As the days go by after our week in Silicon Valley, I know I’m not going to remember every detail about every company visit, every word of advice from the awesome people we met, or even every token of appreciation (eye roll), but I will never forget the lasting impact of the relationships built and the true admiration I have developed for the dynamic and innovative magical land of Silicon Valley. I want to sincerely thank Profs Kane and Doyle, Kelsey, Matt, and every one of my classmates for making this trip what it was–incredible. One piece of advice Pat Grady gave us at Sequoia was to “surround yourself with people you want to become,” and I feel so incredibly lucky to have gotten the opportunity to do just that on this trip.
In my intro blog post, I mentioned something I was most excited for was getting the opportunity to meet BC Alum who are living and working in Silicon Valley, and I was definitely not disappointed. This was easily one of my favorite aspects of the trip, as every BC grad I met was not only doing incredible things in the tech industry, but also so willing to establish connections with each of us. Last week at the Shea Center Lunch with an Entrepreneur, Jon Parisi said “the BC Network is like a secret society,” and after this trip, I understand how lucky I am to have front row access to it. One of my favorite events of the trip was the Alumni Dinner on Thursday, where I was luck enough to sit near Pat Grady from Sequoia and Rich Aberman from Wepay. The casual atmosphere was so conducive to organic conversation, so it was great getting to know these alum on more of a personal level. Crazy to think a gas leak and resulting closure at the original reservation location almost cancelled this event, but hey, being able to roll with the punches and figure out a new plan is practically a requirement of living in Silicon Valley.
As someone interested in data science and analysis, something I loved seeing in the Valley was the emphasis on data-driven decision making. At Facebook, Margaret Gould Stewart said “We would be thrown around like a tiny boat in a sea of data if we didn’t focus on our mission.” With the quantity of data increasing exponentially each year, the importance of data analysis has never been so relevant.
Another common theme was customer-centric focus. Thanks to technology improvements and the rise of the internet, we are in the Age of the Consumer. With so much power in the consumers’ hands, this focus is crucial for success. Something else Margaret Gould Stewart said that really resonated with me was that it is “not a good long term strategy to develop products that are bad for society.” Though this was said in the context of Facebook, I thought it was hyper relevant with almost every company we visited. Especially in startups or companies that were once a startup and can relate, generally everyone we met with was bought into and invested in the values and customer-centric mission of their respective company.
A phrase I heard a few times over the course of the week was that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Not surprisingly, this was much common to hear in smaller companies than from employees of larger corporations. While employees at startups are subject to a dynamic environment with often more autonomy, decisions made at a larger company are generally subject to approval up the ladder. However, the perk employees at larger companies have is the stability of being backed up by a large corporation with deep pockets, so mistakes don’t hurt as much. For instance, at Facebook, the alumni we talked to were encouraged to “fail fast,” as mistakes can happen, and are even encouraged, as long as you can recover and move on quickly.
A final theme I would like to highlight is that of constant innovation. I think for me, this is possibly the most appealing part of the tech industry and the Silicon Valley vibe in general. The most successful companies are those that are on top of trends, and don’t get comfortable in a position of relative success, because that can be temporary.
I grew up not having any idea what career path I wanted to take. My Dad is works in finance, my Mom was an abuse counsellor before becoming a homemaker full time, my oldest sister is a teacher and my other sister works for a nonprofit. That’s a lot of variation. I have had an interest in data analysis and technology for a while now, but this class and especially last week in SF has really reaffirmed this previously tentative interest and made me more confident in this career trajectory. It has also confirmed my love for the west coast and desire to move back to California (≠ Cali). I love you Boston, but there are only so many nor’easters one southern California native can take.
Thank you all for an amazing and unforgettable week. Words truly can’t describe how thankful I am for my time in this, the doors that were opened, and the lasting bonds that were formed.