After many months of careful planning, networking, and arm-twisting, the BTC West Coast Career Trek went off without a hitch. Sixteen BTC club members made their way to the Silicon Valley to meet with Intel, IBM, EA, and Google, and we also took part in an evening happy hour between current students, prospective students, and alumni.
The trip started with a visit to Intel, where we were greeted by Sheldon Bernard (KFBS ’11). We were ushered into a large conference room where we met other Intel employees as well as Tim Baldwin (’11), who told us about his work in the Global Marketing and Strategy role. We learned a lot about Intel’s culture of decision-making and how its flat organization allows for opportunities to move around in different roles. It was also good to hear that the Intel Internships are project-based, and these projects are based on company’s real needs at the time. The visit culminated with a presentation by the Chief Information Officer, Diane Bryant. She offered a glimpse of how fast the trends in technology are really changing and how innovative and nimble companies must be to keep up.
Next we drove south to IBM’s San Jose lab, which was a huge contrast to the urban setting of Intel. Ninety percent of the campus is set aside as open space, and the surrounding spaces are for orchards and cattle. We met with Mike Perera (’03) who used to work at IBM’s RTP location. His lab’s main purpose is software engineering and has about 2,000 employees, most of who work in information management, UI development, and Big Data. We learned about the Extreme Blue intern program geared towards top-notch students pursuing software development and MBA degrees. IBM, as you know, is a very large company, with about 430,000 employees; however it offers a lot of opportunity to move within the company. It offers a collaborative culture and seeks go-getters that are flexible and adaptable to challenges and posses entrepreneurial spirit.
After the info session, we drove back to the hotel and relaxed a bit before heading out again to the evening reception at a local bar. The happy hour gave us a chance to interact with alumni from other companies and industries and offered a low-stress environment for networking. I finally got to meet Willam Lau (’05 and former BTC president) from Adobe, and it was nice to chat with him about industry trends and Adobe’s recent acquisitions. We also met and talked to a bunch of prospective students, who all seemed to fit the Kenan-Flagler mold.
The next morning, we drove out to Electronic Arts (EA) where we were surprised to get an impromptu presentation by the CEO himself, John Riccitiello. He talked about his vision of the company, the current trends, challenges, and opportunities. After the motivating speech and a brief Q&A session we went on a tour of the campus, visiting their awesome cafeteria, gym, and company store. Almost everyone ended up buying a few games, at highly discounted prices, to bring home with them. We ended up eating the EA’s cafeteria, which offered a lot of locally-sourced ingredients, cooked-to-order meals, and a huge salad bar.
The last stop for the visit was Google, where we met Guru Nagarajan (’09), current technology manager for Android. Guru talked about his experiences working at Google, the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators Google uses to motivate and engage its employees, and how rewarding the experience has been so far. We also heard from Treasurer Brent Callinicos (former BSBA and MBA) and Kristina from Finance to about their experiences of working at Google and the projects they’ve worked on. Afterward, we briefly walked around the campus and took the obligatory photo in front of the Android statue. Guru was also kind enough to provide each of us with a small Android figurine. I’ve promptly surrounded mine with a literal “walled garden” of Apple products in an effort to juxtaposition the two companies’ strategies.
Overall the whole visit was a huge success, we all made new contacts, learned a lot about the tech industry, the Silicon Valley environment, and each company we visited. The BTC will definitely come back next year to build upon the foundation of this visit!