I woke up to the sounds of the city and my blaring alarm clock at 7 AM. I was all pumped up for the first day of the iSchool’s Spring Break in Silicon Valley (SBinSV) and excited to visit the companies lined up for the day.
So what did we actually do ? Well, I spent the whole day with people I had never met before, but that were still willing to share both their time and their experiences with us. And I’ve learned that I like this “industry of big ideas” a lot. And that’s probably the most important lesson.
Our first visit was Google. We were welcomed by the host who was a Syracuse alumnus. We heard from him what it is like to work at Google, and they also gave us some insight into the type of work he does on a day to day basis . During our ice breaker session we were able to get a better view of the Google culture including how employees are encouraged to use their 20% time, the ease and encouragement of moving around the company, and how it’s understandable to make mistakes sometime. All of the speakers had unique perspectives based on their own experiences and were more than willing to offer advice for those of us interested in making the trek out West.
Our next stop was Yahoo! where we met a panel that included people from variety of fields — Engineering, Corporate Development, Finance and Corporate Communications. Another aspect of the culture I noticed was how everyone is so passionate towards innovation.
We headed next to MobileIron, it was a different environment than the previous two. We talked about how that company of 35 people grew to around 600 employees now, asking them all questions about press releases, to-go market strategies, funding and lot more. Unlike other places, Silicon Valley respects entrepreneurs who have tried, failed, and learned from their mistakes.
Aruba Networks was our next stop. I was spellbound by the story of how Greg Murphy, VP for Business Operations of Aruba Network shared with us about how he got to this point as he is now. A History major from Stanford who decided not to pursue his field of ‘study’ but his field of ‘interest’ that he developed over time.
I was really inspired by his vision that he summed up as “to build a small company big”, how they value the culture of their customer connected to them in every aspect even if they continue to grow into this big firm.
I was impressed how they focus their products towards solving out day to day problems like watching a game in a stadium — addressing problems right from traffic, parking, seating or getting food. I remember one of them saying – ‘i learned how to build legos long ago but i m still building them’. The passion for the work they do never dies.
Hunger striked us after a while, so we decided to head to the San Pedro market to grab some dinner. And guess how we ended our day — LASER TAG!! Couldn’t have been better.
I believe my biggest takeaway from each of the company visits today was the clear focus on their people. Conversations at each were surprisingly frank about the churn in the industry, talking extensively about acquiring and retaining the right talent. They each had a focus on flatter, more fluid company structures with open communication and feedback channels. And most importantly, there was an extraordinary sense of trust and transparency that runs in the company.
As with most things, this day is not easily describable with the adjectives taught in school. It was exciting, interesting, challenging, rewarding and 20 other words I could rattle off for you which all seem meaningful and meaningless at the same time. But, bear with me, and I promise it all makes sense. I am sure the coming days of SBinSV trip will be very inspiring, lots of fun, and filled with lessons to learn. I feel i am breaking the shell that i have build around myself to fear to be out there and pursue what i want to do but i think i m ready to take off and see myself fitting in the Valley someday somewhere building Legos.