was at Cisco. But after ShopKick, it was time to head back down near our hotel to go to another more established company - Citrix. At Citrix, we met back up with the rest of the group and went in to listen to their presentation and of course ask questions. What struck me about Citrix is their YoY revenue increases. Even in 2008 they didn't drop off but stayed stagnant and then post 2008 they went back to incredible YoY growth.
So that was Day 1 of our company visits. At night, I went out to dinner with David Park who many of you know as the BeatTheGMAT guy. I've worked with him on many BTG projects but this was the first time that we got to speak to one another in person! I know right? 2 years after I became involved with BTG I had never met him or Eric. He took me to a great Korean BBQ place although I'm not exactly sure where it was. We were still in the Valley and I could not get my bearings straight. Not to mention, it was dark by then so I definitely wasn't paying attention.
On Day 2 we had another early morning as we had to drive a bit further north from our hotel to visit Electronic Arts!
EA's presentation was very well put together. When we were in the lobby (seen above) I remember seeing another group of people with us and one had on a Stern backpack. You guys know me, I'll talk to anyone, so I'm like "Hey are you guys Sternies?" Sure enough they were and I started talking to them. I had to do the name dropping and ask if they knew one of my friends who goes to Stern and sure enough they did know him. You blog readers know him too because I've spoken about him MANY times! In any event, while we were all just waiting in the lobby we see another couple of people walk in and they turned out to be from HBS. Then I look across the hall and I see my friend who I ran into at the HBS Cyberposium back in November, after our Boston Trek and was like "HEY! I didn't know you guys were here too." Her and her classmates go to Wharton. So then we realized that we would all be together for this EA presentation. We went into a large auditorium and heard from two speakers, one of whom is the COO of EA and an HBS alum. He spoke to us for about an hour and fielded questions from us. Their presentation was very dynamic and insightful. We were able to see where EA was going with their corporate strategy. Another interesting point is that they definitely discussed Battlefield 3 - which is a topic that I know all of us Johnson students were familiar with since we had an article to read and write about on our Strategy final, not to long ago.
While 1/2 of us were at Electronic Arts the other 1/2 of our group was at Yahoo so I don't have any insights into how that went. When we left Electronic Arts it was time to go to eBay!
We were at eBay for about two hours and had the chance to speak with A LOT of Johnson alums and Cornell undergraduate alums. It's very surreal to be in buildings of companies that are so widely known and used and see the behind the scenes action. I can't go into too much of what we discussed because we signed an NDA :-) Not that I would divulge that information anyway, but eBay will be ALRIGHT! hahah
After visiting eBay we were headed to Google! I can't find the picture that I took while we were at teh Googleplex but I'm sure you can Google image search and find many! The Google campus and buildings are all that one would think they would be. Every perk that we've all heard of is true. I've been in the Google offices in NY and definitely saw similarities between those offices and the one's in Mountain View. Google had been on campus here at Johnson so it was good to be able to speak to the people who were here recruiting on campus as well as a recent Undergrad alum who just started working there not too long ago.
After Google we went into downtown Palo Alto for a Cornell Silicon Valley Tech Panel. This was not just Johnson students. We were actually the "outcasts" because there is a Cornell Silicon Valley club that many of the Cornell alums are part of out there in the Valley. For this night though there was a start-up panel that we would be attending and that a classmate would be moderating. This was a great opportunity to hear the trials and tribulations of being at a start-up in the Valley. By start-up I'm talking start-ups that people have heard of: Facebook, Box, DropBox, & Square. The panel was great and then some of us went out for some drinks afterwards. That part was actually my favorite part, but I won't go into too many details. Let's just said that I made some uber important/genuine contacts that night! Here is a picture I took in front of the banner:
The following day we went to HP, AMD, and YouTube. I didn't take any pictures at those places oddly enough right? But yeah, HP has a lot of history and is aware of where they stand in the market place that they created. A lot of the times people on the outside think that these companies don't realize what's going on around them in the world, but the fact is that they are all very much aware and are simply trying to figure out how to position themselves in the ever changing market given their resources.
I didn't know too much about AMD prior to our visit other than the HotSheets that were sent out to our group before the trek. It was a great learning experience. Hardware is a little bit out of my realm of speaking knowledge but it was interesting to hear AMD's viewpoint relative to what we heard at Intel earlier in the week.
After AMD we had a bit of a break so we drove to YouTube and then some people hung out in Starbucks. I actually slept in the car for about a half hour because I was exhausted! YouTube was a great visit and it was interesting to see the dynamic between YouTube and Google since YouTube is a part of Google, for those of you who didn't know. There were a lot of similarities between the YouTube building and Google although because of the time we visited, there seemed to be a lot more action going on at YouTube. We arrived at YouTube just as the HBS crew was leaving so yet again we crossed paths.
At the end of our visit to YouTube, I overheard one of my classmates asking if people were going to a prospective students meeting back in downtown Palo Alto. I wasn't aware that this was going on at first, but my ears definitely perked up when I heard about it. There was some reorganization going on with the car situation so I hopped in the car that was going to the Prospective student meeting. You guys know me... I'm all about prospectives and telling them about the b-school process and more specifically - Johnson!
There was a great showing and I saw some of the Stanford people asking why we were there lol... They were nice though! It's still awkward to be "on the other side of the table" with regards to prospectives because it was not to long ago that I was in the same boat. Hopefully I'll see some of the prospectives here at Johnson either for Destination Johnson or better yet, as first years this Fall.
The following day we all had to check out of our hotels and go to San Fran to visit Zynga. Not everyone went because of flights and all that, but Zynga was very impressive. The office in San Fran is an incredible space that they just moved into. Imagine a company that makes games. Now imagine a company that makes games and is filled with a bunch of incredibly smart people. Now if you owned a company like that how would you decorate that office? Well that's the interior of Zynga. I felt like I was walking around Disney World. It was great.
Zynga was the last place that we visited for the Silicon Valley/San Fran portion of trek. I stayed with my friend in San Fran for the weekend to do some sight seeing and go out in the "Stro" as I've found out that the Castro district is referred too. While in the Castro, I met up with a blog reader and newly admitted student to Haas & Kellogg. We had a blast bar hopping and having him show me the ropes. That was a fun time. The rest of the trip was just very personal. I did all of the touristy things that you guys probably don't care to hear about. Then on Sunday I flew up to Seattle for that portion of the trek. I'll have to write about that another time because this topic is taking its toll on me!
Here are a few personal pictures from my trip:
Holding Alcatraz in my hand!
Driving Across the Golden Gate Bridge!
Until next time folks! XOXO