It took me a while to finally let everything sink in. When I first came back and people started asking how I felt about the trip, I would always answer with something like, “It was great, I got 70 LinkedIn connections!” or “The offices are so cool and I got so many swags!” since it still felt a little bit surreal that the trip was over and I had nowhere to begin with. After a week of self-reflection, however, I think I have a much clearer picture of my career path and personal development, and here is what I want to say.
The (Real) Importance of Networking
I bet that something many people found surprising on the trip is how strong the BC network is. I was told the first day of freshman year that networking is crucial to your career and how BC has a strong network to help you along the way. That definitely stuck with me, but it still didn’t really make sense to me how I could actually get something out of the information sessions and networking events on campus. However, my whole perspective on networking changed after this trip. Starting from the first dinner we had with Peter Bell and CJ Reim, I began to realize the fact that BC alums have paved the way for us in the tech industry, which I originally thought was not the forte of BC. Looking back at my notes, I discovered a trend which I didn’t really notice during the trip: what I wrote down slowly became takeaways from the people’s career paths and personal advice, instead of simple company facts. Different companies had different highlights, cultures, and business strategies, but the alums who succeeded all have something in common: they used their BC networks very well. One of the specific examples was the four alums on the startup panel. Each one of them had a different career path whether it was joining a startup right after college, or working at a bigger company first, all of them had received help from BC alums at some point in their careers while transitioning into the startup world. Through their stories, I not only learned how to use the BC network practically, but also how willing everyone is to help out future generations. Therefore, if I have to say one thing I got out of this trip, it has to be the courage to reach out and build my own network.
Startups vs. Corporations
Another big theme throughout this trip is the choice between working at a startup or a well-known, multinational corporation. From entrepreneurs to executives of the Fortune 100 companies, we heard many different stories and opinions on which career path is “better,” but more people we met suggested us to follow what’s best for us. While we were visiting the companies, the atmospheres and cultures between startups and established companies are drastically different. Right when I walked into an office, I could sense the vibe of the company. The two most different companies in my opinion were Oracle and Brava. When we got to Oracle, I felt a sense of order and structure (which is not necessarily a bad thing, just really different than startups), and I got a clearer image of the hierarchy and the level of specialization after the presentation. On a completely different note, Brava’s office gave me an impression of desolation when I first stepped in, which made sense after John Pleasants explained how he had to let half of his company go the day before. To my surprise, this feeling took a 180 degree turn after they started demoing the food and opening up to us about the struggles of the company. I was not only surprised by the openness of John, but also the passion and perseverance every employee, from the engineer to the chefs, showed us. After getting similar vibes from many startups, I found one repeating narrative from the alums very compelling: working at a larger company when you come out of college, and leave to pursue an entrepreneurial career if you are interested. Before this trip, I always limited my possibilities to more known companies because that’s what most people are going for, but this whole experience truly opened my eyes in exploring different options.
Women in Silicon Valley
Since I went to an all-girls high school, I was protected by this “feminist bubble” for four years, and it was definitely hard coming into college when I suddenly understood the fact that the obstacles women are facing are much worse than I thought. And having read many articles on Twitter and discussed in class about different discriminations such as racism and sexism in the Valley, I developed some skepticism for the tech giants before the trip. Shockingly (which is sad), we met more women than I expected who are in higher positions in their companies. By listening and talking to inspiring people like Sophie Miller, Amy Errett, and Shannon Duffy, I was convinced again that there is a lot of hope but also a lot of hard tasks left for us to accomplish in order to build a more equal and better world.
Entrepreneurship ≠ Having A Startup
Finally, I want to end this blog post by sharing how my perspective on the word “entrepreneurship” has changed. Before this trip, I really didn’t have much interest in entrepreneurship, having thought that only means starting your own company. Yet after 20+ visits and talking to alums from diverse backgrounds, I realized that you don’t need to personally build a startup company in order to call yourself an entrepreneur. Prof. Kane inspired me with his talk during the tech council event that there can also be entrepreneurship in bigger corporations, and this idea actually got confirmed more than once throughout the trip. In many of the Q&A sessions, alums mentioned how they were able to bring their creative ideas into everyday projects and how their managers or bosses would encourage innovation. After coming back to BC, I started discovering many interesting classes in entrepreneurship and other activities on campus offered by the Shea Center and other clubs, and TechTrek definitely is what opened the door to the world of entrepreneurship for me.
Thank you everyone for this unforgettable experience and hopefully all of us can follow in the footsteps of the amazing alums we met!