PALO ALTO, Calif. – Drones hovered above them, blinking red and blue LED lights, playing a few tuneful bars to alert its readiness to its pilot, and, most important, snapping high-resolution photos. Artificially intelligent toy-robot racecars zipped around a track in front of them, bashing into one another and, while driven via cellphone app, hearing an AI competitor trash-talk them. Alumni from recently graduated product managers from Silicon Valley giants to venture capital leader Jim Swartz, MSIA ’66, gave them tours and sat down for Q&As.
And then there were the original offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, frozen in time from their revolutionary early days in the computing field – wood paneling, cracked leather seat cushions and spare change still sitting in the top-left corner of the calendar that served as Hewlett’s desk’s mat. It’s “Mad Men” meets audio oscillator, HP’s first product, circa 1938.
Yep, we’re talking Trek, 2016 style.
Roughly 100 total Tepper School of Business students from the Business and Technology (B&T) Club and Entrepreneurship group – Swartz Fellows, Innovation Scholars, Tepper School MBAs and others from across the Carnegie Mellon campus – toured world-famed businesses between, and including, San Francisco and San Jose from Jan. 4-9. These students experienced HP history, absorbed counsel and edification from Valley leaders and alums, and otherwise enjoyed a vital week in an ever-expanding West. It is a region critical to recruiters, faculty, graduates and students – home to the third-largest concentration of Tepper School alums anywhere in the United States, with a majority of each successive graduating class continuing to arrive every year.
"There are many unique benefits students realize by attending these Seattle and Silicon Valley Treks,” said B&T Club’s vice president of corporate relations Brian Chang, MBA ’16, who grew up in the Valley not far from Google’s headquarters – among the places they visited. “Students get to visit the tech industry's most admired companies, and also get an amazing opportunity to network with Tepper School alums and recruiters to gain great insights about what it's like to work within tech. Beyond these benefits, each Trek also gives students an excellent opportunity to ‘test drive’ Seattle and Silicon Valley, and see if these regions are areas they can see themselves working internships over the summer and potentially after graduation."
Jake Gelbort, MBA ’17, who organized the divergent Entrepreneurship group along with Teginder Kaleka, MBA ’17, and Ryan Swick, MBA ’17, noted how students seized opportunities to meet, learn, grow – in Trek trips to companies large and small, established or startup or venture capital firms.
"I was thrilled by the engagement of the students at each visit,” Gelbort added. “They probed all parts of the Founders' story and keys to success, gleaning valuable insights that they will put to use in their own companies. They also took opportunities after the formal visits to secure one-on-one time with the power brokers of Silicon Valley. Many were able to obtain next-day visits with the leaders of those companies. Overall, I could not have been happier with the quality of the companies, content of the presentations, and how our students devoured the material."
The B&T Club visited: Hewlett Packard, Inc. (home of the aforementioned, 9,000-foot Customer Welcome Center and virtual HP museum) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Google, Cisco, Intuit, Juniper Networks, GoPro, Shutterfly, Twitter, AT&T Foundry, VMware, Autodesk, IDEO, EMC and PayPal.
Among Entrepreneurship’s trips were: Y Combinator, Motiv, Prenav, Platfora, Thumbtack, Zirx, MDV, Technology Crossover Ventures, Docker, Anki, Emerald Therapeutics, Modsy, Highway1, Medallia and the Accel Partners that Swartz co-founded in 1983.
"Silicon Valley is still the epicenter of the startup world, especially for funding,” said Dave Mawhinney, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). “The density of talent and funding is unmatched anywhere else. Regardless of your stage as a startup – idea to scaling – being connected to Silicon Valley can help you raise funding, acquire customers and partners, and find talent. At the CIE, we want to help our students learn this early and help them begin to build Valley networks that will assist them throughout their entrepreneurial journey."
The students also participated in several gatherings with alumni across the Bay Area, coordinated by the Office of Alumni Relations and the Tepper School SF Bay Area Alumni Chapter. Swartz, Mawhinney and Dean Robert Dammon led a Fireside Chat for nearly 150 graduates and students following a Trek tour and alumni meet-up at VMware’s sprawling, 140-acre campus in Palo Alto. Alums and students assembled in downtown San Francisco Thursday night for another get-together. And there was a week-ending event Friday at the Los Altos Golf & Country Club, hosted by Jean Mou and her husband, Carnegie Mellon Trustee Yoshiaki Fujimori, MSIA ’81.
“For more than two decades, the Seattle and Silicon Valley Treks have played an integral role in the Tepper School’s efforts to build and strengthen relationships with West Coast technology companies,” said Scott Scheible, the Career Opportunities Center associate director who joined the B&T Trek. “Each year, our gracious company hosts are able to engage with 40 to 50 Tepper School MBA students and observe their passion for technology and commitment to joining the industry firsthand. Also, because the vast majority of our company visits incorporate Tepper School MBA alumni working in leadership roles, these Treks offer our alumni a wonderful opportunity to remain active in the Tepper School community. Alumni are able to personally network with current students and share their post-graduate experiences within the technology industry.”