I am going to try not to sound cliché, although I probably will. What makes TechTrek unique? It’s definitely the people—the people we talked to and the people we went on the trip together with. My initial expectation of TechTrek was to find out how does quantitative/analytical CSOMer fit into the world of Technology and tech companies. I was also hoping to seek some clarity on my career path. TechTrek not only helped me to find the answers to both questions but also gave me lots of wise advice I did not ask for but so grateful to have received them.
I have always struggled to describe what Information Systems concentration is to my parents, and they probably still won’t have a clear idea, but at least I do, now. I was not sure how Information Systems translates into a career path, but I begin to have an idea. Product manager seems to be a role where business understanding and technical know-how really intertwine. I love the people interaction aspect of the role, lots of talking, interviewing and getting feedback. It’s what energizes me and helps me to see the impact I make, big or small. The level of technical understanding is not too down in the weeds but is still deeper than other business roles at tech companies. Pat Twomey from Uber brought up a good point to choose a company where your expertise will be most valued. Engineers run the show at Google whereas designers lead the way in Airbnb. It will be something I keep in mind as I navigate through roles at companies. I also remember hearing multiple product managers say an important part of their role is to explain why the changes matter to engineers. The word “storytelling” has been a buzz word we heard over an over on the trip, and I find it fascinating. I would love a career involves storytelling because it makes me feel I am creating concrete value and validates my work as meaningful. It appears to be a theme in the Silicon Valley that people very seriously defend the reason why they do what they do, in a very good way. The drive for many people is to make an impact that matters, and it keeps the team aligned.
It is somewhat of an understatement that the trip is inspiring, but I can’t find a better word. CJ said during the dinner that to know how the future will look like, one must be in the place where future is happening. AR/VR, autonomous cars, and many other innovations are remote future in a lot of places, but in Silicon Valley, they seem to be the reality. I began to understand why so many talented young graduates would come here even when it means to be a complete stranger to the new place, far away from their families.
The different paths those panelists took indeed show the beauty of Silicone Valley—the mobility to move both horizontally and vertically. A philosophy major is now a video project lead at Facebook; an electric engineer from Stanford once worked in a hedge-fund is now at a FinTech startup; a 23-year-old psychology and economics major is now making every decision on a 400-million business. The non-existence of a correlation between major and career is a bit freaky but so exciting! It simply shows the unbounded opportunities within Tech and Silicon Valley. Many people switched between different roles at a company/among companies. This kind of non-liner career path fascinates me and encourages me to think outside of the box of what I want to do and what I can do. I know I just talked about product manager, but I will not limit my imagination to that. Actually, I began to be excited about the fact that there is usually no direct connection between what I study and what I do later in life.
People on the trip are so interesting and inspiring too! I am so grateful that I get to see so many cool people doing amazing things. And, good luck to everyone in the process of landing a summer internship and congratulations to people who got the offer! I feel so lucky that BC has a strong alumni network even on the other coast. Of course, there is still a long way to go for me to get from where I am today to where some panelists are today. But, wouldn’t it be exciting if some of us indeed go out to the West Coast, supporting and cheering for each other along the way?