Technology? It’s All About the People, by Gustavo Pires de Oliveira Dias

The first thing people think about in Silicon Valley is the fact that technology “rules” this part of the country. That is correct, to some extent, but also completely misleading. By saying that, one completely diminishes the value of the people who built and are living in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is not about technology, it’s about the culture. It’s about not being afraid to pursue and idea that you believe in. When you are here you know that no one will throw your idea out the window before listening to what you have to say. It’s just the way it works here, no idea is a bad idea. Take Airbnb for example, it’s the worst idea ever. Getting strangers to stay in your house and paying to stay at a stranger’s house.. who ever thought that would work? Well, it did. And it’s a great business. People here are open to new opportunities and new ways to do things. Every day that I am here I see that there are novel solutions to old problems.

The culture of Silicon Valley is truly unmatchable. A 20 year old kid can give suggestions to a CEO who has sold companies for billions of dollars without feeling intimidated or even ashamed–sometimes being extremely helpful. Here, meritocracy is always the standard. If someone is “big” in Silicon Valley, he/she most definitely earned it. What impresses me the most is that, no matter how accomplished you are, if you are in Silicon Valley, you are never satisfied. You are always constantly trying to innovate, you live for that. In many ways it reminds me of CMC. You don’t only live in Silicon Valley/CMC, you eat, sleep, drink, breath Silicon Valley/CMC. There’s nothing better than that.

Gustavo Pires de Oliveira Dias ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Orbital Insight

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“You Skipped a Semester of College… To Work?!”, by Alec Koh

A few weeks ago, one of my close family friends called me on the phone. The conversation started how it always does; How is college? What do you want to do after you graduate? Make sure you come visit soon! As I explained to him that I am in San Francisco participating in the Silicon Valley Program, his initial response was excitement. He thinks it is a great opportunity, and he wishes he could have done something similar when we was younger. As I explained what I do at work to him, he interrupted me and said, “Wait a minute, you chose to skip a full semester of college to work full time?”.

This isn’t the first time I have been asked this, as many alumni, mentors, and friends have questioned my decision to do this program. While they all think SVP is awesome, they soon realize how much they miss college and what I am giving up by being here. Whenever I get asked the question, I remember how much I miss Claremont and all my friends, and the internal struggle of justifying my decision to leave campus begins.

Alec Koh, Phil Tseng and Bill Mirbach
While many see skipping out on a valuable semester of college to be horrific, I believe this is one of the most valuable experiences you can possibly have in college. Not only did I learn more than I ever have in a semester, but I made new friends that I probably never would have even known if not for SVP. I now also have a lot of connections in the Bay Area, which will make coming back here to work much easier. However, I am missing out on a semester with my close friends, classes from my favorite professors, and ultimately the opportunity to live life like a college kid. While those benefits aren’t the most practical ones, they still mean just as much to me as the experience provided here. I have been lucky enough to visit Claremont twice, and seeing my close friends both weekends were two of the happiest moments of the semester.

I miss my friends so much, but the experience from the last 4 months has been awesome. I also had the opportunity to begin building a social enterprise with Nina Kamath in SVP, as well as two other students back on campus while still participating in everything this program has to offer. The innovation and culture of the Silicon Valley influenced our idea and allowed us to create a great business model, and we plan to continue building out our enterprise. I know that there are mixed feelings about the Silicon Valley Program, both from students on campus and students here, but I don’t think I could have had a better semester off campus experience.

So when I am asked why I skipped a semester of college to work, what is my answer? I did, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience I had.

Alec Koh ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Hewlett‐Packard

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Small and Mighty: SVP Spring 2015 Students Announced

The Silicon Valley Program is proud to welcome a small, but mighty, group of eight students to the Spring 2015 semester.  These students hail from Pomona and Claremont McKenna colleges, and represent economics, government, applied mathematics, psychology, Asian studies, and theater design & technology majors.

We look forward to having them arrive in Silicon Valley after the winter break. Interested employers may still have an opportunity to secure one or more of these talented interns.

SVP Spring 2015
Pictured: Jiaqi “Rebecca” Chen, Yichen Lu, Tavin Olarnsakul, Jie “Victoria” Tang, Andrew Yeh, Zhongyi “Joey” Yu, and Emily Zhang. Not Pictured: Jill Rosok

Stephen M. Siegel ’87
Director, Silicon Valley Program
Steve.Siegel@cmc.edu

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Unexpected Moments of Inspiration, by Thomas Hague

Surrounded by people wearing zebra print outfits at a dance party on a Sunday morning, I was handed a card. No, it wasn’t Paul Allen’s card. It was a card with a message. A message that I had absolutely no intention of encountering that day. On one side of the card, (not the neon-disco patterned side), it read:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
Or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;
Who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
Who spends himself in a worthy cause;
Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
And who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt”

This program has been full of random moments of inspiration. In fact, I might have learned the most while I’ve least expected it – conversations with cab drivers through the city, taco truck lunches with co-workers, and late night excursions through Tenderloin, for example.

The Sunday morning dance party was a unique and wholly unexpected experience – something I’ve learned to value more while on this program. While Claremont’s campus, at times, can be predictable and repetitive, San Francisco has proven to be full of unknowns.

This semester I’ve come to appreciate uncertainty. “What am I going to do after college?”, “What am I passionate about?” , “What am I working towards?” – all questions that used to bother me (and admittedly, still do at times). But I think the Silicon Valley Program attracts people who are willing to go headfirst into an unknown situation, adapting to the challenges they face along the way. It teaches them to appreciate this uncertainty – to courageously embrace it. This kind of attitude largely defines Silicon Valley.

Looking back at the Sunday morning dance party, there was a lot of uncertainty: What kind of a club throws a Sunday morning dance party? Who are these people dressed as zebras? Why are they serving bloody marys at 9AM? Just how deep is this house? But after I read Theodore’s message, I knew there was just one thing to do: shut up and dance.

I was told to have a bias towards action during Freshman orientation. It took a while, but I think that lesson has finally set in. It took being in the “real world” for a semester full of uncertainty, and learning that embracing it gives you freedom. To quote Risky Business, admittedly a step down from Roosevelt, “saying “What the f***”, brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”

See you on the dance floor, Claremont.

Thomas Hague ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Kairos Society

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A Taste of Real Life, by Surya Sendyl

When I applied to the Silicon Valley Program, I was expecting to get out of my comfort-zone of beautiful and easygoing Camp Claremont and venture out into the real world for a semester. Being a Philosophy-Economics dual major with a passion for learning and teaching, I was considering pursuing higher education in philosophy. I wanted to use my semester in Silicon Valley as a metaphorical litmus test to see how I would fair in the dynamic technology industry and figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life.

After venturing out to Silicon Valley, and immersing myself in its culture, I can say that I am no closer to answering my initial question of what career I want to pursue. I have loved every moment up here. From meeting new and important people to adventuring in beautiful San Francisco, this experience has been a non-stop roller coaster ride of discovery.

The most eye-opening part is that there are so many campus resources at our disposal in Claremont. Resources that we start to take for granted. Working 40 hours a weeks, and taking 7 hours of class on Saturday hasn’t been easy. Without the same resources–like easy access to professors, office hours, tutoring, and amazing services like the dean of students, I have been given a small taste of the real world during my time here.

Being so busy has been an eye-opening experience. For this first time in my life, I am having to schedule leisure time into my day. Although it has been tough, I can honestly say that I have grown up a little and become accustomed to this new, busy way of life.

I feel like I am prepared for anything Claremont can throw at me in the spring—and beyond.

Surya Sendyl ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Orbital Insight

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Cultural Exploration, by Richard Mancuso

We’re half way through the Silicon Valley Program. At this point, we’ve found the delicate balance between work, school, sleep, and fun. Yes, we’re all in this for the incredible experiences and opportunities afforded to us through an extended internship in one of the most exciting and innovative places in the world, but I believe that the Silicon Valley Program should just as much be a cultural experience. Even though Silicon Valley is still California, it’s an entirely different place, and, as such, there are a lot of exciting things to do and see. So, in this blog post, I’ll provide a break from the typical post one might see here (about school or work) by focusing on experiences one should have while in the Silicon Valley.

1) Golden Gate Bridge: It’s touristy, it’s cliche, it’s hard to get to, but it’s amazing. Construction on it began in 1933 and was completed in 1937, $35 million later. It was the longest suspension bridge main span until 1969 and connects San Francisco (in the Presidio) to Marin County (near Sausalito). Since it’s always crowded, the best way to see it is by biking to the bridge and biking or walking across it. So, find a clear, sunny Sunday and check out the Golden Gate.

2) Marin County: Marin County sits on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are two spots to look out for. First, Sausalito; a small town that sits on the bay. Find a good restaurant or coffee shop, or spend an hour walking around and admiring the scenery. The second is Hawk Hill, which sits directly next to the Marin-side entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a really steep hill that you can either drive, walk, or bike up; it’s worth it, great views await.

3) Ferry: San Francisco sits on a bay. There are a lot of other cool places that border the bay as well; take a ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Terminal to any one of them.

4) Point Reyes: Point Reyes Station is a small town in the northern part of Marin County. If you have access to a car, take the roughly 45-mile drive to check out the small town and seashore. While you’re there, enjoy fresh oysters in Tomales Bay. You’ll see some Redwoods along the way.

5) California Academy of Sciences: The California Academy of Sciences is a science museum located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There are a number of fascinating exhibits. Most notably, it boasts an extremely large planetarium, a multi-story immersive rainforest exhibit, an earthquake simulator, and an aquarium.

6) Golden Gate Park: While you’re at the California Academy of Sciences (which is located in Golden Gate Park), you should check out the rest of the park. It’s a great place to walk, but even better if you go on one of many days concerts or festivals are held.

7) Dolores Park: Take BART or the Muni to the Mission District on a clear day or night and make the short trek to Dolores Park. The slightly higher elevation allows for great views of the city.

Hopefully these seven tips can help facilitate your cultural exploration of San Francisco and surrounding areas while in the Silicon Valley Program. There are a number of additional, equally-interesting things to do and see, so spend your Sundays wisely. Below are a handful of photos I’ve gathered during my own explorations.

Twin PeaksTwin Peaks

Giants World Series Championship ParadeGiants World Series Championship Parade

Sunrise at Hawk HillSunrise at Hawk Hill

Golden Gate BridgeBoat ride on the Bay

Blue AngelsThe Blue Angels fly overheard during Fleet Week

Richard Mancuso ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Augmedix

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Three Tips for Getting Ready for/ Fitting into the Real World, by Chong Shen

1. Utilize your Time.

Make a plan to develop practical skills that you can easily transfer from one place to another. Programming skills like SQL, design skills like Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, video editing skills. Once you have figured out which skill to invest in, make a concrete plan whether by signing up for online classes or self-learning. If it takes locking yourself up in your room for a weekend to know how to use SQL, so be it. The benefits of having a practical skill under your belt far outweigh people’s common expectation.

Hold yourself accountable by keeping track of how you use your time. Build a time log for yourself and record what you do, duration and whether it was of high value or low value to you. Adjust your habits of time allocations if you consistently spend lots of time on low-value things.

2. Learn Soft Knowledge from Work.

When on a job/internship, learning soft knowledge is as important as, if not more important than work-specific knowledge. By soft knowledge I am referring to talking to your senior co-workers about their career development and life experience. Ask them about things that they wish they had known when they were younger. Get recommendations of books or websites to check out and be proactive about following up with them by talking about your thoughts on the resources they recommended.

This is important because not every single internship will end up relevant to your career. Work knowledge is helpful when you are determined to join a relevant industry and field, but more often than not, you are still exploring different options and soft knowledge becomes your transferrable assets that help you along your career development.

3. Start Making Career Plans.

Map out your interests. What type of work are you passionate about? When do you feel most satisfied working? What kind of tasks challenges you? What type of people do you work well with?

List out your skills. Think how you are currently adding value to your organization/group? What is your competitive advantage? What can you do better than your competitors?

Research market reality. What industries are growing? What fields are increasing recruitments?

Fit these three things into one picture and form an understanding of how you can get to the place that matches your interests, skill sets and market reality. Talk about your career plans with close co-workers and your boss, and ask for feedbacks as well as directions.

Chong Shen ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Equinix

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Eat Pray Love – Adventures in Silicon Valley, by Nina Kamath

This semester has been a blast. I’ve found something I’m truly passionate about—marketing—an area of business that blends both my analytical and creative sides. I’ve also had the opportunity to engage with alumni and my peers in one of the most cutting-edge, innovative areas in the world.

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been working at Sumo Logic, a startup, which transforms Big Data, logs into new sources of operations, security, and compliance intelligence. Founded in 2010, Sumo Logic is backed by Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, and Sutter Hill Ventures.

As a Marketing and Data Analytics intern, I have been primarily tasked with research and analytics work in preparation for Sumo Logic’s new website launch. For example, I performed competitive website and traffic analysis between Sumo Logic and their top 5 competitors by tracking backlinks, conversion rates, and other search engine optimization metrics. Through this website analysis conducted, Sumo Logic will be able to reduce spending, increase its conversion rate, and improve its return on investment. In preparation for the new website launch, I’ve also been coordinating with a web development agency and SEO gurus to optimize over 100 website landing pages with new messaging, keywords, and branding. I love working with numbers so the analytics side of my job is incredibly rewarding; after seeing how Sumo Logic’s website performs on certain SEO metrics, I am energized to spend my time to improve these numbers, whether it be using similar strategies to our competitors or innovating interesting ideas on my own.

Outside of website traffic analysis and SEO projects, I have been heavily involved in producing collateral material for new product feature launches and tradeshows. For instance, Sumo Logic will be attending its largest trade show sponsored by Amazon Web Services RE:Invent Trade Show from November 8 to 11. The booth presentation I put together, social media strategy, and pamphlets will be reached by over 10,000 attendees of RE:Invent. In this type of work, my design and creative side can shine—I can put together eye-popping graphics to help showcase the company brand with a fun and colorful splash.

While work takes up a significant time of my week, I’ve also really connected with people on the program and had tons of fun. Last week, I carved pumpkins with one of my suitemates, Chong (it was her first pumpkin carving!). The week before, I set sail with students on my program around the Bay (we went under the Golden Gate and Bay bridges!). The week before that, I ran the Nike Woman’s Half Marathon with Kelsey and got a Tiffany’s necklace at the finish necklace (it was my first half marathon!). I also squeezed in a concert (shout out to Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull!) and various networking events (saw Peter Thiel in the flesh!).

Chong and Nina’s Pusheen pumpkin carving (Photo credits: Chong Shen)

Silicon Valley Program Bay Cruise (Photo credits: Jenny Smith)

Overall, it’s been an amazing semester, and I can’t wait to finish the semester out strong in the next 6 weeks.

Nina Kamath ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Sumo Logic

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The Most Important Meal(s) of the Day, by Remy Guercio

If there are two things that most college students don’t like to do on a daily basis, it’s cook and spend a lot of money on food. I happen to be one of those students. While I love to occasionally cook a nice meal, it’s not always time efficient or easy on the wallet.

What you might not know is that many companies in Silicon Valley provide catered lunch or dinner (and sometimes both!) for every employee. While this can be great for saving both time and money, it’s not the main reason why I think these companies are awesome for doing it.

When a company caters a meal for everyone, it encourages and provides an opportunity for people who don’t necessarily interact on a daily basis to interact and share a meal together. While having everyone go out and buy a lunch or bring his or her lunch into the office can achieve some similar interactions, it isn’t quite the same. When the email goes out saying “Lunch is Ready!” or “Dinner is here!” everyone immediately finishes up what they’re doing and heads down to where the food is being served. The crowd of people that then forms around the food and at the tables is the perfect time to learn about your coworkers. You’ll get to hear what is on the minds of people from all over the company, and discover that you might have something in common with coworkers in engineering, sales, finance, marketing, or elsewhere (you might even find yourself eating with the CEO!)
Companies in Silicon Valley (and all over the world) are filled with talented and fascinating people, so even if where you work doesn’t provide a catered meal, I encourage you to eat meals with people who you don’t normally interact with. You might just learn something new from them and they might just learn something from you!

Bonus: Food Trucks
Food trucks are amazing! I highly recommend checking out the Off The Grid events, and if your company brings them in for lunch, definitely don’t miss out! Some of my favorite food trucks are: Oh Miso Hungry, Wing Wings, Sugarfoot Grits and Del Popolo.

Remy Guercio ’16
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Sumo Logic

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Working at Hewlett-Packard, by Philip Suzukawa-Tseng

I never would have thought that a study abroad experience could mean going from a little east of Los Angeles to a little south of San Francisco—venturing into the world’s start-up capital, Silicon Valley. My time in the center of technology began with an internship at Hewlett-Packard Company in their Sunnyvale office for the first few weeks, and then a transfer over to HP’s headquarters in Palo Alto for the remainder of the Silicon Valley Program. This move, however, was more than just switching offices. Earlier this month, my co-workers and I found out via breaking news that HP was splitting into two companies (HP Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise). For a company determined to restructure its business lines, sooner rather than later, it seemed inevitable to trim down and confront cutting costs—having over three HP office venues positioned just in the South Bay, at least one had to go. While the move for me was for the better, as I now have the chance to experience HP from its global hub, the transition signals that drastic shifts are forthcoming. But nevertheless, it’s exciting to be a part of a long-standing company and witness a transformation of this magnitude. From a corporate standpoint, a break-up of this stature untangles two Fortune 50 companies that can thrive in its own right and contest in its own direction—with one operating on the consumer level and the other for enterprises. HP’s split unsaddles the to-be disruptive enterprise group from their mainstay printer and personal systems business (stifled by low margins and slow growth), as the former looks to emerge by developing software, providing client solutions and competing for space in the cloud market.

Despite what the critics may say, this company division at this pivotal point in time is all about focus; HP is allowing for two companies to be independent, nimble and efficient—working symbiotically to grow the HP legacy and spur a turnaround in the company’s fortunes. Surely, technology has changed, and one group may seem antiquated in comparison to the other, but I believe that both firms will continue to advance. The move for HP certainly does not inhibit the hardware business from innovation (hint: 3D printers), but provides breathing room to derive new products and services organically, from a more committed and aligned business force. My internship at HP has allowed me to work closely with a very modern-thinking, device-oriented Consumer Mobility group that introduced HP into the markets for tablets and phablets. Yet, as the rate of technology companies entering the market does not look to be slowing down anytime soon, making competition ever so stiff, existing firms must realize their strengths and concentrate on delivering quality.

Start-ups in Silicon Valley have proven to us that it is not simply and solely size that matters, but that it is crucial to hone the ability to bring something new into the markets to keep being successful in technology today. Coming in to SVP, I had wondered what all the hype was about when it came to start-ups, but I soon took an interest in what was going on underneath it all. There really is more to Silicon Valley than the trend of start-up businesses, albeit making most of the headlines, and it takes some time being here to realize that—as there remain many titans of technology making sweeping efforts to stay top of the line.

Philip Suzukawa-Tseng ’15
Claremont McKenna College
Intern, Hewlett-Packard

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