When I was first introduced to Tech Trek last semester in my Computers in Management class, I couldn’t be further away from being interested in technology or considering pursuing a career in the field. I was under the impression that all tech companies were either filled with ping pong tables and bean bag chairs, or stationed in some suspect basements filled with computer whizzes and robots. That’s definitely not a scene I could imagine myself ever working in; nevertheless, I decided I needed to go on Tech Trek East to experience the technology scene in my home city. In hindsight, that might’ve been one of the best and most formative decisions I’ve made thus far in my college career.
One of the biggest takeaways from visiting about 20 companies in three days, each differing in goals, culture, and size, was just how challenging it is to consistently overcome changes in trends, rapid advancements in technology, and increased competition from other companies in the industry. As I mentioned earlier, I always considered tech companies as almost self-serving — once the technology has been built, it must just work flawlessly on its own, and exist as an application on everyone’s phone. That’s where I was very wrong. The smart, passionate people employed by these companies are driving the product, making sure it’s top notch and constantly working to scale its presence and popularity among the intended consumer market. Real people (not robots), from data scientists to engineers to marketers to human resources coordinators, who are enthusiastic about the work they do and the company’s mission, are what make companies, succeed.
Along with having smart, driven, and enthusiastic workers, comes the idea of creating, implementing, and conserving corporate culture. As the CEO and founder of Ceros, Simon Berg, and many other leaders and employees of other companies had said, if you don’t instill a culture that you care about early on, you will never be able to create a culture somewhere along the line. It’s much easier to create and instill a corporate culture that goes in line with the goals of the company, but it’s much more difficult to conserve it and ensure that new employees will believe and follow this culture as the company grows from 10 people in a tiny office, to, for instance, an international brand with hundreds of employees.
The culture that is evident amongst employees of a company will surely determine how willing to work and passionate about the product the workers will be. Ultimately, your culture is your brand. I found it interesting that every company we visited had such different cultures, but each was somehow fitting to the environment and kind of work that was being done. For instance, Simon Berg of Ceros created and continues to implement a culture that focuses on the importance of being candid, brave, and “wearing your chicken suit.” Google, a much larger and older company, too has a strong culture that has remained constant throughout its lifetime. The employees at Google love where they work, and feel that their jobs keep them constantly learning and enthusiastic about their respective fields and Google as a whole. It’s quite impressive for such a large company to maintain the same vision and culture that was instilled years ago, by just the founders and a few initial employees who believed in their vision.
Of (almost) equal importance to the success of all these companies is the data they collect, analyze, and rely on. Michael Wystrach, CEO and founder of Freshly, a food-delivery application, discussed the importance of data in his company, which he believes to be 60% data, and only 40% food. This theme was prevalent throughout the visits, regardless of the type of service the technology companies were offering. Furthermore, as artificial intelligence and machine learning technology continue to advance, data will become even more heavily ingrained into the work that goes into creating and perfecting products of technology companies. Hugh Dineen, Boston College alum and current Chief Marketing Officer of Metlife, stressed the importance of companies, from traditional insurance companies like Metlife to small technology start-ups, preparing for the tremendous impact artificial intelligence will have in the near future. In his own field, Dineen says he is already seeing an artificial intelligence marketing revolution, allowing for better targeting, personalization, and higher returns on investments. The data-driven technology is ultimately an enabled for productivity, and will continue to allow companies to have stronger data analytics, as well as constantly challenge them to keep up with technology advancements.
Aside from learning about what drives success in tech companies, I also realized the importance of networking and the importance/scale of the Boston College alumni network. It was very helpful to listen to the experiences of people working at various companies, in different chapters of their professional careers, who all had a Boston College background in common. As someone who is constantly worrying about what kind I’ll be doing in 5 years from now, it was nice to hear that no one really has it figured out throughout their undergraduate years. In addition, I was able to speak to and network with a number of alumni at the Tech Council event, who I hope to remain in touch with throughout my time at Boston College, and into my professional life. It’s great to know that so many alumni are willing to help out, and are willing to have a conversation as long as I am willing to reach out!
Overall, Tech Trek East was a fantastic experience. I not only learned a lot about tech and the professional world in general, but also had a wonderful time and made so many great new friends. The trip exceeded all of my expectations and I am very grateful for this opportunity, and even feel inspired to consider a career in the tech world, as its constant innovation and fast pace truly excite me.