Fridays from the Frontline: Vanderbilt Owen’s Tech Trek
Before joining the workforce, business schools prepare students with hands-on experiences across popular industries. When it comes to the tech sector, Vanderbilt Owen’s annual Tech Trek gives MBA students first hand exposure to the day-to-day operations of some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley.
In this edition of Fridays from the Frontline, we hear from three current Owen MBA students about their takeaways from this year’s Tech Trek.
Tech Trek Helps Students Network at Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and More
Students visited 12 tech companies in San Francisco over winter break ahead of internship recruiting.
Before the start of Mod III in January, the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management’s Career Management Center (CMC) plans a Tech Trek to the West Coast to introduce students to some of the biggest companies in tech before recruiting heats up in the spring. This year, students and staff visited 12 different companies in San Francisco: Uber, OneMedical, Talkable, Salesforce, Airbnb, Google, HP Inc., Facebook, Ople.ai, Workday, Genentech, and LinkedIn.
Below, three MBAs explain why they chose to attend the Tech Trek this year and how they found the experience valuable.
Stephanie Jones (MBA’21)
While boarding the bus the first day of the Tech Trek, I didn’t know what to expect. One thing I did know, however, is that I was excited. We had a full three days ahead of us of visiting technology companies of all shapes and sizes, and a lot of new opportunities to experience. The sheer scope of the companies we were lucky enough to visit was unbelievably impressive. Every single industry uses these companies in some way, and to see that applied at their headquarters was really impactful. They touch every single one of our everyday lives, whether it’s medically, through social media, as a startup, as a form of transportation, or from an HR perspective.
Alumni spoke to us at LinkedIn, One Medical, Uber and pretty much every other stop along the Tech Trek. Getting to experience the full spectrum of life in tech was extremely helpful, as we were able to visit smaller offices such as Talkable and Ople.ai, as well as large campuses like Facebook, Google and Workday.
Seeing the impressive architecture of everyone’s headquarters was definitely a highlight of the trip. Airbnb had rooms modeled after their most popular locations around the world. Salesforce took us up to their executive board room, which felt like an extension of a rainforest. Facebook showed us their campus, complete with restaurants and a private pop-up shop, which was designed by Disney engineers from Downtown Disney. Workday also showed us their ever-expanding campus, and Genentech gave us a tour of their LEED-certified central building and impressive fitness center. HP had a unique blend of history and technological advancement. We got to tour the original offices of both Hewlett and Packard, and then discovered some of the items HP had 3-D printed, such as a dirt bike and a prosthetic limb.
We even had a West Coast version of everyone’s favorite Owen event – Closing Bell. Airbnb was gracious enough to host us at their headquarters in San Francisco, and it was a great opportunity to network with Owen alums on the West Coast, and a perfect way to kick off the trip. It truly was a tremendous experience to witness new technologies and the impact they have on so many people’s daily lives. —Stephanie Jones
Aaj Solanki (MBA’21)
I decided to attend the 2019 Tech Trek to see the scale of some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies firsthand. Not only did we have the opportunity to visit 11 exciting companies, but our alumni also took the time to set up panels and give in-depth accounts of their experiences in the Bay Area. Additionally, Dean Johnson joined us on the trek and provided valuable insights. It was invigorating to see his enthusiasm and passion for the tech industry.
One of my favorite parts of the trek was visiting Facebook’s campus. It felt like we were in a small city surrounded by ice cream parlors, restaurants, and arcades. Our Owen alum at Facebook, Frank Lawrence, is the Director and Head of Global Operations. Frank set up a panel of his team members and we got to hear from the front line how Facebook is working to address some of their biggest challenges. It was exciting to see firsthand the impact that MBAs can have at firms as large as Facebook.
Another highlight of the trip was getting to spend time with 35 of my classmates and learn from their experiences in tech. Each of our unique experiences and willingness to engage during visits allowed for a lively and insightful discussion. We also took advantage San Francisco’s food scene for dinner after our visits (my favorite was a family style Moroccan dinner we had at Mourad).
All in all, I can say that the tech trek was a high value add that provided the opportunity to build relationships with our alumni. For students wanting to experience just how engaged our alumni are and the “personal scale” that the Owen pitches, I highly recommend attending the of the Tech Trek. —Aaj Solanki
John Truscott (MBA’20)
I love how business school provides an opportunity to explore — to meet people from around the world and learn about new industries and companies. Info sessions, calls, and coffee chats all help with this, but there’s nothing quite like stepping foot inside the companies themselves.
That’s why I was so excited about the Tech Trek and the opportunity to witness the culture and energy of 12 Bay Area tech companies firsthand. I plan on moving to the Bay Area after graduation, so the chance to meet with so many interesting companies was priceless…and a blast! Here are my favorite aspects for the Tech Trek:
Broadening my perspective: It was fascinating to meet with 12 wildly diverse companies on the Trek. These ranged from large, established tech companies (Google, Salesforce, HP), to healthcare and biotech (One Medical, Genentech), to smaller startups (Talkable, Ople.ai). Seeing such diverse set of companies helps me understand the range of cultures and opportunities across tech.
Expanding my network: The Tech Trek is a prime example of the strength of the Owen network. Alumni were more than willing to share their professional highlights and challenges and candidly answer questions. Closing Bell at Airbnb’s headquarters was a fun time to get to know even more alumni.
Connecting with classmates: Breaking out of the day-to-day schedule at Owen was an excellent opportunity to meet Owen students whom I haven’t had classes with yet.
Exploring the Bay Area: I love San Francisco! When I wasn’t visiting with companies, I made a point to meet up with old friends, check out new sights and restaurants, and just enjoy the city.
The Tech Trek was a hugely valuable part of my Owen experience. Meeting with new companies and building new relationships will be a key part of my professional journey moving forward! —John Truscott