Five-months before the start of the 2018 MBA program, an enthusiastic group of incoming students came together to organise a career trek to Silicon Valley. Well, perhaps “came together” is a bit of a euphemism, as all of the organisers were located in different countries! We organised a five day trek across the Summer, full of social activities and visits to companies in the technology, venture capital and energy sectors.
The 25 students who joined the trek, which was organised in partnership with students from the Oxford Saïd Business School, came from 11 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Chile, Ukraine, Thailand and Malaysia. Our educational and professional backgrounds were equally diverse, from engineering and liberal arts to finance and political science.
We visited four tech companies, Google, Yelp, Microsoft and IGEL Technology. The visit to Googleplex, Google’s Mountain View campus, started with the famous Android lawn statues and led to lunch and presentations from Google’s Culture and Innovation Evangelist and University Recruitment. These presentations gave us insight into what it means to be “Googley” and the MBA recruitment process.
We also visited two venture capital firms, Plug & Play and Kleiner Perkins, and a non-profit impact investment fund, Acumen. At Kleiner Perkins, we heard from the Chief Marketing Officer about their recent re-branding efforts and how networking and relationship building are essential to working in the industry. We also spoke with one of their investors about their growth practice, valuation methods and the importance of having a “first principles thinking” approach.
Last but not least, we visited three energy companies, ChargePoint, Bloom Energy and Pacific Gas & Electric. Bloom Energy, a fuel cell manufacturer, had recently announced their IPO, which made for a lively Q&A session where we had a chance to understand their fuel cell technology, international expansion strategy and regulatory challenges. This was followed by a tour of their manufacturing facilities and the Energy Server Platform running live in their backyard.
In addition to the company visits, many of us took the opportunity to explore everything the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer. We saw the Golden Gate Bridge, attended a San Francisco Giants game and enjoyed winery tours in Napa Valley. One of the most unforgettable moments was getting to know each other over bottomless red or white wine in Robert Mondavi’s cellar!
While the goal of our trek was to explore the unique business environment of Silicon Valley and visit leading companies in the area, we all came out of the experience with a lot more: new friends, unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for our future fellow classmates. It fueled our excitement for the year to come, to say the least.