While much of the country was blanketed in the deep freeze of early January, 40 Tepper School of Business students were enjoying a sunny California adventure. They were taking part in the San Francisco Bay Area Trek, held annually during winter break and organized by the Business and Technology Club.
“The purpose of our treks is three-fold,” explained Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Tepper School’s Career Opportunities Center (COC). “Primarily, we hope to help students explore different companies and cultures in person — a very valuable experience — and second, to expand their networks and learn about different options in these companies. Lastly, they can explore current job opportunities, and while it’s not overtly emphasized, many students have begun successful recruiting relationships while on these treks.”
The group of first and second year students arrived on Monday, Jan. 6, ready for a whirlwind five days. The students visited two-to-three companies each day, including technology giants Google, VMware, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Salesforce, Citrix, Juniper Networks, Autodesk, Shutterfly and eBay. They enjoyed presentations, tours, meals and conversation.
“Each campus we went to was just gorgeous, and every company is such a major player,” said Patrick Kruse (MBA ’15), one of the trek organizers. “It was very cool to walk into these companies that provide things we rely on everyday.”
It was just that ability to walk into the varying corporate cultures that Kruse found particularly worthwhile.
“The Tepper School does a great job of bringing very high-profile companies to the school, and there are so many places to apply — but you can’t apply everywhere,” he noted. “For many of us, the most important part of the internship and job search is finding where you’ll fit in and where you’ll really be able to contribute. You get a much better feel for a company when you sit in their conference room and talk, walk around their campus and see their employees at work. It’s something you just can’t get from a recruiter.”
Students find the experience so beneficial that each year, the Bay Area trek is oversubscribed despite the fact that it occurs during break and is self-funded. Kruse found one experience particularly personal and memorable — the visit to photo-sharing and internet-publishing site Shutterfly, with Tepper School alumnus and CEO Jeffrey Housenbold (BS ’91).
“He bought us lunch and we sat there, the 40 of us and him, eating and asking questions. He was very forthright and gave us his advice, describing how he made it through the dot com bubble. It was so helpful to get the perspective of someone who’s been up and down in the industry.”
Housenbold was a key participant in another significant trek event, a panel titled “The Keys to Creating Innovative Products,” held at Hewlett Packard headquarters in Palo Alto. Dean Dammon served as moderator for a group of distinguished alumni panelists including Housenbold; Alden Mills (MSIA ’00), founder of Perfect Fitness; and Cindy Padnos (MSIA ’80), founder of Illuminate Ventures. The event drew a crowd of people, including area alumni and the students.
A second, more casual alumni mixer was held in downtown San Francisco — a happy hour hosted by the local alumni chapter. Kruse enjoyed the mix of events and the variety of alumni he was able to meet, from high-level senior leadership and more experienced alumni, to a younger group of graduates beginning their careers in the area.
“Our alumni enjoy meeting the current students, learning of the exciting things they’re doing,” observed Janice French, associate director of Alumni Relations. “They’re happy to provide advice and experience, as well as a local connection.”
“This trek goes back more than 20 years,” added Rakas. “I’ve been involved for the past 11. Our footprint in the tech industry has grown tremendously in that time and our alumni are the key. We have them to thank for our ongoing presence because they’re so often reaching back and opening the doors. We couldn’t do it without our alumni.”
The Bay Area trek is one of many that Tepper School clubs coordinate with the help of the COC and Alumni Relations; there are treks to serve nearly every student aspiration. Recent additional treks include the following, with a sample of companies visited during the trip:
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