For students interested in technology startups, green business, healthcare, private equity, or venture capital, the Silicon Valley and Seattle Treks at Columbia Business School (CBS) are a great opportunity to get firsthand exposure to what a career in these fields might look like.
As a member of the Technology Business Group I had the chance to participate in the treks this January. Thanks to the group of tireless student organizers, we arranged to visit Microsoft, Amazon, Glympse, Zillow, Box, Github, Airbnb, Facebook, Google, ebay, Intuit, Tesla Motors, Zynga, Kaiser Permanente, Accel Partners, Pinterest, and many more companies. We received a warm welcome from all of the participating employees and CBS alumni who met up with us along the way. The treks were a tremendous learning and networking opportunity.
A few (of many!) highlights of the trip:
In Seattle, we had the opportunity to meet with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, who I can safely say is one of the most visionary CEOs I have met. Some of his best advice? “Don’t get intimidated…the most undervalued quality of an entrepreneur is toughness.”
Going down the slide at Box. No seriously, they have a two-story spiral slide that we had to sign a waiver to go down (I recommend curling up in order to increase momentum). Box, an enterprise cloud solution based in Los Altos, CA, is in a period of hypergrowth and has the values to match – “believe your epic ideas are possible;” “blow our customers’ minds,” etc.
Many of the company tours were a fun opportunity to experience something out of the ordinary. From Airbnb’s conference rooms styled to look like some of its property listings, to Microsoft’s memorabilia from the early days alongside demos of its new tablets, the offices themselves allowed us to get a good sense of each company’s culture and values. Apparently someone actually spotted Mark Zuckerberg in a conference room at Facebook! Although I wasn’t on this leg of the trek, the new Tesla factory is supposedly amazing.
My CBS peers. It’s not every day that I get to talk about big data or mobile payments in the back of a van. Thanks to social media I even reconnected with a friend from elementary school, whom I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years, during the ebay visit.
And, who can beat the relatively balmy weather in the Bay Area given the recent cold spell in “Manhattantarctica” (as dubbed by New York Magazine)? It’s easy to see the appeal of living out west. I suspect that a number of my classmates will make their way out here for the summer or for careers after graduation.