Fridays from the Frontline: HBS Virtual Treks, How Student Clubs Are Adapting to the New Normal
HBS Virtual Treks, How Student Clubs Are Adapting to the New Normal
By Rashveena Rajaram, HBS MBA ’22
Career treks and conferences organized by student clubs remain fundamental elements of the MBA experience at HBS. Like other events, though, clubs had to move these signature treks online.
The VCPE Venture Capital Trek was one of these events. The high caliber of past events and students’ expectations that the trek would be a major opportunity in their recruiting process posed a challenge to board members. How would we organize a virtual trek that match the impact and quality of the in-person experience? In addition to putting together highly engaging keynote speakers and panels, the team had to come up with innovative ways to foster networking and informal Q&A segments. Moving to a virtual setting, however, had its perks. Given the ease and zero cost involved in joining virtual sessions, we were not only able to assemble 60+ attendees for the 2-day event but received tremendous support from faculty and industry experts who quickly rallied around us.
The result was uplifting: 25 speakers across 10 industries, including several founding partners from 20 VC funds focused on early to growth stage investments. The trek provided students with an opportunity to meet and learn from partners at top VC firms like Sequoia, Lightspeed, GSV, Bessemer, Accel and Insight Partners. The first day (Jan 21st) focused on early-stage VCs and the second day (Jan 22nd) focused on later stage and Asia/Europe funds. Some of the themes covered in this year’s trek included venture financing amid COVID, sector deep dives in Edtech, Consumer, Fintech and Software, trends in innovation, building a career in VC and picking the “right” investor/founder.
In addition to the VCPE Trek, students and companies took a lot from the annual WesTrek organized by the Tech Club. Jeanne Thai, one of the co-organizers noted, “We had our biggest trek to date with over 200 attendees. Since we could not physically tour the offices, we optimized for engagement in other ways. We were very sensitive to the problem of ‘Zoom fatigue,’ so we made sure we had a lot of representation from popular firms and funds and coached presenters on ways to make the panels more engaging through the use of visual aids, student Q&A and interactive Zoom features.”
Student clubs have had to be extremely resourceful, creative and perseverant this year, but the success of recent virtual events backed by faculty and alumni prove that they have found a way to ensure “the show goes on.”