Although it’s only March, I want to claim the TechTrek trip to be my highlight of the year! In addition to the great food I had (I truly enjoyed every single meal), I love every aspect of the trip. It reshapes who I am, and who I am aspired to be.
Change of View on Networking
Before going on the TechTrek trip to San Francisco, I have always shunned away from networking events and opportunities because of one terrible experience. Knowing networking is crucial to my career, I attended a TechCouncil-like networking event Freshman year. By the end of the gathering, I was talking to two alumni. I still remember that the alumna from Wayfair was very enthusiastic about her product management role, and the other alumnus was emptying his bottle of Corona. When it was time to call an end to the conversation, I expressed my appreciation and shook hands with them. To my surprise, the alumnus leaned forward and whispered to me. Even though I don’t recall the exact words, he asked if I want to grab a drink with him that night. Probably because I looked puzzled, he continued with a flirting smile, “you know, like a date.” Seriously? I didn’t expect to date anyone at a formal networking event. I chose to walk away, but mind you, this was a college-affiliated event, and I barely knew his name. I wouldn’t assume all alumni are networking for a date, but I took his words as an implication that enable to establish a network with people, you need to do something in return, and it will be difficult to reject any request as a taker of the connection. A part of me didn’t want to take favors for granted, but another part of me had nothing to offer in return. The incident made me wonder if alumni are networking for reasons other than generously helping out. (It also made me wonder if any woman got into a toxic relationship in exchange of a job offer/promotion. So depressing 😔 .)
When former TechTrek students came in the week before our departure, I asked a similar question if they want anything from us, but I didn’t buy the response that they just want to be supportive of the BC community. However, after the trip, I cannot agree more. During the visits, many alumni talked about their appreciation of the BC network and their willingness to give back, in keeping the virtuous cycle going. As a student, I could see their humbleness and honesty in sharing their experience and expertise. I could also see that they are indeed proud of BC. They look forward to investing in our potentials!
Learning the company VS Knowing the company
Thanks to Prof. Kane, we had been well prepared with company research and valuable questions. Having spent hours in research, I thought I learnt enough about each company before the visits, but I only scratched the surface. For me, I really got to know the company from the speakers and the physical office space. When I first heard about Omni’s business idea, I loved its novelty and cleverness in connecting storage items with renting demands. It sounded like the next Airbnb in the boosting sharing economy; however, when we arrived at Omni, Kelsey Bishop shared a pivot plan in saving Omni from poor performance. Walking in the warehouse, I realized that Omni is far more complicated than a platform business.
Similar to Salesforce, we knew about Salesforce from financial figures and media exposure. We could easily rant about the reformation of CRM or Salesforce Einstein. Salesforce is great, but why? Shannon Duffy answered that it is because even with a family of fifty thousand employees, Salesforce value in leadership and innovation through self-initiation and programs like Dreamforce. Josie Chiles echoed the point stating, “we are not hiring culture fit, but culture growth.” These valuable insights do not show up with Google searches.
Connecting back to networking, I understood the importance of reaching out to BC alumni before job interviews. It is more than mentioning the name of a current employee during the interview, but an opportunity to know the company better. It is just like if a university applicant connected well with the Red Bandana story on his/her Boston College personal statement, the applicant immediately stands out from the pool.
It took me a while to reflect on what should be my action plans after the trip. I mean, of course, it was an eye-opening experience that could potentially land me with a nice career in San Francisco, but I wanted to transfer into a part of who I will be.
One thing I found was that each speaker has a distinctive character in the way they talk and influence. For instance, Amy Errett, Sophie Miller, and Shannon Duffy, as women in Silicon Valley, are all holding high-level positions and managing hundreds of people. Amy Errett is a powerful entrepreneur who could get you captivated 8 AM early morning, but still very calm and rational in educating (not accusing) men about subtle gender discrimination. Likewise, Shannon Duffy is such an eloquent presenter, who tells great stories of her experience at Salesforce and lead by example. Less dominating, Sophie Miller is a charismatic leader that cues in Cam Lunt and Grace Martinez when answering questions; nonetheless, she is also a magician in words. When it comes to comparing big firms and small startups, many others advise us to “work at a place where we learn the most,” Sophie phrased it as “find a place where it adds to your journey.”
The example above is not the only case. Peter Bell, Christiaan Vorkink, Jay Hoag, and Pat Grady are all visionary venture capitalists. While they share many commonalities, you could easily tell them apart with different images in your head. It is also true with Mike Perry, Julie Bendix, Riley Soward, CJ Reim, and many others. That is what I am aspired to achieve: when someone meets me for less than an hour, do I have distinctive qualities that differentiate myself from the population I represent? I do not want to be an attention seeker. I want to be someone like them (also unlike them LOL).
Thank You TechTrek
Thank you to Professor Doyle, Professor Kane, and Kelsey, and Matt for preparing us well, providing the resources and organizing an incredible trip!
Thank you @duquetra for your critical questions! They were mind intriguing. Thank you @michaelnelson1904 for actively participating when the energy level is low, or no hands are going up! Thank you @rickyyang987 for thinking and asking about the status of women at Salesforce! There are simply too many people who I am grateful for at a personal level. Thank you TechTrekies for nurturing a great environment of discussion and collaboration! Our group never left anyone behind, and everyone was so open and inviting!
I know I will be moving to the Bay Area after graduation, and I am excited to see who goes West with me! Don’t hesitate to shoot me a text to grab lunch or coffee together. Let’s continue this TechTrek vibe and learn from each other!
Thank you TechTrek! I really appreciate this life-changing opportunity, and hope to give back to Shea and TechTrek soon. Who knows, maybe I will introduce myself one day: “Hi TechTrek Mars. Welcome! When I was on TechTrek West….”