It’s really hard to believe that our trip to San Francisco has already come and gone. I really didn’t fully understand just how fast it would go by. Yet, here we are back in school. Looking back on the trip it is truly amazing just how many companies we were able to visit and how each company was a truly unique experience. I read through my notes for each visit and it’s clear that I gained something different from each company we visited. With that in mind, it really took me a while to come up with overarching themes and takeaways from the trip. I could discuss any number of lessons learned or insights gained. However, I think the three biggest themes are first self-awareness, meaning being aware of who you are and what you can contribute. Second, do everything with intent. Third and finally, there’s absolutely no substitute for hard work.
The first big theme that I took away from Tech Trek is the importance of self-awareness. By self-awareness, I mean being cognizant of what my personality type is, what value I can bring and how I would fit in at an organization. This was first brought to my attention during our first dinner when Peter Bell told us that if you want to work for someone or at a company you need to be able to articulate how you will add value. This really resonated with me because it’s so intuitive, but I hadn’t thought about job interviews in that way before. It also made me realize that in order to articulate how I will add value to an organization I need to be aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. This idea was continued during our start-up panel the next day when Nick suggested that in order to ensure that you are important to a company you shouldn’t be a part of a hiring class. He said that being part of a hiring class it makes you very replaceable, whereas if you’re the fourth employee at a company you’re forced to do whatever you can to help the company succeed. This is essentially the same message in a different context, because when you’re the fourth employee at a startup you either add value or the company fails, so it’s extremely important to figure out how to add value to that start-up. Finally, self-awareness is key when evaluating company culture. It seemed every company we visited there was a discussion of the culture and people there. It became apparent to me that in order to find a culture where I will fit in and enjoy my time I need to be aware of what motivates me and what type of people I like to work with. Essentially the more aware I am of myself the more I can gauge what type of company is a solid fit for me.
The next big theme that I took away from Tech Trek was do everything with intent. This isn’t a phrase that I had heard in reference to career advice until our trip to San Francisco, but it seemed nearly everyone there used it. After hearing it used in context many times I’ve come to really believe that this is an important practice. Being a sophomore in college, especially at BC, there is a lot of pressure to work hard so that you get the best internship possible so that you then get the best job possible. This is especially true in the banking and consulting tracks. It seems a lot of people get so caught in the process that they don’t stop to ask themselves two very important questions. First, do I really want to do this for a career and second why? Those career paths are really great on a resume and suit some people really well, but that certainly isn’t the case for everyone. After going on this trip, I certainly feel much more inclined to ask myself those questions, and I think that it’s really important to continue to do so throughout my career. I hope I never wake up and realize I don’t have a reason for doing the work I’m doing. Hopefully, if I focus on making career choices with intent I won’t ever have to.
My final big takeaway from Tech Trek is that there truly isn’t a substitute for hard work. Personally, before going on the trip I thought that most people worked significantly fewer hours in Silicon Valley than in New York. Yet, after hearing Riley’s work schedule and even Peter Bell’s I know that that is not the case. At first, I was surprised by this. The offices filled with various amenities and potential distractions seemed to tell a different story. However, I think Prof. Doyle said it best when he said, “putting in the hours and working really hard when you’re young and just starting out your career can really set you apart in the long run”. I found this very telling and also motivating. I certainly feel capable of working long hours right out of school and knowing that working those long hours will truly pay off, in the end, is simply added motivation.
It’s truly difficult to articulate the amount I learned on Tech Trek. While these may have been my biggest takeaways I could have discussed many other lessons that I will take with me into my career. It’s amazing how much you can learn and experience in a week. Now I’ll have to spend my time trying to sell other students on the class.