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Tepper School of Business Students “Trek” to the West Coast

Students visit prominent companies, meet with alumni and expand professional networks

While many students were preparing to return to campus after the holiday break, members of the MBA Business and Technology Club and the Graduate Entrepreneurship Club spent the final week before classes began exploring the San Francisco Bay Area. These annual treks are designed to expose Tepper School students who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship to what the West Coast has to offer, and feature company tours and alumni networking.

“I first heard about the trek during Diversity Weekend and it really cemented the fact that Tepper has a great connection to Silicon Valley, which is an advantage to anyone who's interested in tech,” said Shweta Aladi, a first-year MBA student who helped organize the “tech trek” for the Business and Technology Club (B&T Club).

“I was really excited to find out that the trek is planned by B&T Club members in collaboration with the Career Opportunities Center, which gave us the chance to create our own schedule and plan the format of the visits,” Aladi added. “My favorite visit was to Uber. It was easy to see the passion of the employees for their roles and the company’s vision.”

treks3 2 jpgIn addition to Uber, the B&T Club visited the campuses of Cisco, Paypal, Google, Intuit, Vertias, Jupiter Networks, Walmart eCommerce, VMware, Salesforce, Autodesk and Intel.

Nathan Pitzer, a first-year MBA student and Graduate Entrepreneurship Club (GEC) President, said that he most enjoyed being able to visit prominent venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners.

“I enjoyed learning from legendary investors like James Swartz and Doug Leone, listening to what they look for in budding entrepreneurs, and hearing what they think the next big trends will be in the tech industry,” Pitzer, a member of the James Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows program, said.

Swartz, MSIA ’66 and veteran host of trek visits, gave $31M to the university in 2015 to establish the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon. The new center was inaugurated in October 2016 and will be housed in the Tepper Quad, set to open in 2018.

The GEC’s trek also included visits to accelerators such as Y Combinator and Hax, and startups like Harmless Harvest, Prenav, BrightEdge, Heroku and Modsy.

“The trek set me up with a network of key individuals that I can leverage to build more opportunities within the entrepreneurship community,” said Andrew Ellerhorst, another MBA student who participated in the GEC trek. “It also provided me with exposure to businesses in the various stages of development.”

“Incoming students look forward to our technology treks from the time they arrive on campus, and for good reason,” said Scott Scheible, associate director of the Career Opportunities Center (COC) who helped coordinate the B&T Club trek. “Attendees come away with a wealth of new knowledge about the tech industry and a much greater sense of what it takes to succeed in major tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, etc. They’re also able to forge dozens of new connections with company representatives and Tepper MBA alumni currently working in those areas.”

The B&T Club students also enjoyed a networking reception on the VMware campus during their trip, where local alumni shared their experiences with working in the bustling Bay Area tech culture.

“It was a great way to meet alumni who have been through the same recruiting process, and were able to offer insights and guidance to current students. It was easy to imagine what life could be like if I there for my internship,” Aladi said.

The VMware event also included a panel discussion with professors Tim Derdenger and Kannan Srinivasan about “Leveraging Advanced Analytics,” which was moderated by Dean Robert Dammon.

The GEC got in their fair share of alumni networking as well, hosting an “Entrepreneurs of the Bay Area” alumni event at the offices of Reed Smith, and joining the B&T Club for an alumni reception at Autodesk.

“Listening to [alumni] stories really showcased similarities between their journeys in starting companies, and the hurdles they had to overcome,” Pitzer said. “It helps show the path to really breaking out on your own.”

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