“How was your spring break?”
“It was amazing–I went to San Francisco on Tech Trek.”
“What’s Tech Trek?”
And this is where it gets tricky. It’s hard to sum up this class, this trip, and what I’ve learned in a quick, casual sentence or two. Here are just some of the lessons I learned.
Have something to lose. Prior to this trip, I walked into Professor Doyle’s office asking for some advice on how to look for opportunities in San Francisco and what to expect from this trip. After some thorough discussion, he asked what my back up plan for this summer was. I told him I didn’t really have one. “That’s what I love to hear. Because it means you’ll work that much harder to make something happen.” As someone who likes risk but equally likes to be prepared, this was something I was surprised to hear. Now, this piece of advice is what is driving me forward and also exactly what I saw so clearly from founder to founder on our trip to San Francisco. My immediate thought goes to Brava Home. Their transparency was incredible, and the passion they have for their product despite current circumstances truly represented this philosophy. They have something to lose. And in some ways they have lost a little. While that is incredibly difficult, all it means that they are pursuing something big, valuable, and ambitious. That mission and mentality is what keeps those at a startup working harder. It’s also what makes a startup so hard. Definitely safe to say, if you want to build something great in Silicon Valley, safety nets are not only unnecessary but also discouraged.
Be adaptable. I can’t remember the amount of times I heard the word ‘pivot’ on this trip. Almost every company told a story about how they changed directions or how the market responded differently than expected. Virtually every co-founder we spoke to said that building a company is the hardest thing he or she has ever done in terms of their career. Sitting in these big, bright offices with free snacks, cool art, and another successful round of funding, I initially heard but mistakenly romanticized these stories of overcoming opposition. It’s easy to like them after seeing only the positive results. However, after seeing some startups in the middle of a major shift, I realized that these stories can’t simply be a means of encouragement. Startup life is hard, draining, and takes a serious toll. I remember Trevor Stuart say on our final visit to Split that he lost 20 pounds last year as a direct response to the stress of moving his company to the next level. If that does not speak to the intensity of startups, I don’t know what will. Every company has tough times, but hearing about one versus seeing one in action are two completely different things. Because of this trip, my vision of startup life has shifted, and I have found myself more aware, prepared, and determined to work with adaptability at the forefront.
Make friends. The recent graduates in San Francisco told us this. In class, the Tech Trek alums emphasized this as well. “The people you are sitting next to are the people who will help you in your future. Get to know them.” Hearing that so bluntly, it finally resonated. The people you meet at BC, and especially the people in this class specifically, who share similar goals and interests, will be the ones to help you down the road. And you them. I took that very seriously. I went into the class not knowing anyone and left with some of my now close friends. This was more than I could have expected. While the company visits and learning experience make this class incredible, the relationships you build along the way are what make it even more unique and more life changing.
Overall, this class and trip was an unbelievable experience. I now know that this is what I want from a career–the good, the bad, the ugly. (I even changed my concentration as a result!) I know it will be hard and especially risky, but I’m absolutely certain that the tech industry is my type of environment. Somewhere I’ll thrive, make a difference, constantly be learning, and pursue something with passion. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have joined this awesome group of people for Tech Trek West 2019. I am proud to now be an alum, and I am excited for the day that I get to host students on this same trip years later.
Now returning to that initial conversation I mentioned above.
“What’s Tech Trek?”
“If I have to sum it up, it’s where I learned the most, laughed the most, and made more memories than any other class I’ve ever taken with a focus on the tech industry. I can’t recommend it any higher if I tried.”