It’s been a week since we returned to BC from California. I feel like that week has given me some much-needed time to step back from the whirlwind that was Tech Trek and to reflect on the experiences I had there. It’s honestly incredible how much we were able to fit in a single week; from traveling to Alcatraz to seeing a Stanford baseball game to visits with 28 incredible companies, this trip was an action-packed, non-stop journey through Silicon Valley.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.
It’s hard to say exactly what I will remember most from this trip. I will certainly remember all the amazing moments I got to spend with my classmates. That first day we landed in San Francisco, I think we spent about an hour trying to decide on a place for lunch before walking (in the rain!) for another hour and a half, only to be denied the opportunity to see the Golden Gate Bridge because of the infamous Bay Area fog.
The city itself was quite a sight. It was my first time in San Francisco, and I was glad that we got the chance to see a lot of the city, even though we obviously spent much of our time during the weekdays on company visits. Walking through Land’s End park on Sunday morning was a real highlight for me. Even though it was still really foggy, it was an incredible walk through the forest and out onto the cliffs high above the Pacific.
I feel lucky to have had the chance to be a part of an amazing group of people on this trip. Everybody was passionate about what we were there to do, and being around such committed people pushed me to prepare more, to ask better questions, and to be more attentive. As one of the few students not in CSOM, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect out of the class, as I haven’t taken many courses within the school of management. This didn’t end up posing any kind of challenge for me, either during the trip or during our class sessions. In fact, many of the people we met with mentioned that they were not undergraduate business students in their time at BC! It made me realize that operating a business can be much more about leadership and management skills rather than technical business knowledge.
There were so many takeaways that came from our company visits as well. For me, there was a clear distinction between visiting smaller companies and visiting the big companies. Though seeing the headquarters for the recognizable brands like Apple, Google, Airbnb, and others was a real privilege, I learned more from our visits to small companies. Getting to talk to founders and CEOs was a great experience, and many of them were very open about sharing details about their story and their company.
The trip started off with a bang when we visited Amy Errett at Madison Reed bright and early on Monday morning. Hearing her perspectives as someone on both sides of the business — as an operator and a venture investor — allowed for some really valuable insights. Hearing her speak about her founding story was an inspiring start to the week. Our next visit, Ironclad, was one of the biggest surprises of the week for me. Though I wasn’t sure what visiting a legal tech startup was going to be like, Ironclad ended up being one of my favorite visits of the entire week. The employees were energetic and happy to see us, and they seemed to have a really fun and collaborative culture around their office.
I really enjoyed the visits when we got to speak with BC alum who had graduated relatively recently. Some of the ones who come to the top of my mind include Mike Perry from Twitter, all four members of the startup panel on the first day, and Riley Soward from Nuro. As someone who is trying to figure out exactly what path I want to take coming out of graduation, their advice about the process of deciding to move to San Francisco and finding a job made me feel better about going through it myself. Seeing the strength of the BC network, even 3,000 miles across the country, was really inspiring. After this trip, I feel much more confident in leveraging that network, as well as other resources available, to discern exactly what I want to do and to eventually find opportunities within that field.
Another highlight was our visit to Wonolo. Rebecca Kelly was so happy to be hosting us, and it was really cool to get a look at a startup that had just recently expanded into a bigger office. The employees who spoke with us on the panel were all really helpful and offered their advice for us. But the highlight of the visit was having the chance to speak with Yong Kim, the co-founder and CEO of Wonolo. His founding story was inspiring, and he really articulated the mission behind his company. Seeing his passion for the company made me start to recognize the appeal of working at a startup; all of the employees are bought in to the mission of what they are actually working on.
Always be learning. So many of the people we visited emphasized this idea; even as someone established in their profession, it’s always necessary to be learning and adapting — especially within the tech scene. However, this advice seems especially prudent for students in our position. Going into a position where I can learn as much as possible after college will serve me well for my future career path. This is another appeal of working at a smaller company — you get to really understand how the business operates, rather than being relegated to a specific task within a corporate hierarchy.
There is so much to write about in reflection for this trip that I’m honestly having a tough time narrowing it down to a concise level. There were some common themes I noticed across many of our visits, but each person we spoke with offered a truly unique perspective. I really enjoyed getting to speak with so many different people who play a variety of roles within their respective companies. The best meetings happened when the people hosting us were very open and willing to answer all of our questions. Fortunately for us, so many of the people we met were more than willing to do just that! That’s part of the reason I also really enjoyed the Tech Council event. Speaking with BC grads like Kristie Dickinson at that event was one of the highlights of the week. They were really open about their experiences, and I learned a lot from those conversations.
I left San Francisco having formed incredible relationships with my classmates, with dozens of new professional connections, and more than a few experiences that I am sure I will never forget. Thank you Tech Trek!