Towards the end of my freshman year, my Portico TAs hosted a panel for our class. Someone asked the question “What advice would you give to your freshman year self?”, to which Akash Desaii replied, “Go on TechTrek”.
Admittedly, I didn’t think too much of this comment, and it wasn’t until second semester Sophomore year that I really began to consider it (with a little convincing from Keegan). In retrospect, I have no idea why it took me so long. I’ve always been interested in technology, ever since I was young. Yet somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that being ‘good at numbers’ made me the perfect candidate for a job on Wall Street, or at one of the Big 4. A finance degree also seemed secure, in comparison with the perceived ‘risk’ of entering the startup world, so I had made my mind up. Shortly after getting accepted into the class, though, I decided to pick up the Business Analytics Co-Concentration, acknowledging that pure finance might not be the right path for me.
It was my experience on TechTrek East that really solidified my decision to shift my career interests towards technology, and there are a number of reasons for this: Tech companies don’t have much in the way of a dress code, some of them have nap rooms, they almost all have ping-pong tables, etc.
More seriously, though, I have never been more captivated by assigned readings or classroom discussions than I was this semester. Everything we read was relevant, up-to-date, and most importantly, real. As disappointed as I am that our class has come to an end, I am beyond grateful that I even had the opportunity to be a part of it, that I learned a little bit about a lot of things, and that the class as a whole helped me reach a major decision when it comes to a future career.
“The Big City”
For some members of our class, New York is home. For others, it’s yet another large city in the United States. But for me, New York will always represent something much larger. In a sense, moving to New York is the pinnacle of success for Irish people. A few hundred years ago, it meant that a person has successfully escaped poverty. Today, it represents prosperity and opportunity. As cliche as it sounds, walking around NYC for three days made me feel as if I had ‘made it’. I’m really not a morning person, but I had minimal difficulty getting out of bed at 6:45am and readying myself for another day in the ‘Big City’.
The most exciting thing I took from our trip, was the importance of data at nearly every company we visited. The Business Analytics concentration at BC is quite small, and there is no formal recruiting process associated with it. Because of this, I have at times felt like I made the wrong decision, or that I won’t be able to find a job, regardless of how interested I am by the field. However, everyone we met with stressed the crucial role of data in achieving operational excellence. Whether it was a small food startup, an online furniture store, or an insurance giant, everyone seemed to be collecting and analysing data.
Better still, TwoSigma Ventures showed me what a marriage of finance and analytics would look like, while Spotify showed me that I can integrate a career in data science with one of my passions –– music. As talk of an impending recession increases, this trip has offered me some comfort in knowing that my degree doesn’t limit me to any one industry. And with the BC Network to support me, I really feel like I can go wherever I want to.
Something which I massively overlooked before TechTrek is the importance of a company’s culture. Even the type of office that a company has is something worth considering. Having visited as many offices as we did, I found it interesting to see the parallels, overlaps, and differences between the type of culture that a company has. Whether it was the men and women in suits that lined the spiral staircase at Goldman, or the dogs lounging near the pub at Ceros, we really experienced it all.
I learned that it’s much easier for a small company to have a strong, defined culture. We saw this quite clearly at Freshly, Ceros, and Harry’s, where core values were painted on walls, and where everyone in the office seemed to know each other.
This is in contrast to larger companies like Google, which has close to 100,000 employees, or Facebook, where some of the BC alumni hadn’t even met each other before our visit. The panelists at these larger companies often spoke about the difficulty of maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit that allowed them to become successful in the first place. At Google, in particular, the office is filled with intimidatingly-smart and successful people, to the extent that many employees struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’ on an ongoing basis. At Goldman, I noticed a stark difference in culture between younger employees and more senior employees. It felt as though the younger employees were talking down to us, meanwhile the more senior people we met with wanted to inspire us.
Learning about how different companies work to maintain their culture as they grow was fascinating to me, too. The honesty with which Ceros CEO Simon Berg discussed this problem, among others, really impressed me. On a similar note, Pat Twomey at Uber talked about this during his guest lecture. Uber is a company that has made headlines for having a toxic culture in the past, so I found it really interesting to hear him talk about the transition that’s been happening for the last few years, as people within the organisation attempt to change the company’s culture on a large scale.
From all the visits and guest lectures, I have gained a much better picture of the type of company culture that I think would work best for me.
The following is the closing paragraph of my application for TechTrek East:
“It is the team dynamic of TechTrek that really appeals to me. I am incredibly excited by the prospect of joining forces with 23 like-minded students, each as motivated and hard-working as the next.”
Admittedly, I didn’t really believe this when I wrote it, I just thought it sounded nice. That being said, I am delighted with the extent to which my expectations were exceeded. My classmates from TechTrek are by far some of the best students that I’ve met at BC. The early mornings and 15-minute walk/jogs through the city wouldn’t have been manageable without their small talk, and the evenings spent together in New York have provided me with lasting memories.
Finally, to Prof. Kane, Prof. Doyle, Kelsey, Rohan, and Julia –– thank you, for a truly unforgettable experience.