Before getting into the nitty gritty of my experience during TechTrek I wanted to just thank everyone for their contribution to such an amazing trip. Professor Kane, Professor Doyle, Kelsey, and Matt – we were very fortunate to have such a great group of people orchestrate this all as well as pointing us in the right direction to get the most out of this trip. Fellow TechTrekkers – I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to accompany me during my first trip to San Francisco. From inspiring me with incredible brilliance to making me laugh until tears trickled down my face, I am very grateful for having had the chance to meet each and everyone one of you.
Now that I’ve finished pouring my heart out to you all and wiped the tears from my eyes, let’s talk about the trip.
I’ve never been one to call an experience “life changing.” In fact, I’m THAT guy that will come back from something very important and obnoxiously and sarcastically exclaim how it has changed my life. And to be completely honest, I found myself uttering the same words of that little schtick when I returned to Boston a few days ago – except this time there was no sarcastic tone found in my voice. I took Matt’s advice – took a big gulp of the Kool Aid – and went in fully embracing what Silicon Valley had to offer. Fortunately, I had all of me expectations exceeded as I returned with an unforgettable experience and an abundance of invaluable knowledge and wisdom.
I came on this trip with questions that I knew could only be answered if I experienced Silicon Valley first hand. I think to fully understand my experience during TechTrek its best to go through each of the questions I had and what answers I gathered while on the trip.
Did I make the right choice in choosing to enter the tech world?
After three major changes and a large magnitude more of career changes I finally landed on being a Computer Science major seeking to become a software engineer. Sure, I like creating things and solving problems, but does a love for the major equate to a love for the everyday work it will one day entail? That was probably my biggest question going in. For the past two years, if you asked me what I was studying to be I would’ve replied a software engineer. However, I only knew a handful, and had never seen one at work – or even an office one would work at for that matter.
To say my choice to work in the tech world was validated would be an understatement – in fact, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. The biggest factor in validating my belief that I will enjoy working in the tech world was the people. Everyone we met was greatly knowledgable while also being incredibly humble. The first person that comes to mind is Adrian Tout from Google. His vast knowledge about augmented reality completely changed the way I view AR and its capabilities for the future. Besides his immense knowledge, he was also kind of enough to exchange messages with me after the trip giving me advice on how I can pursue a career working with AR. Seeing how passionate people like Adrian are about these subjects makes me very excited to join their ranks.
So yeah the people are great and all…. BUT HAVE YOU SEEN THESE OFFICES!? The offices of some of these companies in Silicon Valley seem like they were time warped here from a utopian future. Between fun activities – indoor slides at YouTube and ping pong tables at WePay – and seemingly infinite perks – Facebook’s pop-up shops and every company’s policy of having food EVERYWHERE – these offices feel less like a place of work and more like a setting where a group of people are coming together to create things they’re passionate about.
An industry full of passionate workers with offices that breed creativity? Yeah, I’m in.
Can I see myself spending the beginning of my career in San Francisco?
Before going on this trip I would’ve said you were absolutely crazy if you thought I would move to San Francisco for a job. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey with a population of only 10,000 people. My mama, my two little sisters, all my friends, and the greatest city in the world just a 20 minute drive away – how could I ever leave that?
But spending a week out West really changed my perspective. Yes, the weather is great and the food is out of this world, but there is something really special happening in Silicon Valley, and I’d love a chance to take part in it. Our second night in San Francisco Mike, Kipp, Dylan, and I visited Mike’s roommate’s brother, Alan. In his studio apartment he discussed with us everything there was to discuss about the tech world from his views on cryptocurrencies to the status of his start-up. His passion about the topics was so infectious and refreshing – a stark difference from the tech conversations I typically have back home. And this level of excitement about technology didn’t just stop there – every young person we would run into in San Francisco was equally knowledgable and excited – a characteristic of the city I believe would inspire me to reach my greatest potential.
The biggest indicator that I would enjoy spending the beginning of my career in San Francisco was hearing from the many software engineers we met with. Typically on the East Coast software engineers are really just another cog in the machine, but out West you can see a visible difference in how software engineers are viewed. The creative freedom and appreciation of software engineers in San Francisco makes the idea of moving out there very alluring.
Should I work at a large corporation or a small start-up?
The biggest surprise about the trip for me was how much I enjoyed visiting companies with a wide range of sizes. You always hear about the stark differences between working at a large corporation and working at a small start-up, but it was was extremely beneficial to see the differences first hand. While I was able to learn more about the differences, that didn’t necessarily make my decision easier. At a company like Google, you are most definitely spending less time “creating” while more time is spent carefully planning future implementations, whether that be in the form of formal paperwork or finding a way to seamlessly add to an already massive codebase. However, there is an abundance of benefits working for a large company like Google from having some of the smartest mentors in the field to having seemingly endless employee perks. And while the code I write will generally be “smaller” than to that of a start-up, it will be code that will instantly effect millions, if not billions, of people. On the other hand, there are the small start-ups like Madison Reed. There is something special about ringing a bell every time a number appears in a sale that really brings a small team close together – a connection that is unavoidably lost with big corporations. In regards to the actual work done at a start-up, I’d argue the work is much more exciting. The idea that I’m not locked into a specific process of development is especially attractive to a full-stack developer like myself. While I didn’t necessarily receive an answer to this question, I learned a lot about the pros and cons of both and am looking forward to hopefully being able to experience both.
Participating in TechTrek was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I gained a ton of invaluable insight into the questions that have been nagging me as I enter the beginning of my professional career, and the feeling of fear is gone as I am now excitedly looking forward to what the future has in store.
Thank you for your time